Types of Long Arm Quilting Machines

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A Longarm quilting machine is a wonderful tool for your quilting journey. It will allow you to create large and beautiful quilt designs without the need to carry around your project in between. The top, batting, and backing of your quilt will be stitched together by these commercial quilting machines in a single, optimized procedure. If you take good care of the machine it will serve you for years to come.

The throat space of the Short-Arm  Quilting machine is between 9’’ to 12’’ while for the Mid-Arm Quilting machine throat space is usually between 12” to 18” while the throat space of a longarm quilting machine is usually between 18’’ to 24’’. However, some industrial quilters use long-arm machines with 30-inch arms, while most quilting machines come with standard 18-inch arms.

When used in collaboration with a quilting frame, a long-arm quilting machine can significantly outpace traditional quilters or even hand quilting in terms of output. Mostly these long-arm quilters are hand driven and have either one or two feed systems i.e. foot pedal or mechanical arm. Also, they come in the form of sit-down quilting machines. While other types of Long Arm quilting machines are mobile, a “Sit Down” machine is permanently mounted on a tabletop. Also, they come in computerized form also in which the quilting process is fully automatic.

Long-arm quilting machines have arms that are at least 18 inches long. Because the vast majority of long-arm machines are mounted on a frame. The batting and material are fed into the machine by rollers. The quilting machine head rotates around the frame while the cloth is held in place. The head can be controlled manually or by computer in computerized quilting machines.

Types of Long Arm Quilting Machines

We mainly divide the types of quilting machines into the following categories.

  • Short Arm Quilting Machine 
  • Mid-Arm Quilting Machine
  • Sit-Down Quilting Machine
  • Computerized Quilting Machine

Short Arm Quilting Machine

A Short Arm Quilting Machine
A Short Arm Quilting Machine

Short Arm Quilting Machines are the cheapest form of quilting machines. It has the smallest throat space that ranges from 7′′ to 9′′. Usually, this type of machine comes with 3 in 1 or 2 in 1 sewing machines i.e. sewing machines and quilting machines, embroidery machines and quilting machines, or sewing machines, embroidery machines, and quilting machines. Mostly, domestic users own this short-arm quilting machine as it is cost-effective and still able to do small tasks perfectly like the long-arm quilting machine. However, if you are an avid quilter and want to do large and complex projects then a short arm is not best for you.

Mid Arm Quilting Machine

A Mid Arm Quilting Machine
A Mid Arm Quilting Machine

Mid-Arm is a step above short-arm quilting machines and slightly more expensive also. A midarm sewing machine is a semi-industrial, lockstitch home sewing machine or a longarm with a smaller arm or you can say a mix of both sewing machine and longarm machine. The throat space of the Mid-Arm Quilting machine is usually between 12” to 18”. Usually, this type of machine comes with 2 in 1 sewing machines i.e. quilting machines and embroidery machines. Usually, enthusiast hobby quilters who want to make huge projects without a complex quilting machine prefer this. Also, Mid-Arm Quilting Machine is preferred by students who are not able to afford the heavy-duty long-arm machine.

Sit Down Quilting Machine

Sit Down Quilting Machine is just like any other Long Arm the only difference is that Sit down quilting machine is fixed on a table with no wheels like other types. It enables you to do free-motion quilting very easily. A sit-down quilting machine is an easy, quick and simple way of quilting and in most cases, it is the best option for DIY projects. Sit-down quilting machines are mainly available for domestic users which can save you a lot of money.

Some industrial quilters use long-arm machines with 22-26 inches arms, while most quilting machines come with standard 18-inch arms.

Computerized Quilting Machine

Computerized longarm quilters are upgraded models. The LCD or LED display that allows you to access the more advanced and powerful functions is a significant indication. Upon further inspection, you will notice that the computerized longarm quilters can be customized and programmed according to the user’s wants and needs. In addition, computerized longarm quilters are compatible with common designs and software.

Other features that may be included on a computerized longarm quilting machine include a laser-guided needlepoint, an illuminated work area, and so on.

Some of the standard features of a computerized longarm quilter include:

  • Stitching Setting Function
  • Pattern Storage Function
  • Thickness Adjustment Function
  • Reinforcement Seam Function
  • Land Occupation Rate
  • Display Function
  • Hook Function
  • The Broken Wire Detection Function
  • Power-Off Memory Function

Check Also:

  1. How Much Does A Long Arm Quilting Machine Cost?
  2. Can You Rent A Long Arm Quilting Machine?
  3. Best Long Arm Quilting Machines

Difference Between A Normal Quilting Machine and Sit-Down Long Arm Machine

The throat space, motor power, and features of a sit-down longarm quilting machine set it apart from a conventional domestic quilting machine.

Most typical, domestic sewing machines give a paltry 8-9 inch difference in the machine’s throat, which cuts down on how easily one can navigate a quilt through the machine. In contrast, the 20-inch throat space of most sit-down long-arm machines allows for considerably more fluid quilting. Although  20 inches is an average throat space for sit-down long-arm machines the throat space can vary depending on the modal of the sit-down machine.

Because of the greater workspace afforded by Sit-down long-arm machines, not only is it easier on your body to quilt, but it also gives you more design possibilities in your quilting motifs. With a broader throat, you can effortlessly complete larger free-motion motifs without having to reposition your hands.

Another key difference between short-arm quilting machines and Sit-down long-arm machines is the size of the motor. The average stitch rate for a sit-down long-arm machine is 1800-3600 per minute, thanks to the machine’s powerful industrial motor. This isn’t to say that you’ll be able to quilt that quickly, though (although you certainly could). Instead, a high number represents the capability of the motor hidden away in the machine.

The mass of those seams can make a basic home machine falter! Sit-down long-arm machines can manage seam accumulation without an issue and power through areas of a quilt that your standard domestic will not be able to conquer due to its non-industrial grade motor.

The majority of longarm sewing machines that can be operated while seated have the machine facing away from you, on a tabletop just like a typical domestic sewing machine. This allows you to easily handle the fabric if it is in your way as you attempt to feed it into the machine through the throat space and you will have to exert some force in order to do so.

Precisely like what you are used to with your sit-down domestic machine. This setup will allow you to feed the quilt through the machine without having to worry about the machine getting in the way. Both domestic sewing machines and sit-down longarm quilting machines usually use free-motion quilting.

You might be thinking, can a sewing machine be used as a long arm quilting machine? Well, you can check our detailed review of Top Large Throat Sewing Machines.

Difference Between the Short Arm Quilting Machine and Mid Arm Quilting Machine 

A 9-inch throat is typical for a short-arm or domestic sewing machine. Even if it has a quilting function, a home sewing machine may only have a throat of 7 or 8 inches. While The throat space of the Mid-Arm Quilting machine is usually between 12” to 18”. Quilts of any size can be made using these machines, smaller ones can be more challenging to work on due to the smaller opening, smaller throat space, and shorter arm.

Using a short-arm sewing machine with a quilting frame limits you to working on smaller projects like blocks and patterns. On the other hand, A mid-arm quilting machine is semi-industrial and enables you to work on larger or more complex projects without many hurdles. Short-arm Quilting machine is usually the cheaper choice While midarm Quilting machines are slightly more expensive. However, enthusiast hobby quilters or professional quilters who want to make huge projects without a complex quilting machine prefer this. 

Difference Between the Mid Arm Quilting Machine and Standard Longarm Quilting Machine

The major difference between the Mid Arm Quilting machine and the standard Longarm quilting machine is the throat space or the length of the arm. The throat space (the distance between the needle and the right side of the machine) is where the mid-arm and long-arm quilting machines differ in terms of the size of the arm. The mid-arm machine provides between 12 and 17 inches, while the long-arm provides between 18 and 24 inches.

Usually, the midarm is preferred by quilters if they don’t want to do complex projects or looking for a quilting machine that has good features on a short or limited budget. However, the longarm machine is preferred by hobbyist quilters or professionals who want a dedicated quilting machine with a large throat space and longer arm length. Longarm is also preferred due to its heavy-duty motor and ability to tackle the most complex quilting ideas and making it true.

Is It Worth Buying A Computerized Quilting Machine?

A computerized Quilting Machine is the most expensive type of quilting machine. So definitely the question arises is it even worth it? Yes, buying the Computerized Quilting Machine is totally worth it. But it is the most suitable for people who are associated with quilting businesses or are professional quilters looking for an automated process to speed up the projects.

Also, we recommend that small businesses look into Computerized Quilting Machines as they will definitely automate your quilting process also speed up the timeline of finishing the project which is better for your business. More projects, more sales, more business. Sounds good?

Yes, a computerized long arm quilting machine has quite a high price tag but it is one with the most advanced features also. The computer quilting machine’s storage can hold a large number of designs, and users can access such patterns whenever they like. The process of using it is quick, easy, and convenient.

The LCD display can show you the current spindle speed, the parking factor, the output statistics, and how much memory space you have left. Adjustable thickness is possible by altering the quilting depth as specified in the directions. You don’t need to fuss about it anymore. In addition, The system is programmed to shut down immediately upon discovering a broken wire to prevent accidental short circuits.

The computer quilting machine can automatically and quickly follow the pattern movement, whether it’s fast forward or rewind, even if the power is cut off or turned off in the middle of an operation, or if there’s a problem with the quilting machine (needle or thread) and the machine needs to be stopped.

In the event that you need to continue quilting, you can either manually or automatically resume from the spot where the machine stopped. There is a high quilting capacity for a low land use footprint thanks to computerized quilting machines.

FAQ About Types of Long Arm Quilting Machines

Is A Long-Arm Quilting Machine Worth It?

Long-arm quilting machines are costlier than traditional quilting machines. Also, long-arm quilting machines are bulkier and heavier. You will need a ton of space for the machine and its accessories. If you do not have a dedicated space at home for quilting, your hobby will be interrupted when the machine gets in your way.

Why Do The Prices Of Long Arms Vary Depending On Their Types?

The prices of long arms vary based on the brands, sizes, options, and accessories. The prices also vary per model or model line. In some cases, the length of the arm, size or weight of the machine, etc. also play a role in determining the prices. There may be subtle features that affect one long arm to another long arm with exactly the same features and options.

What Is A Quilting Frame?

A quilting frame is placed under a quilt while you are quilting so that it will not move while you work on it. The frames also have rulers and grids, which help guide your threads where you want them to go and keep everything organized as you sew. Quilting frames come in various shapes and sizes to suit individual preferences. Frames that can be folded for easy storage and transport are available as well.

Is It Easy To Transport A Sit-Down Longarm Quilter?

The main problem with sit-down long-arm quilters is that they cannot easily be transported. Also, sit-down longarm machines are often not suitable for the smaller area as they may appear bulky in smaller rooms. In addition, many claim they are in some way cumbersome to transport and set up. Sit-down longarm machines are usually heavier than traditional quilting machines due to the additional weight of their motors and other components, larger pipe fittings, and control boards.

Why Is The Length Of The Long Arm Matter? 

Having two to three times as much longarm as compared to a standard sewing machine allows you to position your machine perpendicular to your quilting project, or sit parallel to it. With more space, you can utilize your quilting machine to create larger quilts or thicker batting. In general, the long arms come with either wheels or sit-down tables. Usually the shorter the length of longarm machines the cheaper it is, but having a larger longarm is definitely worth it.

What Is The Main Difference Between A Domestic Sewing Machine And A Sit-Down Long-Arm Machine?

The throat space, motor power, and features of a sit-down longarm quilting machine set it apart from a conventional domestic sewing machine. Most typical, domestic sewing machines give a paltry 8-9 inch difference in the throat of the machine, which cuts down on how easily one may navigate a quilt through the machine. In contrast, the 20-inch throat space of most sit-down long-arm machines allows for considerably more fluid quilting. Although  20 inches is the average throat space for the sit-down long-arm machines the throat space can vary depending on the modal of the sit-down machine.

How Much Money Do I Need To Buy A Long-Arm Sewing Machine? 

Long-arm quilting machines can get quite expensive. They start as low as $1000 for beginners or meet basic needs like short-arm quilting machines and go as high as $20000 for advanced ones like computerized quilting machines. If you are interested in keeping the price low, but looking for advanced features then it is best to look for used ones or refurbished ones.

Final Thoughts

As long as you are willing to invest money into a machine that is going to last for years, no matter what type of long-arm quilting machine you buy, then you will be happy with the results. They have numerous features that make it worthwhile for the time and money you put in. You can also find lots of information online about the different types of Sit-down Longarm machines available in the market today. Then you can make the decision about which one is better suited for your needs.



I have been working as a seamstress since I was 12 years old, and I would be happy to teach you what I know. I, along with the rest of my team, investigate numerous sewing, quilting, embroidery, and fabric related how-to guides, and present our findings to you.

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