Guy looking at a large sewing machine on the horizon

How to Buy a Sewing Machine for a Quilter: The Ultimate Gift Buying Guide

Buying a sewing machine for a quilter is a wonderful act of love, but it can also be confusing (especially if you’re not someone who currently sews). Purchasing the top-of-the-line machine does not always mean it’s the right one, and buying a machine with the wrong features can cause confusion for the sewist trying to learn a new machine. On the plus side, buying a machine with extra features can give a person room to grow and expand their sewing knowledge.

While there are many lists of “recommended machines,” it’s still hard to know what your sewist will actually want. Here are some guidelines to help you find a machine to fit the needs of your future machine owner and be a gift that they will love.

Before We Begin: Sewing Machines Are Not Jewelry
Splashing out and buying any random shiny new sewing machine for someone simply because you want them to feel special is not a great idea. Why? Because not all machines are created equal. You want your machine to fit their needs and gives them an advantage in any project they tackle.

Sewing machines come in a large variety and people who sew can spend a lot of time working closely with them. If the machine doesn’t meet their needs, it can cause frustration and potentially will sit in a corner gathering dust and never be used. That’s not the kind of gift you want to give, so here’s how to do it right.

Do Your Homework: Find Out What They Use and What They Wish They Had
Now to find out what they wish they had. You may be lucky and your person has already taken you through machine stores and pointed out exactly what they want. If they have, then your job is done. If you are not this lucky, then it’s time to do your homework.

It is best to do some research and find out what kind of sewing machine is already being used. The sewing room may be a scary place for you to enter but it is best if you arm yourself with the knowledge of what brand and model of machine your gift recipient already uses. Taking pictures can even be helpful so when you walk into a sewing machine store they will be able to understand what the person is already working with.

Now find out what they wish they had or maybe didn’t know they needed. Do they complain that their machine is old and tired? Do they wish they had one bigger? Are they curious about expanding into things like machine embroidery or having a serger to go with their sewing machine? Maybe they wish they had a thread cutter or didn’t have to change their bobbin so often. Ask questions and take notes as to what they say their dream machine might be. The more information you have, the better the sewing machine store can help lead you in the right direction.

What Features Do Quilters Want?

Needle Up – This means the machine has a setting that it always brings the needle up after you’ve sewn. Needle up means you can remove the fabric from the machine and place the next piece of fabric. Quilters do this hundreds of thousands of times in their lives. Without this feature, you may have to press a button on the machine or turn the handwheel every time, which gets old quickly.

Automatic Thread Cutting – This means that there is a thread cutter built into the machine that automatically cuts the thread at the end of a run, or at the push of a button. This saves the quilter having to manually cut thread at the end of every piece, saving their shoulders, back, and neck, and giving them more time creating rather than cutting.

Speed – It doesn’t have to be the fastest machine on the market, but make sure the machine can go fast enough. Not all machines are created equally.

A Well-Built Machine – If you’re buying a sewing machine for an experienced quilter, you should be looking for a machine that is well-made with parts that are built to last. Cheaper machines often have lots of plastic parts that break and wear out quickly. Don’t be tempted by cheap machines. If you think you’ve found a new “dream quilting machine” for $150, don’t believe it.

Brand Reliability – Some machines last a lifetime. Some last a year. Just like cars and electronics, brand names matter. And, just like cars and electronics, a good name doesn’t guarantee the machine is actually any good.

Don’t get the cheapest model a brand makes. Many well-known brands outsource their low-end machines to other manufacturers because it’s cheaper, while holding their high-end models to a higher standard. Do your homework and look for brands that build long-lasting, easy-to-repair machines. They cost more to buy, but you should only have to buy it once.

What Additional Features Should be Considered?
Before you run to the sewing machine store, there are a few more things you need to know.

Portability – Will this machine need to travel? Does your quilter plan to take this machine to classes, retreats, social sewing events? In this case (and only in this case), you will probably want a lighter-weight machine. This quilter may even have another machine permanently set up at home that they never have to lift. If this machine isn’t going to travel, get a heavier machine.

Throat Space – (Also called harp space) If your quilter will actually assemble/quilt their quilts on this machine, a bigger throat space is important. Throat space is the flat space between the needle and the inner edge of the machine. You may even narrow your search to mid-arm and longarm sewing machines only.

Decorative Embellishments & Abilities – Is your quilter also going to use this machine to make clothing, table runners, or items they might want additional stitches for? If so, get a machine that has the types of sewing abilities they need.

Things to Consider When Buying the Machine

Return policy – Make sure you understand the return policy for this machine, whether it’s a week or a month. If your quilter unwraps the machine and it still doesn’t meet their needs, make sure you can return it or exchange it.

Find a store that you trust – Find local sewing machine stores and test out various machines. The staff should be knowledgeable and helpful. In a perfect world, you and your quilter will go together and you can buy the machine that works best. Make a day of it. If you decide to buy a machine online, make sure you know how returns and/or future repairs will work and be prepared to pay for shipping.

Know where the machine will be repaired – Like cars, sewing machines often require certified technicians to repair them. Once you know what machine you want, make sure there is a local repair technician you can take your machine to for its annual tuneup or maintenance. For warranty claims, be sure you’ve bought your machine from an authorized dealer.

Take a Class or Watch Videos – Encourage the quilter take a class on how to use this machine, especially if it’s a brand they’ve never used. Knowing how to load a bobbin, clean out lint, and adjust the tension varies from machine to machine. Understanding how to use a machine will give your quilter more happy hours sewing.


fabric and sewing equipment shop

About Quilting Mayhem

Founded by lifelong sewing enthusiast Mindy Lennon, quilting Mayhem is a Snohomish Washington-based quilt store that carries everything a quilter needs to learn, create, and express. Located in beautiful historic downtown Snohomish, Quilting Mayhem carries over 4,500 bolts of premium quality fabrics in a variety of styles, selected by quilters, for quilters. Quilting mayhem sells high-quality sewing machine brands such as Bernina, Janome, HandiQuilter, and more. Classes, retreats, and demonstrations are available to shoppers in an effort to help every quilter be the best they can be.

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