Which Should You Buy, a Midarm or Longarm? Podcast #76

Hello my quilting friends! This week we'll be breaking down the differences between a longarm and a so-called "midarm" sewing machine. Check out the podcast below in video format:

Or you can listen to the podcast or download it to your computer using this player:

Quick links to things I mentioned in this podcast:

Eversewn Sparrow 20

Grace Qnique 15 R

Leah Day Mally the Maker
Quilts as gifts

Three Questions to Ask Before You Invest in a Longarm Machine

Purchasing a longarm machine and investing in your quilting hobby or business is a big decision. Here are the three questions I think are most important to ask yourself before pulling out your wallet:

longarm verses midarm buying guide1. What do you MOST want to create?

Bed quilts, throws, charity quilts, baby quilts, cuddle quilts, etc - All of these quilts will be easier and faster to quilt on a longarm on a frame. It's much faster to move the machine over the quilt rather than moving the quilt under the needle of a home machine.

Wall hangings and show quilts - These quilts could go either way. You don't have to have a longarm in order to make show winning quilts! You can actually quilt dense designs easier on your home machine because you have more control over where the quilting stitches end up.

2. How many quilts do you want to make?

1 quilt or more per month - A longarm will definitely help you achieve this goal. Again, not having to physically move the quilt under the needle is the major place you're saving time. It's also physically easier to stand and quilt (so long as standing isn't an issue for your body).

1 quilt every 6-8 months - You could go either way. Yes, it's absolutely possible to quilt even king sized quilts on your home machine. So long as time isn't an issue, rest assured that you can continue to use your home machine to quilt your own quilts.

3. How much money do you want to invest?

$1000 or less - For this price point, you can find many larger, higher speed home machines that can help you quilt your own quilts. You can also find smaller hoop frames and be able to experience moving the machine over the quilt rather than moving the quilt under the needle. The downside of quilting this way with a home machine is the limited space in the arm of the machine. You may find yourself spending more time shifting and advancing the quilt than actually quilting.

$5000 or more - For this price point, you can find huge home machines and hundreds of decorative stitches that can piece, do embroidery, and machine quilting. You can also find smaller longarms with terrific frames that can significantly speed up the quilting process. The price and complexity of home machines is steadily increasing while the price and complexity of longarms is slowly decreasing so they are more affordable for quilters that don't want to become professional longarmers.

Other things to consider when buying a longarm

This is a very large piece of equipment that requires at least 2 people to build. Even if you aren't a very mechanical person, please help put your frame and machine together. This will help you understand how the parts work and avoid being intimidated by it.

A longarm machine requires a lot more self-service than home machines. Be ready to check your tension, clean,and oil the machine every day, and troubleshoot issues that crop up along the way.

What is a Midarm Sewing Machine?

This is my biggest beef with the word Midarm - there is really no such thing!

There are only two types of machines - home machines that have feed dogs to move fabric forward in a traditional way and longarm machines that do not have feed dogs that are specifically designed for machine quilting.

Midarm is a term commonly used to describe either a semi-industrial, lockstitch home sewing machine OR a longarm with a smaller arm. The term is used randomly depending on who you're talking to which makes it very confusing - are you talking about a machine with feed dogs or without? Can this machine piece a shirt, or can it only quilt a quilt?

I hope you can see why the term Midarm is confusing. Let's just stop using that word!

Do you have a suggestion for a future Hello My Quilting Friends podcast episode? Share your idea or question in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

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Comments

  • Alice Ellens - October 08, 2018

    I would like to receive your email.

  • Paula - October 08, 2018
    Have really really enjoyed this podcast. However, my mid arm is a baby Tiarra II and does not have feed dogs. I Purchased it several years ago along with an extended table because I was not very successful on my domestic machine. That being said, I do have to move the fabric and have improved greatly but will never win a quilt show ribbon! Ha ha but I am OK with that. My reason for this midarm was

    space and feat of a new learning curve with a long arm.But now, I am looking for reasonably priced long warm because a large Quilt takes me four hours plus to pin to make sure that I do not have pleats on the back. Fortunately, I do have a huge island in my kitchen to pin the Quilt so that I don’t half to get down on the floor. It appears that the long arm would make it much easier to not have to spend all that time pinning. Your podcast and videos have allowed me to re think my ability to use a long arm. Thanks so much.

  • Leah Day - October 05, 2018

    Great question Paula! I have a table on my longarm page that includes the dimensions the machine takes up, but also the amount of space I think you need all around in order to comfortably use the machine. You can find it here: https://leahday.com/15R

  • Leah Day - October 05, 2018

    Hi Brit – I understand what you mean, but unfortunately there is no clear consensus on the term midarm. As I said in the video, some quilters think that means a stationary longarm. Some people believe it’s a semi-industrial home machine. It’s confusing because there is no such thing as a middle of the road between a home machine and a longarm.

    As far as how it’s set up – extra words like Stationary, sit down, table mounted, frame mounted, etc, explain how the machine is set up.

    You can have a frame mounted home machine and a sit down longarm. My opinion is we should use extra words to identify the setup, not the term midarm, which is far from universally understood or agreed on.

  • Leah Day - October 05, 2018

    Hi Terry – Your machine is a table mounted or sit down longarm. It’s a longarm because it has no feed dogs. How you have it set up adds the additional name – sit down or table mounted. That doesn’t make it a “midarm” machine because the machine type is a longarm. Does that make more sense?

    And I apologize for not going into more detail. It just slipped my mind and I know sit down longarms are confusing. Please learn more about using them in my Sit Down Sunday series here: https://freemotionquilting.blogspot.com/p/sit-down-quilting-sunday.html

  • Paula - October 05, 2018

    I really learnt a lot lwith this tutorial – thank you Leah
    I currently use my home machine for machine quilting (very basic stippling, walking foot and the occasional adventurous free-motion effort). I am keen to do more of it, but work commitments make that difficult at the moment. So part of my interest today was storing the info away in my head to inform my decisions at a later date when I can make time to devote to my passion. My only question after your thorough explanation was also regarding the area required for a long arm machine and frame, which has been alluded to and answered in another comment, so I appreciate those points. But is it possible to be more specific on the area of space required to have a longarm and frame setup, and how much room one needs around it to manouvre/walk around/ etc? Much appreciated.

  • Brit Eddy - October 05, 2018

    Hi Leah,
    After reading the blog, I better understand your division into domestic and longarm machines. However, I still like using the category of midarms. Dividing into domestic and longarm tells us the type of machine, while midarm indicates the physical setup. I have very little space, so a longarm on a frame is out of the question. I am evaluating whether it is worth investing in a midarm with a cabinet or table. I have quilted full sized bedquilts on my 7” harp machine. It can be done, but a bigger harp would be nice. Thank you. Brit

  • Terry Vance Sheldon - October 05, 2018

    You didn’t mention the type of longarm I have, the Pfaff Powerquilter 16.0. It is a table mounted sitdown machine which has no feed dogs, but you move your own quilt through since the machine is stationary. What you were saying in this podcast is that a major difference between the home machine and the longarm is with the longarm you never have to struggle with moving the quilt yourself. I wish you could address these types of machines, as I’m kind of stuck.

  • KayS - October 05, 2018

    Such a great eye opening pod cast thanks!

  • Leah Day - October 03, 2018

    Hi Shann – Great question! Video views are a bit complicated and I believe a viewer has to watch for a certain length of time to be counted. Then there are various ways of measuring engagement which is more important for advertisers than anyone else. Yes, I do think re-watches and returns are noted, but when a video has significant drop off, that is usually a signal for me that the video went a bit long or just lost most quilters interest.

    I know what you mean about the space issue! It was the main issue I had with trying a longarm for a very long time. But as I mentioned in this video, thinking about it creatively was the solution. Instead of trying to ADD a longarm to my existing spaces, I looked for what I could exchange.

    I collapsed one sewing table and cabinet area completely, and basically emptied that room of everything except my embroidery machine. It does take up a lot of room, but I consider that space worth losing if it means I can quilt faster and easier and have my body feel better too.

  • Leah Day - October 03, 2018

    Hi Gay – Very good point! However, as I explained in this video, there are only two types of machines: home machines and longarm machines. How you set the machine up – in a table (sit down machine) or on a frame (frame mounted machine) doesn’t change the type of machine itself.

    As for why I didn’t focus on sit down longarms, I’ve covered this in detail in my Sit down Sunday series which you can find here: https://freemotionquilting.blogspot.com/p/sit-down-quilting-sunday.html

  • Shann - October 03, 2018

    Hi Leah! I also thoroughly enjoy your videos and lessons. You always are very aware of covering all aspects of the topics you teach, and I especially enjoy the pros and cons and pitfalls that you describe in each lesson or podcast. As a past business owner I am curious how the “Stats” work. Do they only count one sitting all the way through a video, or do they also look at “revisits”, “pauses and continuing” ? The long arm versus regular sewing machine video was extremely helpful to me. I am still on the fence re: long arm, the biomechanic advantage of a longarm really is appealing, but the size is a big problem in my room. I really could use one though…guess I will need to think on it a bit more. Thank you:)

  • Leah Day - October 03, 2018

    Hi Debbie – It really depends on what you’re looking for! Send us an email with specific questions you have at https://leahday.com/pages/contact-us The most important thing is figuring out what your goals are and what type of machine and frame will help you achieve those goals.

  • Gay - October 03, 2018

    Greetings Leah,
    I just watched your podcast on long arm verses home machine. I was disappointed that you didn’t mention anything about a sit down long arm or what some would call a “mid arm”. You state that there is only long arm without feed dogs or a home machine with feed dogs. I wish you would address this machine. I occasionally watch and enjoy your videos. I think I preferred your work prior to your becoming so commercial, but everyone has to make a living.
    Happy quilting,
    Gay

  • Debbie Jackson - October 03, 2018

    I am buying a long arm in the next few months. I am investigation the Babylock Coronet, Unique 15+ and the HQ Simply Sixteen. What advice would you give me. Thank you in Philadelphia

  • Leah Day - September 30, 2018

    Hi Jeanne – Yes, I most certainly will continue making longarm tutorials! I love working on my longarm and lately I’ve been challenging myself to learn and try new things every week. Yes, you can get the hang of it. Sometimes it is frustrating if you aren’t getting the stitches you want or the tension just right, but always get started fresh and rested and give yourself a helping dose of patience – that’s always the best way to start everything!

  • Leah Day - September 30, 2018

    Hi TerryAnn – Thank you so much for your comment! Yes, I understand that. Sometimes I catch Comparisonitis and get caught in a trap of looking at my stats which is ridiculous! If I enjoyed making the video and taught the best I could, then that’s enough. It is hard when a video took hours to make and gets bad stats, but that’s something to learn from and make better with the next video. I’m so happy you’ll be making a zippy bag too!

  • Leah Day - September 30, 2018

    Hi Anne! I’m so sorry to hear that you cut yourself. Ouch! That is no fun.

    Please don’t worry a bit about the podcast! No, you absolutely didn’t hurt my feelings or insult me at all. I enjoy having conversations and it’s a great way for us to get to know each other better face to face. That’s all!

    So please don’t worry a bit and just enjoy the podcast and being my commenting / emailing friend!

  • Jeanne Hubbard - September 30, 2018

    Warm Greetings Leah, First and foremost I really enjoy and benefit from your tutorials. I am 62yrs old and been quilting for about 11 years and I have always done my quilting on my domestic machine until last September, when I bought a used long arm on a 12 ft frame. It has been a huge learning curve for me. However I love to FMQ on my LA. I see now that you have a Q’nique LA. I have been watching all of your tutorials on using your long arm. Just for encouragement your way of teaching has been very helpful for me . At one point a couple of months ago I was getting discouraged with the process . I told myself I was to old to learn all of this; I persevered and got past all of this. It helped me a lot to watch different tutorials on using a long arm. Yours however have been more helpful to me then others. You take the time to instruct. Your clear in your presentation, you give very helpful and practical tips. Your reinforcement thru your demonstration of techniques helps so much. Please keep making more tutorials on your long arm. Just one more thing, I do live in a remote area in MT and it makes a big difference for me when you can learn on line thru a tutorial. Blessings to you! Jeanne Hubbard

  • TerryAnn Glandon - September 27, 2018

    For the past 21 days, I have been driving an hour each way every day to visit my husband in the hospital. I listen to 2 of your podcasts every day. They make the drive shorter and I enjoy your conversational style and words of wisdom about various aspects of quilting. Thank you.
    In one podcast you lamented that viewers do not always watch the tutorials all the way through. I don’t know if you are able to track whether a viewer returns to that same tutorial again to rewatch parts of it. I have watched pieces of the zippouch tutorial more than once. When I actually get ready to MAKE a zippy pouch, I will watch the entire episode at one sitting. So please do not be discouraged. Your viewers really appreciate all your effort. Bless you.

  • Anne McSweeney - September 27, 2018

    Hi Leah! Great podcast today!!! Thank you!!! You are SO right….midarm is totally a marketing term. The questions for us to ask ourselves when buying a new machine are exactly on point. Thank you for your comments regarding “making due”. I had been doing this with my old machine for a while and my husband was actually the one to push me into getting a new machine about two months ago. He is so wonderful and supportive, and like I mentioned in our previous letters, likes to be involved with the quilt design process. Our favorite quilts to make are “art quilts”. We love your goddess art quilts!!! Funny story for you…. I heard you in my head today as I was using my rotary cutter to square up some blocks and to use my dominant hand ( I am a lefty too) and not to reach over, but turn the block. Well, of course I was I was in a hurry, didn’t turn the block, reached over, slipped and did the exact same thing you keep warning us of. What an idiot I am!!!! I will forever more, listen to you and turn my block. Geeze. Ha ha. One last thing. I have been worrying the past two days, to the point I cannot sleep, that I may have insulted you about not being able to talk with you on your podcast. Please, please know that I really think you are awesome and I would never want to do anything to insult you. Please know this is totally my inability to do something so exposing like that. We respect you so much, and all the work you put into your business!!! We want to support you by starting to order from your on line store very soon. Thank you for letting me write you another long letter. I know you are so busy and must get swamped with email. Sincerely, Anne McSweeney. PS – yes, it does smell like chocolate and Reese peanut butter cups here in Hershey. LOL

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