SAL1 - How Long Are Your Arms?
SAL1 - How Long Are Your Arms?

Ruth started her presentation on "Piecing Hints, Tips, & Longarm Issues" with a picture and video of a longarm. The purpose of the photo was to be informative of what a longarm was. After all, Forever In Stitches is a "Longarm Studio". In addition to our "DIY [Do It Yourself] Longarming" and our "Professional Longarming Services", we only have wide backing and batting to sell as products.

It turned out that everyone had seen a longarm before. So, that slide went by quickly.

I, however, would like to say more, in order to elucidate the impact of your requests of your longarmer, or aid you in choosing a longarmer. This is important because you may choose a different longarmer to do your Edge-To-Edge [E2E] charity quilts than the one for your best friend's wedding, where you want "heirloom stitching".
There are several physical characteristics of longarm which are important because they can affect what one wants done with their quilt.

The "Roll Bars" together with the "Clamps" [or similar feature] holds the quilt sandwich [the combination of the top, batting, and backing] from moving. The entire sewing apparatus [sewhead] is moved over the sandwich, sewing them together with beautiful stitching designs. [Note: there are some "sit-down" models that allow the longarmer to move the sandwich under the stationary sewhead in a manner similar to a sewing machine.]

The "Arm" is much longer than a sewing machine. They vary in lengths and can generally be from 18" up to 32" or so in length from the back of the sewhead's Throat Area to the needle. "Midarms" occupy the space between the longarms and the sewing machines. Generally, all sewing machines are sit-down, where you move the sandwich under the sewhead. Of course, where any given machine falls is subject to that company's Marketing Department's definition.

"So What?" You Might Ask

Well, the "Arm" length determines the extent of any pattern you might want. For example, if you have a top with 17" blocks on point, it becomes very difficult to quilt on your sewing machine and even an 18" longarm because you cannot do the entire pattern at once. In order to stitch the block in one pass, you need an arm that can stitch 24 1/2" in height.

Another example would be wanting "stitch-in-the-ditch" quilting. That is easy to do on a sewing machine because you can follow the imperfections in the "straight" seam by moving the sandwich. The sewing machine does have, however, a limited amount of space in the "throat Area" to hold the quilt. The situation is a bit different with a longarm.

The Clamps and Roller Bars hold the sandwich taut. The imperfections in piecing become obvious. Stitching a "stitch-in-a-ditch" seam with an automated longarm is not as easy as it may seem, and may not provide the result you were expecting.

At this point I am going to digress and briefly mention they types of long arm quilting. At one end of the spectrum is "free-motion" longarming. This is generally done on a longarm that has a light, easy to move, sewhead, with a minimum of mechanical paraphernalia.

At the other end of the spectrum are the automated longarms. These can reproduce very intricate designs. On the other hand, the weight of the motors, etc., make it more difficult, but still possible, to do free-motion work.

OK, Rick. But What's The "Take-away?"

During the above diatribe you hopefully have noted the following, among other things:

  • Make sure that your longarmer has the experience to accomplish what you are asking.

  • Be aware of what you are asking, given the longarm available.

  • The fact that you may need to use different longarmers for different needs should not block you "tie" to your primary longarmer. As an example, we recently stitched the sashing on a quilt where the piecer was going to "stitch-in-a-ditch" on the blocks with her domestic sewing machine.

  • Different piecers have different capabilities. And, different longarmers have different capabilities. Do not expect your longarmer to make up for all of the piecing problems.

What's Next?

The newsletter prefixed "SAL02" will be on fullness of borders. Full borders are the #1 problem with quilts that we see.
If you would like to have Ruth give a presentation or workgroup to your organization, please let me know by email to [with your complete contact information, please] or by phone at 567.208.3572, my mobile.

Al Fin

I trust that this was of assistance or interest. If you have any questions that need to be answered, on this or other longarming or quilting topics, then please write to me at or call 219.255.8085.

Thank you for your time and interest.
May The Lord Richly Bless You!
Rick & Ruth Grihalva
At Forever In Stitches our goal is to further the art of quilting and longarming.
We thank you for your interest in our newsletters. We try to keep our newsletters informative, instructive, and enlightening, in addition to informing you of specials. Please join our private mailing list! Remember to forward applicable newsletters to friends who may benefit from the information contained in them!
Please note that a history of our newsletters, since the second quarter of 2022, can be found on our web-site:
Forever In Stitches, LLC
Perfect Corner Ruler
Raggedy Ruth Designs