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If you’re new to embroidery or quilting, sorting through manufacturer specs for many sewing machines is daunting if you’re not familiar with the terms.
To help you out, I’ll review the pros and cons of some of the best sewing machines for quilting and embroidery and walk you through features to look at before making your purchase.
Then you can feel equipped to choose the machine that will meet your crafty needs best.
Two Types of Sewing Machines for Quilting and Embroidery
There are two types of combination quilting and embroidery machines. It all depends on what you consider embroidery.
1. Standard Sewing Machine
All sewing machines technically “embroider” if you are open to free-motion embroidery or appliqueing with a sewing machine.
On a standard sewing machine, there is no computerized component to import embroidery designs from your computer. Essentially, all embroidery must be done with you guiding the fabric and tailoring your machine’s stitch settings.
2. Computerized Embroidery Combo Machine
In contrast, with an embroidery machine that also sews, you can use built-in embroidery designs or import digitized designs from your computer.
Simply hoop fabric and stabilizer, press go, and watch the machine embroider the design for you!
With these reviews of the best sewing machines for embroidery and quilting, I will focus on computerized embroidery machines that quilt also.
However, if you are looking for a quilting sewing machine that does not do computerized embroidery, I recommend the Singer Quantum Stylist 9960. You can also find more about this type of machine in my post about the best sewing machines for monogramming.
How can an embroidery machine help a quilter out?
If you purchase a computerized embroidery machine that also quilts, there are many really cool things it can do that your average sewing machine can’t!
1. In-the-Hoop Quilt Block Piecing
With specially digitized embroidery files, you can create your own quilt blocks (like the Log Cabin one above) with your machine.
All you do is place fabric onto your hoop, stitch a straight line (programmed in the design file), turn the fabric, press, and repeat. Soon, you’ll have an awesome, beautifully complicated quilt block!
While it might be a little slower to piece this way if you’re a pro at foundation paper piecing, it produces MUCH closer to perfect results for me.
2. Personalized Quilt Labels
If you want to stitch words or names onto your quilt, an embroidery machine is perfect for embroidering quilt labels. Import your favorite font to your machine or use a built-in font, and then start personalizing!
3. Embroidered Blocks
If you want to have the main feature of a quilt block be a design or applique, an embroidery machine can easily take care of that!
Also, an embroidery machine can add a stippling or other FMQ-like design to a block before the design so there’s no need to “quilt” after attaching the backing.
Or, you can create an entire scene in a block with your machine. For instance, I made the entire dollhouse quilt above using my Brother Luminaire embroidery machine.
4. Replicating Long-Arm Machine Quilting
With edge-to-edge embroidery quilting designs dedicated to finishing quilts, you can embroider swirls, shapes, and any digitizable patterns onto the surface of your quilt.
Assuming you line up your quilt within your hoop perfectly, this produces tip-top results! (See some tips and finished products in my post about edge-to-edge quilting with an embroidery machine.)
Helpful SEWING Features for an Embroidery and Quilting Machine
If you’re not already experienced with sewing and embroidery, here’s a list of sewing features to consider when choosing the best embroidery machine for quilting.
1. Throat Space
The throat space is the area to the right of the machine head where you’d be able to roll up your quilt.
If you’re planning on sewing king-sized quilts, a larger throat space will accommodate larger quilts more easily.
2. Dropping Feed Dogs
If you still plan to free-motion quilt, you must drop the feed dogs. These are the spiky metal pieces on the sewing machine plate that move the fabric along.
Feed dogs are dropped with a switch on most quilting and embroidery machines. However, some older and more inexpensive machines require you to get out a darning plate for coverage. I’m not a big fan of added steps, especially when I’m in a hurry to finish a project!
3. Extendable Table
Most embroidery machines do not come with an extendable wide table. Many machines offer this feature as an added accessory, though.
The purpose of an oversized wide table is to help hold bulky quilts to the left of the machine. To be honest, I rarely use mine, but if this is a necessity for you, make sure you choose a machine that offers this as a compatible accessory.
4. Knee Lifter
I always scoffed at the need for a knee-lifter until I purchased a machine with one. Then I realized how much I had been missing out on!
Knee lifters allow you to raise and lower the presser foot with your knee rather than having to use your hands.
Thus, your hands can remain free to help with fabric placement underneath your machine presser foot. This makes sewing two ends of elastic together, for instance, effortless!
5. Stitches On a Quilting Machine
- Straight stitch. Make sure the stitch length is adjustable or has several preset options, especially a basting stitch if you baste quilts with your machine.
- Zigzag stitch. Preferably, choose a machine with adjustable stitch length and width, especially if you ever plan to applique without using a computerized embroidery file.
- Piecing stitch. While not necessary, a piecing stitch can help with those perfect scant 1/4″ seams.
- Dedicated quilting stitches. Many quilting and embroidery machines will have a couple of quilting stitches such as the invisible applique stitch or a hand-look quilting stitch. While not necessary, they are nice to have!
6. Helpful Quilting Presser Feet
While you can do piecing with your everyday zigzag presser foot, a few special quilting presser feet can help make your job easier. If your desired machine doesn’t include a certain foot, there’s usually a compatible option you can purchase.
- 1/4″ piecing foot. Sew perfect scant 1/4″ seams with this foot. It is helpful for beginners who have not yet learned to sew precise seams yet.
- Walking foot. If you’re stitching multiple layers together, a walking foot (or even feed foot) helps all layers of fabric feed at the same rate.
- Spring-action quilting foot (aka darning foot). For free-motion quilting, this clear foot helps you see where your needle is going and where your stitches and designs are.
- Quilt guide. You can insert a quilt guide to help you sew parallel lines of stitches.
Important EMBROIDERY Features On A Quilting Sewing Machine
An embroidery machine’s most important differentiating feature is its maximum embroidery area.
This is the largest design you can embroider without having to split your design and rehoop your fabric. If you plan to only embroider specialized quilt labels, a 4″x4″ embroidery area will do the trick.
If you plan on piecing large quilt blocks in the hoop or want to add large quilting motifs, it’s worth investing in a larger embroidery area.
For instance, instead of rehooping 15 times while all-over quilting with a large hoop machine, you may end up rehooping 50-100 times with the smaller machine. But, buying that top-of-the-line machine can cost $10,000 or more, whereas the smaller hoop machine may only be 1/10th of the price.
2. Built-in Designs and Fonts
All computerized embroidery machines for quilting include built-in fonts, designs, frames, and more.
If you don’t want to have to download designs and import them to your machine, take a look at the pre-loaded designs and fonts before purchasing.
I’ve typically found the fonts and designs included with all my machines to be lacking and instead prefer to create my own designs or download them, though. (Two helpful posts to check out: where to download free embroidery machine designs and where to download free embroidery machine fonts.)
3. Design Import Method
There are three common ways to import new designs to modern quilting and embroidery machines.
First, attaching your computer to your machine via a cable. Second, plugging in a flash drive. And third, sending the design wirelessly.
If you’re not tech-savvy or don’t have reliable wireless internet, make sure not to choose a machine with only wireless transfer!
4. Ease of Switching Between Features
When you switch from sewing to embroidery, you often have to change the presser foot to your embroidery foot and then attach the embroidery arm.
Some machines make this process easier and less time-consuming than others, so check out the switching process before making your final decision.
For instance, the higher-end Brother combination machine models allow you to sew with the embroidery arm still attached.
5. Magnetic Hoop Compatibility
Magnetic embroidery hoops are perfect for holding quilt sandwiches when adding stippling or other quilting designs. These are game-changers when it comes to finishing quilts.
One big perk (besides ease of use!) of a magnetic frame is it eliminates the need for stabilizer and adhesives.
For higher-end embroidery machine models, you can check the dime website for Snap Hoop machine compatibility to see your options.
For more budget embroidery machines (those with 5″x7″ hoops or smaller), not all hope is lost, though, as many of these options have compatible Embroidex magnetic hoops on Amazon.
Best Sewing Machines for Quilting and Embroidery
Here are five of the top sewing machines for quilting and embroidery that won’t cost more than your mortgage. If you have a local sewing shop, you can stop by and try out several of these models or the higher-end machines for each brand.
1. Brother SE1900 Sewing and Embroidery Machine
|Embroidery Designs||138 designs, 11 fonts, 10 frames with 14 borders|
|Stitch Options||240 stitches, 10 buttonhole options|
|Maximum Sewing Speed||850 stitches per minute|
|USB Connection||Built-in USB port|
I’ve owned my Brother SE1900 for over two years now, and I still think it’s the best sewing machine for quilting and embroidery at its price point.
It has a nice-sized 5″x7″ embroidery area, which allows me to embroider a large selection of designs without splitting.
There are also 138 built-in designs (they’re ok, but I still recommend making or downloading others) and 11 fonts, 7 of which are in English. This large selection of fonts is VERY helpful if you’re looking to frequently monogram or add a name and brief personalization to a quilt.
You can also create your own applique shapes or frames from one of 10 basic shapes with 14 different border stitch options. Within the touchscreen, you also do have a lot of editing capabilities if you don’t want to purchase software.
In terms of sewing, the Brother SE1900 comes with 7 sewing feet (as well as the embroidery foot). A walking foot and 1/4″ piecing foot are not included, but these are inexpensive to purchase separately if needed.
There are also an impressive 240 sewing stitches with the option to import new stitch files or create them on screen. So, no need to worry if your favorite stitch is not among the 240! It’s also fun that there are three different piecing stitches (needle left, center, and right) and several dedicated quilting stitches, too.
The Brother SE1900 also has a knee lifter, making a huge difference when I sew hands-free. Read all about it in my Brother SE1900 review!
If you want a larger hoop size on a Brother combo machine, consider the Brother Luminaire XP3 (embroidery area 10 5/8″ x 16″ and what I also have), Innov-is XJ1 (area: 9.5″x14″), Innov-is VM5200 (area: 8″x12″), or NQ3600D, NQ3700D, or NQ3550W (area: 6″x10″). Prices are much higher, but you can get so much more done with a bigger hoop. The Luminaire is especially fun because it has Quiltbroidery features!
I’ve also made a list of the biggest hoop embroidery machines if you want to buy big. Obviously, the larger machines are better for quilting, but they also cost five figures and thus aren’t accessible for most users!
2. Janome Memory Craft 9850 Sewing and Embroidery Machine
Our local library has a Janome Memory Craft combo machine, and it’s amazing! However, Janome sewing machines are considerably pricier than Brother sewing machines and thus make more sense only for a very frequent hobbyist.
If you’re looking for an even larger hoop size than the 5″x7″ of the SE1900, though, the MC9850 has a 6.7″x7.9″ max embroidery size. It also works with smaller hoop sizes and has the option of a small free arm to help with small areas like cuffs.
There are 175 built-in embroidery designs and 200 stitches as well. Ways it is better than the SE1900 include programmable jump stitch trimming and a maximum stitch width of 9mm compared to 7mm on the SE1900.
It also embroiders up to 800 spm and sews at 1000 spm, which is a bit faster than the SE1900. (I rarely sew at top speed anyway, though!) However, it only has 2 monogram fonts compared to the larger selection on the SE1900.
It matches the SE1900 in that it includes a knee lifter, on-screen editing capabilities (no actual included software, though), automatic thread tension, and a built-in automatic needle threader.
3. Brother SE600 or SE625 Sewing and Embroidery Machine
|Dimensions||21.2" x 15.5" x 16.5"|
|Embroidery Designs||80 included|
|Stitch Options||103 stitches, 10 buttonhole options|
|Maximum Sewing Speed||710 stitches per minute|
|USB Connection||Built-in USB port|
I started my embroidery journey on the Brother SE625 embroidery machine, which is the gold-colored twin of the Brother SE600. I had it for about a year and then decided I needed a bigger machine when it turned out I enjoyed embroidery so much!
My Brother SE625 pieced well, and it embroidered well. However, as I mentioned, the embroidery area was only 4″x4.” The throat space is also only 6.4″.
It’s one of the most inexpensive embroidery machines you can purchase, though, which is why I wholeheartedly recommend it to beginners. If you plan to embroider only a few times a year, learning to split designs and work with the 4″x4″ area is the most financially prudent option!
In terms of embroidery, the Brother SE600 has 80 included designs, and the Brother SE625 has 280 designs. The only difference between the Brother SE600 vs SE625 is the extra 200 designs on CD with the SE625 as well as a gold faceplate rather than the silver of the SE600.
In terms of quilting features, there are 103 stitch options, including 2 piecing stitches (needle center and right) and 4 decorative quilting stitches. It doesn’t have a knee lifter or wide extension table, but again, this is a pretty cheap embroidery machine. You won’t be disappointed with the stitch integrity, though, when sewing!
The maximum sewing speed is only 710 spm, which may be a bit bothersome if you piece like a fiend.
4. EverSewn Sparrow X2 Combination Machine
EverSewn is a brand at the forefront of technology for entry-level embroidery machines.
Instead of USB transfer like all these other quilting embroidery machines, the Sparrow X has WiFi transfer. This means you can transfer designs and control the machine’s embroidering from your electronic device.
This is great news if you have reliable WiFi and are techy, but not so much if an advanced computerized embroidery machine scares you off!
This machine also reads all of the most common embroidery file formats, which is convenient if you have a library of assorted embroidery files and don’t want to have to convert them all before stitching!
Here are a few other stats for this machine that may help form your decision.
- Max embroidery field: 4.75″x7″
- Embroidery designs: 100
- Stitches: 120
- Presser feet: 8
The reason I haven’t ranked this machine more highly is it includes NO built-in fonts. While it’s not too much of a hardship to import your own fonts, it’s just not as quick to add labels or names without a built-in font!
You can also purchase this machine from Sewing Machines Plus.
5. Husqvarna Viking Designer Jade 35 Sewing and Embroidery Machine
You can purchase this one from Sewingmachinesplus.com!
Our local JOANN always has the Jade Viking in the display area to take for a test drive. It’s fun getting to play around with it! Here are a few of its pertinent details.
- Maximum embroidery field: 6″x9.5″
- Sewing stitches: 120
- Embroidery designs: 70
- Number fonts: 2 sewing and 1 embroidery, but software is included to design more!
- Presser feet: 8
For the price, the Designer Jade 35 really is an impressive sewing machine that quilts and embroiders.
What differentiates it from some of the other machines on this list is the larger 8″ throat space and the nice-sized 6″x9.5″ embroidery field.
The one downfall is it’s just not as popular as Brother or Janome machines. That makes finding videos and tutorials online for complicated tasks more difficult if you’re a beginner!
Plus, I thought its interface was more complicated and difficult to figure out than that of my Brother SE1900. (I own 4 Brother machines right now, so I am a bit partial, though!)
One other fun thing about the Designer Jade 35 is it also comes with basic embroidery software, which will help you create additional fonts and monograms. It’s not a digitizing software for designing actual embroidery files, though.
If you want larger hoop sizes, Husqvarna also offers top-of-the-line machines such as the Designer Epic 2, Designer Ruby 90, and Designer Sapphire 85.