What Is A Long Arm Sewing Machine: Uses And More

The answer to what is a long arm sewing machine is that it’s a machine with more throat space. We’ll compare it to a traditional sewing machine in more detail below. And additionally, you will learn how to use a long arm sewing machine to get the most out of it. 

Do you also want to know what is a free arm sewing machine? You can read our discussion about that type of machine as well or browse our blog for everything sewing machine-related. 

what is a long arm sewing machine


What Is A Long Arm Sewing Machine Used For?

A long arm sewing machine, from the name itself, is a very large device because of its long sewing machine head. The machine can range from 17 to 21 feet, and it even has rollers that you use for attaching fabric layers. Therefore, this machine allows the user to quilt huge projects easily without moving the fabric since the long arm sewing machine’s head will move instead. 

In the market, you can find long arm sewing machines that use a computerized system. This makes quilting something oversized even faster because you can make patterns, and the computer itself will guide the machine head. Therefore, you can save time and effort, regardless of the complexity of the project. 


How does a long arm sewing machine work?

The long arm sewing machine is also considered a long arm quilting machine. It loads the top, batting, and back layers into the frame then sew them simultaneously. The head will then roll in the vertical and horizontal directions to quilt without the fabric losing position. And if you’re using a computerized long arm quilting machine, it can quilt the design for you as well. 


Long arm sewing machine vs traditional sewing machine


Long arm sewing machine

  • A bigger throat space or the area between the machine’s body and needle
  • Bigger throat space means less need to maneuver the quilt through the machine
  • Industrial-grade motor allowing it to work faster while keeping the fabric layers aligned


Traditional sewing machine

  • Regular-sized throat space meant for basic sewing so that quilts can be challenging
  • You can quilt, but you need to reposition the project and experiment in various sewing positions 
  • Slower motor capacity means sewing through multiple fabric layers can be tricky


What Is A Long Arm Sewing Machine Used For?


Pantograph design

A pantograph design is a long design that is easy to do in a long arm sewing machine. The machine can trace the lengthy design via its head and then apply it repeatedly throughout the quilt top if needed. Pantograph quilting is also the most common way to use a long arm machine. 


Custom design 

The long arm sewing machine also allows the user to make more complex designs for their quilt. Understandably, it will be more time-consuming, especially when you want different patterns of each block. So having a long arm sewing machine can make the process less frustrating than using a regular machine where you need to maneuver the oversized project a lot. 


How Do You Use A Long Arm Machine?

  1. Refer to the manual of the specific long arm machine you have
  2. Begin with free motion quilting to get used to the long arm machine if it’s your first time
  3. Attach the quilt layers to the poles on the table to set them on the machine’s throat
  4. Attach the rollers on the machine and keep the fabric from moving around by using a snap system or pins
  5. Move the machine over the material to make your design, but in some models, the arm will automatically do it for you
  6. Regulate the stitches accordingly so the design will be perfect


How Do I Choose A Long Arm Quilting Machine?


How big is your available workspace area?

Identify the workspace area that you want to allow for the long arm machine. Long arm machines typically come in several workspace sizes, so you can select which would be ideal for your projects. Don’t forget to imagine where you will put it in the room to avoid overfilling your space as well. 


What projects will you be doing?

More than the size of the project, you want the machine to be capable of working on the type of quilts you’ll do, no matter how complex they might be. For example, you might benefit from something computerized for certain designs. Additionally, the machine should produce your quilts on schedule, especially for a busy business. 


What is the table quality of the long arm machine?

Long arm machines have tables. Therefore, you want it to be durable and made from heavy-duty materials to withstand your quilting business. Furthermore, check the way it rolls the quilt to smooth out the fold in the batting easily. 

Do you need help choosing a sewing machine as well? Please read our guide on how to buy a sewing machine.



And that’s it! We just answered what is a long arm sewing machine, which is essentially a quilting machine with a long throat space to allow the user to work on oversized quilts efficiently. It is perfect for custom designs and pantograph designs for quilting businesses.

We hope this was a helpful read. And if you have more questions, leave us a comment below. 

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