Are You Ready to Revolutionize Your Quilting Game? Discover the Power of Long Arm Quilting Machines!

Welcome to the world of long-arm quilting machines, where precision meets creativity to transform fabric into stunning works of art. Whether you’re a seasoned quilter or just starting on your quilting journey, understanding the terms, types of machines, and advancements like robotics can significantly enhance your quilting experience.

In this blog post, we’ll delve into the intricacies of long-arm quilting machines, explore different types available in the market, discuss the role of robotics in modern quilting, and provide recommendations to help you find the perfect quilting machine for your projects. Join us as we unravel the magic behind these innovative tools that bring quilting dreams to life!

New to the quilting world and feeling lost in the sea of terms? Our post helps you understand the key terms associated with quilting machines like 'Throat', 'Harp', 'Robotics', and 'Stitch Regulation'. Equip yourself with the right knowledge to make an informed quilting machine purchase!

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Before we get started, you don’t have to quilt your quilt tops yourself to be a quilter. The style of quilting doesn’t change if your finished project is a quilt or not. You are a quilter if you made the top, if you quilt it on a domestic sewing machine, on a mid-arm, on a long-arm, or by hand.

This is a very long article because I wanted to provide as much information to you before you made a purchase. Please use the table of contents to get you to the sections that are important to your decision making.

Terminology For Quilting Machines

Before we get started talking about quilting machines we need to know what all of the terms you will see mean.

Types of Machines

  • Domestic Machine – This is a standard home sewing machine. It’s what you piece your quilt top on, maybe do some embroidery, and take to class.
  • Mid-Arm Machine – This machine is bigger than a domestic machine and is typically in a table or a frame.
  • Long-Arm Machine – This machine is a dedicated quilting machine. They are available in tables or frames.

Machine Parts

These are the two that matter the most.

  • Throat – This is the space between the needle and the pillar of the machine.
  • Harp – This is the space between the bed of the machine and the top of the machine.

Miscellaneous Quilting Machine Terms

  • Robotics – Add on technology that can quilt for you
  • Pantographs – Quilt patterns that you trace with a laser or stylus as you move the machine
  • Stitch Regulation – The machine speeds up or slows down to keep stitches uniform

Using A Domestic Sewing Machine To Quilt

You absolutely can use the same machine you pieced your quilt top on to quilt it. My friend Christa uses her Bernia for everything and has tips on how to quilt on domestic sewing machines.

For ease, you will want the largest throat space possible but I know of people who do it on a Singer Featherweight. I have suggestions of larger throat machines in my budget recommendations and in the sewing machine guide by features.

Several domestics can be put on a frame but we will talk more about those when we get to the frame section.

Pros & Cons of Using A Domestic Machine

One of the biggest pros of using a domestic machine is you will have zero costs. You already own it or were already budgeting for the upgrade.

The con is the limited space you have. No matter how big of a throat your machine has the harp is still super limited. They also have fairly small bobbins.

Grace Little Rebel

I put this in it’s own category because it’s not a true domestic or a true mid-arm. It’s a hybrid between the two.

It has a 13″ throat, which many domestic sewing machines have but it has a larger harp than a domestic. It also takes a class M bobbin. You can piece on this machine, use it like a domestic machine to quilt, and put it on a frame as well.

Pros and Cons of Grace Little Rebel

The Grace Little Rebel is a little spendy at $3,500 when it isn’t on sale.

The pros are the flexibility of piecing and putting it on a frame. It has a huge foot pedal so you won’t be chasing it around and it has a built in stitch regulation for quilting. It also has an 8.5″ harp and it has a larger bobbin. Grace also makes limited robotics for it.

The biggest con in my opinion is the price. Now you can usually find it on sale a few times a year so it might not be as expensive when you are shopping.

Mid-Arm Quilting Machine

These machines are dedicated to the quilting part of making quilts. The throat is going to be 12″ – 17″ and the harps average 8.25″. They also will go in a table for sitdown quilting or in a frame for standing quilting. There also lots of options for robotics.

Pros & Cons of Mid-Arm Quilting Machines

The main con of a mid-arm quilting machine is it is a unitasker, it will only do quilting. On the other side of that con, since it is a unitasker it does that single task really well. So I don’t consider it a huge con but it does mean you’ll need two machines, one to piece and one to quilt on.

The big pro of a mid-arm machine is it fits in more spaces than a long arm will. With the capability to put them in a frame now, the mid-arm is no longer just for people who want to sit and quilt.

Long-Arm Quilting Machine

A long-arm has a throat longer than 17″ and the harp averages 8.25″. These used to be the only kind of quilting machine you could get and they had to go in large frame. Today, we don’t have those restrictions, they are a variety of frame and table sizes you can use.

Pros and Cons of a Long-Arm Quilting Machine

These are again unitasker machines just like the mid-arm machines. They are also the most expensive of the machines listed and take up the most space, typically.

On the flip side they also aren’t going to have the quilt size restrictions that the smaller machines have.

Quilting Frames and Tables

Just like the machines we will cover the frames and tables more in-depth when we start looking at specific set-ups. I’m also not going to cover the pros and cons because this is truly a personal preference.

Quilting Tables

I have always referred to tables as sit-down machines and that’s what the industry calls them as well but when I was watching demos of machines someone called it push quilting. I thought that was such a better description for newish quilters.

When you use a table you are moving the quilt and not the machine. If we think of it in terms of drawing, the pencil stays still while you move the paper to draw.

Quilting Frames

The world of quilting frames has expanded so much during my quilting journey. It used to be the frames came in one size, 14 feet, and if you didn’t have room for that too bad so sad. Now frames come in a variety of sizes, including tabletop size, and you can put different machines on the same frame, giving you a chance to grow slowly. You can even put a domestic sewing machine on a frame today.

When your machine is on a frame you are moving the machine and not the quilt. If we use the drawing analogy again, now you are moving your pencil over the paper.

Brands of Quilting Machines

Like the frames, there are so many more options today when it comes to quilting machines. It used to be just a handful of brands and that’s not the case anymore. We also can order a lot of them online when in the past if you didn’t have a dealer near you then you were out of luck.

I’m focusing only on machines you can purchase new online.

Quilting Machine Only Companies

Let’s start by looking at the companies that focus solely on making quilting machines.

Grace Quilting

The Grace Company is located in Utah and has been in business for 35 years. They make frames, robotics, and machine heads. The Rebel is their first foray into sewing machines so I still consider them a quilting machine company since that’s where their focus is.

They started as a hand quilting frame company but quickly expanded to include machine quilting frames. They were also the leader in quilting software. The software allowed quilters to plan out their quilting before their quilt top ever hit the quilting frame.

In 2014, they introduced their own line of quilting machines Q’nique. While they started in the mid-arm category the Q’nique line with a 14″ machine they now go up to 21″.

Handi Quilter

Similar to Grace, Handi Quilter started as a frame company and is also located in Utah. Laurel Barrus wanted a portable machine quilting frame she could take with her to the family cabin. Since she couldn’t find one on the market she created what she wanted. Her friends love it and she worked with fabricators to create a prototype to take the Quilt Fest in Houston in 1999. She named that frame Handi Quilter.

Just a few years later Laurel would see the hole in the market for an affordable home quilting machine. She would invest in the design and production of the “HQ Sixteen”. In 2010, they would become the first longarm company to achieve worldwide safety and electrical certifications allowing them to expand worldwide.

Handi Quilter makes the Handi Quilter, Moxie, and King Quilter Brands. They also work with other sewing machine companies to make their quilting machines.

Sewing Machine Companies

My mom had a Juki long arm quilting machine but in order to get it my dad took an industrial straight stitch machine, rigged hand controls for it, and put it in a bulky, heavy from that was custom built for it. Today though you can find a quilting machine made by the many of top domestic sewing machine companies.

I’m not saying you have to use the same brand of quilting machine as sewing machine but there is a bit of comfortability in knowing a brand. If that’s what you need, do it!! There’s nothing wrong with sticking with what you know and there’s nothing wrong going a completely different route too.


No longer do you have to rig up your own Juki quilting machine. Juki’s machine is available in both sit down and stand up configuration. They also have a frame for domestic sewing machines.

Baby Lock

Baby Lock currently has four models of quilting machines. They also come in sit down and stand up configurations.


Janome has 1 sit down and 2 stand up machines that you can order online. They have a few other options that are available only from brick and mortar stores.

Viking and Pfaff

Since Viking and Pfaff are from the same parent company I’m including them in one heading. Viking is available as both a sit down and a stand up configuration while Pfaff only has a stand up option.


Bernina is also in the quilting machine game. Their machines are only available at brick and motor stores though.

Quilting Machine Robotics

When I talk about robotics I’m talking about add-ons and not features built-in to the machine or table. These usually allow the machine to be controlled by a tablet and once set-up need little human interaction to run.

Robotics are not cheap! Depending on what setup you are looking at anywhere between $3,000 and $10,000 on top of the cost of the machine setup. The nice thing though is you can add them later.

I don’t believe in recreating the wheel. Our friends at Sewing Machines Plus have great charts breaking down what each robotics package can do. Always make sure the robotics will work with your machine.

Picking The Right Quilting Machine For You

Before I get to recommendations of specific machines I need you to figure some things out.

How much space do you have?

You need to know how much room do you have for this setup. You are going to need some dedicated space to put any of the options below.

What kind of quilting do you want to do?

I’m not talking about the actual quilting but do you want to move the quilt or the machine. If you aren’t sure practice doodling by moving both the paper and the pencil like I mentioned above.

What is your budget and timeframe?

Are you ready to pull the trigger today or are you just trying to figure out what you want to put on your wishlist? Are you completely clueless and want an idea of what you’ll need to spend or do you have money burning a hole in your pocket. Your budget and kind of quilting will probably dictate your time frame more than anything.

Sit Down Quilting Recommendations

You can absolutely use your domestic machine to do sit down quilting. I do recommend a large sewing table setup, either with a folding table to the side or a big sewing table and the quilt catchers by Christa Watson. The quilt catchers help keep your quilt up on the table.

Handi Quilter

It’s no shock that Handi Quilter makes the most popular sit down quilting machines since they were the ones who first made them.

Handi Quilter Amara

King Quilter

This machine is made by Handi Quilter for Sewing Machines Plus. That’s the only place you will find them.

King Quilter II sit down quilting machine

King Quilter ll Sit Down with Quilt Vision Stitch Regulation Table – $6,000 This currently comes with extension tables and you can add more extions tables and casters. The table has a 32” x 36” work area, and it can be adjusted from 29.5” to 39.5” tall. You can also shut off the stitch regulation, something I didn’t see mentioned with the other tables.


Janome has two sit down machines. The 18 is available for purchase online and the 20 is available from brick and motor stores only. The Janome has 9″ harp and I’m pretty sure I can fit Paul in the throat with that size of harp and throat.

Janome Pro 20 sit down quilting machine

Janome Quilt Maker Pro 18 Versa – $6,000 This machine has a bobbin estimator and alarm, so you won’t quilt with air like I sometimes do. The stitch regulator is built into the table like the others and the table is a similar size as well.

Janome QMP20 Versa ST – Since it is only available in person we don’t have a price but I like to be able to compare the machine online so I’m giving you the link. If I’m going to have to drive to a dealer, it’s over 100 miles to my nearest Janome dealer, I want to know if it’s a serious contender or not.

Baby Lock

Baby Lock has had several machines available over the years.

Baby Lock Regalia sit down quilting machine

Baby Lock Regant – $6,400 This machine is currently unavailable but it does say they are restocking. It is an 18″ machine so lots of room. It also has that bobbin estimator that I think is super important. The stitch regulation is built in the table like the others we’ve looked at. It’s also the first machine to mention a positionable needle.

Baby Lock 20″ Regalia ST – $7,500 This machine doesn’t have just 2 more inches of throat space. It has a laser to show you exactly where your needle will go into the quilt. The LCD also has a digital handwheel that lets you move the needle by hand on the screen. It also has digital tension adjustments.

Honorable Mentions

There is nothing wrong with these machines, they are still highly rated but they are lower in popularity than the machines listed above.

Juki Miyabi J-350 QVP-S – $6,500

Husqvarna Platinum Q160 – $5,000

Stand Up Quilting Machine Reccomendations

If you prefer to stand and do your quilting, same! I learned on a stand-up machine, my brain understands moving the pencil to draw, so it just makes more sense for me. Typically they take up more room than the sit down machine.

Also, many will have options available for frame size. I will note what frame is included in the price that I list. These machines are controlled on the handlebars with the exception of the domestic machines.

Domestic Sewing Machines

We can now use our domestic sewing machines on a frame giving us a taste of long-arm quilting. You are still limited by the size of the throat and harp of your sewing machine. You will also have to manually move the quilt around the frame so you can quilt the whole thing.

There isn’t stitch regulation built into domestic machines or these frames. Your stitches will be regulated by you. Grace does make a stitch regulator for some domestic sewing machines. It isn’t cheap though and for me I didn’t want to invest more into the regulator than I did in the machine.

Grace used to be the only company that made this style of frame but Juki has recently introduced their own frame. With both of these frames, you will need a table to put them on, I have mine on an old dining room table I picked up at a second-hand store.

Cutie Breeze Quilting Frame

Cutie Breeze – $800 You can fold the frame down and store it away when it isn’t in use so you don’t have to have a dedicated space for it. The frame’s top plate can accommodate any home machine that’s less than 11-1/2″ thick and is adjustable to fit sewing machines with up to 19″ of throat space. So you can make this frame grow with your quilting. You control the machine with the foot pedal.

Juki Fabric Frame

Juki Fabric Frame – $889 This design reminds me of the original Cutie frame with the handles under the machine and not over the top of the machine. Juki says it will fit any machine with up to an 18″ throat in one spot and 19″ in another. I would stick with 18″ just to be safe.

Baby Lock

I will be the first to admit that I was slightly shocked that Baby Lock popped up as the most-sold long-arm quilting machine. I figured it would be Grace or a Handi Quilter line.

Baby lock Gallant long arm quilting machine

Baby Lock Gallant – $5,000 with 8-foot frame – It does have a 2-foot extension listed at the bottom which is an extra $399. The price might be the reason it is so popular. It has a 15-inch throat so it would be classified as a mid-arm but lets face it we all call them long arms not matter what they are really classified as. It has stitch regulation built-in and LED lighting.

King Quilter

Just a reminder that King Quilter is Sewing Machines Plus’s exclusive line of quilting machines. You will not find them anywhere else. They are made by Handi Quilter to SMP’s specifications. They are also made in the USA.

King Quilter long arm quilting machine

King Quilter ® II ELITE – $6,300 machine only you can add a 10 or 12 foot frame for $1,700. It has an 18 inch throat and built-in stitch regulation. It also has front, rear, and micro handlebars. Those handlebars will allow you to do free motion quilting and pantograph quilting, it also has a laser to follow the pantographs.

King Quilter ® II – $4,300 machine only you can add a 10 or 12 foot frame for $1,700. This machine has a lot of add ons you can add but keep in mind those add up and the Elite might end up being close to the same price. It has an 18-inch throat and only one set of handlebars. It does have stitch regulation but not bobbin warnings.

Grace Quilting

Grace has a lot of mix and matching available with a variety of machines, robotics, and frames. I highly recommend using the frame link to see the differences between all of the frames so you get the one that works best for you. Remember zone quilting means you move the quilt around like the Cutie frame above. Grace machines are also designed for you to maintain them yourself.

Q'nique long arm quilting machine

Q’nique 16X Elite – $5,800 machine only, $5,800 – $9,200 with a frame. It has a 16 inch throat and a lot of interesting features like being able to change the foot direction similar to a cobler’s sewing machine. It also has a built in ruler to measure from the machine. It has stitch regulation and it has edge warning so you don’t bang your machine into the frame.

Qnique 16 X – $3,850 machine only, $3,850 – $7,450 with a frame. This is very similar to the Elite just not as many bells and whistles. It’s slower, it doesn’t have the built in ruler, and it doesn’t have dimmable LEDs. It does have the stitch regulation and edge warning.

Q’nique 19X – $8,000 machine only, $8,500 – $10,000 with a frame. This machine has a 19 inch throat with stitch regulation that counts the stitches. It has dimmable LEDS, edge warning, and the built in ruler to measure from the machine.

Handi Quilter

I only have one machine from Handi Quilter on the list of top quilting machines. That doesn’t mean they don’t have more great machines just that this one is in the top 10 of most sold machines.

Handi Quilter Moxie 15 Inch – $5,000 with an 8 foot frame, you can add 2 foot extension for $500. You can also add quilt from the back for another $500. It has a 15 inch throat and stitch regulation. It’s a fairly basic machine without a lot of bells and whistles and that’s fine, it makes less overwhelming.

Honorable Mention

Janome Quilt Maker 15 – $5,000

Juki J-350QVP Miyabi – $11,000

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s wrap this up by asking some burning questions you might still have.

Can I use the same needles and bobbins from my regular sewing machine?

Not unless you are using your regular sewing machine on a frame. The machines above use a class M bobbin and most use a 134 system needle. Your regular sewing machine uses a 15×1 needle.

What is the best long arm quilting machine?

The one that you will use and with the features you need! No seriously, if you aren’t going to make anything bigger than a throw you don’t need a 12 foot frame. If you aren’t going to do pantograph quilting you don’t need rear handles. Buy what you need and don’t spend on features you won’t use.

Is it hard to use a long arm quilting machine?

It isn’t hard but don’t expect award winning results your first time. It takes time to learn how to use a long arm, just like it took a few tries to get a good seam on your regular sewing machine. I recommend cheaters cloth, fabric printed to look like a quilt, to practice on. Your practice quilts can be used as pet mats, door mats, or my dad loved them to lay on when working on a car. Once you are comfortable you can start on your quilt tops.

Ever wondered how to choose the right long arm quilting machine? Dive into our comprehensive guide that explores the intricacies of long-arm quilting machines, explores different types available, discusses the role of robotics in modern quilting, and provides recommendations to help you find the perfect quilting machine for your projects.

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