Hadi-Quilter Sweet 16 sewing machine
Skirmish on Insecurity Hill

18 – Machine Nomenclature

May 18, 2019 By

I’ve been free motion stitching on my Handi-Quilter Sweet 16 machine. It’s a “sit down mid-arm” sewing machine. There is some confusion about nomenclature – what makes the difference between long-arm, mid-arm and domestic styles, so let me clear that up.

Domestic, as the name implies, is designed for home purpose use, whatever that might be (wearables, decorating, crafts, art.) Durable but not meant to take the usage hours of an industrial purposed machine. Most portable, but smallest room under the neck, or arm of the machine for maneuvering fabric. Many quilters manage to create incredibly large and beautiful works with these!

Stepping up in size is the mid-arm style, originally designed for industrial use, now finding a large market in the quilting world. Typically, the machine is stationary and the sewist moves the fabric while in a seated position. More room between the needle and base of the machine makes it easier to shift around the bulk of quilt top, batting and backing.

Then, there are the long-arms, having the most room under the neck. As these were designed for quilting large bed quilts, the fabric is attached to a roller system and the machine moves instead, usually with the sewist standing while controlling the motion of the machine.

A-1 long-arm sewing machine
My A-1 long arm sewing machine, with 8 foot roller bars.

But here’s where it gets tricky. Popular usage has called for an increasing variety of configurations, blending the distinctions between the styles. A mid-arm size may have a stand up while quilting table, or a roller system of holding the fabric. A long-arm may now be smaller in size than a typical mid-arm, and may be stationary and designed to be used while seated. And there is even some dislike of the “domestic” name for a home machine! I maintain mid-arm name as the stationary machine style (that is bigger than a typical home machine) and a long-arm as a movable machine with stationary fabric, regardless of the arm length.

All of these styles have been upgraded for reliability and ease of use and technology abounds. Computer systems can be programmed to stitch out complicated designs unaided. I like minimal computer involvement. I am fearful that when it comes to buying my next machine, it will be difficult to find one without all the bells and whistles!