Choosing and Using a Long Arm Sewing Machine

When it comes to specialty sewing projects like quilting and embroidery, a long arm craft sewing machine can streamline your completion time while producing a professional-looking result. A model with a longer arm typically comes with the right attachments for both plain and fancy stitching. With the longer reach, you can also complete a larger portion of your project before stopping to reposition the fabric than you can with a standard model.

What are some brands and models of craft sewing machines?

Many well-known sewing machine manufacturers have branched out into the specialty craft marketplace. A few others have always focused on making models designed for quilts and crafts. You can view a wide range of examples of this type of machine on eBay. Some of the brands and models available include the following:

  • Brother Dream Quilter
  • Janome Memory Craft 9400QCP
  • Pfaff Grand Quilter
  • Juki TL-2000Qi
  • Babylock Tiara II
What are some essential add-ons for specialty machines?

Some of the pitfalls that make machine quilting a challenge are unwanted tucks in the layers, lack of space that restricts your flexibility when sewing free-motion designs, difficulty seeing the design as you work, and lack of precision in stitch length and line spacing. Some of the tools you need to surmount these challenges include various presser feet and attachments, such as:

  • A walking foot for evenly feeding multiple fabric layers.
  • A darning attachment for free-motion quilting.
  • An open-toe machine foot for better stitch visibility.
  • A quilting bar for even spacing.
What convenience features are available?

You may find some special features on specific models to be especially useful. Check the item description on eBay or the manufacturers website to determine if the model you are considering has the features you prefer, which might include:

  • Extension table
  • Built-in work light
  • LED touch screen
  • Automatic thread cutter
  • Automatic needle threader
How large an area can you quilt?

If your model is a stationary one, the longer arm provides more space to manipulate your project beneath a free-motion darning foot, so you can complete a larger section before stopping to reposition. If you are using a wheel-mounted model with a quilting frame, you can cover even more space without lifting your needle. Following are some examples of specific models and their one-stop coverage capacities:

  • Tin Lizzy 18: arm length 18"; work area 15"
  • Qnique Frame-mounted: arm length 14"; work space up to 12" vertically and 126" horizontally
  • Juki TL-2200: arm length 18"; work area 15"