Quilting is a popular craft first introduced by the ancient Egyptians. With today’s busy lifestyles, it may be difficult for hobbyists to find the time to quilt by hand. A quilting machine enables hobbyists to create beautiful designs in less time. In addition to the various sewing features, the length of the quilting arm is an important consideration when evaluating sewing machine models. >
The Arm and Throat
The sewing machine arm length is the distance from the needle to the vertical part machine. This length determines whether a machine is a short-, mid- or long-arm model. Each length has its advantages and disadvantages. The area behind the needle, enclosed by the sewing machine is called the throat or harp. The longer the machine arm, the larger patterns you can easily quilt. Quilting projects without a quilting frame will often require the material to be folded or rolled. A larger throat area makes it easier to handle the material before having to reroll, fold or reposition the quilt. It also enables quilters to use thicker batting and larger patterns. The space is usually measured in inches.
Short Arm Sewing Machine
The throat on a short-arm or domestic machine is usually 9 inches or less. A domestic sewing machine with a quilting function may have a throat of only 7 or 8 inches. While quilts of any size can be created using these machines, the smaller opening requires the material to be repositioned more often, which makes it harder to work on larger quilts. If using a quilting frame, the short arm sewing machine will only allow for the stitching of small patterns or blocks. These smaller machines are typically the least expensive option.
Long Arm Quilting Machine
Since most long-arm machines are mounted on a frame, they have throats 18 inches or longer. The material and batting are fed through the machine from rollers. The quilting machine head moves around the frame while the fabric stays in place. The head can be hand or computer guided. These are usually the most expensive quilting machines.
Mid Arm Quilting Machine
Mid-arm machines range from 12 to 17 inches. They provide a balance between the other two options. While the throat is not as large as a long-arm model, the mid-arm machine is less expensive. Although it may cost more than a short-arm model, the mid-arm has a large throat area making it easier to work on larger quilts and patterns.