Are you ready to take the next step in your quilt-making journey and start quilting your own quilt projects?
For those serious about creating beautiful quilting designs on their quilts, a long arm quilting machine is the way to go.
The sky is the limit when it comes to long arm quilting, and many options are on the market today.
This article will help you determine what to look for and narrow down what is essential for YOU and your quilting needs.
What Is a Long Arm Quilting Machine?
First things first, let’s define what a long arm quilting machine is. Long arm quilting machines are quilting machines that have an “arm” or “throat space” larger than 16”.
Long arm quilting machines can be counter-sunk into a sit-down table or placed on a frame where you stand and quilt.
There are a couple of different types of long arm quilting machines.
- Computerized Quilting Machines: These come with software that you need to learn to have the computer drive the machine for you to create intricate designs on quilts.
- Manual Quilting Machines: Free motion and custom quilting are popular with long arm quilters. With this type of machine, you manually control the head of the quilting machine without the help of a computer.
What Is the Difference Between Long Arm Quilting and Machine Quilting?
The biggest difference between long arm quilting and quilting with a domestic sewing machine (aka machine quilting) is when you long arm quilting, you are moving the head of the sewing machine to create your quilting design.
When machine quilting, you manually move the quilt under the needle.
Another difference is that you can do much more intricate, detailed designs using a long arm machine. Yes, making amazing designs with a domestic quilting machine is possible, but you are a bit limited.
On the other hand, a long arm has limitless potential for the beautiful quilting designs you can create with them. Learning and practicing will take some time, but it will be well worth it.
What Are the Benefits of Using a Long Arm Quilting Machine?
When deciding if you want to invest money into a long arm machine, it’s important to know the benefits of your investment. First, you can make gorgeous quilting designs on your quilt projects. You’ll be able to use your creativity and learn new skills.
Another potential benefit is, if you realize you LOVE long arm quilting, you could do commission work and quilt other people’s quilts as a side hustle or even a full-time job! Long arm quilters can make a decent income, and quilting other quilters’ projects gives you even more time to hone your skills and creativity.
What Should I Look for When Buying a Long Arm Quilting Machine?
Before you purchase a long arm quilting machine, it’s essential to sit down and figure out what is important to YOU and your goals. Before throwing your money at a machine, here are some things you should consider.
- Budget: It’s always good to set a budget before you make a large purchase like this.
- Arm Length: Long arm machines range from 18” up to 30”. Knowing what size you would like to help you narrow your search is a good idea.
- Brand: You want to purchase a long arm from a reputable company. Look for brands like Juki, Janome, King Quilter, Bernina, Handi Quilter, The Grace Company, and Babylock, to name a few. If you haven’t heard of the company, research them before buying, especially if the price is too good to be true.
- User Friendly: If you are not technologically inclined or do not want to learn complicated software, avoid quilting machines that are computerized or have all the “bells and whistles.”
- Accessories: It’s always good to see if the company you are buying from includes accessories with the long arm machine. These can include a quilting frame, software, feet, thread, needles, stitch regulators, and other tools.
- Warranty: Always double-check to make sure your machine is under some kind of warranty. A Long arm quilting machine is technically heavy machinery, and it will need to be serviced occasionally. Make sure to note what the warranty covers.
- Service Provider: Speaking of servicing your machine, make sure you live near a company that services the machine you plan on purchasing. This is especially important for those who live far from a large city.
7 of the Best Long Arm Quilting Machines for Every Skill Level
Now let’s check out some of the best long arm quilting machines for beginners. Any of these machines will be an excellent choice for the next step in your quilting journey!
The Grace Company is a well-known brand in the quilting community, and their Q’nique 16X Elite Long Arm Quilting Machine is an excellent entry-level machine. This machine has all the features you should expect from a modern quilting machine, such as a 7” touch screen to easily adjust the machine settings, comfortable handles for long hours behind the machine, a roomy 16” throat space, sturdy steel body, and bright lights in the throat space so you can see what you are doing efficiently.
The Q’nique 16X also boasts super-fast speeds, up to 2,100 stitches per minute. The machine comes with the 8’ Q-Zone quilting frame that is sturdy and ready to allow you to easily quilt quilts that are up to queen size.
- Excellent beginner long arm quilting machine.
- Speeds up to 2,100 stitches per minute.
- Comes with a quilting frame.
- The price may be steep for a hobbyist.
Here we have the big sister of the Q’nique 16X: the 19X! As the name implies, this machine has a spacious 19” throat space and sleek design to help you create beautiful, timeless quilting designs on your quilts.
This machine also comes with a unique quilting frame called “The Cutie,” a tabletop quilting frame. This means you can easily set your quilting frame and machine up on a dining room table or other table in your home. How great is that?! You don’t have to have a separate room or extra space in your home to long arm quilt anymore.
- Great for beginners.
- You can quilt virtually, anywhere! That’s a massive deal for many quilters.
- Huge 19” throat space for large, intricate designs.
- The Cutie tabletop frame may not be ideal for anyone wanting to invest in a legit long arm machine setup.
The Moxie by Handi Quilter is another excellent beginner-friendly long-arm quilting machine. This machine has a 15” throat space, speeds up to 1,800 stitches per minute, front handlebars for ease of use, needle stop position control, two stitch regulation settings, manual thread tension controls, LED lighting, and several included accessories.
The Moxie also comes with the 8’ Loft Frame, which will set you up for success in all your quilting adventures. Additionally, Handi Quilter has several add-ons that you can choose to upgrade to a fully computerized long arm quilting machine if that interests you.
This is a popular long arm machine, and for good reason. It is one of the more affordable long arm quilting machines for beginner quilters.
- Great stitch speed and regulation settings
- Comes with a fantastic quilting frame for quilts up to Queen size.
- Upgrade options available
- The throat space is a smaller size for a long-arm quilting machine.
The HQ Forte 24 is for those serious quilters ready to do some serious quilting! This machine has an expansive 24” throat space and speeds up to 2,500 stitches per minute, so you will be cruisin’ in style with the Forte 24.
Some of the other notable features included in this long arm machine are an included quilting frame (you choose either a 10’ or 12’ model), brightly lit work areas, two stitch regulation modes, a stitch counter, bobbin use monitor, free-standing bobbin winder, thread break sensor, and many more features that are perfect for professional quilters.
I won’t lie; this machine has a hefty price tag, but you get what you pay for. This long arm quilting machine can easily quilt King-size quilts and gives you the flexibility to either free-motion quilt or upgrade to a computerized version and sit back and watch the machine work.
- Amazing features
- Great for intermediate quilters or beginners who want a machine with all the bells and whistles.
- 10’ or 12’ quilting frame to quilt any size quilt
- Ability to upgrade for even more features and capabilities.
- Expensive for the average quilter.
- The computerized upgrade is expensive as well.
Here is a unique long arm quilting machine meant to be used while sitting. The machine comes with a custom table with an adjustable height so you can either stand or sit while quilting. This is a great option for those who can’t stand for long periods but still want to create beautiful quilting designs for their quilting projects.
Some of the features included in the Quilt Maker Pro 18 are an 18” throat space, easy assembly, up to 2,200 stitches per minute, needle stop position setting, built-in stitch regulator, easy to switch to a long arm quilting frame, stitch counter, low bobbin notification, and more!
- The option to sit is fantastic for those who need it.
- All the necessary features to make beautiful quilting motifs.
- It can be switched to a quilting frame if you prefer.
- It comes with a 31 ½” x 36” table that has adjustable height.
- Must pay separately for a quilting frame.
The Baby Lock Regent is similar to the Janome Quilt Maker Pro 18. It also has an 18” throat space and an adjustable table for quilting comfort. The table also has a stitch regulator built in to help you have perfect stitches every time. It has an easy-to-navigate screen on the front of the machine where you can adjust the settings of the machine with just a few buttons.
This beginner-friendly long arm quilting machine is an excellent choice for hobbyist quilters who want to dip their toes into long arm quilting. This machine can be used with the included table or a quilting frame for “true” long arm quilting.
- Great for beginners.
- Comes with an adjustable table.
- It comes with everything you need to get started with long arm quilting.
- Doesn’t come with a quilting frame.
- On the smaller end of long-arm machines.
This long arm quilting machine is a fantastic choice for a beginner or more advanced long arm quilter. The top features of this machine include 18” throat space, front and rear handlebars, two stitch regulation modes, basting stitch, stitch counter, low bobbin notification, 7” front touchscreen, rear touchscreen, and lots of included accessories.
You can also upgrade this machine by purchasing a quilting frame and/or a bigger touchscreen and quilting software. This machine will work with Butler or HQ Stitcher Robotic software for computerized quilting.
- Made in the USA.
- Includes front and rear handles.
- Doesn’t come with a quilting frame.
I hope this collection of long-arm quilting machines is helpful in your search for your first (or next) quilting machine! There are many options out there, no matter your choice; if you have the patience to learn the machine and the creativity, you can make beautiful quilts!