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Quilting can be a fun and entertaining way to spend some time, whether you’re just starting out or have been doing it for years. The downside is that it can take a long time doing it by hand or with a standard sewing machine, especially for larger projects. The best long arm quilting machine can make this process much easier and faster. They come in small sit-down or larger frame-based models, so you can choose the right one to meet your needs, no matter what your next quilting project requires.
When you’re looking for a new long arm quilting machine, there are a few features you should check out, to be sure you’re getting what you need. One is the size of the working area or frame, which varies depending on how much space you have to work with. The speed shows how fast the stitching is for your projects. You may also want to look at the stitch width and the styles offered for holding the pieces together and for decorative accents. The overall dimensions tell you how much space you need to set it up.
In order to help you figure out which model is the best long arm quilting machine for your chosen designs, we spent countless hours searching the manufacturer’s information, checking out all of the product features, and reading hundreds of customer reviews. Then we chose the top five models, created a comparison table, and added in-depth reviews. We also wrote up a buying guide to help you decide which one meets your needs.
The JUKI TL-2000Qi sewing machine is our editor’s choice for the best long-arm quilting machine. We love it because it is portable and therefore, easy to transport from one end to another. This equipment is provided with an automatic thread trimming that helps you trim both top and bobbin threads easily.
The machine is also made from top quality materials. These make it withstand almost anything. You can also use it non-stop for several hours without it suffering any form of failure, delay, or fault. It is equipped with a handful of features too and an excellent sewing speed of 1,500 SPM.
The JUKI TL-2000Qi sewing machine is also easy to use. Compared to other machines, it does not come with a long list of confusing accessories and equipment. We love the fact that it is simple and possesses one stitch type. This way, you have the opportunity to perfect your technique (quilting).
Moreover, you will appreciate the large work area and extension table provided by the machine. This gives you enough space to work on larger materials or fabrics. You can, therefore, undertake big projects without having to compromise on the quality of your sewing. Other cool features of the equipment include:
Knee lifter that helps raise or lower the presser foot, without the use of hands
An automatic needle threader to put threads in the hook
A single foot operation that helps you change pressure or speed, using only a single pedal.
A thread tension dial that helps you adjust your thread’s tension according to your needs.
What stands out?
Excellent sewing speed (1,500 stitches per minute)
More features: grip handles; OLED display; 6 quick-access buttons
If frame models are more your style, the Grace Q’nique Long Arm Quilting Machine is one of the best long arm quilting machines for beginners and experts alike. The controls are simple to use, and it has some great features that any quilter will love.
The comfort grip handles fit nicely in your hands, plus each one has three buttons on it that you can press with your thumb as you work to control the various settings.
You can raise or lower the needle, as well as set the needle to a specific spot when you stop quilting. Another button also allows you to adjust the stitching speed, so you can go as fast or slow as you’re comfortable with.
There are also four stitching modes to choose from, including Precise Mode, Cruise Mode, Baste Mode, and Manual Mode, so you can adjust your stitches or do some more intricate work, depending on the project. These modes are all displayed on the handy OLED display screen, so you always know what setting you’re on.
Other features include the easy-access bobbin, the larger bobbin holder, the motorized bobbin winder, dual-cone thread towers, and multiple ports for add-on accessories.
The only downside to this quilting machine is that the frame isn’t included, though there are many available in varying sizes, so you can always find one to fit the space you have in your home.
More features: foot pressure adjustment; 4 feed dog settings; knee lifter
The best seated long arm quilting machine doesn’t need to cost a fortune as this model from Brother has proven. It works fast at 1500 stitches per minute and can handle thin or thick fabrics with ease. This quilting machine is also easy to use, with simple controls and handy functions that work well for beginners and experts alike.
Though not a traditional long arm model, the Brother PQ1500SL includes an extra-long extension table that makes it easy to work with some smaller quilting projects. It doesn’t have a multitude of extra stitching options either, focusing on one high-speed straight stitch that works for a variety of pieces.
There are four feed dog settings, which give you the best control possible for any type of fabric. There is also a pin feed mechanism that lets you swap out the feed dogs for a single pin, which keeps the feed dogs from marking up some delicate fabrics or helps keep all the quilt layers together as they move.
The automatic thread cutter is handy, though some have found that it cuts a bit short, requiring adjustment before starting the next piece. Threading is also on the left-hand side, so a bit tricky for righties, but the automatic needle threader makes things much easier. A built-in knee lifter raises or lowers the pressure foot, so you can keep your hands on the fabric.
What are its best features?
Great low price
Large extension table
What could be improved?
The arm is not extra-long for huge projects
Tricky threading and bobbin placement for right-handed users
More features: programmable LCD touchscreen; automatic needle positioner; directional lighting
The Juki TL-2200QVP-S has many features that might just make it the best computerized long arm quilting machine around. It has an LCD touchscreen that lets you adjust many of the settings, taking a lot of the guesswork out of quilting.
First, there is speed regulation, which allows you to customize the variable speed, as well as settings for free motion, micro stipples, and ruler work. The touchscreen also lets you program the settings according to your quilting style, allowing you to set the preferred needle position, the foot pedal, and the brightness of the screen. You can also use the left handle button for the needle position as well if you prefer manual work.
This long arm quilting machine uses direct drive technology, which has a smooth operation for more efficient work. The quilting table has an adjustable height, as well as side extensions, so you can set it however you need it, depending on the project you’re working on, though the assembly instructions aren’t the best for putting it all together for the first time. The arm is also high enough to give you plenty of room to move your pieces. The directional LED lighting ensures you’ll be able to see the entire quilting area at all times.
Other handy features include the built-in bobbin winder, the ergonomically positioned handwheel, and the thread cutter with an auto-set thread lock for added convenience.
More features: stitch selection dial; built-in thread cutter; adjustable stitch length and width
The best long arm quilting sewing machine should have some outstanding features to create the quilting projects you want. The SINGER 8500Q gives you what you need all in one convenient package. Despite the arm not being that much long, the machine is still suitable for small and medium quilting projects since it includes an extension table that gives you an extra 25 inches of space for your larger sewing and quilting projects.
There are 215 built-in stitches, including basic sewing options and a variety of decorative ones. It also has six one-step buttonhole options that let you use the button itself to set the perfect size.
There is a built-in needle threader, as well as a SwiftSmart threading system for easy threading every time. The Drop & Sew bobbin system saves threading time, and the top drop-in bobbin uses a transparent bobbin to help you keep track of your thread supply. When the thread runs low, an alarm sounds, stopping the needle, though this happens earlier than some would like, wasting extra thread.
Other great features include the built-in lettering for monograms and words, easy to use stitch selector dial, and adjustable stitch length and width. An LCD screen shows you the stitch you selected, lets you adjust the settings, and program the needle. There are multiple LED lights to keep your workspace brightly lit, plus this model comes with multiple feet to use with varying projects.
What are its best features?
Large extension table
What could be improved?
The arm is not extra-long for huge projects
No troubleshooting section in manual
Early auto-stop for empty bobbin
Things to Consider
Long arm quilting machines come in seated and frame models, so you can choose the one you need based on the size of your projects and the space you have available. They also come with a wide variety of features to choose from, so you can go as simple or technical as you like. This buying guide will help you be more informed when it comes to the different models’ varying features.
Why to get a long arm quilting machine?
Quilts consist of fabric pieces and multiple layers. It’s possible to make them by hand or with a regular sewing machine but doing so is difficult and takes a great deal of time and effort. A long arm quilting machine lets you layer all those fabrics at once, sewing them together quickly and easily.
There are seated ones that use a large attached work table to give you more room to work. You can also choose a frame model that uses a separate frame with rollers and clamps to hold everything in place while you move the quilting machine along a track.
You can even choose the best computer guided long arm quilting machine, which connects to your computer and allows you to select or design a sewing pattern. Then you just push a button, and the machine does all the work for you.
Features to consider while choosing a long arm quilting machine
With so many different models and features to choose from, it may be hard to figure out just what you need in your new long arm quilting machine. The following sections may take some of the guesswork out of your decision.
The motor speed tells you how many stitches the quilting machine can perform every minute. The faster it goes, the quicker your stitching is completed. For instance, the Juki TL-2200QVP-S has the fastest motor speed of all the products reviewed here, completing up to 2,200 stitches per minute, so at top speed, you can complete even large projects in record time.
You may also want to look for speed regulation. This ensures that the stitches are consistent throughout your project. Otherwise, moving faster may make wider stitches while slower movements bunch them together.
Stitches, stitch functions and buttonholes styles
Though many long arm quilting machines use only basic stitches, requiring you to use your own creativity or some included patterns to add decorative stitching, some models, like the SINGER 8500Q, come with numerous built-in stitches. These include the usual straight and zigzag stitch, plus include a number of decorative ones as well. Some models even include monogram or word stitching for adding some extra flair to your pieces.
You may also want to check out buttonhole styles as well. Though these aren’t necessary for quilts, if you plan to use your machine for clothing, buttons may be a necessity. A few buttonhole styles give you the right look and size for each button with ease.
Automatic needle threader
Threading the needle can be a bit tricky, especially if you’re using a small needle with an even smaller eye. That’s where an automatic needle threader comes in handy. This feature allows the quilting machine to do all the threading for you, so you can start sewing your quilts, blankets, or anything else on your list much faster.
Working area/frame dimensions
The working area you need all depends on the projects you have in mind. For smaller pieces, an attached table like the one on the Brother PQ1500SL gives you plenty of space to spread out your work. These can be rectangular or square, and some even have extenders to make your workspace even bigger.
The frames allow you to move the quilting machine back, forth, up, and down, all while holding the fabric in place. These are rectangular in shape and take up quite a bit of space, so you need to buy one that fits in the area you have. They range in size, too, from about 5-14 feet long, with varying depths and heights, so you can get the right one to fit your room and your projects.
The machine’s physical dimensions need to fit the space you have if you’re using it on a table. If you’re using a frame, you also need to check out the throat length as well, which is the distance between the back of the machine and the needle. Smaller throat dimensions are better for smaller frames, while a larger throat needs a larger frame to be able to reach the entire span of the quilt as you move it up and down.
Of course, if you are using a seated quilting machine, like the SINGER 8500Q, the throat length will only matter if you need to roll or bunch up fabric in the confined space beneath the machine as you work.
Warranty is one of the most important features to look for. Most machines are not backed by a warranty for the whole machine. Different parts may have different coverage.
Be sure to check out what is covered and for how long before you buy, so you know what issues you’ll have to deal with on your own.
The extras may be what pulls you towards one machine over another. One thing to look for is the weight, especially if you are in the market for a portable quilting machine. The heavier it is, the harder it is to transport.
For frame models, you should check out the grips, to be sure they will be comfortable when using them for longer periods of time. If it comes with accessories, like extra bobbins, needles, feed dogs, or feet, that’s super convenient as you don’t need to buy all these things separately. To keep your work well-lit, you should check that the machine has at least one light included near the needle.
For computerized sewing machines, like the Grace Q’nique Long Arm Quilting Machine, an LED, or OLED screen is a must. This way, you can see all the settings you’ve chosen and adjust them easily with the touch of a button. Software is also a plus, giving you easy access to patterns that you can program in, leaving the work to the quilting machine.
Included software allows you to link your long arm quilting machine to your PC, laptop, or tablet. These help you to choose patterns or even create it yourself. Then the computer guides the machine, quilting the pattern on its own. This can save you time and effort, giving you perfect, industrial quality stitching every time.
There are three seated models in our reviews. These are the Juki TL-2200QVP-S, the SINGER 8500Q, and the Brother PQ1500SL. They all use a large table-like work area rather than the larger bulky frame. This makes them better choices for those who have limited space or prefer smaller quilting or sewing projects.
This depends on the machine you’re purchasing. The seated models don’t use a frame, replacing it with an attached workspace. There are some that are designed to work with frames, though, like the Grace Q’nique Long Arm Quilting Machine, which uses casters on the bottom and handles on the top. These features allow you to move it easily along the frame to create your stitch patterns.
If you’re just trying your hand at quilting for the first time or have been doing it for years, the best long arm quilting machine can make the experience much more enjoyable and save you time as well. Though all five of the machines we’ve reviewed are excellent options, a few of them warrant a second look.
The Juki TL-2000Qi is our top choice, due to its sturdy steel construction. It has great features as well, like the knee lifter, automatic needle threader, and a thread tension dial. On top of that, this unit is incredibly easy to use.
The Grace Q’nique Long Arm Quilting Machine is simple to use, with easy access buttons on the comfort grip handles to control the various functions, including the needle adjustment, stitch speed, and the four stitching modes.
Our Budget Pick is the Brother PQ1500SL, which is also easy to use. It has an extra-long extension table and some great features like the four feed dog settings, pin feed mechanism, built-in knee lifter, an auto thread cutter, and foot pressure adjustment.