Many quilters can make do with a regular sewing machine. However, larger projects can prove to be tricky due to lack of throat space. That’s why long-arm machines were invented, to make quilters’ lives easier. However, they too have their drawbacks from an average user’s perspective. Firstly, they usually cost thousands of bucks. Secondly, they might easily take up half of your place, especially if your business is at home with you. Thankfully, there is a middle ground. It’s where the so-called mid-arm quilting machines come in.
But what exactly are those, and how are they different (for better or worse) than your regular domestic sewing machines? I wrote this article as a kind of newbie-friendly guide to choosing the best mid-arm quilting machine, with a few best products and reviews. Note that not all of them are officially regarded as mid-arm. However, even the 2-in-1 models that I included feature a longer arm, more throat space, and powerful specs that come at a fraction of the price.
Do I Need a Mid-Arm Quilting Machine (and Why)?
This is a peculiar species that we’re talking about, and naturally, not everyone will need it. In fact, the first thing to consider is whether you can afford it at all. Since most of these typically cost an arm and a leg, only a passionate and committed quilter who already makes money out of quilting should give it a thought.
But let’s leave the prices to speak for themselves, and see what’s in it for you. Here is what a mid-arm machine will get you, in comparison with other types available out there.
- More space than a small machine. You know how your regular sewing machine can be annoying due to the lack of throat space? A mid-arm addresses this issue. Judging by the arm alone, these are subspecies of long-arm workhorses. The throat space varies in size from 15 to 22 inches, allowing for a very comfortable experience. And, well, this makes every quilter’s dream come true with seamless free-motion quilting.
- You actually get to sit down, unlike with long-arm machines. The latter can be pretty uncomfortable when you quilt for hours on end. With mid-arm, you can sit just like you would with a regular machine, while still getting all the advantages of the long arm!
- The machine could be staring at you. You know how the neck is positioned sideways on a regular machine? With most mid-arm machines, it’s facing you. It means you’ll get a lot of free space on every side of your quilting table. Even though it’s pretty weird for the first-timers, it’s an awesome feature. Of course, you could always position it the traditional way. But why not make a use of all the space?
- There are two bobbins conveniently placed under the table. That’s right! No need to remove your project whenever you want to replace a bobbin. Speaking of tables, they come attached to the machine in most cases. Sure, it all costs a kidney. But once you are able to afford it, no need for further investments!
- Optional stitch regulator. This one may or may not be included in your machine, but it’s definitely a handy little tool for quilting. It even appears in some high-end domestic machines (such as some Bernina models). The purpose is very simple: to even out your stitches. You have two processes at work here: the machine does the stitching, but you do the moving of the quilt underneath the needle. Since those are two very different speeds, it takes a real professional for perfect, smooth and even stitches. A stitch regulator can fix that and improve the final result drastically.
3 Best Mid Arm Quilting Machines in 2019
I was surprised to learn that Janome advertises this machine as a long-arm. Even though it has 9×6 inches throat space, it’s still not enough even for a mid-arm. But other than that, it’s an extremely powerful machine that excels in both quilting and sewing.
Probably best if you’re not sure about your commitment. Or if you can’t shell out for those very expensive mid-arm models. The blazing speed of 1,600 stitches per minute is more than many industrial sewing machines can do.
Free-motion quilting should be this machine’s middle name. With the throat space measuring 8.5×5.9 inches, it’s not extremely large, but will do the job decently. And you will get an extension table 12×23 inches, allowing for even more comfort with maneuvering your quilts.
Even though it’s primarily designed for straight stitching and quilting, you can also use it for tailoring, dress making, home decor and other projects. Overall, it’s similar in performance with Brother PQ1500SL.
Say hello to his sturdy and powerful monster. It’s a textbook example of a true mid-arm machine, for those who can’t afford or accommodate a long-arm, but still look for various quilting functionalities. The 15-inch throat space will easily fit any size quilts. Plus, the machine is computerized and comes with Quilter’s Creative Touch Software and full-color LCD display, so you can automate the workflow.
The incredible speed of 1,800 stitches outpaces all other models from our list. It isn’t cheap, but at least includes a stitch regulator, which would be an expensive add-on. And there are handles with six quick-access buttons, to make the process even more seamless.