What is a Longarm?

What is a Long arm?

When I first heard the term my mind went silly. A person (most likely a woman) sitting in a chair with arms that reached down to the floor. Or she could be standing, flat-footed and changing the light-bulb on a nine-foot ceiling.

Purhaps the comics I read as a child left that mental image for me. Comics like the Elongated Man. Although, I don’t remember reading about him. My memory conjured up “Rubber Man” or “Elastic Man,” I didn’t even think of “Plastic Man” which apparently was a real comic according to the cool blogger over at LEFT AND WRITE blog. Back when the A to Zers were on the letter “e” he wrote about the Elongated Man, how would you like to have THAT name as a super hero? He mentioned the Plastic Man, but said nothing about the Rubber Man or the Elastic Man, guess my brain just made them up.

All of that to say, that is not what a long-arm means.

Longarm doesn’t refer to the quilter (man or woman) at all. Instead it refers to the sewing machine.  Most sewing machines are 9-12 inches between the needle and the body of the machine, the longarm machine has 18-26 inches (I think those numbers are right) making it easier to quilt.

Most longarm machines are mounted on a frame holding the quilt. The machine is moved along the quilt to do the stitching rather than moving the fabric. These machines are BIG and require space, not to mention they are also expensive. Two reasons most quilters send their quilts out to be quilted, it’s cheaper and more space saving than owning their own longarm machine.

There are longarm machines that can be placed on a table allowing the quilter to sit, and move the quilt sandwich under the needle to do the quilting. These machines are less expensive (although still pricey) and take up less space.

Many quilters purchased their longarm to build a home-based business. It gave them a way to earn money while staying at home, and allowed local quilters a way to have their projects machine quilted locally.

It’s also possible the men in the quilt world is a direct result of the longarm machine. After all, it’s just a big power tool. I have no proof, just my opinion.

Now you know, a longarm is not a strange person, but a very handy machine. Do you have a longarm machine? How do you get your quilts quilted?

Linking up with Blogging A to Z :

And, the Ultimate Blog Challenge:


7 thoughts on “What is a Longarm?

  1. aleasa

    I haven’t heard of a longarm before, but like Dan I thought of law enforcement 🙂 I have been wanting to make a quilt myself (not a fancy one — one of those T-shirt quilts) but it seems intimidating even though I have successfully completed a few smaller sewing projects.

  2. Dan Miller

    Very interesting post. As an artist myself I have my favorite tools of the trade for painting and drawing. Sounds like a Longarm would be a nice piece of equipment for a serious quilter. When you asked what is a Longarm? My first thought was a law enforcement officer.

  3. karenjonesgowen

    My mother in law was a fantastic quilter. I have one treasured quilt she made for my birthday. When I see the quilts tied with yarn they seem “artificial” to me. She was the old-fashioned kind of quilter.

  4. Leese

    Oh do I wish I had one 🙂

    I do all my machine quilting myself. And when it gets to “T” if you hop over, you can see how big of pieces I’ve managed to roll up/get creative with/wrestle/etc. just to be able to fit enough fabric between the needle and the edge of my machine! ha ha! (And I’ve left out the life size Last Supper piece b/c I don’t have great pictures of it and right now it’s put away so I can’t take anymore – that was A LOT of fabric to wedge in that little space to quilt! ha!)

    I continue to enjoy your A-Z journey!

  5. Ava Reyerson

    I’d heard of a longarm at one stage in my teens when I owned a sewing machine…with great ambitions to create magic…but all I got to create were shorter hems and fixed tears…thanks for the knowledgeable post!


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