Quilting Machines: Things you need to know (Types, Features, Pros & Cons)

Everything about Quilting machines

A quilting machine is a specialized sewing machine designed specifically for the art of quilting. Quilting is the process of sewing multiple layers of fabric together to create a padded, decorative effect.

These machines offer a range of features to help both novice and experienced quilters achieve professional results with ease.

Types of Quilting Machines

There are three main types of quilting machines: long-arm, mid-arm, and short-arm. Each type has its unique features and advantages.

Long Arm Quilting Machines

Long-arm quilting machines have a large throat space, allowing quilters to work on larger projects with ease. These machines are often used by professional quilters and can be mounted on frames, enabling the user to move the machine over the quilt instead of moving the fabric.

Mid Arm Quilting Machines

Mid-arm quilting machines offer a balance between the long-arm and short-arm machines. They have a moderately sized throat space and are suitable for both home and professional use. Mid-arm machines can also be mounted on frames for easier maneuverability.

Short Arm Quilting Machines

Image Source: etsy.com

Short-arm quilting machines are the most compact and affordable option. They have a smaller throat space, making them ideal for smaller projects or beginner quilters. These machines are typically used as tabletop machines and may require more manual manipulation of the fabric.

Essential Features of Quilting Machines

When choosing a quilting machine, it’s important to consider the following features:

Stitch Quality

Look for a machine that offers consistent and high-quality stitches. This ensures your quilt will have a professional appearance and last for years.

Throat Space

Throat space is the distance between the needle and the machine’s body. Larger throat spaces allow you to work on bigger projects with ease, while smaller throat spaces are suitable for smaller quilts or intricate designs.

Speed Control

A quilting machine with adjustable speed control allows you to work at a pace that is comfortable and precise for your skill level and project requirements.

Stitch Regulation

Stitch regulation helps maintain consistent stitch length, regardless of the speed at which you’re quilting. This feature is especially helpful for beginners who may struggle with maintaining even stitches.

Frame Compatibility

If you plan on using a quilting frame, ensure your chosen machine is compatible with the frame’s dimensions and design.

Advantages of Using a Quilting Machine

Quilting machines offer several advantages for those interested in this particular craft.

  1. Increased productivity and efficiency: Quilting machines can greatly improve productivity and efficiency in quilt-making. This is particularly true for long-arm quilting machines, which are used by many professional quilters.
  2. Uniformity and consistency: When using a quilting machine, the stitching in the quilt will look very consistent. Machine-made quilts do not have lumps and bumps, which are often found in hand-made quilts.
  3. Accessibility: While the physical size and cost of longarm machines may have previously been a barrier, more “user-friendly” versions have recently been introduced to the market. This makes the benefits of a specialist quilting machine accessible to more and more quilters.
  4. Commercial opportunities: Quilting can be a commercial art, and the use of a quilting machine could increase the production rate, making it more commercially viable.
  5. Creativity and sense of accomplishment: Quilting can instigate a sense of creativity and accomplishment. The use of a quilting machine, even for beginners, can contribute to this feeling.

Quilting Machine vs. Sewing Machine

While they share similar functions, a quilting machine has specific features tailored to the quilting process.

This includes a larger throat space to accommodate bulkier quilts and features such as stitch regulation for consistent stitch length.

Conversely, a sewing machine may lack these quilting-specific features but is more versatile for various sewing tasks.

FeaturesQuilting MachineSewing Machine
Primary UsePrimarily used for quilting, i.e., stitching together multiple layers of fabric to create a padded effect.Designed for a broader range of sewing tasks, such as stitching pieces of fabric together, hemming, etc.
Throat SpaceTypically has a larger throat space to accommodate larger quilts.Has a smaller throat space, which may limit the size of projects.
SpeedGenerally faster, making it ideal for larger projects.Speed varies, but it’s generally slower compared to a quilting machine.
Stitch RegulationOften includes stitch regulation for consistent stitch length, crucial for quilting.Most models do not include stitch regulation.
Frame CompatibilityCan often be mounted on a quilting frame for ease of use.Typically not compatible with quilting frames.
VersatilityPrimarily designed for quilting, with features tailored for this specific task.More versatile and can be used for various sewing tasks, not just quilting.
PriceGenerally more expensive due to specialized features.Typically more affordable and a good starting point for beginners.

How to Choose the Right Quilting Machine

I remember when I decided to take my quilting to the next level and invest in a dedicated quilting machine.

With so many brands and models on the market, each with its unique set of features, it took me a good deal of research and a few test drives before I found the one that was just right for me.

Here’s my process for selecting the right quilting machine:

Consider Your Quilting Goals

Before anything else, you need to consider what you want to achieve with your quilting. Are you a hobbyist looking to make quilts for your family and friends, or do you have aspirations to become a professional quilter selling your creations? Your goals will significantly influence the type of machine you need. As a casual quilter, I started with a machine that had basic features and was easy to use.


Next, I had to set a budget. Quilting machines range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Setting a budget helped me narrow down my options. Don’t be disheartened if your budget is on the lower end. There are many affordable quilting machines out there that offer great value for money.

Machine Type

There are two main types of quilting machines: sewing machines with quilting capabilities and long-arm quilting machines. When I first started, I opted for a sewing machine with quilting features since it was more affordable and took up less space. As I grew more experienced and started tackling larger projects, I upgraded to a long-arm machine.


Make a list of features that are important to you. For me, having a large throat space was crucial because it allowed me to work on bigger quilts with ease. I also wanted a machine with good stitch quality and speed control. Some machines come with advanced features like an automatic thread cutter or a built-in stitch regulator, but remember, these extras often come with a higher price tag.

Test Drive

You wouldn’t buy a car without test-driving it first, right? The same goes for a quilting machine. I visited local sewing and quilting shops to try out different machines. This hands-on experience was invaluable, allowing me to feel how each machine was handled, how smoothly it sewed, and how comfortable I was using it.

Brand Reputation and Customer Support

Finally, I took into consideration the reputation of the brand and the customer support they offered. I read reviews online, asked for recommendations from my quilting friends, and considered the warranty each brand provided.

Caring tips for a quilting machine

As a seasoned crafter, I can tell you that caring for your machine ensures smoother quilting and happier crafting!

If you want to maintain its performance and lifespan then follow my step-by-step tips below:

Step 1: Routine Cleaning

Just like any other machine, quilting machines thrive on regular cleaning. I make it a point to clean my machine after every project. This involves removing dust, lint, and loose thread that may have gathered in the bobbin area, feeding dogs, and under the needle plate.

Step 2: Change Needles Regularly

A dull or damaged needle can harm your machine and your quilt. I change my needles after every 8 hours of sewing or at the start of each new project.

Step 3: Regular Oiling

Depending on your machine model, it may need oiling. I follow the manual’s instructions for oiling points and frequency. It’s amazing how a few drops of oil can significantly improve the machine’s performance.

Step 4: Use Quality Thread

I cannot stress this enough – always use high-quality thread. Inferior thread tends to shed more lint, which can build up in the machine and potentially cause damage.

Step 5: Yearly Servicing

Even with regular cleaning and oiling, I take my quilting machine to a professional for a thorough check-up once a year. They can reach places and spot issues that I might miss.

Step 6: Cover It Up

When not in use, I always cover my machine to prevent dust accumulation. Some machines come with a hardcover, but a simple cloth cover does the trick as well.

Step 7: Mind the Cord

I am careful not to bend or twist the machine’s power cord. A damaged cord can be a safety hazard and is often expensive to replace.

Step 8: Practice Good Habits

I always turn off and unplug my machine when it’s not in use. It’s not just about saving electricity; it also helps to prevent any accidental damage.

Step 9: User Manual is Your Friend

Last but not least, I keep the user manual handy and refer to it whenever I’m in doubt. It provides specific guidelines that are best for my particular machine model.


Can I use a regular sewing machine for quilting?

Yes, but it may lack quilting-specific features like larger throat space and stitch regulation.

How often should I clean my quilting machine?

It’s recommended to clean your quilting machine after every project, or when you change the bobbin.

Is a quilting machine worth the investment?

If you quilt frequently, investing in a quilting machine can save you time and yield more professional results.

What features should I look for in a quilting machine?

Key features to consider include stitch quality, throat space, speed control, stitch regulation, and frame compatibility.


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