The Free Motion Quilting Project: Sewing Machine Survey

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sewing Machine Survey

Reading through all the comments from my last post on Piecing and Quilting on the Janome Horizon, I realized that I'm on to something big with my idea to seek out and review machine that cost under $500.

But there's just one tiny problem - choice!

Picking just a handful of machines out of the hundreds, if not thousands, that are available these days is pretty difficult. Many quilters mentioned older machines in the comments of that post as well.

I know from personal experience that some of the best, longest lasting, workhorse machines were built 20-30 years ago. The thing is, how do we know which were good and which were bad?

Online reviews really didn't get started until about 5 years ago. I remember buying a Brother machine online in 2004 and struggled to find conclusive information on the machine before the purchase.

Older machines are even harder because most online review sites have utterly no interest in running reviews of machines that are no longer in production. Review sites mostly make their money by linking interested customers with the sites they can buy the new machines from.

But I am interested in these reviews and these machines! I think this information is really important, particularly because many older machines are still around and can easily be found on Ebay and Craigs list, being sold by people who don't really know that the machine they're selling is awesome at free motion quilting or piecing.

The more I thought about it, the more I realize what we really need is a group poll collecting information about all of our machines.

Before I share the link with you, I first want to say that I'm really interested in collecting a specific set of information. I'm interested in hearing about machines that:
  • Cost under $1000 - I'd really prefer the machines to cost under $500. This is a poll collecting information on machines that are affordable to most quilters. Yes, there are many machines out there that cost much more than this and stitch wonderfully, but this is not the poll for them.

  • You like! - If you hate your machine, please feel free to share in the survey, but really I'm particularly seeking machines that are good at piecing and free motion quilting. Even if you've never free motion quilted on your machine, do share it if you know it's awesome at piecing.

  • Preferably sold within the last 40 years - The younger a machine is, the more potential quilters have of finding it, and for a decent price.
So now that you know what I'm looking for, here's the link:

Click Here to take the Sewing Machine Survey!

Please fill out a new survey for each machine you own.
So if you own 5 machines, please submit 5 different surveys on each machine

Depending on how many people share their machines, I'm going to try to compile the information collected so you can easily browse through different makes and models of machines from different brands.

I'm really interested to see what we come up with! Please share this post with your friends or family - anyone that has a great sewing machine they love and want everyone else to know about it!

Note - In no area of this survey did I ask for personal or identifying information of any kind. I do plan to publish everything shared in this survey publicly so please keep that in mind. If you'd like to share a copyright free photo of your machine (a photo you take of your machine at home), please feel free to email it to me at

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. I have a Pfaff Creative Vision. It was my retirement treat to me. I LOVE IT! It pieces like a dream, it free motions and it embroiders. It cost more than most would want to spend but I have had Pfaffs before and nothing pieces like them.

  2. I was wondering how you were going to narrow your choice of brand to research. Personally, I'd like you to review a model that is currently available/in production. While there are older/desirable machines available some of these are difficult to find and rather pricey. Hoping your research will be for a new model.

  3. be careful of buying machines on ebay. I purchased a Viking machine and took it to a repair guy for inspection that I knew his reputation as being as honest as the day is long. To repair the machine would have cost more than I paid for it, a $800 repair just isn't worth it for a $200 machine in my opinion.

  4. Well, I just have to say that since my husband bought my BabyLock for me on his birthday, I have to be sewing all the time. It is the Decorator's Choice
    ($1,000). I am new to quilting, but coming along now. That is because I was inspired by none other than Leah Day.

  5. I love my singer slants for piecing. I am not sure about fme on them yet. I have 3 of them and they rock!

  6. Just a quick question I might have missed it do you want me to give you info on all my machines or just one per person. Thank you for doing this!

  7. I'm so pleased that you're doing this, as I've been thinking about buying a new machine mainly for FMQ, and it's hard to find reliable reviews. I'm very wary because of my experience with my current machine, a Janome 4800, which is great for anything else but has serious tension issues with FMQ.I've been wondering where to start with finding another machine - the nightmare is spending a 4-figure sum and finding that I've got another machine that own't do what it claims to (mine is called a "quilter's edition" and will do anything but quilt!!). I'm also thrilled to see that you're going to be reviewing machines that cost under 500 dollars, as I've wondered if that might be the way forward for me if I can only identify the right machine: the 4800 has all I need in every other respect, so I'm reluctant to spend a 4-figure sum on a machine that duplicates what 've already got.

  8. I have 2 sewing machines. One is a Baby Lock Espire and is about 12 years old. It cost about $1000 when I purchased it. When I bought it I really had no idea what I needed in a machine, but I wanted to get a sewing machine that I could quilt on. Unfortunately, it doesn't have a wide space, so I really can't quilt anything really large. I am getting into more FMQ though and the quilt I am currently working on is a double bed size and I layered it in 2 pieces so I could quilt it easier. I also have a Singer featherweight which I use when we travel in our camper and I love it for piecing and regular sewing. I haven't tried quilting anything on it yet, but would not be able to quilt anything large because of the size. I purchased it about 2 years ago for $235. It was made in 1950. I am interested in your survey because at some point, I would like to get a better machine for quilting, but don't want to get a long arm and something in the $500 range would be wonderful! I'm going to mention this survey on my blog as I hope you will get more responses.

  9. I have several machines. I have a Babylock Espire (I don't use this one for machine quilting). I paid about $850 9 years ago. Computerized machines can be tempermental when machine quilting. I have a Kenmore I purchased for under $200 3 years ago. I used this almost exclusively for my machine quilting until I bought my Brother 1500S for under $600 3 years ago. I have just recently purchased a Start Right Grace Frame for the Brother & highly recommend both. I have a Singer Featherweight II that I use for small projects. I paid under $200 about 8 years ago for that one. I have a few older Singer machines that I use for piecing only. Also use my Brother PE150 embroidery machine which I purchased for under $500 a few years ago. There are many quilt designs that you can download for free. Just find a machine that you can enjoy. Try it out. Take a small sample quilt with you and sew away before you buy. I recommend buying from a sewing machine dealer if you don't have a good knowledge of servicing & machines. Try a friend's machine. Quilters love to share their knowledge with others.maner


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