Free motion quilting is a technique that lets you unleash your creative spirit, transforming ordinary fabric into a canvas for your unique designs. For this extraordinary technique, you need a special machine – a free motion quilting machine. This machine is no ordinary contraption. It’s like a secret weapon in the hands of a fabric artist, a magic carpet ready to take you on a ride across a universe brimming with creative possibilities.

With a free motion quilting machine, you’ll have the freedom to stitch in any direction, creating intricate and personalized patterns that make your quilting projects truly one-of-a-kind. Let’s explore the ins and outs of free motion quilting machines, how they work, and why they’re the secret weapon of every passionate quilter.

What is a Free Motion Quilting Machine?

A free motion quilting machine is a specialized type of sewing machine designed for quilting. It allows the user to stitch in any direction by manually moving the fabric under the needle. This is made possible by lowering or disengaging the machine’s feed dogs, the mechanism that typically moves the fabric forward in a regular sewing machine. The distinctive feature of a free motion quilting machine is its ability to create unique, freehand designs, offering the sewer greater creative freedom compared to a standard sewing machine. It’s an ideal tool for both hobbyists looking to explore creative quilting techniques and professionals seeking high precision and speed in their quilting projects.

Anatomy of a free motion quilting machine

free motion quilting machine parts

Imagine you’re stepping onto a Broadway stage, and every part of a free motion quilting machine is a character in the show. The motor, our strong and reliable lead, powers the entire operation. The throat, with its generous space, is the stage itself, allowing for larger-than-life performances. The presser foot, our graceful dancer, glides across the fabric, while the feed dogs (more like stagehands than actual dogs, mind you) guide the material with precision. And let’s not forget the extension table—the expanded stage for those grand, sweeping quilt projects. Each part plays a critical role, and together, they create a spectacle that’s nothing short of magical.

How does this machine work?

So how does this machine create those beautiful stitches, you ask? Well, it’s a bit like a symphony orchestra. When you initiate the free motion quilting process, the feed dogs drop down, leaving you, the maestro, in full control of guiding the fabric under the needle. You’re free to move the fabric in any direction, creating unique designs as the needle dances up and down. It’s like conducting your very own textile symphony!

What makes a machine for free motion quilting so special?

But what sets these machines apart from your run-of-the-mill sewing machines? With a free motion quilting machine, you’re not just following a set pattern—you’re creating your own. The freedom to bring your unique designs to life, coupled with the capability to handle larger projects, high speed, and precision—these aren’t just tools, darling, they’re an extension of your creativity.

Who needs a free motion quilting machine?

So, who stands to benefit from this magical contraption? Don’t think that it’s just for those seasoned, professional quilters! Owning a free motion quilting machine is like having a secret ingredient that can add a dash of divine flavor to anyone’s sewing project. If you’re a beginner looking to level up your skills, a professional seeking speed and precision, or a hobbyist keen to try something new and exciting, then this machine could be your ticket to a whole new world of sewing possibilities.

Best Sewing Machines for Free Motion Quilting – My Top 5

1. The Janome Horizon 8200QCP – A Legend

The Janome Horizon Memory Craft 8200QC is a versatile sewing and quilting machine, part of the Memory Craft line by Janome, which also includes the Memory Craft 6650, 6700, and others. It is the machine that has been on the market for quite some time and is still one of the best quilting machines ever made! Take a look at the amazing set of features that this machine has to offer:

  • Ample Workspace: With an impressive 11 inches of throat space, the 8200QCP provides ample room for larger quilting projects. It’s like having your own personal quilting auditorium.
  • Stitch Regulation: This machine features a built-in stitch regulator, ensuring consistent stitch length even when changing sewing speed. It’s like having a conductor to keep your stitches in perfect harmony.
  • Free Motion Quilting Set: Equipped with a special quilting foot and drop feed dogs, the 8200QCP offers excellent free motion quilting capabilities.
  • Superior Feed System (SFS+): This feature ensures even and consistent feeding of the fabric, helping you achieve precise, professional-quality stitches.
  • Variable Speed Control: Whether you’re sewing at a gentle adagio or a brisk allegro, the 8200QCP lets you set the pace with its variable speed control.
janome horizon free motion quilting machine


  • Precision: Thanks to its advanced features like the built-in stitch regulator and the Superior Feed System, the 8200QCP delivers exceptional precision and consistency.
  • Versatility: With 170 built-in stitches, including 10 one-step buttonhole styles and alphabet stitches, this machine is ready for a wide range of sewing tasks in addition to quilting.
  • Durability: The 8200QCP is a sturdy, reliable machine that’s built to last, making it a great investment for serious quilters.


  • Price: As a high-end machine, the 8200QCP comes with a higher price tag. But remember, quality often comes at a price!
  • Complexity: With its advanced features, there might be a learning curve, especially for beginners.

2. JUKI TL-2000Qi – A Quilter’s Dream

The JUKI TL-2000Qi, my friends, is a machine that’s built for quilters. It’s like a reliable workhorse, ready to tackle your quilting projects with power, precision, and grace. This machine is considered a top-tier quilting machine, ideal for professional quilters and seamstresses, and there are plenty of reasons why:

  • Large Throat Area: The TL-2000Qi boasts a large throat area that’s perfect for accommodating larger quilts. It’s like having a spacious canvas for your fabric masterpiece.
  • Automatic Needle Threader and Trimmer: Say goodbye to the hassle of threading needles and trimming threads with this machine’s automatic features. It’s like having a personal assistant, always ready to lend a hand.
  • Variable Speed Control: Whether you like to quilt at a leisurely pace or race through your projects, the TL-2000Qi lets you set the speed to your liking.
  • Free Motion Quilting Foot: This machine comes with a free motion quilting foot, giving you the freedom to stitch creative, freehand designs.
  • Down Stop position: The TL-2000Qi includes a feature for automatic needle stopping in the down position, making it ideal for free motion quilting.
  • Knee Lifter Lever: A knee lifter lever allows you to raise or lower the presser foot without taking your hands off your quilt.
UKI TL-2000Qi Sewing and Quilting Machine


  • Precision: With its robust construction and high-quality parts, the TL-2000Qi offers exceptional precision, allowing you to create beautiful, intricate quilting designs.
  • Speed: The TL-2000Qi can sew up to 1500 stitches per minute, making it a fantastic choice for those who want to zip through their quilting projects.
  • Durability: Built with an aluminum die-cast frame, this machine is designed to stand the test of time.


  • Price: The TL-2000Qi is a bit of an investment compared to other models. But, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for!
  • Learning Curve: With its advanced features, this machine may take some time for beginners to master.

3. Brother HC1850 – Versatile and reliable

The Brother HC1850, with a variety of features at your disposal, is ready to tackle any quilting challenge you throw at it. Equipped with a spring-action quilting foot and the ability to drop feed dogs, the HC1850 gives you the freedom to create intricate free motion quilting designs. But there are more amazing features that earned this versatile machine a place on this list:

  • Wide Table: The machine comes with a detachable wide table, providing the extra space you need for larger quilting projects. It’s like having your own personal quilting station!
  • 185 Unique Built-in Stitches: Including 130 sewing stitches, 55 alphanumeric sewing stitches, and 8 styles of one-step buttonholes, this machine is ready to handle a wide variety of sewing tasks.
  • Automatic Needle Threader and Drop-in Top Bobbin: These features make the machine easy to set up, saving you time and frustration.
  • Adjustable Sewing Speed: With the ability to adjust the sewing speed, you can take full control of your quilting projects, whether you prefer a slow and steady pace or a quicker tempo.
brother hc1850 quilting machine


  • Versatility: The HC1850 is not just a quilting machine. With its range of built-in stitches, it’s also suitable for a wide variety of sewing projects.
  • User-Friendly: With its intuitive controls and automatic features, the HC1850 is a breeze to operate, making it a great choice for beginners.
  • Value for Money: Considering its versatility and range of features, the HC1850 offers excellent value for money.


  • Light Duty: While the HC1850 is a versatile machine, it may not be the best choice for heavy-duty quilting projects or thick, tough materials.
  • Throat Space: The HC1850 doesn’t have as much throat space as some other quilting machines, which could be a limitation for larger quilts.

4. The Janome MC6650

The Janome MC6650 is a powerhouse in the quilting world. It’s a machine that offers precision, versatility, and durability, truly a great investment for quilters who value quality and performance. The Janome MC6650 is a machine that’s crafted with precision in mind, with its intricate components working in perfect harmony.

  • Superior Plus Feed System: With this feature, the MC6650 ensures even feeding of the fabric, making it easier to achieve precise, professional-quality stitches.
  • Free Motion Quilting: Equipped with a free motion quilting foot and drop feed, the MC6650 offers excellent free motion quilting capabilities. It’s like having the freedom to dance with your fabric!
  • Wide Workspace: With 10 inches of throat space, the MC6650 provides ample room for larger quilting projects. Think of it as your personal quilting playground.
  • Memorized Needle Up/Down: This feature is a true lifesaver when pivoting on corners or free motion quilting.
  • Speed Control Slider: Whether you like to sew at a leisurely pace or race through your projects, the MC6650 lets you set the speed to your liking.


  • Precision: The MC6650 offers exceptional precision, thanks to features like the Superior Plus Feed System and memorized needle up/down.
  • Versatility: With 170 built-in stitches, including 2 alphabets, the MC6650 is ready for a wide range of sewing and quilting tasks.
  • Durability: The MC6650 is a robust machine, built with an aluminum body that’s designed to stand the test of time.


  • Price: As a high-end machine, the MC6650 comes with a higher price tag. But remember, quality often comes at a price!
  • Complexity: With its array of advanced features, there might be a learning curve, especially for beginners.

5. Brother FS100WT

The Brother FS100WT is an impressive machine that shines when it comes to free motion quilting. It is particularly suitable for quilting or free motion embroidery because of its decent size extension table and a free-motion embroidery foot. With a robust set of features, the Brother FS100WT is designed to make your quilting projects a joy to undertake. Here are key features that makes this machine excellent for free motion quilting:

  • Wide Throat Space: The FS100WT offers a generous throat space that can comfortably accommodate larger quilts, making it a fantastic choice for those grand, ambitious projects.
  • Free Motion Capability: With the ability to lower the feed dogs and attach a free motion quilting foot, this machine gives you the freedom to stitch in any direction and create unique designs.
  • Variable Speed Control: Whether you’re a hare or a tortoise when it comes to sewing, the FS100WT has got you covered. With variable speed control, you can adjust the stitching speed to match your comfort level.
  • Powerful Motor: The FS100WT has a 50W Brother Z Pulse Motor capable of tackling multiple layers of fabric and is suitable for small upholstery projects.
  • Built-In Stitches: With 100 built-in stitches, including several quilting stitches, this machine is ready to tackle a wide range of sewing and quilting tasks.
  • Automatic Needle Threader: The FS100WT comes with an automatic needle threader—a small but mighty feature that will save you from squinting and frustration.


  • Versatility: The FS100WT is a versatile machine that’s not only great for free motion quilting but also for general sewing tasks, making it a great all-rounder.
  • Ease of Use: With its intuitive design and user-friendly features, this machine is easy to set up and operate, even for beginners.
  • Quality Construction: Built to Brother’s high standards, the FS100WT is a robust machine that’s designed to last.


  • Noise Level: Some users have noted that the FS100WT can be quite noisy during operation, which might be a factor to consider if you prefer a quieter sewing environment.
  • Learning Curve: While the FS100WT is user-friendly, mastering free motion quilting on this machine can take some practice, particularly for beginners.

Features to Look for in a Free Motion Quilting Machine

When you’re in the market for a free motion quilting machine, there are some key features to keep an eye out for. Just like shopping for the perfect pair of shoes, you need to find the right fit for your needs. Finding the perfect free motion quilting machine might seem like a daunting task, but with these features in mind, you’ll be well-equipped to make an informed choice.

Throat Space

First up is the throat space. What’s that, you ask? It’s the distance from the needle to the back of the machine. Why is it important? Well, a larger throat space means you have more room to maneuver your quilt—kind of like having extra legroom on a long-haul flight. And trust me, that can be a godsend when you’re working on larger projects. Make sure to take a look at my favorite sewing machines with extra large throat space that are great for quilting.

Stitches per Minute

Next on our list is stitches per minute or SPM. This feature is all about speed—think of it as the horsepower of your quilting machine. A higher SPM means you can sew faster, but remember, control is just as important as speed. So, look for a machine that offers a good balance.

Stitch Quality

Now let’s talk about stitch quality. After all, what good is a quilting machine if it doesn’t produce beautiful stitches? Look for a machine that consistently creates even, tidy stitches. It’s the difference between a gourmet meal and a fast-food burger—both can fill you up, but only one is truly satisfying.

Feed Dogs

Feed dogs are the small metal teeth that move the fabric through the machine. In free motion quilting, these can be lowered or disengaged to allow you to move the fabric freely. It’s like taking off the training wheels on a bike—suddenly, you’re free to roam wherever your creativity takes you.

Extension Table

Lastly, consider whether the machine includes an extension table. This feature is like a spacious desk for your quilt, providing the extra support needed for larger projects. It’s not a must-have for everyone, but if you plan on creating larger quilts, it’s certainly a plus.

Knee Lifter

If you’re serious about free motion quilting, consider a machine with a knee lifter. This feature lets you raise the presser foot using a lever operated by your knee, freeing your hands to focus solely on guiding the fabric. It’s like having an extra pair of hands, making complex quilting designs a breeze to execute.

How is a free motion quilting machine different from a traditional sewing machine?

While a free motion quilting machine and a traditional sewing machine may look similar to the untrained eye, there are some key differences that set them apart.

A traditional sewing machine is a jack-of-all-trades, designed to handle a wide variety of sewing tasks, from mending clothes to crafting home decor. Its feed dogs – the toothy mechanism beneath the needle – move the fabric for you in a straight line, ensuring even and consistent stitches. However, this can limit your creativity when it comes to more free-form designs like those seen in quilting.

Enter the free motion quilting machine. This specialized machine has the ability to drop or cover its feed dogs, which gives you total control over the direction and speed of your stitching. This means you can move the fabric in any direction – left, right, forward, backward, even diagonally – allowing you to create intricate and freehand designs.

In addition, many free motion quilting machines have other features that make quilting easier and more enjoyable, like a larger throat space for maneuvering bigger quilts, a high-speed setting for faster stitching, and a knee lifter for hands-free lifting of the presser foot.

So, while a traditional sewing machine is like a reliable family car, a free motion quilting machine is more like a sports car – designed for a specific purpose, with features that enable you to fully explore your creativity.

Maintenance Tips for Your Free Motion Quilting Machine

Alright, my creative geniuses, let’s talk machine maintenance! Now, I know it’s not as exciting as picking out a new fabric or trying a new quilting pattern, but trust me, it’s just as important. Think of it as taking care of a beloved pet – you’ve got to feed it, groom it, and give it some TLC to keep it happy and healthy for a long time.

Clean Regularly

Your quilting machine is like a magnet for lint, dust, and loose threads. Regular cleaning is a must to keep it running smoothly. Get yourself a small brush (most machines come with one) and gently remove any buildup from the bobbin case and under the needle plate. It’s like brushing your teeth – a little bit of regular cleaning goes a long way!

Oil Your Machine

Just like a car needs oil to run smoothly, so does your sewing machine. Check your machine’s manual to see if it needs oiling and where to apply it. Remember, just a drop or two is usually enough – we’re not deep frying a turkey here!

Change Your Needles Regularly

Needles can become dull or bent after several hours of sewing, which can lead to skipped stitches or even damage your fabric. Changing your needle regularly – say after every large project or after 8-10 hours of sewing – is a good rule of thumb. It’s a bit like changing the tires on your car – a little preventative maintenance can save a lot of hassle down the road.

Get a Professional Service

Every now and then, consider taking your machine in for a professional service. A trained technician can give it a thorough cleaning and check for any potential issues. Think of it as a spa day for your machine – a little pampering can keep it running smoothly for years to come.

Wrapping Up

I truly hope that this guide has not only enlightened you but also sparked that creative fire within you. Remember, the world of quilting is vast and beautiful, and your journey in it is unique, much like every quilt you create.

But don’t worry, darling, you’re not alone in this journey. If you have any questions, if you’re unsure about something, or even if you just want to share your latest quilting triumph, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m here, needle in hand and ready to help. After all, we’re all threads in this wonderful quilt of a community, aren’t we?


Q: Can all sewing machines do free motion quilting?

A: In theory, any sewing machine with a feed dog drop (or cover) and the ability to attach a darning or free motion quilting foot can be used for free motion quilting. However, some machines are specifically designed with features that make free motion quilting easier and more enjoyable, like a larger throat space or a knee lifter.

Q: Is a special foot needed for free motion quilting?

A: Yes, you will need a special foot for free motion quilting, often called a darning foot or a free motion quilting foot. This foot allows you to move the fabric freely in any direction by hovering just above the fabric, not pressing it down like other feet do.

Q: How important is the throat space on a sewing machine for free motion quilting?

A: Throat space – the distance from the needle to the body of the machine – can be quite important for free motion quilting, especially if you’re working on larger quilts. A larger throat space gives you more room to maneuver your quilt, making it easier to work on your masterpiece.

Q: Does the speed of the sewing machine matter for free motion quilting?

A: Yes and no. While it’s not necessary to have a super-fast machine for free motion quilting, having a machine with a speed control can be very helpful. It allows you to find a comfortable and consistent speed for your quilting, which can lead to smoother stitches and a more enjoyable quilting experience.

Q: Can beginners use free motion quilting machines?

A: Yes, beginners can certainly use free motion quilting machines. While these machines might seem intimidating at first due to their flexibility and capability for intricate designs, many models come with user-friendly features that can help beginners ease into the process. It’s recommended to start with simpler designs and gradually move to more complex patterns as confidence and skill grow.

Q: Are there specific threads and needles to be used with free motion quilting machines?

A: While you can use a variety of threads and needles with free motion quilting machines, some types may work better than others depending on your project. High-quality threads are generally recommended for their durability and less lint production. For needles, the size and type will depend on your thread and fabric. As a general rule, use a larger needle for heavier threads and fabrics, and a smaller one for lighter materials. Always remember to change needles regularly for optimal performance.

Q: Can free motion quilting be done on any fabric type?

Free motion quilting can be done on a wide range of fabrics. However, the type of fabric you choose can impact the final look and feel of your quilt. Cotton is often the preferred choice due to its ease of handling and durability. Thicker fabrics like denim or canvas can be used for a more textured look, but may require a heavier needle and more experience to quilt effectively. Always test your settings on a scrap piece of your chosen fabric before