Choosing a Sewing Machine for Quilting at Home

Five different sewing and quilting machines

Have you mastered piecing and been sending your quilts out to be quilted? Are you thinking of buying a machine on which you can quilt at home? There are many factors you need to consider as you look for that one special machine that will provide you with hours of quilting fun. And quilting is fun! But how do you know which machine will help you achieve your quilting goals?

When buying a sewing machine for quilting, a few things that should be considered are:

  • The size of the throat area
    • The larger the area the bigger the projects you can make more easily
  • Do you prefer mechanical or electronic machines?
    • This comes down to deciding if you want to control the speed of the quilting with the foot pedal or a knee bar (mechanical)…or if you prefer to set a quilting speed and let the machine regulate the stitches (electronic). 
  • What are the stitch options?
    • If you are also going to use this machine for more than quilting, you’ll want to take into account what additional stitch options come with the machine.
  • How fast can the machine go?
    • This comes into play if you are looking to be able to do a lot of quilting really quickly. The more speed, the faster you can go.
  • Do you want an extension table?
    • You may be happy enough using the work surface next to your quilting machine to hold your project. If not, you may want to consider an extension table and if so, it’ll be important to know which machines have one you can purchase for them and which don’t.
  • The weight of the machine
    • The heavier the machine, the less portable and therefore movable the machine will be.
  • How good are the service and warranty of the brand?
    • Machines break sometimes, it’s good to check out how well a brand services it’s machines when they do and what is actually covered under the warranty. You are making a large investment so you want to know you have a good team and contract to rely on should something go wrong.
  • Your budget
    • Only you know what you can afford and what you want to get out of your machine. And know that you can always upgrade in the future if your finances or needs change. 

If you are looking for more information on how a sewing machine works, check out our complete guide that turns a regular sewing machine inside out and really understand what this machine is and does.

Hopefully this article will clear up some questions and help you make a decision on the machine that will best fit your needs. The machines listed below are ordered from simple to more complex and thus from most budget-friendly to more advanced.

A Standard Sewing Machine

If you have a standard sewing machine, it can be used for quilting. The difficulty is in the width of the machine throat - the length from the needle to the body of the machine. On a domestic sewing machine the throat can measure 7-8 inches. Don’t get me wrong, it can be done but it takes time and patience to master that skill as you’ll have to move and manipulate the quilt a lot. There are many videos and books that can teach you how to quilt on your machine, but let’s explore machines that can make your home quilting experience a bit easier and more enjoyable.

The Juki TL-2000Qi

The Juki TL-2000Qi is a lightweight, portable sewing machine with a 9-inch space between the needle and machine body. This machine is ideal for home sewing and has a bit of extra throat space which helps while quilting small to medium-sized quilt projects. It features a thread cutter controlled by the foot pedal (press back with your heel and it cuts the top and bobbin thread). It has a built-in speed control and LED lighting. The Juki TL 2000Qi comes with an extension table that offers 23 inches of workspace to the left of the needle. The advantage of having an extension table is that it supports the fabric providing a smooth surface especially for free-motion quilting.

I have seen this machine priced between $699 - $1200 so shop around.

Other Features:

  • Side bobbin with a case
  • Sewing speed: 1500 SPM (stitches per minute)
  • Weighs 25.4 pounds
Juki TL-2000Qi quilting machine with extension table

The Janome MC-6650

The Janome MC-6650 is a computerized quilting and sewing machine with a 10” throat space, speed control slider, and memorized needle Up/Down function. You’ll be able to quilt small to medium projects plus do a whole bunch of other sewing. There are 170 stitches, 2 alphabets and a one-step buttonhole function (Not necessarily used for quilting but a nice function for everyday sewing). It comes with 12 included accessory feet.

The machine typically sells for $1799-$1850, but watch for sales and check into Janome financing if you are looking to spend a bit more on your machine. An extension table is not included but can be purchased separately. Extension tables extend the work space and hold the fabric level with the machine. The extension tables can be found between $90-$130. I do not have this machine but I do have three other Janome sewing machines and I love using them. This feature rich machine is like having a professional machine for quilting and sewing right in your home.

Other Features:

  • Drop-in bobbin
  • Sewing Speed: 1000 SPM
  • 6 LED lights in three locations
  • Weighs 24.25 pounds
Janome MC-6650 sewing and quilting machine

The Baby Lock Jazz II

The Baby Lock Jazz II has a 12” throat making it easier to manipulate fabric as you quilt. It is a mechanical machine, meaning it is not computerized. You regulate the stitch speed with the foot pedal. The Jazz II is the second generation machine with a few improvements from the original. It has a programmable Up/Down button, 28 built-in stitches, hands free presser foot (knee bar) and a built-in needle threader. Like the above mentioned machines, this machine can also be used as a utility machine for piecing your quilt or other home sewing even though it has a larger 12” throat.

The Jazz II is affordable. I have seen it listed between $799 and $1300. I own this machine, I think it purrs like a kitten during sewing. It is a sturdy, no fuss machine that is a wonderful stepping stone into home quilting.

Other Features:

  • Top drop bobbin: Size 15
  • Includes 9 presser feet
  • 1000 SPM
  • 6 LED lights
  • Weighs 27.5 Pounds
Baby Lock Jazz II sewing and quilting machine

Bernina Q16 and Q16 Plus

We are now going to explore a different type of quilting machine. While the afore-mentioned machines may also be used for home sewing, piecing your quilts and quilting them at home, the Benina Q16 and Q16 Plus are strictly for quilting. Both of these machines are part of Bernina’s Sit-Down models and look like twins. The user faces the front of the machine (which sits on a table that houses it) and quilts head-on.

The Bernina Q16 and Q16 Plus both have a 16” throat allowing for big quilt projects to be finished at home. The machines can be paired with a standard or foldable, height-adjustable table (not included in the price.) A major benefit of these machines is the ability to quilt larger projects more easily while not taking up much space. The table size is 36” x 45”. These machines are computerized with a simple to use touch screen, a built-in stitch regulator and built-in tutorials. How awesome is that! There is a kick start function that allows you to quilt continuously without holding down the foot control. It is activated or deactivated using the touch screen.

I have seen these machines listed between $6000 and $8000.

The Q16 PLUS differs from Q16 in that it will work with pantographs and can also be paired with the Bernina Studio Frame if you wish to upgrade to a quilt frame (not included in price).

Other Features:

  • M class bobbin with case
  • Independent bobbin winder
  • Built-in stitch regulator
  • 50 LED lights along throat apace an above the needle
  • Weighs 100 pounds
Bernina Q16 Quilting Machine showing computerized screen
Bernina Q16 Plus Quilting Machine side view
Bernina Q16 machine on a lift table
Bernina Q16 Plus machine being used with a quilt frame

The Q’nique 21X Elite Quilting Machine

This longarm quilting machine by Grace Company is made to be used on a long arm quilt frame (Not included with the machine although they do offer package deals). It has a 21” throat space, a 7” touch screen, and a speed range of 90-2600 stitches per minute. There are four different stitching modes: cruise, precise, baste and manual. This machine has adjustable handles that can be fitted to the most comfortable position for you allowing you to quilt longer without getting achy or tired. There are two buttons on each handle that help you control the machine and a needle work light with a dimmer so you can control the brightness.

This machine sells between $10,000 and $12,000 The Grace Company offers quilting machines and frames that are designed with the home quilter in mind. From table top machines and frames to larger machines and room sized frames.

Other Features:

  • Uses M class bobbin and case
  • Built-in bobbin winder
  • Adjustable hopping foot
  • Size 18 and 16 needles
  • 54 pounds
Q’nique 21X Elite Quilting Machine

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Wrapping it up…

In this blog, I have attempted to provide you with a variety of sewing and quilting machine types and brands to consider when looking for a home quilting machine. There are so many different ones out there for you to explore and to decide on which is the best fit for you and your needs. Remember you can always piece a quilt on a home sewing machine and also quilt it. There are many tutorials on using your home machine to quilt. But quilting machines are designed to allow you to work with multiple layers of fabric and provide more space to allow freer movement of your quilt as you work.

I was always hesitant to quilt my own projects and I still have a few quilt tops waiting for me to take the plunge. As I quilted more at home on my smaller projects; table runners, wall hangings, and baby quilts - I got more confident. I am now more daring in incorporating various patterns and more relaxed as I quilted. After all, quilting should be fun. Some things may turn out better than others but there is a great sense of accomplishment and joy when I create a piece from start to finish.


If you are looking for a basic sewing machine, refer to our Madam Sew blog, “Choosing a Sewing Machine for a Beginner” for information on the best sewing machines for beginners.


Angela Ret
Sewing and Quilting Enthusiast and Teacher