With the variety of sewing machines available, making a decision of which sewing machine to purchase is much more complex than it was way back when.....
Today's quilters are presented with some interesting and fun options that can make their quilting more interesting and relaxing.
Many of the more popular brands, including Singer, Simplicity, Janome, Brother, White and Necci sewing machines feature an LCD display, dial-a-stitch selector, automatic needle threader, convertible free arm, extension table, electronic speed control, drop in bobbin, and computerized stitch selection, to name just a few. These machines sew not only straight stitches, but zig zag, button hole, and fancy embroidery stitches.
Several sewing machine companies cater to the quilting market by including speed adjustments to make machine quilting easier. The White 1740 Quilter's Machine has an extra wide extension bed to support your work, and reduce pulling and stretching. The Simplicity American Quilter sewing machine features a convertible free-arm and snap-on presser foot. All of that and they are lightweight, too - so you can easily transport your machine to your quilting class.
In addition to regular sewing machines, there are sergers and longarm quilting machines to consider.
Prices for sewing machines range from around $100 up to, well, in the thousands.
All of these choices are wonderful, yet how to decide.
Before making your purchase, you should decide how you will use your machine, and whether you might want more than one machine. Those decisions can be made within the context of your budget and lifestyle, in addition to your commitment to quilting and the type of quilting you will be doing.
If you are going to be using your machine only for machine piecing quilt tops, and not doing any machine quilting or fancy stitching, a fairly simple sewing machine will likely serve your needs. If you are going to purchase only one machine and are planning to take it to quilting classes with you, weight and bulk may be a consideration. In addition, it may be important for the machine to come with a carrying case; and possibly space in the carrying case for some sewing supplies.
If you are planning to machine piece your quilt tops and machine quilt the completed project, a heavier duty machine with the power to glide through multiple layers of fabric and batting would be a better choice. In addition, you may want to look for a machine that offers a "walking foot," or something similar, or possibly even built into the machine. This feature will feed the quilt top, batting and quilt backing evenly through the machine as the quilt is stitched, reducing puckering and unsightly folds.
Another consideration if you will be doing much machine quilting is to purchase a sewing machine that is ideal for machine piecing, and a separate longarm machine just for machine quilting. In the past, these machines were designed and priced for the professional market. As with many things, the technology has improved, demand has increased, and now longarm quilting machines are more of an option for home quilters.
Once you have decided how you will use your machine and what features are important to you, the next step is to ponder the particular brands available. Price is not always a determination of quality, so a visit to a local sewing machine store - whether it is the community Sew and Vac, a Walmart, Sears, or something else - where you can "test drive" the machines might be the next order of business.
Trying several different brands with different features will give you an idea of what you prefer. A conversation with a sewing machine repair person will give you a hint about brands that need a lot of service and those which last years with just a yearly tune up.
Once you have narrowed it down to a particular brand or two, and know which features are important, the next step is to do some research on price and availability. The internet offers some great choices for saving money - eBay, overstock.com, PriceGrabber.com, etc. While these sources offer good savings, they may not provide a guarantee or the service you may want for your machine. If your local Sew and Vac will service the machine once you have it, the price savings may prove worthwhile.
Used sewing machines may also be a consideration. Some of the older machines are in excellent condition and offer features not found on current machines. Singer Featherweight sewing machines from the 40s and 50s are still popular with quilters. These little machines are like the Energizer Bunny - they just keep going and going. They are lightweight and simple. Some have attachments, many just sew forward and backward and are perfect for machine piecing. Keep them oiled and they will last many lifetimes!
Wouldn't it be nice if the decision were easier, and you could just "call Sears" and order the machine? On the other hand, isn't it fantastic that the quilting days of 75 years ago are behind us and we can now create quilts using technology that encourages our creativity!