If you have been using your standard sewing machine for your quilting projects but are now thinking about purchasing a machine specifically designed for quilting, there are a few things you should think about before making the switch.
To begin, are you going to go with a short arm or a long arm setup? It’s possible that you’re curious about the distinction between the two. Aside from the amount of money, the most significant variation is the length of the machine’s arm. A standard home sewing machine more closely resembles the appearance of a short arm machine. The long arm machine extends so that more of the quilt may be sewn without the need to roll it quite as much. This reduces the amount of work that must be done.
If cost is a major factor in your decision, the variant with shorter arms is definitely the one you will go for. They are very popular among quilters, and you can complete a wide variety of projects on them. But with so many reasonably priced short arm machines on the market, how can you choose the one that is most suited to your needs?
First and foremost, you should search for one that has a harp space that is at least nine inches in width. The area under the arm that may be found in between the machine base and the needle is known as the harp space.
Also, look for a machine that allows you to drop the feed dogs. Otherwise, you will not be able to use the machine for any free motion quilting.
Another feature you need on a short arm machine is a needle up and down button. Some machines might expect you to do this manually by turning the hand wheel, but not all machines have a hand wheel that is easily turned.
Instead, opt for a button that is conveniently reached. The up/down button is an important feature because you will have to raise and lower your needle from time to time if you quilt on a frame.
If you plan to use your short arm machine with a quilting frame system, be sure to get one with an industrial motor. These motors can take a lot of abuse, not that we consider our carefully planned quilting projects to be abusive. But if you quilt with a frame, the machine is doing a lot of hard work.
Look for a short arm machine that is compatible with a stitch regulator. This little attachment will adjust the speed at which you sew with the movements you make. The result is uniform stitching! Find a stitch regulator that has sensors on the frame carriage wheels. These are optional purchases, so be sure to ask if the machine is compatible and if so, which brands the dealer recommends for it.
If at all possible, use your short arm machine solely for quilting even though many offer other options for other sewing and even embroidery. While, yes, it is nice to get an added feature like an embroidery machine, it is really best if you dedicate the machine to one purpose. So, don’t spend a lot of money on features like decorative stitches or embroidery.
Quite frankly, you will use only the straight stitch if you use your machine on a framing system. So all other stitches are unnecessary.
Save the money you would spend on all the extra stitching features on more “toys” for your machine. There are products specifically for short arm machines, like templates, rulers, and pattern boards.
Shop around to see all the features that short arm machines have to offer. Look for a dealer that not only services after the sale, but can also give instruction on how to properly use the machine. Lots of times, these lessons are free.
They may even offer group instruction or quilting “clubs” that would give you a chance to interact with other short arm quilters. Buying from an authorized dealer can really help give you more quilting bang for your buck.
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