Dance
Dance Top Picks

Quilting Blog

What Are Mid-Arm Quilting Machines?

Have you ever shopped for a mid-arm quilting machine? If you don’t have the budget or the space in your home for a longarm quilting machine, but want to upgrade from quilting projects on your domestic sewing machine, a mid-arm quilting machine may be just the answer for you!

Priced in the general range of $5,000 to $10,000 new, mid-arm quilting machines have a few differences from both longarm machines and home sewing machines.

Baby Lock Tiara 2 Mid Arm Quilting Machine

Specifically made for quilting

Home sewing machines have many functions, from straight and zigzag stitches to button holes and even specialty stitches. But mid-arm and longarm quilting machines are made specifically for quilting. Many mid-arm machines come with their own table, and the sole purpose of the machine is to do free-motion quilting. Mid-arms can also be called sit-down longarm machines, because you typically sit at the table to do your quilting.

Free Online Sewing Class

sewing class

Learn to fix common sewing machine problems & get better results.Enroll FREE Now »

Generous throat space

In my research, mid-arm machines have somewhere in the range of 16" to 22" of throat space, which is two or three times as much as many home sewing machines. There is also a generous amount of vertical quilting space, which allows you to easily maneuver any size quilt, from a lap to a king, under the needle. This is a very attractive feature of mid-arm quilting machines.

Stationery needle

Unlike a longarm machine, where you move the needle over the quilt, mid-arm machines allow you to freely move the quilt under a stationery needle. This takes some getting used to, but quilters who are used to finishing projects on their home machine already have experience with this.

Front-on or sideways orientation

Mid-arm machines can be situated in one of two ways. When the neck is positioned in such a way that the quilter is looking at the needle straight on, the machine's body is perpendicular to the quilter. This orientation is more similar to a longarm machine and more ideal for quilting large projects, because the entire workspace is visible right in front of you. This is different from home sewing machines, in which you must do quilting with the machine sitting sideways.

Two bobbin sizes

Mid-arm quilting machines can come with two options for bobbin sizes. The L-size bobbin is the same size used in a standard home sewing machine, while the M-size bobbin holds about three times as much thread and is found on many longarm machines. Which is better? While the larger bobbin needs to be changed less often, a smaller bobbin can be better for detailed quilting work. Mid-arm machines typically come with the bobbin located under the table, so you don't have to remove the quilt to change a bobbin.

Optional stitch regulation

Stitch regulation is an option on many mid-arm quilting machines, from the Baby Lock Tiara II to the Handiquilter Sweet Sixteen. This allows for more speed control and accurate stitching. Although you can find stitch regulation on longarms and even some home sewing machines, this add-on is something that many quilters choose to do without, preferring to let their own rhythm determine the outcome of the stitches. Stitch regulation modules may add around $1,000 to the price of a mid-arm quilting machine.

Other features

Additional bells and whistles on today's mid-arm quilting machines range from color touch screens to powerful motors that stitch up to 1,500 times per minute. A needle up-down button is a popular feature, as are additional feet to aid with quilting visibility. Besides those we've already mentioned, some mid-arm machines on the market include the APQS George, the Gammill Charm, and the Pfaff Powerquilter 16.0.

Free Online Sewing Class

sewing class

Learn to fix common sewing machine problems & get better results.Enroll FREE Now »

47 Comments

Kim

I have a sweet sixteen mid arm. I love it, I can do most anything a long arm quilter can do. It is wonderful, I have m/s and can’t stand up for long periods of time. I would have difficulty loading the quilt on a long arm. I don’t know what I would do without my mid arm now after having one.

Reply
Lucy Macdonald

I have M.E. and love the working way of a longarm but it only my health problems that pull me back…and price of course! How do you cope with the effort needed to move the quilt..I suppose only work on your good days is the only way.

Reply
Joyce

You could check into the Q’nique 14+. It’s a mid/long arm that fits on Grace frames. More affordable than some.

Reply
Ann

I love the Q’nique and I have it on my frame. Can quilt a 14 inch block and I love this machine. Oh did I say that already, but I do love it. It is so affordable, and I have quilted about 12 quilts on it so far this year.

Reply
Norma Haymond

Hi Ann
My local quilt shop just started selling the Q’nique 14. I’m very interested in it but have had trouble finding many who are familiar with it. Do you like yours? Please give me your pros and cons. Are you able to do king size quilts?

Elaine Ford Scott

Lucy, I have a Tin Lizzie (Princess) Mid-arm. That came with a Grace Frame. I can stand at the front or the back to work; and have a stool that is frame height that I can sit on, if need be.
I was fortunate to pick mine up when they were first released for a mere $5,000, and that included the frame and shipping. That was about 3 years ago; so, I’m certain they aren’t available at that price now; but I’ve been really happy with my Tin Lizzie.
I don’t run a business or anything — just my own enjoyment!

Reply
rachel hilton

http://katiesquiltingcorner.com/2014/05/drag-free-motion-quilting.html
The website above details the method I use. This is how I have my Tiara Mid arm machine set up. There are other people who are hanging bungee cords from the ceiling but if that’s not an option for you then the dog grooming poles are the answer. I LOVE IT. I used this method a week ago on a 60×70 quilt and finished it in 2.5 hours without a struggle.

Reply
Saskia

Hi there – just purchased a Sweet Sixteen, and am starting the learning process – any tips??

Reply
Erin

Just jump in and play. The more you do the easier it gets. Check you tube for tips.

Reply
Vicky DeNure

What Erin said. Just play with it. The more you practice, the better you will become. I like using quilter’s rulers also for a more uniform stitching, just make sure you get the right width (1/4″) or you run the risk of breaking something. Ahhh… one tip from the lady I bought it from….She would cut the thread back where the spool sits, then when she changed the thread she would tie a knot and pull it though to the needle. Then cut the knot, and thread the needle. Less of a chance of threading the machine wrong and saves time.

Reply
Jonne Adams

I have a Sweet Sixteen also………………you need to experiment with speeds and Threads until you find the combination that is most suited to how you work and how you want your stitching to look. For instance, due to arthritis in my shoulders, the Sweet Sixteen takes a lot of the strain away that I was experiencing trying to quilt on my home sewing machine but I must quilt at a slower speed to achieve the stitch length and continuity that I like. I cannot quilt at the speeds many other can.

So experiment and Practice, Practice, Practice!

Reply
Ann

Load a practice quilt and have some fun. And each quilt you do you will get better and better, Honestly though, looking back on my first quilts, I see a big difference but even with the mistakes they still look good.

Reply
Romila Spina

On my wish list! :o)

Reply
Beth

Thanks for information on the mid-arm machines. I had wondered about them. I do up to full size on my domestic machine….and it is quite a chore.

Reply
Rosanne

I have a Tin Lizzie 18 and love it.

Reply
Vanna

Thank you for this information on mid-arm machines. Large quilts on home machines are difficult for me. Thanks again.

Reply
Miranda

Do you know of any classes to attend or on line to help learn how to use

Reply
maxine

innova also makes an excellent sit down machine. Very user friendly.

Reply
Leah Day

Great post! The prices are definitely coming down on these models and you can often find the best deals at quilt shows. Juki has also just released a new midarm called the 22000 which also features a thread cutter and hand wheel so you can position the needle exactly where it needs to go.

Reply
Jill

I am considering the Juki midarm. I really like the fact that if you want to upgrade to a long arm you use the same machine and just purchase the frame.

Reply
Debby Brown

I love my Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen. She has everything that I could ask for in a quilting machine. I love the big bobbin; I don’t run out as often and she makes a perfect stitch!

Reply
Lana Ebarb

What about the Flynn setup where you use your he machine with their setup. The only thing I really have a question . about is how would you setup for a king-sized quilt? They look only big enough for a baby quilt. Is it a good setup? Lana Ebarb

Reply
Patty Hafer

I have used the Flynn system to quilt several king size quilts. One attaches conduit pipe to the system. My Bernina 440 sits sideways. I have several suggestions: Practice using small quilted items on the yellow pipes-practice-practice-practice. After one gets use to the frames then practice doing quilts King size. Also purchase the roller stand to hold up one of the ends. I am presently finishing 5 t-shirts quilts for a friend. If you are serious about purchasing the Flynn frames check e-bay.

Reply
Gale

I own the APQS George sit down machine. The only problem I had was tension, and after talking to the rep for the company, she helped me solve this. These machines don’t work like our regular sewing machines so don’t forget to call the help line to get assistance. I have quilted placemats to queen size quilts on my machine and highly recommend my machine. There are some great classes on this site to help you become a more confident free motion quilter. I live in a rural area and no access to the machines, however if you are thinking of buying and can test drive them, that will help you decide which one will work for you. Good Luck!!!

Reply
Connie

Just bought used george from apqsandcant wait to check k it out. I angling to try spray basting. Pins too much work. A long arm was too much. For me

Reply
QUILTER4CHARITY

I have the HQ16 (not sit down) and it’s okay. Wish I had waited another year to buy one when the newer table came out.

Reply
Denise

I am hoping to get a mid-arm machine in the future – perhaps the one from the Grace Co., also saw a Sunshine Quilter machine which is very economical, though doesn’t have stitch regulation.
I currently have a Brother PQ1500, which I purchased for around $600 a few years ago, online. It has a large space under the needle for quilting (9″ length, and additional height), so it is a great alternative until you can afford something more. It works as a sit down machine, but can be used to quilt on a quilting frame, if desired. I use it as a sit down machine, for straight stitch sewing and quilting, it quilts up to 1500 stiches per minute. I do love it! It came with several additonal feet, including a walking foot.

Reply
Ann

I just bought the qnique midarm for my grace frame. I got it 2 weeks ago, and I’m already on my second quilt. LOVE IT SO MUCH. I can do a row of 12 inch blocks. Then I just adjust and go to the next row. Awesome and like I said I love it.

Reply
Lee

I want one so bad! Wish list

Reply
Selina Kuyp

I have the Janome Artistic SD (sit down). I chose it over the Pfaff 16.0 Power quilter…. I thought the stitches looked better – much more defined then on the Pfaff and because it is situated like a normal sewing machine I am used to the feel of it. I am quite good at free motion quilting, but it still takes time to get used to the new machine. The machine is faster then I am now, and that means I need to find the right settings….Just play and have fun. Breathe!

Reply
Carolyn Moschetto

i have been researching the Sweet Sixteen HQ vs APQS George. The cost is lower on the HQ but the HQ ,has 5 year warranty and the APQS George has lifetime warranty. But I hear several people have trouble with the tension with the George. Which would you choose.

Reply
Leann McClain

Tension is a solvable issue, but you do have to experiment getting it just right when using different threads. Each will have its own setting. It is not the same as adjusting tension on a domestic machine. Tension seems to be an issue for many no matter what brand machine they own. Jamie Wallen (look at his YouTube videos) is a good source for tension adjusting as is Superior Threads, who have charts with information on each thread/needle combination. You have to pay attention to recommendations contained on their spools regarding how to pair needle to thread. If there is a tension issue it is usually operator error.

By the way, I use an APQS Millie.

Reply
CSpencer

I have the Tiara, and it can be upgraded to fit on a frame if I ever get the extra room. Most of us purchase mid arms because of cost and size. The larger quilting machines takes up a lot of real-estate space in your home that many folks do not have. I Love Love my Tiara, I have the extension sides that I can open if I am working on a large quilt. My machine can be upgraded to a stand up, when the time is right and I have extra space I may look into it. It is one of the best buy items that I have purchased.

Reply
Marian Olsen

I just put a deposit on a Tiara 2, and hope to get it in a few weeks (the vendor will come and set it up, but is busy with quilt show season). I have a few health issues, and thought price wise and ergonomically it would suit best, so I can learn free motion. I have also been watching a lot of videos on You tube for ruler work. Are there any quilt shows, other than MQX, where you can take lessons, or do I just have to watch the free online videos and practice? I am so excited!!! Any advice for a Tiara 2 (HQ 16) newbie??? Any online midarm groups to join for support? Any groups in Canada (Toronto area)???

Reply
Debbie

I recently bought a Handi-Quilter Sweet Sixteen and finished my first quilt on it. Not the greatest but it’s ok for a starter.

Reply
Carol Pearson

Bought a used New Joy frame with a Janome 1600PQ machine. Have done 6 crib size quilts so far. My husband is actually better at it than I am. He operates smoother. Next week will start a queen size. It is like they say Practice…Practice…Practice.

Reply
Margaret hevron

I am concerned with getting the quilt sandwich ready for quilting. I usually spray baste but that is really difficult. Any other suggestions?

Reply
Lorraine

I would suggest using Hobbs 80/20 fusible batting.

Reply
Hannah

Glue basting works well for me with Elmers washable school glue

Reply
Dawn

I had a Sweet Sixteen and loved it. Then I decided to go into business and bought a Gammill longarm and love it too. But, I sold the Sweet Sixteen, like a fool. My husband died in between all of this all and can’t afford to replace the Sweet Sixteen now. I do a lot of art quilts and really miss that little sweetie!!

Reply
nilda

Where is the best place to buy a tiara 2?

Reply
Michele

LOVED my Sweet 16, but I had to sell my house and couldn’t take it with me to my small place. I’ll always mourn the loss of her . . .

Reply
Shannon

I just bought the Sweet Sixteen, I have a quilt frame and with my fabulous husband’s assistance, we got it to fit. My problem is that I cannot start & stop, when using a pento at the back of the frame. Any suggestions?

Reply
Kimberly

Does anyone know a mid-arm (or sit-down long arm) that can do straight stitching? in others use a walking foot or 1/4″ foot for piecing?

Reply
lari hoffman

I really want a mid-arm. I tried one at the Madison Quilt Show 2 years ago. I loved it. I would like one now but don’t have the money or room. Planning to sell house & move & the top item on new place is large quilting room with space for machine & first purchase will be machine.

Reply
Judy

You neglected to mention the Inova sitdown. It is a great machine you also have to concider the manufacturer. Inovas are made in the United States. It is a family business and the customer service couldn’t be better, they treat you like family.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Reply