This is a full size, semi-commercial, straight stitch machine with an extra long arm for machine quilting. It is designed primarily to meet the needs of home quilters, and it performs spectacularly for that purpose. It has fabric handling features that are not available on most home sewing machines which allow you to quilt multiple layers of fabric together at high speeds without fabric shift or slippage. If you are a quilter, this is your dream machine.
Of course, you can sew more than quilts with this machine. Most garment and home decor sewing involves straight stitching and this machine makes the most perfectly formed straight stitch I've ever seen on a modern sewing machine. The reason is that this machine ONLY makes a straight stitch. Nothing else. No zig-zag. No stretch stitches. No button holes. No fancy decorative stitches. Just the most perfect straight stitch you could ever want.
It also does not have automatic tension, presser foot pressure or stitch length setting. You set those things manually. For people used to machines that are computerized, this may be intimidating, but it is easily mastered. It does not have a free arm or a low bobbin thread indicator, either, as virtually all regular sewing machines have these days. But a mechanical machine like this offers durability that electronic or computerized machines can't touch because there are no circuit boards or electronics or LCD screens to fail. This is a machine you can hand down to your grandchild.
So is this the sewing machine for you? If you are a quilter - yes. If you do a lot of home decor sewing like drapery, slip covers, pillows, bedding - probably. If you quilt and sew home decor and garments - maybe. If you sew mostly clothing - this is not your best choice as a primary machine.
For garment construction, you will likely want at least one sewing machine which has, at a minimum, a zig-zag stitch or you can't sew button holes and will have a harder time sewing knits. You can certainly make clothing with the PQ1500S, but you will be limited to zippers for closures and will struggle with stretching knit fabrics while sewing to give the seam the stretch it needs.
Also, consider your sewing space. This is a pretty big machine. It weighs a little over 24 pounds and with the extension table attached, it measures 30" long x 11.25" deep.
Once you've established this machine could be right for you, here are some of the exceptional features. It has a knee lifter (which raises the presser foot at the press of your knee), a needle threader (which is awesome), an automatic thread cutter button, a needle stop position button, a large and conveniently placed reverse stitch lever, an adjustable thread stand with dual spool pins for better thread handling, and a four position feed dog adjustment knob which raises or lowers the feed dogs as well as engaging the fantastic pin-feed feature.
Included in the box is an extension table, the knee lift bar (stored in the bottom of the extension table), 6 needles, 5 metal bobbins, a fabric separator attachment and a seam guide attachment, two screwdrivers, a lint brush, an extra pin and changer for the pin feed feature, a thread spool cap, the foot controller and power cord and a very nice machine cover. There are also several presser feet including a general purpose foot, a rolled hem foot, a zipper foot, an invisible zipper foot, a 1/4" foot, a quilting foot and a walking foot.
The bobbin is a vertical mount and loads underneath and to the side of the needle plate. Brother has addressed having to take your extension table off (and also your quilt or garment) in order to change an empty bobbin. Instead, there is a door in the extension table which allows you access to the bobbin. This is outstanding when quilting a large blanket. There is also a bobbin winder located on the top of the machine.
Other features I love are the presser foot pressure gauge on the front of the machine so I can see exactly what it's set to and that the needle plate is marked in inches, not centimeters. I also love that you can set the stitch length up to 7mm. This makes a very long basting stitch which is also easy to use for gathering. (My regular sewing machine only goes up to 4mm stitch length.) And, of course, I love all the space under the arm. I checked and I can roll up a full size quilt and it fits easily under the arm with room enough to maneuver the fabric.
I am stunned at how smoothly and quietly this machine sews. There is almost no vibration, either. It practically purrs even at the maximum speed of 1500 stitches per minute (that's almost twice as fast as my regular sewing machine!) And the straight stitch is absolutely exquisite. By flipping the feed dog knob and changing to the quilting foot, I am able to do free-motion quilting, too. I've never done this before but the results are fantastic. It's like drawing with stitches and the stitch quality is still superb. I have already started a small throw that I will quilt entirely in free-motion. I love this!
I have sewn leather, suede, fleece, a multi-layered quilt, taffeta, denim, silk satin, silk chiffon, woven cotton, woven polyester and Naugahyde on this machine so far with perfect results. The fabric separator attachment and the walking foot are incredibly useful when sewing "difficult" fabrics. Take the time to try them. You may discover you love sewing silks and leathers!
Things that may throw an inexperienced sewist are setting the tension, stitch length and presser foot pressure, but it really isn't that hard. The owners manual explains how to do this pretty well. Just make sure to use some scraps of the fabric you are going to sew and practice til you get the tension set just right for that particular fabric. If you do that, make sure you have the correct needle size for your fabric, keep the bobbin area and feed dogs clean and be certain you have it threaded correctly, you will be rewarded with a perfect stitch.
The pin feed mechanism, usually only found on commercial machines, works brilliantly on multiple layers or on slippery, hard to manage fabrics. This feature alone makes this machine a quilter's dream!
There is also a telescoping thread guide which practically eliminates upper thread feeding problems. They make such a difference that I use separate thread stands for my other machines, so I'm delighted to see that Brother has included it in the design.
Maintenance includes oiling the machine in several places specified in the owners manual. Brother recommends twice monthly oiling if you sew every day. Keep your oil out so you won't neglect this. Making sure your machine is oiled is just as important as making sure your car engine has oil. Neither will run smoothly without it.
Brother recommends Organ HLX5 needles, but says that Schmetz 130/705H are acceptable. These are different than the regular sewing machine needles you can get at Walmart so be sure you get the right kind. You can also get these needles with a titanium coating (which I recommend) that makes the needles last longer during high speed sewing. As a side note: I was surprised to see that you install the needle with the flat side to the right instead of to the back. Thus, the hole in the needle for the thread to pass through is to the side instead of facing front when installed correctly. Knowing that makes it easier to understand the directions for using the automatic needle threader, which is a fantastic feature. I never thread the needle by hand on this machine.
The bobbins are Brother SA159. They are metal. Order more online as they are usually much less expensive than buying locally in a quilt shop or at a Brother dealer. I ordered 50 more. The reason for having a large stash of bobbins, especially with this machine, is that it takes a lot of thread to quilt a large blanket. I wind 15-20 bobbins before starting a large project so that each time I run out of bobbin thread, I have a full one ready to replace it with. The easy bobbin access in the extension table makes this so much simpler than with a conventional sewing machine. You don't HAVE to have more bobbins, though, because the dual thread spool pins and separate threading path for bobbin winding allows you to wind bobbins pretty easily mid-project without having to unthread your machine.
I am using this machine primarily for quilting and home dec applications but since I discovered how exceptionally well it handles slippery fabrics, I am also using it to sew my daughter's wedding gown. The silk charmeuse glides perfectly through the machine when using the fabric separator. Kudos to Brother for making a commercial quality machine that is affordable.
I guess you can tell I love this machine. I've been sewing for 35+ years and have owned and used a lot of different machines. This one really shines. If the features meet your needs, I bet you will love it, too.