My Review of the Pfaff Ambition Essential

Pfaff Ambition Essential Sewing Machine

Quick Notes

The Pfaff Ambition Essential is a good choice for the intermediate or serious sewer. It offers a good range of stitches and features, including of course Pfaff's IDT system, and stitch consistency and quality are good. It's a shame that it lacks a start/stop button and speed slider.

The Pros

  • IDT system
  • Useful tie-off functionality
  • Well designed

The Cons

  • No start/stop button and speed slider
  • Max stitch length is 4.5 mm

Pfaff Ambition Essential Overview

Come with me, let's take a peek together into the the world of the Pfaff Ambition Essential!

This stellar sewing machine is the most recently released in the Ambition line, which also includes the Ambition 1.0 and the Quilt Ambition 2.0 (the Ambition 1.5 having been discontinued). As its name implies, the Ambition Essential it is a trimmed down version of the Ambition 1.0. The good news is that this means it is more affordable!

Despite being the trimmed down machine of the Ambition line, it still manages to pack a lot in. It has a professional feel to it, and is a high quality computerised machine with an excellent range of features (including the much loved Pfaff IDT system!).

How Does It Compare?

First things first, lets see how it compares. I have put together a quick comparison between the Ambition Essential, the Ambition 1.0, the Bernina 330 and the Singer Quantum Stylist 9960.

ModelPfaff Ambition Essential Sewing Machine
Pfaff Ambition
Pfaff Ambition 1.0 Sewing Machine
Ambition 1.0
Bernina 330 Sewing Machine
Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 Sewing Machine
Singer Quantum
Stylist 9960
Price Check Price
Check Price
Check Price
Check Price
Stitches 110 136 97 600
Alphabet Stitches 2 2 1 5
Buttonholes 6 7 1 13
Bobbin Type Top Loading Top Loading Front Loading Top Loading
Presser Feet 6 6 5 13 (including a
walking foot)
Auto Needle Threader
Auto Thread Cutter
Other Features IDT system IDT system - Extension table

These machines are all around the same price, apart from the Ambition 1.0 which is slightly more expensive. With the Bernina you are getting fewer features but higher quality, whereas with the Singer you are getting a lot of features, but probably sacrificing quality and durability somewhere. For that balance of features vs quality I would place the Ambition Essential pretty much squarely between the two.

The Stitches

The Ambition Essential comes with a total of 110 stitches. All of the stitches are printed on the hinged lid of the machine, and they include 7 buttonholes and 2 alphabet sets (although one is Cyrillic). I believe the alphabets are uppercase only (the Ambition 1.0 can do lowercase as well).

The Mirror function allows you to flip decorative stitches, which adds a nice bit of versatility. You can save a sequence of up to 30 stitches or letters to the machine's memory, so everything won't be lost if you turn the machine off, although there is only one memory slot.

Stitch quality with the Ambition Essential is particularly good and very consistent. The maximum stitch length goes up to 4.5 mm, which is actually a little short for my tastes, especially for things like basting.

IDT System

One of the clear advantages that the Pfaff Ambition Essential (and in fact most Pfaff sewing machines) have over models from other brands is the IDT system.

I'll give a quick introduction to the IDT system here, for those who don't know much about it: IDT stands for Integrated Dual Transportation, but is most often called Integrated Dual Feed. It is a system developed by Pfaff to assist with feeding fabric through the sewing machine. It consists of a small foot integrated into the machine, located just behind the needle. This foot feeds fabric from the top, in addition to the feed dogs which feed from the bottom (hence the "dual feed" name). This gives you a much more smooth and even feed.

The IDT system works in a similar way to a walking foot. I prefer it to a walking foot though as it is integrated into the machine. It is also much less bulky and far more discreet than a walking foot, which improves visibility. The system can be engaged and disengaged, so it is only used when you want it to be.

Having the option of IDT is real plus, and I would say it is one of the main reasons to favour this machine over models from other brands. Bernina has developed a similar system called Dual Feed which its available on its top end models, and Janome has developed its AcuFeed system which is also similar, if slightly bulkier. I prefer IDT to both of those, as I feel I get a smoother feed.

IDT also makes the Ambition Essential a good machine for quilting.

Design and Build Quality

I love the look of the Ambition Essential. Pfaff are definitely doing something right with the design of their machines. All of the recent machines from the Passport range upwards look very sleek and stylish. Or at least I think so... let me know in the comments if you don't agree. I mean, just take a look at the Pfaff Creative Icon - wow!

The Essential is well designed, feels quite stable, and the build quality is good. Here's what it looks like fresh out of the box:

Pfaff Ambition Essential Unboxed
The Pfaff Ambition Essential fresh out of the box

It has a good amount of harp space to the right of the needle as well, which makes things so much easier when working on larger projects. The free arm isn't perfectly flat but curves towards you at the front, which I like.

It is quite heavy though, so not really one for lugging to and from classes!

Presser Feet

The Ambition Essential comes with 6 snap-on presser feet:

  • All purpose foot 0A
  • Fancy stitch foot 1A (for use with IDT system)
  • Fancy stitch foot 2B
  • Blind hem foot 3
  • Zipper foot 4
  • Buttonhole foot 5B

The fancy stitch foot is used for decorative stitches. Only feet which have a small section cut out at the back can be used with the IDT system, as this leaves a gap where the upper feed can grip the fabric (all of the feet listed above except for 2B and 5B have this cut-out).

A tip for buttonholes - when using the buttonhole foot, you need to lower the buttonhole lever which sits to the left of the needle shaft. When it lowers it comes into contact with the buttonhole foot.

The Details

So that's the main stuff out of the way. Let's take a look at some of the details...

Bobbin, Needle and Needle Plate

The Ambition Essential has a drop in bobbin system. It doesn't have a fancy sensor for telling you when your bobbin is almost empty, but you can just peer though the transparent top and have a look, the old fashioned way!

You can see the needle plate in the photo below. It has metric and imperial markings.

Pfaff Ambition Essential Needle Plate
The Pfaff Ambition Essential needle plate with the all purpose 0A presser foot attached

The Ambition Essential also has a needle/up down button. Unlike the Singer Quantum Stylist 9960, which only stops needle up, you can set the Ambition Essential to stop with the needle either up or down at the press of a button.

It also has a fairly standard needle threader which is easy enough to use. More often than not though these days I find myself threading needles manually.

Auto-lock Function

The auto-lock function will automatically tie off stitches when pressed, which is a super handy feature and a bit of a time saver.

Depending on the type of stitch you are using, it will either do it immediately when the button is pressed, or wait until the end of the stitch pattern and then tie off.

The Ambition Essential only has an immediate tie off feature. It doesn't have the more advanced programmed tie off option that you get with the Ambition 1.0 and the Quilt Ambition 2.0.

Sewing Control

The sewing speed on the Ambition Essential can only be controlled using the foot pedal. The Ambition 1.0 and Quilt Ambition 2.0 have a start/stop button and speed slider, but the Ambition Essential doesn't. This is a real shame - I have mentioned many times in the past how much I like being able to do away with the foot pedal, and it is also great for those with reduced mobility. This is one thing really lacking from this machine in my opinion.

LCD Screen

The LCD screen is quite small, a thin little strip of a screen. It is quite clear though, and tells you everything you need to know. Setting up stitch sequences would be a bit easier with a larger screen, but it certainly does the job. The screen on the Ambition 1.0 is about twice the size, but obviously it is a more expensive machine.

Pfaff Ambition Essential Screen
The Pfaff Ambition Essential LCD screen


The Pfaff Ambition Essential is a good choice for the intermediate or serious sewer. It offers a good range of stitches and many of the features you would expect from a machine in this price range, including needle up/down, needle threader, clear LCD screen etc... The auto-lock function for immediately tying off stitches is also great. However it does lack a start/stop button and speed slider, and so you can't do away with the foot pedal!

I find it to be a very well designed machine, which has that rare quality of being both ergonomic and attractive! All in all, I would definitely recommend it.

Similar Sewing Machines

Singer Quantum Stylist 9960
Singer Quantum Stylist 9960
Brother FS100 WT
Brother FS100WT
Bernina 330
Bernina 330

5 thoughts on “My Review of the Pfaff Ambition Essential

  1. I am an experienced sewer. I just bought an icon and am thrilled, but am not good with the computer yet. It is very heavy duty and I look forward to a lot of years with this machine. I traded my pfaff 3.0 in for this machine which I can say I loved but knew I needed the upgrade. I also own a pfaff triptronic which is my old work horse, plus an old kenmore and a singer featherweight. All of them have great features and I use them all. Thank you for this sight it is a wonderful resource for anyone who has questions about sewing machines.

  2. Hi
    What I’m looking for is machine where I can move the needle to the right or left in order to be able to get a scant quarter inch for my Piecing please. Thank you x

  3. This machine sounds just perfect for the thick webbing I’m using. However I’ve tried out other good quality machines and have had issues when using a bonded nylon thread. I’ve since been told the top loading bobbins can’t cope with this “slippy” threat. Have you tested this machine (or anyother) with bonded nylon?

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