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Quilting Machines FAQs
What Types of Machines Are There To Make Quilts?
Quiltmaking is a fun and creative sewing craft that can be done on a variety of sewing and quilting machines. Basic quilting can be done on any sewing machine as the main stitch used is the straight stitch that is found on all basic sewing machines.
More advanced quilters or those who spend many hours at their machines will benefit from choosing a designated tabletop quilting machine or even a mid-arm or long-arm quilting machine, all of which are more suited to quilting specifically and working on larger projects.
Do I Really Need A Special Sewing Machine to Do Machine Quilting?
Any good quality sewing machine can be used for basic machine quilting; however, for quilters who wish to really perfect their craft, a quilting machine specifically designed for this purpose is beneficial. Quilting machines are larger than standard sewing machines, making them easier to use for this purpose, and designed with larger motors to be more durable.
Though any sewist can learn quilt piecing and how to stitch together a quilt top on a regular sewing machine, they will appreciate the additional size and features for finishing their quilt when they move up to an actual quilting machine.
How Are Quilting Machines Different Than Standard Sewing Machines?
The main difference between a standard sewing machine and a model labeled as a quilting machine is the size and speed of the machine’s motor and some of the added features.
Quilting machines are typically made with a more durable motor that can stitch faster and for longer periods of time than a standard sewing machine used for home sewing projects.
Quilting machines also include a larger throat area and are capable of doing the most common stitches used in machine quilting, but they may not have many fancy stitches. Some also include extension tables that create a larger sewing workspace.
What Is A Sewing and Quilting Machine?
A sewing and quilting machine is a combination sewing machine that has a larger throat than a standard machine, usually 9 to 11 inches in length, and the quilting stitches and features that a tabletop quilting machine has as well as many other stitches and capabilities like a fully-equipped sewing machine.
Owners of sewing and quilting machines can do a variety of sewing and quilting activities with the same versatile machine, making them perfect choices for sewists that enjoy many different sewing crafts. While they might not be ideal for finishing large quilts due to the throat size, they are perfect for making quilt tops and quilt blocks or finishing smaller quilts with skillful handling of the fabric.
A sewist who plans on spending more time quilting than sewing will benefit greatly from moving up to an actual dedicated quilting machine.
What Is Quilting Machine Throat Size and Why Is It Important?
Throat size is the amount of space under the horizontal arm of the quilting machine between the needle and the vertical body. This space is where the project fabric feeds under the machine arm while it is being sewn. A standard sewing machine typically has a throat size of 7 to 9 inches which is suitable when sewing average-sized items.
Quilting machines of various sizes have larger throats of 11 inches or more to allow more fabric through the throat space while it is being sewn. Larger throat spaces are preferable for machine quilting as it reduces the need to bunch up the fabric to pass it under the arm.
What Is A Mid-Arm Quilting Machine?
A mid-arm quilting machine is a machine designed with a longer, taller horizontal arm that provides a longer, larger throat space. The throats on mid-arm machines range from 12 inches to 17 inches in length, leaving plenty of room to feed the fabric through when working on a quilt.
Mid-arm quilting machines are especially versatile as they can be used as a sit-down machine with an extension table, mounted into a sewing cabinet, or a stand-up machine on a quilting frame.
What Is A Long-Arm Quilting Machine?
A long-arm quilting machine is one that has a throat of 18 inches or larger, with some professional models having throats as large as 27 inches. Long-arm machines are typically mounted on a frame and used standing up, although some smaller long-arms may be able to be used sit-down in a sewing cabinet that can accommodate them.
The larger throat on these machines provides even more space for sliding fabric under the sewing arm and when used on a frame, they can be freely moved forward and back over the frame-mounted quilt, eliminating the problem of forcing bunched fabric under the machine arm.
What Is A Quilting Frame?
A quilting frame is a structure that holds the layers of the quilt fabric and batting together so that it can be stitched using a long-arm quilting machine.
Quilting frame systems can be used to hold up the quilt for stitching by a long-arm machine that is mounted to a sewing table or cabinet or they can include additional rails onto which the long-arm machine is mounted for easy back-and-forth and side-to-side maneuvering.
Setting up and working on a quilting frame requires a good deal of space for the frame and machine and most are used standing up.
What Is Free-Motion Quilting?
Free-motion quilting is when the quilter moves the needle freely over the fabric to create a freehand pattern with the thread. It requires a machine that has the ability to stitch with the feed dogs disengaged, which is a feature that comes on any machine that is designed as a quilting machine and some quilting and sewing combo machines.
Should I Replace My Standard Quilting Machine With A Mid-Arm or Long-Arm Machine?
That will depend on the types of quilts a sewist enjoys making and how large they are. Quilters who spend many hours at their machines and wish to accomplish more sewing while spending less time rolling and shifting their fabric will find that upgrading to a machine with a longer throat can be very helpful.
They will experience fewer problems with fabric shifting while they are sewing and need to stop less often to reposition the quilt while they are working on it.
What Special Features Do Quilting Machines Include?
Quilting machines include a variety of special features designed to make sewing large, multi-layered projects easier and faster. As mentioned in the above points, the quilting machine arm length and throat length are both longer to provide more space for adjusting the fabric while it is being sewn.
They come with larger, faster sewing motors, larger built-in flatbeds, extension tables, advanced fabric feed systems to stabilize stitching and produce consistent straight stitches without shifting the fabric, and other great features.
Most quilting machines also include a feature that disengages the feed dogs to allow for free-motion quilting.
How Do I Know Which Quilting Machine I Should Buy?
Buying a quilting machine requires lengthy consideration to be sure the right one is purchased. Firstly, it is a good idea that a quilter learns about the different types available and determines which features are most important to them according to the projects they work on or their aspirations to create larger, more complex quilts.
Quilters should then consider their budget and also the amount of space they have to set up their machine. Those with smaller budgets and smaller spaces might consider a high-end short-arm or mid-end machine for moving up from a standard sewing or combination model.
Fortunately, there are many wonderful mid-range options that can satisfy most quilters who may not necessarily need a long-arm but wish to advance their quilting. Professional quilters or those with larger budgets, more space, and who aspire to do larger projects, would benefit from a long-arm machine on a quilting frame.
Do Quilting Machines Use Different Needles Than Standard Sewing Machines?
Yes, most quilting machines require a larger, somewhat thicker, and longer needle with a more tapered shape than those used on a standard sewing machine. Always use the required needle on a quilting machine to be sure it can produce high-quality stitches at a fast speed without breaking, dropping stitches, or encountering other problems.
What Is the Best Quilting Machine for A Beginner?
For those who are just learning how to quilt or how to use a sewing machine in general, the best quilting machine to start out with is either a quilting and sewing combo or a short-arm quilting machine. Both of these models will be easy enough for beginners to learn how to quilt on for many years while they perfect their quilting process.
Once a quilter has become comfortable with a standard-sized quilting and/or sewing machine, there are many wonderful, high-quality, feature-full quilting machines they can move up to when the time comes.
What Should I Do If My Thread Keeps Breaking on My Quilting Machine?
There are many reasons why a quilter might experience thread breakage with their quilting machine. Be sure to use fresh thread of a large enough weight for the fabric and with a fresh, sharp needle that is the right size to handle the thickness of the thread. Clean the machine under the needle plate, and the bobbin and bobbin case.
Then re-thread the machine and test the upper tension, as it is easy for the thread to be over-tensioned on quilting machines, and then the bobbin tension. Most thread breakage on quilting machines is due to tension problems. If the problem persists, servicing by an approved repair shop might be required.
What Should I Do If My Quilting Machine Is Skipping Stitches?
The most common cause of skipped stitches with a quilting machine is a dull needle. Using a high-quality needle like a smooth, titanium-coated needle that will resist dulling longer than others is recommended.
Replace the dull needle with a new, sharp one that correctly fits the machine and the thread, make sure it is correctly inserted into the machine, and try again.
If the machine continues to skip stitches, the timing might be off and require resetting by an approved repair shop.
What Important Accessories and Features Should I Get With My Quilting Machine?
When purchasing a quilting machine, some of the most important features to look for are adjustable stitches, feed dogs designed for feeding multiple layers of fabric, feed dogs that disengage, a large bobbin size, a bobbin winder, needle stop control, automatic thread cutters, extra built-in lighting, and some built-in decorative stitches that can make quilting more fun.
Accessories to purchase, if they do not come with the machine, include a walking presser foot, a ¼-inch presser foot, a darning, or free-motion quilting presser foot, and an extension table if not mounting the machine in a sewing cabinet.
What If My Quilting Machine Has A Problem?
Quilting machines should be frequently cleaned and maintained just like any other sewing machine. They can also occasionally develop the same problems that standard sewing machines can. Quilting machines that do not respond to remedies such as cleaning, re-threading, re-tensioning, and other standard methods of resetting the machine should be serviced by a professional sewing machine shop that is approved by the quilting machine manufacturer.
Refer to the machine’s warranty information or contact the manufacturer for guidance on where to get the machine repaired.
How Can I Learn How To Do Machine Quilting?
Before jumping into quilting, it is recommended that a sewist already knows the basics of how to use a standard sewing machine. Anyone who already knows the basics of using their sewing machine can then very easily learn quilting and how to use a more advanced quilting machine.
There are many online resources, including instructional blogs and videos, that teach the different techniques necessary to stitch together a beautiful quilt using any sewing or quilting machine. To learn more about specific quilting machines and how to use them, many quilting machine manufacturers offer free quilting videos or instructional DVDs with their machines.
Additionally, there are many quilt clubs, both online and offline, that quilters can join to learn from more experienced quilters while sharing their hobby with people who love to quilt as much as they do.