To choose a long arm quilting machine, consider the cost of the machine, whether assembly is included with purchase, and the special features available on it. It is usually best to compare this information from several manufacturers, before making a selection. This process can help find the best machine for the quilter, at the best price.
A long arm quilting machine is a type of sewing machine mounted on a table with wheels beside a pair of bars. The fabric of the quilt top is mounted on one bar while the quilt bottom and batting are mounted on the other. These three pieces are stretched between the two bars to create the quilt sandwich. The sewing machine is passed back and forth over the exposed portion of the quilt, typically following a pattern, until the project is complete.
These machines are available in several sizes, and from a variety of sewing machine manufacturers. They are most commonly sold in sewing machine shops, at quilt shows, and online. Some common long arm quilting machine manufacturers are Gammill®, American Professional Quilting Systems®, Pfaff®, and Nolting®.
Long arm quilting machines are usually expensive. They may range in price from $7,000 US Dollars (USD) to $18,000 USD. Basic models will quilt adequately and accurately. More expensive models typically include additional features to ease the quilting process and create precise, even stitches. Evaluate how many quilts will be produced on the machine, on average, when considering price. An occasional hobby quilter may not wish to purchase a more expensive machine that contains features she may never use.
Ask the manufacturer whether installation is included in the price of the long arm quilting machine, or whether it is available to purchase separately. This equipment is generally shipped from the manufacturer to the quilter’s home. These machines arrive commonly in multiple pieces, with parts and assembly instructions included.
Some manufacturers accompany the machine and assist with its assembly. Others may allow the quilter to assemble it on her own, however, these machines are complicated and may be difficult and frustrating to assemble. A poor assembly may affect the overall balance of the machine and its stitching quality. An unbalanced machine will cause the stitching pattern to be applied in a crooked manner. It will also create problems when attempting to load the quilt onto the machine. Adequate assembly is therefore important when considering purchasing a long-arm quilting machine.
Decide which additional features are needed to quilt the majority of the projects to be created. More expensive machines usually include specialized features not common on less expensive ones. These include functions like laser light guides, stitch regulators, bobbin regulators, bobbin winders, a free-motion quilting foot, and thread cutters.
The most commonly used feature available is a stitch regulator. This feature allows the quilter to turn on a speed regulator that times the stitching needle to create evenly spaced stitches across the entire project. Quilting with a long-arm machine is very different from quilting on a home sewing machine. The quilter is unable to look at the work closely when using a long-arm machine, and the stitch-regulator often proves invaluable in ensuring even, professional stitches regardless of the accuracy of the quilter guiding the machine.