Quilting can easily be categorized as a beautiful art form. Whether you are new to quilting or have been making beautiful quilts for years, the one thing that every quilter needs is a quality quilting machine. If you are making large quilts, it is important to have a longarm machine to meet your needs. What is a longarm machine? The short answer is that it is a machine that has a larger throat space than a traditional machine and comes with a longarm or work table. This will be explained in more detail later on. Quilting machines tend to be a bit more powerful and faster than a traditional sewing machine. Quilting machines vary in price and some could be considered to be a large investment. This is why it is important to find the right machine for you. But do not worry, we have done most of the homework for you. Let’s take a look at the top 7 best longarm quilting machines.
BROTHER PQ1500SL HIGH-SPEED
Brother PQ1500SL – High Speed Machine
It is an electronic machine that was designed to be semi-industrial. This single needle machine is also quite fast. How fast is it? 1500 stitches per minute.
The extra-large extension table will make sewing larger projects a breeze.
JUKI TL 2000Qi – Powerful
You can describe this machine in one word and that is powerhouse. The powerful motor allows you to sew at a top speed of 1500 stitches per minute. The aluminum die-cast frame makes the machine durable while reducing vibration and noise.
This machine is portable. Don’t let that fool you though. This industrial built machine can easily handle heavier fabrics and large size quilts.
It is an electric machine with an interlocking straight stitch.
JUKI TL 2010Q 9 – Best Designer Machine
This 9 inch longarm machine is packed with features that are well suited for designers.
The machine also features QuiltCAD. What is QuiltCAD? It is a software that allows you to print graphs, borders and blocks from your home printer. The software comes with over 120 patterns. Sewers are also able to create their own patterns and even trace photographs. In addition to the software, included are pattern templates. These templates allow the sewer to take charge and create one of a kind designs.
The machine itself is an electric machine. It sews straight stitches at a rate of 1500 stitches per minute. It does have an extension table for smaller projects.
Singer 7469Q Confidence Quilter Machine – Computerized
There are plenty of convenience features. They include a one-step buttonhole, a built-in needle threader, a bobbin winding system, an adjustable stitch length and width feature and snap-on presser feet.
The presser foot can be moved into an extra high position for accommodating thicker fabric layers.
The machine comes with two LED lights that are positioned on both sides of the needle. Not only do they light up the workspace, but they eliminate shadowing.
There is a nice balance between features that are automatic and adjustable. This allows sewers to fine tune their sewing experience.
Tin Lizzie 18 Sit-Down Longarm Machine – High Performance
This is a heavy duty machine. The sewing head is cased in an aluminum cast. The powerful motor allows you to sew at a crazy speed of 3000 stitches per minute. Yes, you read that correctly. However, the variable speed foot control allows you to regulate how fast or slow you sew. This feature is perfect for the beginner who may want to take things at a slower pace.
The Tin Lizzie comes with its own lighting. The flexible arm lamp attaches to the machine head. It will allow you to sew day or night. It will even help to light up the tiniest of stitches. The lamp can be easily positioned to wherever light is needed.
JUKI TL-2200 QVP-S – Smooth to Operate
This heavy duty machine runs quietly. Thanks to the direct drive motor, it is smooth to operate.
This machine is a speed demon topping out at 2200 stitches per minute. Yes, it is fast.
Other features include an easy to reach hand wheel, built-in bobbin winder and thread scissors. The thread scissors automatically cut both the upper and lower threads.
Ten bright LED lights will keep your work illuminated. No other room lights will be needed.
Brother XR3774 – Full-Featured Machine
The machine comes with a table suitable for large projects. The lighting system will have you sewing well at night.
Video: 3 Things to Consider when Purchasing a Longarm Quilting Machine
So What is a Longarm Quilting Machine Anyway?
We touched on this briefly, but let's look a little closer. When quilting, you will be sewing through three layers of fabric. You have the top fabric, the batting in the middle and the backing fabric. These machines are designed to handle the layers of fabric. The longarm machines come with a machine head, rollers and an extension arm or table.
For the longarm machines that use quilting frames, the machine sits on wheels. This allows the machine to run the tracks. A hand-guided machine comes with handles. Sewers use the handles to guide the machine over the fabric to create a design. A computer-guided machine allows the design to be chosen and started with a touch of a button. A computerized machine does not require as much attention as a hand-guided machine does. However, it is limited to only what the computer can do.
A Short History Lesson
A longarm sewing machine has come a long way. It made its debut in 1871 and has gone through many changes. The first machine head and quilting frame had only two bars. The bars helped the sewer to move the layers of fabric under the machine. Around 1877, the machine underwent a major makeover and its design began to look like the modern day longarm machines.
Over the next 30 years, there were significant developments regarding the quilting machine. Even during the Great Depression, when hand sewing was preferred over machine sewing, quilting machines were still popular. The technological advances lead to the development of three types of longarm machines.
Types of Longarm Machines
Now that you have an overview regarding the top longarm quilting machines, let's get a little more specific. Hopefully this will help you to narrow down to the machine that is the most suitable for you. First, let's talk about the three types of longarm machines.
Mechanical machines are slowly becoming obsolete. Why? Because everything needs to be done manually. Though they are the least expensive type of machines on the market. So, for someone who is just being introduced to the quilting or sewing craft in general, this may be the machine to start with. For someone who wants a machine with no fuss, this may also be the way to go.
Electric machines are more commonly used than mechanical machines. Why? They are faster and easier to use compared to the mechanical machines. Also, not everyone is ready to go completely computerized.
Electric machines are known for their powerful motors. Most electric machines just come with a straight stitch or are very limited in the amount of built-in stitches. The stitch length and width can be adjusted on most electric machines.
Lastly, is the computerized machine. When considering prices, computerized machines are on the higher end of the spectrum. Why? Because they come loaded with stitches, pattern templates and other features. It is even possible to download patterns from your computer with some computerized machines. If you are interested in decorative quilting, this may be the type of machine to consider.
So, What Type of Quilting Are You Interested in?
We know that different machines perform different types of quilting. When picking a machine, it is important to choose one that is going to create projects that you want to create. There are two types of quilting that are traditionally done with a longarm machine. They are pantograph and custom. However, not necessarily the only types of quilting that can be done on these machines.
A pantograph is a design that runs the length of the quilting table. A sewer places the design under plastic and traces the design with a laser or stylus and transfers it to the sewing head. Thanks to the ease of this method, it tends to be the more popular option. Also, with the advancement of patterns and computer software, sky’s the limit when it comes to creating your own pantograph.
Custom designs can mean a whole range of things. Traditionally it means that a quilter wants to add their own design to blocks, appliques, etc. This is certainly more tedious and detailed work. However, this is what many quilters prefer.
Things to Keep in Mind
The machines in this review range in prices. It is important to keep your bank account in mind when choosing a machine. If you are new to longarm machines or quilting, it may be wise to stick with a machine in the lower price range. It is a great way to begin a new hobby. For those who are ready to upgrade, there are several great choices.
- Space and sewing tables
Do you have a designated sewing room? Or do you take over the dining room when working on a project? Sure, the larger the table, the more you can spread out your project. A quilting frame will most likely need a dedicated space while in use. A collapsible table, however, can be put up and taken down when needed.
- Set up
Some machines are basically ready to go straight from the box. While others will take time to set up. It is important to follow all directions to guarantee the machine will work properly. Some come with instructional DVDs, while others have lengthy manuals. When all else fails, reach out to customer service for help.
- The future of longarm quilting machines
At this point, we can all guess where the future of these machines are going. With the advancement in technology, these machines will become more computerized. Computer software for sewing machines will continue to be developed. That will allow us to create more intricate patterns, borders and more right from our laptop or mobile device. However, if you do not want anything to do with computers, don’t worry. Electric machines aren’t going anywhere.
Hopefully, you have a better idea regarding which of the top seven best longarm quilting machines is best suited for you. There is nothing wrong with finding a store that will allow you to test a machine before you buy it. You wouldn’t buy a new car without giving it a test drive. At the end of the day, it is the enjoyment of creating quilts that is the most important. The right machine will make that possible. Happy Sewing!