Best Sewing Machine for Free Motion Quilting, a guide by The Sewing Korner

When you hear the term “free-motion quilting,” it essentially means using a regular domestic sewing machine – not a long-arm quilting machine – to stitch a quilt sandwich without using the feed dogs on the machine.

It is different from freehand or freestyle quilting, which both refer to quilting without a drawn pattern. When your feed dogs are disengaged, you are free-motion quilting.

Discovering which is the best sewing machine for free motion quilting may take a little time, but you can get started by researching various sewing machines online, which usually includes reviews from both critics and real-life customers who have purchased the product. You’ll also want to look for certain features on the machine, because it is those features that will make the task easier.

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Table of Contents
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    Model Name Weight Auto Needle Threader Built-In Stitches Stitches Per Minute
    Brother CS6000i Sewing Machine 13 lbs Yes 60 850
    Brother PQ1500SL Professional Quilting and Sewing Machine 24.2 lbs Yes 1 1500
    Brother XM2701 Lightweight Sewing Machine 12.6 lbs Yes 27 800
    Brother XR3774 Free Motion Quilting Machine 12.3 lbs Yes 37 800
    Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 Sewing Machine 18.2 lbs. Yes 600 850

    The Feed Dogs and More

    When you’re free-motion quilting, you have to be able to lower the feed dogs, which are the “teeth” that are flush with the machine and which help guide or feed the fabric as you work with it. Once the feed dogs are disengaged, the fabric won’t be pushed around and there is no resistance as you sew. In other words, it will just be you and the machine, and this is where the free forming begins.

    The next thing you’ll need is a free-motion quilting foot to attach to your machine. These are usually brand-specific, so don’t rush out and get just any type of quilting foot. When your feed dogs are lowered and your quilting foot is attached, both the fabric and the stitching are in your complete control. Your sewing machine will have no resistance whatsoever, which means you can maneuver the fabric in your square anyway you like.

    A Few Things to Remember

    Finally, you also have to remember to thread your sewing machine like you normally do for your regular sewing projects. Free-motion quilting, after all, involves mostly stitching the way you normally do, and once everything is set up properly it’s time to start stitching! You alone will determine the direction of the stitching line and the size of each of your stitches, so you really do have free reign over the project at hand.

    The Best Sewing Machine for Free Motion Quilting

    Finding the best sewing machine for free motion quilting, again, is much easier when you look at both customer reviews and reviews from critics. You can start by reviewing some of the machines below, which are at the top of the list of high-quality sewing and quilting machines.

    Brother CS6000i Sewing and Quilting Machine

    With eight quilting and sewing feet that include overcasting, monogramming, walking, and zipper feet, the Brother CS6000i sewing machine provides you with a lot of chances to get very creative with all of your projects. Perfect even for intermediate quilters and sewers, this machine comes with a slider that allows you to adjust the overall speed so you can have total control over the speed of each stitch.

    The LCD display means you can easily see the information you need to make sure you’ve made the right selections, which means you can also figure out how to avoid mistakes. The automatic needle-threader is a big perk especially for those who easily get frustrated when trying to thread their sewing machine needle, and the large workspace means you can work on all sorts of projects without them being cumbersome or inconvenient.

    Other features of this machine include a total of 60 built-in stitches, including decorative stitches, and seven different styles of buttonholes. It even comes with several accessories that make it fast and simple to start using the machine immediately, including a wide table, three bobbins, and a hard protective case to keep it stored properly and safely.

    There are a lot of things for customers to love about this machine, including its many stitch options and its ease of use, and some pros and cons associated with it include:


    • Easy-to-read LCD display.
    • Large, convenient table to work on.
    • Automatic needle-threader.


    • It is a bit difficult to take the machine apart when you need to clean it.
    • The hard cover can be cumbersome to use at times.

    Brother PQ1500SL Professional Quilting and Sewing Machine

    One of the biggest advantages of this sewing machine is that it is geared toward professional users but is still priced so that regular sewers can afford it. The advanced needle-threading system, known as F.A.S.T., allows the machine to do the hard work for you, which means you can get started on your project right away.

    The machine also has a pressure dial on the foot to make adjustments a lot easier, and the different colors are there for you to alter the height of the feed dog. If you’re going to be using fabrics with many different thickness levels, this feature alone makes buying the machine worth it.

    The thread tension control system on this machine has been fitted beforehand, which gives you a lot of control of the tension of the thread and makes it much more precise, even allowing you to alter it when you need it. You can also handle large projects a lot easier because the table can be extended to a size of 5.7” x 8.6”, giving you lots of room to work with the fabric.

    Customers using this machine say it sews like a dream, is super easy to use, and can accommodate any type of project they’re working on. The machine has a good rating on Amazon and is a medium-priced machine whether you want to sew or quilt with it. Here are some of the pros and cons of the machine:


    • Expandable workspace for large projects.
    • Automatic needle-threading feature.
    • Accurate tension control of the thread.


    • Right-handers might find it a little tricky to use.
    • Some complaints about the thread tension causing problems.

    Brother XM2701 Lightweight Sewing Machine

    This lightweight but sturdy machine has a system that allows you to make buttonholes in different sizes, and the LED light makes focusing on your project a whole lot easier. The single-step auto-size buttonhole feature is easy and precise, and you get a total of 27 built-in stitches to lend each of your projects some oomph.

    In addition, your stitch options include decorative stitches, blind hems, tons of quilting stitches, and much more. To choose each option, you simply turn a dial and start sewing – it’s that easy. The automatic needle-threader makes getting started a breeze because all you do is touch a lever and in seconds the needle is fully threaded.

    The top drop-in bobbin is a piece of cake to load, and it stays secure thanks to the holder that clasps the bobbin and keeps it in place. This is just one of the reasons why working with this sewing machine is so accurate and efficient. You also get some great accessories that you’ll be anxious to work with as soon as you get the machine out of the box, including six sewing feet, a three-piece needle set, and a versatile free arm to accommodate a variety of projects.

    People who have used this sewing machine love the numerous stitches available, the fact that it weighs less than 13 lbs, and the 25-year warranty that comes with each and every machine. The machine has good ratings and priced under $300, making it accessible to everyone. A few of the pros and cons of the machine include the following:


    • Convenient LED light.
    • Bobbin system that is easy to use.
    • Automatic needle-threading feature.


    • Can be complicated to learn if you’re a beginner.
    • Some users think it’s difficult to clean.

    Brother XR3774 Free Motion Quilting Machine

    If you’re a beginner or intermediate user, this is an especially good machine to own because it is so easy to use. It is also very affordable, which means you don’t have to break the bank just to get a high-quality quilting machine. In fact, when it comes to free-motion quilting machines, this machine is by far one of the best.

    The XR3774 comes with 37 unique built-in stitches to give your project a little more pizzazz, as well as a one-step auto-size buttonhole feature that makes stitching buttonholes a piece of cake. It even comes with an instructional DVD to help you get started, which is especially useful for beginners. The LED light is an extra perk that all sewers love because it helps keep your project in focus at all times.

    With an automatic needle-threader and drop-in top bobbin, the machine is super easy to set up and is essentially foolproof, which means you don’t have to have a lot of technical ability to get the job done. It also comes with a total of eight sewing feet to give you some versatility, and it can accommodate projects that are simple or complex, or anything in between.

    Sewers love this machine because it makes free-motion quilting a piece of cake and because even those with little quilting experience will be able to do a lot with it.


    • It has a built-in LED light.
    • It is super easy to use.
    • It comes with a total of 37 built-in stitches.


    • It may take some time to get used to the speed of the machine.
    • Some complaints about it skipping stitches.

    SINGER Quantum Stylist 9960 Sewing Machine

    With 600 built-in stitches that allow you to be as creative as you like, this machine also has a bobbin system that is super easy to use because you can actually see how many you have left to use thanks to a clear cover you can see through. You also get an extra-large work area that allows you to accommodate even the biggest projects you need done.

    The SINGER 9960 also comes with 13 different buttonhole options, which are built into the machine, making buttonholes no longer a challenge. The threading system is easy to use and allows you to have the entire machine threaded in seconds, not minutes, which means that starting on your project can be done a lot sooner.

    You also get to enjoy up to 850 stitches per minute to make your projects even faster, as well as an accessory package that includes items such as a zipper foot, button-sewing foot, darning and embroidery foot, and a satin stitch foot, among other things. In other words, this is a great machine for people who love a lot of options and who intend to do big things with it in the end.

    Customers who have purchased the SINGER 9960 love how easy it is to use and the tons of options available to them, which makes it the perfect sewing machine for people who plan on sticking with their hobby and learning how to do even more with their machines in the future. Here are some of the pros and cons of the machine:


    • The bobbin system is easy to use.
    • You get 13 buttonhole options.
    • You get 600 built-in stitches.


    • Some think the automatic needle-cutter isn’t very durable.
    • Changing the needle is sometimes a little tricky.

    In Summary

    Finding the best sewing machine for free motion quilting isn’t a chore if you know what you’re looking for, and a few necessities for free-motion quilting include an automatic needle-threader, lots of choices when it comes to your stitches, and of course, a large work area so that all of your projects can be accommodated. Fortunately, you can easily get a high-quality, functional sewing and quilting machine without breaking the bank, which means you can save your pennies for more quilting supplies.

    Hopefully, you have more of an idea of what to look for if you’re interested in finding a sewing machine that you can also use for free-motion quilting, and the important thing to remember is to do your research so that you can make sure you get the right machine in the end for the types of projects you intend to participate in.

    Video: Free-Motion Quilting Designs for Beginners

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