Last update on 2021-09-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The history of the longarm quilting machine is surprisingly long. When the sewing machine was first introduced, the idea of creating a “quilting machine” emerged. The first machine was introduced in 1871.

The very first machine was simple, and consisted only of a quilting frame with two bars and a machine. Users would move the quilt and the quilting frames under the machine to quilt straight lines.

The initial design of the “quilting machine” was modified by 1877, and was similar to the longarm quilting machines we see today.

Before we had electricity, users would have to use a hand crank to move the machine over fabric and rails.

Our Five Favorite Long Arm Quilting Machine Options

Best Choice

Brother PQ1500SL Sewing and Quilting Machine, Up to 1,500 Stitches Per Minute, Wide Table, 7 Included Feet

Last update on 2021-09-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

1. Brother PQ1500SL

While not exclusively a dedicated quilting set up, this Brother sewing machine definitely works as a sort of “bootleg” long arm station – giving you the ability to quilts and sew different projects much faster and more consistently than you would have been able to on your own.

With a 1500 stitches per minute rate of sewing speed (significantly faster than traditional machines with 850 stitches per minute, for example), your production output should skyrocket almost as soon as you flip the switch and fire this unit up.

Four individual feed dog height adjustments allow you to make your workspace really feel like your own, and building need lifters let you raise and lower the presser foot so that your hands are always free to move fabric as necessary.

The oversized extension table, automatic thread cutter, convenient to use tension dial, and really slick needle threader all add to the overall experience of using this equipment.

 

  • Very fast output
  • Oversized throat space
  • Perfect for the beginner quilter looking to get established and those with more experience
  • Relatively affordable compared to other options
  • Arm isn’t as long as dedicated long arm setups
  • Some consistency issues when running the sewing machines at high speeds

Budget

JUKI TL-2000Qi Sewing and Quilting Machine

Last update on 2021-09-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

2. JUKI TL-2000Qi

This is the quilter that a lot of people consider the best on the market today, especially for home and small business purposes where you don’t want to spend a small fortune on a machine.

Definitely a bit bigger than some of the other choices on this list, this machine strips down a lot of the extra features and bells and whistles other options include in favor of a more consistent and stable, and customizable platform.

For example, instead of having a huge library of stitches to pull from this unit only has one stitch and one stitch alone.

You’ll be able to configure the length and width of that straight stitch (and have a lot more control over how each stitch fits in your pattern and project), but other than that your sort of “running on rails”.

This decision allows the 1500 stitches per minute stitch speed of this unit to be really consistent stitch even at the highest possible speeds, something most other units cannot say about themselves.

It also takes a lot of guesswork out of the actual process, helping a beginner quilter hit the ground running while also allowing more novice quilters to play around with their own creativity rather than leaning on unique stitch patterns.

 

  • Dramatically simplified and easy to use system
  • Automatic needle threader is really effortless
  • High-speed output is like nothing else
  • Includes dedicated needle up and down controls with a 1/5 inch quilting foot
  • Lacks a deep stitch library
  • Big and bulky
  • Not the most portable machine money can buy
Juki HZL-F600 Full Sized Computer Sewing and Quilting Machine

Last update on 2021-09-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

3. Juki HZL-F600

Another really high quality quilter from the folks at Juki this particular option isn’t quite as well reviewed as the one above – but that doesn’t mean that you want to sleep on it, either.

As far as sewing machines go (especially those built to double as a quilter) there’s a lot to like here.

For starters, the 900 stitch per minute count is top-tier even if it is considerably lower than 1500 count the other Juki on this list offers.

Obviously set up for home use in mind, you won’t have to spend a small fortune to get this unit in your home – and you’ll also have plenty of quilting space to set it up, too. This model is lightweight, compact, and still very stable (especially compared to some of the other oversized arm quilters you can buy today.

A box feed set up makes working with this machine really easy, and the dual LED lighting improves the accuracy of each basting stitch, too.

255 different patterns are available to play with, and you’ll be able to configure their stitch length in the amount of stitches per inch you’re using without much trouble at all. Motion quilting with this machine is very straightforward.

 

  • A feature-rich quilter that you don’t have to spend a lot of money on
  • A powerful, reliable, and sturdy machine even when working with heavy fabrics
  • A lot of sewing and stitching patterns to pick and choose from
  • The threading system for your needle can be a little finicky at times
  • Some complain of uneven stitch lengths when working at higher speeds
Brother Sewing and Quilting Machine, XR3774, 37 Built-in Stitches, Wide Table, 8 Included Sewing Feet

Last update on 2021-09-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

4. Brother XR3774

Those looking for a quality quilting model that they won’t have to overpay for (especially for a lot of features they wouldn’t have used anyway, like new position finding options, extreme stitch length configurators, and overzealous stitch regulation systems) will appreciate all this Brother has to offer.

The reviews on this unit are very favorable, holding it up there with options from brands like Juki (legendary brands in the quilting world). Sewing machines have long been thought as equipment that can’t compared to dedicated quilting units, but this Brother blurs the lines quite a lot.

Lightweight, portable, very effortless to take advantage of, and simple enough to configure right out-of-the-box with a lot of versatility in this model all the same, you don’t have to spend a lot to get a lot more you go with this Brother.

The onboard stitch library is good for 37 different options (including automatic one-step buttonholes), and a different presser feet are included as well – including dedicated quilting presser feet, too.

The maximum stitching speed of 800 SPM is a little bit on the slower side of things (nearly half of the high performers on this list), but it is still plenty fast enough to work on oversized projects without much issue.

 

  • Compact and portable
  • Great library of different stitches to pick from
  • Includes dedicated quilting presser feet
  • Uses automatic threading system
  • LED lighting works well
  • A little bit on the lightweight side when working with heavy materials
  • So many stitches to pick from can be overwhelming
  • Not specifically a dedicated quilting piece of equipment

Popular

Brother Sewing and Quilting Machine, CS6000i, 60 Built-in Stitches, 2.0

Last update on 2021-09-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

5. Brother CS6000i

This Brother model doesn’t have quite the throat space that other options include, and the reviews on its abilities in the stitch regulation department are a little fuzzy, but this remains one of the best all around sewing machine options money can buy – especially if you are into quilting.

The limited from space can be worked around thanks to the expandable table options and the swingarm on this model. The LCD screen (not a touchscreen, but still very clear and vibrant) lets you pick and choose from all kinds of stitch configurations, including length and width options.

Nine individual presser feet (including a quilting presser foot) allows you to get right down to business, but also provides you with plenty of versatility to tackle regular sewing projects if you’re interested in that, too.

Combine all of that with the legendary Brother warranty (25 years of coverage) and this is deserving of your full consideration.

 

 

  • Super simple to take advantage of
  • Very affordable price point
  • Plenty of different stitch options
  • Works well with thin and fabrics
  • Includes a lot of great accessories right out-of-the-box
  • Getting your bobbins set up can be kind of a nightmare
  • The foot pedal is a little finicky, especially when brand-new

How to Buy the Best Long Arm Quilting Machine

There are a bunch of things you’ll want to consider when looking for the best long arm quilting machine, and not all of them are obvious or apparent.

Sure, you’ll want to make verify that the workspace is large enough to handle bigger materials, the needle system ready to handle thicker materials, and the stitch capabilities of the machine quickly customizable (in length, width, and design).

But you’re also going to need to make sure that the throat space of your long arm sewing machine is dialed in for the kinds of projects you expect to tackle, that the needle speed is high enough for the work output you are shooting for, and that the machine is capable of producing a simple, clean thread path with each quilting project that you dig into.

Here are just a few of the features you’re going to want to make sure that your new long arm sewing machine includes for sure!

Throat Size

The throat space of the long arm quilting machine that you end up choosing makes a huge impact on the kind of quilting projects you decide to take on.

For example, a smaller throat size on a long arm machine is inevitably going to restrict the kinds of quilting projects you can do. You just don’t have a lot of room to maneuver and manipulate between the machine head with the needle in the actual arm of the machine itself.

On the flip side, though, having a super long throat size – plenty of space between the long arm machine and the machine head can cause problems, too. If you have a lot of space and are working on smaller projects you’re going to find yourself “swimming” in the work area more often than not.

No, to dial things in and get the most easy to use long arm machine possible you’ll want to think about the kinds of projects you’re going to be working on most with your regular sewing machine and choose a throat size that works best for those kinds of applications.

A 30 inch machine is usually plenty large enough for most any quilting project you can think of, while still remaining small enough to be easily workable. You won’t get lost with this kind of work area, that’s for sure!

 

Needle Speed (Stitches Per Minute Output)

The needle speed of the long arm quilting machines you are considering should be new the top of your teacher priority list, too.

Needle speed (sometimes attributed as stitches per minute) will have an outsized impact on how quickly you are able to knock out different projects, too.

Most people can’t imagine going under 2400 stitches per minute with a quilting machine, though others can’t even fathom moving that “slowly” – preferring a stitches per minute rating of 3500 or more on their quilting machine.

At the end of the day, it’s really all going to come down to your comfort level and how quickly or methodically want to work.

The beautiful thing about jacking up the stitches per minute on the machine you do decide to purchase (going for a higher end 3500 stitches per minute or more) is that you can dial things back without losing consistency on longarm machine.

The same can’t be said about exceeding the maximum output, though!

It’s important to try and keep your overall needle speed consistent throughout the project, regardless of how quickly or deliberately you are moving. The best long arm quilting machine choices are going to track straight no matter how fast you are moving.

 

A Responsive Stitch Regulating Component

Any halfway decent quilting machine will be capable of producing decent stitches when you are working on arched or curved lines.

The real test for quilting machines with stitch regulators, though, comes when you’re doing directional changes, zigzags, or hard right angles.

You have to be sure that the quilting machines you are considering have a built-in responsive stitch regulator that’s going to give you the clean, sharp, well defined stitch lines you’re after no matter how you want to put them into your quilted project.

This is far too often overlooked setting, one that some machine quilting reviews don’t even mention, and that’s almost criminal.

If you want to be sure that your projects never come out amateur looking, never feel “slapped together”, and always have a professional fit and finish you absolutely must get your hands on long arm quilting machine choices that have a responsive stitch regulator you know you can trust.

You’ll also want one that has control buttons or a control knob that makes it easy to adjust the regulator on-the-fly.

Always – ALWAYS – run a test sample of how the regulator works before you start a new project, though. You’ll want to be sure that the settings on your quilter are dialed in and you are ready to rock ‘n’ roll.

 

Simple, Clean Thread Path

Regardless of whether or not you are looking for a long arm quilting machine for home use or to run it as part of a side hustle or small business, you’re going to want to be sure that your new sewing machine includes a simplistic thread path that is clean and consistent.

Many of the best long arm quilting machines money can buy are modulated so that the thread path stays clean and consistent with every punch of the needle, all while recognizing that they (usually) have super long thread paths in general – sometimes moving through a needle 30 or 40 times before a stitch is taken.

Without a stitch regulation system (usually up front and center near the needle threader, but definitely within the throat space) better off hand quilting than using a machine. At least that would be consistent!

No, this kind of feature – a quality stitch regulation component – really has to be a focal point of any home sewing machine that you’re going to be using to do a little quilting with.

Combine that with an auto needle positioner, bobbin wider, and free motion quilting capabilities and you’re off to the races. But we’ll get a little deeper into those components in just a moment!

 

Frame Size

Frame size when it comes to your new long arm quilting machine is a little less important than the throat space or work area that we highlighted earlier, but you still want something relatively easy to move and manage and something that is at least halfway portable.

Yes, you have to make certain that your new long arm quilting machine is well-made and robust – which usually means a metal frame (or at least a metal internal frame). You also want to be able to move around without throwing your back out, don’t you?

Look for something that is relatively compact (though it should include an extension table or the ability to use an extension table), something that is easy to use, and something that can be stored without you having to dedicate an entire closet to it.

Cover those bases and you’ll be good to go!

 

 

Computerized Longarm Accessories

While a lot manual only long arm quilting machines are a little limited, computerized quilting choices open up a world of extendibility and customization you’ll want to capitalize on.

Almost all of these computerized limited mid arm quilting machine choices have ports in the back that allow you to connect different components – and some even allow you to connect to a computer or tablet for further extendibility, too.

If you have the option, consider taking advantage of laser measuring tools, ruler attachments, and anything else that makes life your computerized long arm quilting machine on little easier.

Yes, these kinds of machines are usually more expensive than a high quality “all manual” model. But the sheer amount of computerized long arm quilting machine options and accessories (and your ability to really make this machine your own) makes them a no-brainer if you have the budget.

 

LED Workspace

LED workspace lighting makes using a sit down quilting machine way easier, regardless of how well lit your workspace was in the first place.

LED lighting is usually implemented new the stitch regulator or needle threader (somewhere in the throat space of your setup), shining a light directly on where the stitch is made so that you can see what you’re doing while you are doing it.

This tiny little upgrade improves accuracy considerably, especially when you are rocking and rolling through a bunch of projects all at once and are really getting into the rhythm of things. The best long arm quilting systems are always going to have LED lights to take advantage of.

 

Built In Bobbin Winder

An easy to use bobbin winder is always a “must-have” feature on any traditional sewing machine or quilting machine, the kind of feature you’d expect from the best long arm systems – M1 definitely want to go without.

A quality built in bobbin winder allows you to load multiple bobbins all at once (most of the best machines can accommodate at least four at a time), helping you to move from one bobbin to the next as you complete your projects.

Computerized options are able to bounce quickly from each individual bobbin as well, making sure that only the right thread is run through the needle threader when you are quilting or sewing.

Top load, drop in systems are a whole lot easier to use than those that require a lot of fiddling with.

 

Feed Dog Settings

Feed dog settings on a long arm quilting machine are hugely important to get right, especially since they dictate how much of your project is “worked on” at any one particular point in time – and whether or not material gets bunched up while you are using your favorite quilting machines, too.

This is a bit of a subjective setting, however. Different feed dog settings work better for different kinds of projects, and you’ll want a long arm quilting system that allows you to dial in different options at different times to make sure that your project run smoothly.

 

An Extension Table

Extension tables are ALWAYS much appreciated when you’re running a sit down long arm piece of equipment.

These easy use accessories open up a whole lot more of the workspace to you that wouldn’t have otherwise been available, helping to keep your fabric and your material easily accessible without falling all over the place or bunching up on the floor.

Even long arm quoting systems that allow for third-party or accessory tables if they don’t include them themselves should be considered moving forward. You just want to have extra workspace at hand when you need it.

 

 

Smart Needle Positioner

Every quilter understands just how important it is to have their needles in the right spot when they start to knock out a project, especially if you’re going to be using a long arm system that might have the threads passing through 20 or 30 times before a stitch is gathered.

Incorrect positioning inevitably produces incorrect stitch regulation, throws off the whole look and feel of your project, and (depending how long you’ve been sitting at a long arm machine) can waste quite a lot of time and a whole lot of material.

Get this right for sure.

 

 

Build Quality and Warranty

Finally, but no less important than any of the other features mentioned above, the best long arm equipment is always going to have a build quality that is top-notch (featuring great engineering and quality materials) as well as a pendulum warranty.

You’re also only ever want to consider quality machines for manufacturers you know you can trust. Look for options from “big brands” with a reputation for taking care of their customers, even years or decades after they purchased their machine.

 

 

Final Verdict

Out of all of the long arm quilting machines you could go with, people seem to absolutely love the JUKI TL-2000Qi more than any other option – even though it is a little less “feature-rich” than some of the other contenders.

Most new buyers are on the hunt for quilting machines with an endless amount of stitches, all different kinds of configurations, and a whole bunch of bells and whistles.

This machine takes the opposite approach.

Running only a single stitch (and with a price tag that will make some people blush) at first glance you might think it’s impossible for this set up to have as many glowingly positive quilting machine reviews as it does today.

Dig beneath the surface, though, and you’ll discover pretty quickly that this is a steady, solid performer capable of almost unbelievable output – all while maintaining the fit, finish “finished quilt“, and consistency you’d expect from a professional level long arm quilting machine.

Capable of outputting 1500 stitches per minute (higher than the standard 850 states per minute speed most other units), the automatic threader keeps things cranking along.

The work area of 23 inches is pretty substantial, the quoting capabilities are top-tier, and the heavy duty nature of this machine make it a “must-have”.

 

You won’t go wrong with any of the long arm quilting machine options we mentioned throughout this guide, but really set yourself up for success going with the JUKI TL-2000Qi.

FAQs

With so many options out there, you probably have a few questions. I will do my best to answer your most pressing concerns:

There are a couple of things you need to consider when purchasing a longarm quilting machine, including:

  • Because of projects you as a quilter want to create
  • The budget you have available
  • The amount of space you can dedicate to quilting machines
  • Whether you're going to run this domestic sewing machine as a hobby or a small business

Really think long and hard about how you hope to use your new long arm quilting machines and you'll be much better prepared to sift through the myriad of options you find the market today.

 

On the plus side of things, you'll never be able to match the quoting output of even the slowest longarm quilting machines - reason enough for most people to snap one of these up the first chance they get.

Secondly, quilting intricate designs becomes a whole lot easier when you have a machine to help you knock it out.

Combine that with the ability to roll your quilt much more efficiently (and to get more consistent results as well) and becomes a little bit of a no-brainer.

On the flip side of things, though, long arm quilting machines are not without their disadvantages.

To begin with, a solid machine and frame is definitely going to set you back a decent chunk of change - at least $1000 (if not considerably more).

It also takes a little bit of time to become totally proficient with using this kind of equipment. Expect to spend at least a few hundred hours fooling around with your new set up before you feel like you really have a handle on things.

Lastly, full-size longarm quilting machines are going to take up a decent chunk of real estate in your home. It's not uncommon for these machines to take up an entire back bedroom and then some.

Make sure you have the space to run them.

 

Professional quilters (and hobbyist quilters that want to bump up their output) love these machines because of the fact that they can dramatically speed up their workflow.

Hand quilters know that they are going to be severely limited when it comes time to put a bunch of projects together and finish them.

Run those same quilter projects on a machine, though, and you can output two or three times as many quilt in the same amount of time it would have taken to hand stitch and sew single one.

If you're even entertaining the idea of becoming a professional quilter (even just as a side gig) a long arm set up is essential.

 

As the name suggests, these machines take advantage of a longer arm that has a mid arm machine head capable of rolling both vertically and horizontally. This allows this equipment to sew your quilt in place without a lot of headache and without a lot of hassle.

You can even take that to the next level with a computerized set up, essentially automating the quoting process completely and producing your own assembly-line of finished quilts one right after another!

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