Midarm vs Longarm Quilting Machines

Quilting is not a one-size-fits-all hobby. It is absolutely vital that the quilter selects a machine based on the type of work they’re looking to accomplish. In addition, it is important to balance factors such as how much experience you already have in quilting and budget to determine what machine will be best suited for your needs. Also, It's good to keep in mind that while midarm machines may be more affordable than longarm machines, they also do not offer the same level of precision or quality as longarm ones.

In addition, features such as portability, budget, and size are highly dependent on your personal preference and the type of project you usually work on. Likewise, maintenance can also be a factor when choosing between a midarm machine or a longarm machine.

Typically, a midarm quilting machine is best suited for beginners and has an edge in terms of stitch per inch, size, weight, portability, and budget. While, on the other hand, longarm quilting machines are best suited for professional quilters, small businesses, and enthusiastic hobbyist quilters that want to make larger-size quilts (more than 7 feet long) with larger throat space, and larger frame size but also without compromising on the speed and accuracy of the stitches. In addition, they are also best for making quilts in bulk without any errors.

Want more details about Midarm vs Longarm? Let's dive into it without any further ado!

Midarm vs Longarm Quilting Machines

The main differences between the midarm quilting machine and longarm quilting machines set them apart are mentioned below:

Stitching Speed

Longarm quilting machines are more efficient and faster than midarm machines because their longer arms allow more fabric to be quilted in a single pass, reducing the amount of time spent on each section.

The average stitching speed for a longarm quilting machine is typically between 1,800 and 2,200 stitches per minute. However, there are some longarm quilting machines that are capable of stitching at speed of up to 3,600 stitches per minute

On the other hand, the average stitching speed for a midarm quilting machine is typically between 900 and 1,200 stitches per minute and in some midarm quilting machines, it can be up to 1,500 stitches per minute.

That’s why investing in a longarm machine could be a fantastic idea if you have a large number of quilts to complete and want to speed up the process.

Stitch Quality Per Inch (SPI)

The stitch per inch (SPI) of a quilting machine refers to the number of stitches that the machine can sew in one inch of fabric. The stitch per inch (SPI) of a quilting machine can vary depending on the type of machine and the size of the stitches it is capable of making.

The stitching per inch (SPI) of longarm and midarm quilting machines is really not significantly different from one another in most cases. On average, both midarm and longarm quilting machines are able to sew at a rate of between 8 and 12 stitches per inch. However, some models may be able to sew at a rate that is higher or lower than this, depending on the capabilities of the machine and the settings that are selected. In some cases, the SPI of a longarm quilting machine can be up to 28 stitches per inch.

Throat Space

The throat space is one of the key differences between the midarm and a longarm quilting machine. The throat space of a quilting machine refers to the distance from the needle to the back of the machine, and it determines how much space you have to work with when quilting. In this way, you can easily identify just by having a look at the throat space of the machine and know if it is a midarm or a longarm quilting machine.

A larger throat space allows you to work on larger quilts or to quilt larger areas of the quilt at once. When compared to longarm quilting machines, the throat space of a midarm machine is often smaller. Typically, the average throat space for a midarm quilting machine is between 12 and 18 inches while the average throat space for a longarm quilting machine is typically between 18 and 26 inches.

Display Screen Size

Longarm quilting machines are typically more expensive than midarm quilting machines. So, longarm quilting machines typically have larger display screens, which can be especially helpful if you are using a computerized quilting system or if you want to be able to see the quilting pattern more clearly and in detail. On the other hand, the display screens on midarm quilting machines are often smaller, which may be enough for simpler quilting operations but may be less suitable for more elaborate quilting projects. The display screen may be equipped with a different set of specialized characteristics and capabilities, depending not only on the model but also on the manufacturer of the device. Also, keep in mind, some of the quilting machines have touch screens, while others only have more basic displays.

Quilting Frame Size

While quilting, the quilt is usually supported by a frame. The dimensions of the frame are referred to as the “quilting frame size.” Working with larger quilts requires a larger frame size, whereas smaller quilts are better suited to a smaller frame size. The size of your quilts and your own preferences will determine the size of the frame you'll require. 

Midarm quilting machines generally have a smaller frame size than longarm machines, as they have shorter arm and a smaller working area. The average quilting frame size for a midarm quilting machine is typically between 6 and 10 feet while the average quilting frame size for a longarm quilting machine is typically between 8 and 14 feet. However, typically you can adjust the frames of longarm quilting machines to fit a variety of quilt sizes with ease.

Quilting Style

A midarm machine could be ideal if you like to quilt with free-motion techniques where you move the fabric beneath the needle manually. Longarm machines are often better suited for pantograph patterns. Pantograph patterns are those in which the machine follows a pre-drawn pattern. As of now, the new longarm quilting machines have their own computerized system that makes making patterns so much easier and faster.

Rear Handlebars

The rear handlebars are also a very important feature of a quilting machine. As the quilting machine's movement can be controlled with the assistance of the rear handlebars, which are normally positioned at the machine's rear.

The length of the rear handlebars on a longarm quilting machine is significantly longer than those on a midarm quilting machine. This is the primary distinction between the two types of quilting machines. Longarm quilting machines, as the name implies, have longer handlebars, which can be extremely handy when working on a huge quilt or when you simply want more control over the machine's movement. That’s why, when using a pantograph design or just wanting to effortlessly move the machine across the quilt, they can be invaluable.

Since, the midarm quilting machines have shorter handlebars, which can be easier to maneuver and may be more suitable for quilters with physical limitations. If you have physical limitations that make hand-quilting difficult, a midarm machine may be a good option, as it allows you to quilt with less physical strain. 

There are two main types of rear handlebars for quilting machines: manual and electronic. Electronic handlebars are compatible with computerized quilting systems and usually come with the longarm quilting machine. However, they could also be found in some high-quality midarm quilting machines.

Size of Quilt

A longarm machine is a good option if you intend to quilt very large quilts (those with a width of more than 7 feet). It has a longer arm that will allow you to quilt a larger section of the quilt at once. While a midarm machine may allow you typically quilt quilts with a width of lesser than 7 feet.

Tension Control

The ability to manage tension is one of the differences between longarm and midarm quilting machines. As the longarm quilting machines are often much larger and heavier than their midarm counterparts. This difference in size and weight can have an effect on how the tension in the machine is handled and how well it performs. It is possible that this will make it easier or more difficult to adjust the tension on a longarm quilting machine, depending on the machine itself as well as the expertise and ability level of the operator.

That’s why, typically longarm quilting machines include more modern control systems, such as computerized controls or automated tension adjustment, which can make it simpler to attain the correct tension settings despite their size and weight. This is one advantage of purchasing a quilting machine with an advanced control system. Some quilting machines feature more simple control systems than others, such as manual dials or levers, which might make it more difficult to manually change the tension on the quilt. Typically, the automated tension controls are found in longarm quilting machines, however, you can also find them in some midarm quilting machines.

User Friendly

Longarm quilting machines are not always the easiest to operate without proper training as they could be quite complex for a beginner. So, if you're just starting out the quilting or are simply not comfortable using a huge machine, a midarm machine may be the way to go. As the midarm quilting machine is a good comprise between user-friendliness, efficiency to perform semi-complex tasks, and definitely the price.

Space Available

If you have limited space in your home or studio, a midarm machine may be a better option for you than a longarm machine because it is more portable and takes up less space than a longarm machine.


If you are on a tighter budget, a midarm quilting machine might be a better choice than a longarm because of the price difference between the two.  Although, the price of a midarm and a longarm quilting machine can vary significantly, depending on the size and features of the machine. However, on average, you can expect to pay anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 for a new midarm quilting machine. While you can expect to pay anywhere from $6,000 to $30,000 for a new longarm quilting machine on average.

Experience In Quilting

If you are just starting out the hobby of quilting, a midarm machine may be the best option for you because of how user-friendly it is and has very little of a learning curve there is. However, a longarm machine is a good choice if you're an experienced quilter who is not intimidated by larger or more intricate projects. No matter if you are a beginner, once you are trained and proficient in using a longarm quilting machine, it can be easier to use than a midarm machine or a standard sewing machine, as you do not have to constantly adjust the position of the fabric.

Quilt Finishing

Longarm quilting machines are generally considered to produce quilts of a higher quality than midarm quilting machines. This is because the longer arm of the longarm quilting machine allows for more equal stitching and results in less distortion of the fabric. A longarm machine is a great option if you want to make high-quality quilts that seem like they were made by professional quilters.

Boosted Productivity

Longarm quilting machines help in boosting productivity as compared to midarm quilting machines. Because longarm quilting machines have the ability to cover more ground in a single pass than midarm or regular sewing machines. This is particularly helpful for quilters who wish to start a quilting business or hobby quilters who have a large number of quilts to complete.

Easy To Maintain

On average, midarm quilting machines are easy to maintain than longarm quilting machines. Due to their compact size and simple construction midarm machines require less maintenance and are less hassle to maintain than their larger and more complex counterparts.

Regardless, both require maintenance on regular basis to work properly and without any issues. The maintenance of your midarm or longarm quilting machine requires frequent cleaning and servicing. In addition, it may require cleaning the bobbin case, changing the needles, and oiling the machine. You can find detailed advice on how to maintain your machine in the handbook or by contacting the company that made it. 


Longarm quilting machines are significantly larger and heavier than midarm quilting machines. Although longarm quilting machines are more advanced than midarm quilting machines, this limitation makes longarm quilting machines a more difficult option in terms of portability and storage space. Due to this reason, quilters who travel frequently to exhibit their work at quilt fairs or conduct workshops may find midarm quilting machines to be a very valuable alternative.

FAQ about Midarm vs Longarm Quilting Machines

What is the main difference between a Midarm and Longarm Quilting Machine?

The difference in size between midarm and longarm quilting machines may be seen in the throat space, which is defined as the region that is located between the needle and the body of the machine. The length provided by the midarm machine ranges from 12 to 17 inches, whereas the length provided by the longarm machine ranges from 18 to 28 inches.

Is a Midarm or Longarm Quilting Machine best for beginners?

The midarm quilting machine is the best suited for beginners as it is the most user-friendly, simple, and easy to maintain and operate. A midarm quilting machine has many features for beginners, including ease of use, which makes it a great choice for beginners. In addition, some midarm quilting machine also comes with an automatic tension control system to help in perfect fine control over your stitches for better quality.

Is a Midarm or Longarm Quilting Machine best for professional projects?

The longarm quilting machine is the best choice for making professional projects as it is more advanced than a midarm machine and requires more hands-on knowledge to operate. Also, the longarm quilting machine is more suitable for making quilts that offer great accuracy in a single pass. In addition, it often has a larger frame and makes large-sized quilts with a professional finish.

Is a Midarm or Longarm Quilting Machine best for the home?

The midarm is the best choice for the home as it is more compact and compact than a longarm machine. Also, it has a wide throat space of 12 to 17 inches that allows quilters to make smaller quilts with a large number of stitches in each row. In this way, you can make the smaller quilts at home that are within your budget.

Does the Throat Space affect your finishing of the quilt?

Yes, the size of your throat space has an impact on the quality and look of your finished quilt. A wide throat space gives smoother finished quilts with lesser or no distortion in fabric. In addition, a longarm quilting machine with a wide throat space allows for making larger projects with more stitches in each row. Also, wide throat space makes it easier to make precise stitches at the corners of your quilt. Also, it makes it easier to take tight corners in regions that are close to the edge of a quilt. Also, they are very useful in free-motion sewing when you're sewing near the edges of your fabric and controlling stitch curves around corners. 

Should I buy a Midarm Quilting Machine or a Longarm Quilting Machine?

You have to choose that depending on your level of skill, and budget. Midarm quilting machines are great for those who have zero to little experience in quilting. The best solution for beginners out there, who want to develop their skills is the midarm machine. This type of machine requires less expertise and practice to become efficient with it.
However, if you are an experienced quilter and have been quilting for a while, longarm quilting machines are a great choice for you as they allow you to sew two or more layers of fabric at the same time and produce high-quality results with a professional finish. All in all, there are different quilting machines available with the quality feature but you need to choose one that best suit your needs.  

Which type is the best suited for traveling?

The midarm quilting machine is quite lightweight and easy to assemble compared to longarm quilting machines. That's why it is best suited for traveling, especially for professional quilters that attend various shows and workshops, which is why they require a machine that is lightweight and easy to handle. As a result, midarm quilting machines are the best machines for traveling as they have all the features top-notch quilting machines have but in a lighter package.

Is a Longarm Quilting Machine expensive compared to a Midarm Quilting Machine?

Yes, a longarm quilting machine is definitely expensive compared to a midarm quilting machine. A brand-new midarm quilting machine will cost you between $2,000 and $10,000.
While on the other hand, a new longarm quilting machine will typically cost you between $10,000 and $30,000.

Wrap Up

In conclusion, both midarm and longarm quilting machines have their own specific advantages and disadvantages. Depending on your needs, a midarm machine might be a better choice than a longarm machine or vice versa. So, if you are beginning to quilt or are just starting out in the hobby of quilting and you are still not sure which one is right for you, ask yourself these questions as they could help you make the right decision: What kind of projects do I usually work on? If it’s a usually smaller project like baby quilts, then a mid-arm machine could be the best option for you. However, if you want to quilt in large quantities or have a professional finish then it is best to go for a longarm quilting machine.

I hope this article covered all of your questions about midarm vs longarm quilting machines. If you like the article do comment and share, we would be happy to hear from you.


Joy Raynor

It's Joy's passion to share information about longarm quilting machines. Her expertise in longarm quilting comes from testing a wide range of machines. The majority of her time is spent exploring and testing new longarms that she has never used before. She also does longarm quilting for a living.

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