Long arm quilting machines are becoming more popular and many quilters are looking for a smaller more affordable version of these amazing but expensive machines.
Machine Quilting frames can provide the same freedom of movement as their long arm cousins, for a fraction of the cost. Quilting frames are designed to work with home sewing machines. But you have to use the right sewing machine. You need a sewing machine that behaves like a little long arm.
Machine Quilting frames need a sewing machine that behaves like a little long arm.
Long arms come with large and powerful industrial sewing machine heads. In contrast, machine quilting frames, are made to work with home sewing machines. If you’re looking for a sewing machine to go on a quilting frame, do your research. Think about the features in a long arm machine that make it work.
Long arm machines have lots of space under the arm. They’re longer AND taller than regular machines. Long arm machines are powerful and fast. The Juki 2200 QVP long arm goes 2200 stitches per minute. Most home machines go less than 1000 stitches per minute. Long arm machines are simple, they only do a straight stitch. Long arm machines are industrial, the parts are usually metal and made to last. When choosing a machine to go on a quilting frame you need to look for the same features. You need to look for a home machine that behaves like a long arm.
There are 4 features to look for: Space, Speed, Simplicity and Strength.
These 4 features allow a home machine to behave like a long arm. We’ll start with the most important feature: SPACE
The space under the arm is super important, especially the height.
Notice the fabric pole that goes under the arm of the sewing machine. As you move through your quilt, all the layers of your quilt will end up wrapped around this pole that goes under the arm of your machine. If your arm is not tall enough it will not fit the larger king and queen sized quilts.
Lots of sewing machine companies are making the arm of the sewing machines longer but they’re not making them taller, and it’s the height that we need. The height allows room for the quilt to roll on the fabric pole. No matter how long the arm of your sewing machine is, if it is not also taller it will not work well on a quilting frame.
Get a tape measure
Measure the height of the arm on your sewing machine. The Juki HZL DX7 sewing machine I use for piecing, applique, binding and general sewing measures 10 1/2 centimetres or 4 inches. That is typical of most domestic or home sewing machines.
If your wondering if your sewing machine will work on a machine quilting frame, get out a tape measure and check the height under the arm of your sewing machine. If the arm of your sewing machine is only 4 inches tall it will not behave like a long arm. It will not give you the under arm space that you need to machine quilt on a quilting frame. Perhaps you have an extra long sewing machine. But if it is only 4 inches tall it will not work on a quilting frame.
Have a look at the photos below. Most home machines will seem fine when you’re starting out. But as you carry on quilting, the roll of fabric under the arm will grow and grow. In the photo below you’ll see Emily starting out on her Uni quilt. Next, you’ll see her finishing. This was only a twin sized quilt but you can still see the difference in the size of the fabric rolling on between starting and finishing the quilt. Because of the extra 2 inches of height there is plenty of room for the large roll of fabric. The extra length under the arm of the Juki TL QVP Mini, gives Emily the hand’s width of quilting space that she needs to execute her quilting design. Both are necessary the length and the height.
Length AND Height
Most long arm machines will give you 2 measurements when they talk about the under arm space. They’ll give you the length AND the height, because the space under the arm is proportional. When they make it longer, they also make it taller. Look for the same kind of proportion in a sewing machine to go on a frame. Juki machines have this height working for them. Perhaps it comes from their industrial sewing machine experience but Juki sewing machines are often taller than comparable machines made by other companies.
Just like a Long Arm
Here’s a fun see-through photo to illustrate the point. Notice the shape of the Juki TL 2200 Long arm in the foreground. See that the arm is long AND tall; 18 inches long and 10 inches tall. That’s 2 inches taller than all the other comparable long arms. Now peek through the long arm to view the Juki TL QVP Mini. Notice that the arm of the smaller home machine has the same shape, it’s long AND tall, 2 inches longer and 2 inches taller, just like the long arm. When we’re using a home machine on a quilting frame those 2 inches make all the difference.
Space is ACE!
That’s what makes the Juki TL QVP Mini the perfect sewing machine to put on a machine quilting frame. The Juki TL QVP Mini had the same proportions as a long arm. She’s only Mini compared to the Big One!
The TL QVP Mini has all the other features too. She’s powerful like a workhorse. Going 1500 stitches per minute, she’s fast too! The Juki TL QVP Mini only does a straight stitch. That makes her simple and easy to tension. The Juki TL 2200 QVP Mini has space, speed, strength and simplicity. She behaves just like a long arm, but smaller! The Juki TL QVP Mini is available from Franklins, the UK Juki distributors. Come and see how she performs at the Festival of Quilts STAND A 46.