If you’ve been researching quilts and quilt making for any amount of time, chances are you’ve come across the phrase “free motion quilting” (FMQ).
So what does that mean?
FMQ works by using a sewing machine and moving the fabric “freely” under the needle to achieve different designs with your quilt stitching.
In this post, I’m going to show you six free-motion sewing machine options for you to be able to do FMQ at home.
|Singer Quantum Stylist 9960|
|Janome Memory Craft Horizon 8200 QCP|
Can Any Sewing Machine Do Free Motion Quilting?
When shopping around for a new sewing machine for free-motion quilting, it can be quite overwhelming.
There are many things to consider when you are on your search for your new machine.
- Throat/Harp Space: The space from the needle to the arm/body/motor of the machine. The more throat space, the better!
- Price: What’s your budget?
- Extra Bells and Whistles: Do you want a machine that can do more than just FMQ?
- Can the Feed Dogs be Lowered?
But before you even begin to hunt for the perfect machine for you, you may ask, “Can I do free motion quilting on a regular sewing machine?”
Well, in some cases, yes, you can. The size of the project you work on will be limited if you are working on a smaller machine.
Remember that throat space? You probably won’t be able to quilt a king-sized quilt on a regular-sized sewing machine with a throat space of around 5”.
The throat space is critical because that is the space that helps you move your quilt around and through your machine while you quilt.
If you don’t have a lot of room, it’s harder to get those beautiful smooth quilt stitches.
Another thing to consider if you use a regular sewing machine is whether you can lower the feed dogs. The feed dogs are those little metal teeth that move under your needle as they “feed” your fabric through your machine.
If you aren’t able to lower them or cover them, they’ll get in the way since you want to move the fabric in all directions, not just forward.
What’s The Best Sewing Machine for Free Motion Quilting? Consider These 6
This Brother machine is a fantastic option for a beginner or someone on a very tight budget. The Brother CS7000X is a computerized sewing and quilting machine with 70 built-in stitches and a wide detachable table.
This machine is also perfect for someone who wants to do more than just quilt with their machine. It is a great multi-tasking machine at a great price. The throat space is a bit small at 5 ½”, but if you plan on doing smaller projects like baby quilts, this machine will work great for you.
- Great price
- Brother is a well-known and respected brand
- Small throat space
- Not meant for a “serious” quilter
The Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 is not necessarily marketed as a free motion quilting machine, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make beautiful FMQ stitches with this machine. You can easily lower the feed dogs, attach a free motion quilting foot, and begin FMQ just like that.
This machine has 600 built-in stitches, including lettering. You could use these to personalize your quilt projects with your own handmade quilt labels. It also comes with an extendable table to make quilting easier, and the throat space is 6 ½”, not huge but not tiny either.
- 600 built-in stitches
- You can lower the feed dogs easily
- Drop-in bobbin
- Small throat space
- Not marketed towards quilter
I had to include this machine because I own one and have been using it almost every day for two years! The Juki TL-2010Q is a workhorse. It’s an industrial straight stitch only machine and is PERFECT for free motion quilting.
The throat space of this Juki is 8 ½” wide and 6” tall. I have quilted a king-sized quilt with this machine and had no problems with space at all. It sews like butter and can be used for piecing and binding quilts as well. It can also be set up on a frame and used for “longarm” quilting.
The only real “downsides” to this machine are you have to oil it (it’s not self-lubricating like some machines), it is quite heavy, and it only does straight stitching.
- Large throat space
- Smooth stitching
- Can be used for heavy-duty sewing
- Need to oil it
- Straight stitch only
If you looked up “Best Sewing Machine Brands,” you would definitely come across Janome. Janome is one the most popular brands in the quilting community, and their Memory Craft series are some of the best on the market for those makers who want to bring their projects to the next level.
The Horizon 8200 QCP was made for FMQ with its huge 11” throat area. It also has over 200 built-in stitches that include lettering and numbers to personalize your favorite projects. Other great features it has is a lockstitch button and automatic thread cutter.
- 11” throat space
- You can drop feed dogs
- Over 200 built-in stitches
- Lockstitch button
Here is another Janome machine that would be an excellent fit for someone who wants to do free motion quilting. It has 300 built-in stitches, plus lettering. This machine has several excellent features like a lockstitch button and an easy reverse button on the front of the machine.
The machine also comes with a detachable table. The table will come in handy for when you are ready to do some FMQ. It also has the feature where it memorizes the up/down needle position, which is a great addition for FMQ. The throat space on this machine is a good size for larger projects and a 7” wide by 5” height area.
- Good throat space- 7”x5”
- Memorized up/down needle position feature
- Detachable table
- Could have more throat space
- Expensive for a hobbyist quilter
The Juki HZL-G220 is a beautiful machine and has a feature other machines in this list don’t have. The feed dogs on this machine use “box feed,” which means it feeds the fabric through the machine in a box motion instead of the more traditional oval motion.
This feature gives you a much more professional/ industrial feed through and helps you avoid scrunching or shifting fabric.
Other features that are great for quilters are the needle up/down button, automatic needle threader, start/stop button, and a lock stitch feature. The throat space is about 8” wide, so you won’t have to worry about space for your larger projects.
- Box feed technology
- 180 built-in stitches and lettering for multi-tasking
- 8” throat space
- Speed control
- A bit pricey for a hobbyist
- Larger throat space would be better
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These are six fantastic options for FMQ, and I hope it helps you in your search for your next machine.
My top pick in this list would have to be the Janome Memory Craft Horizon 8200 QCP. This machine just has it all! The 11” throat space, built-in stitches, and lockstitch feature are only a few of the elements that make it a great machine.
The only downside that I can think of is the price, but otherwise, it’s the dream machine for many quilters.
About the author: Miriam Ronne is a lover of all things quilting and sewing. She is a self-taught quilter and is constantly learning and broadening her skill set to create one-of-a-kind quilts! When she's not behind her sewing machine you can find her playing with her fur babies or trying her hand at other crafty things.