Christa’s Soap Box – Why I am Not a Longarmer

At my guild’s annual quilting retreat I attended this past weekend, I made an important discovery about why I am not a longarmer – my arms are not long enough, LOL!

Long Armers

You need long arms to be a long-armer.

During the retreat, I hung out with many of my BQF’s (Best Quilting Friends), including the amazing talented long-armer and nationally award winning quilter Cory Allender. (That’s quite a few adjective for one sentence). 🙂

She told me how she made the switch from quilting on her domestic machine to a long arm because her hands and fingers kept getting in the way. So I quickly snapped a picture to compare our hand sizes. Holy cow – what a difference!

Size Matters

Hand size really does matter!

I honestly have tried to quilt on a long arm. I’ve taken classes with Angela Walters, tried out machines every time I attended a quilt show, and seriously chatted with Lisa Sipes about getting a long arm when I was in the market for a new machine.

However, no matter how I tried, or what I adjusted, I always felt like I was driving a tank. It also doesn’t help that I’m only 5′ tall.

Machine Quilting

I love my Bernina!

So now that I’m pretty comfortable machine quilting on my Bernina, I am happy to say that I’m proud of being a domestic machine quilter. After all, it doesn’t really matter how you (or other people) quilt your quilts, so long as you have fun doing it!

One more thing: I recently discovered a fabulous blog by Amy Johnson of Free-Motion Quilting Adventures. She actually machine quilts on her domestic machine using long-arm rulers. How fantastic – I must find out more and try that out for myself, soon!


Free Motion Curved Crosshatch Quilting with Long Arm Ruler
Image Courtesy of Amy K. Johnson



27 thoughts on “Christa’s Soap Box – Why I am Not a Longarmer

  1. busybeequilts says:

    I agree with Michele! I was frustrated on my dsm–the things I wanted to be able to do weren’t coming easily. So I got an Innova longarm in January and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!!!! I am not joking, I have finished more quilts in one week on it than I ever did in a month (or two) on my dsm. It is so easy and my skills are just growing and growing. I got the smallest, non-computerized model (used too-it was a demo model from 2013), and I’m only 5″1 and have the smallest, fattest fingers in the world. It is very comfortable for me. But whatever floats your boat–if you love your Bernina and don’t feel limited by it, then don’t get a long arm. that would be a huge waste of money. I just wanted to do more than I could on my Janome 6600.

  2. auntsr9 says:

    I had a long arm and sold it. It was too much work. I just like to sit and quilt. Also I loved visiting with Corey at the retreat. She is a wealth of knowledge.

  3. Gretchen O'Donnell says:

    I have long fingers too, but you can’t tell quite as much now as you could when I weighed 60 pounds less. Ha. When I worked at camp, the kids used to call me spider because of my long fingers. I didn’t mind!

  4. jo says:

    Great post. I love quilting on a domestic machine but have been considering a long arm. I love quilting. I do have stumpy fingers and small hands so maybe I should stick to my Bernina!

    I have tried using rulers on domestic machine but not very succesfully. Might need to try again after seeing that gorgeous cross hatching.

  5. Gemma @ Pretty Bobbins says:

    I guess it really goes to show that you just need to test drive as many machines as you can to work out what suits you best 🙂 I’ve just paid a deposit on a long arm and also quilt on Bernina and I wonder how I will go with the transition. My Bernina sure does seem small after test driving the long arms! Thanks for linking up 🙂

  6. madamepurl says:

    I thought the same thing. I took a class with a long arm and was so worn out after two days. My shoulders were sore. It just wasn’t for me at least right now. I ended up going with and loving my Sweet Sixteen sitdown. I have a Janome Horizon so 11″ but the 16″ is just wonderful no struggling at all.

  7. witchylin says:

    I tried a long arm at one of the quilting shows. It wasn’t for me. OK I am only 2 inches taller than you Doreen, and my hands are quite small but that wasn’t the only reason. I just didn’t like it. I love huffing and puffing while re-rolling my quilt and fitting it in the throat of my domestic machine. I’ll stick to my new Frister+Rossmann and plod on at the big kitchen table. 🙂

  8. dezertsuz says:

    Well, I’m 5’3″ and I *loved* my longarm! I had a Gammill Premier for 10 years of business and I miss it so much! BUT, my husband adjusted the height of the machine for what *I* thought was comfortable, and I did all my work from the front of the machine, so I could put the quilt wherever it felt comfortable to me, not quilt with my arms stretched out. I don’t do well on the domestic machine, and that’s why I bought the longarm. I think it probably depends on a lot of factors, and some people will be more comfortable with the domestic machine and some with the longarm. It doesn’t make either set of people wrong, just different. =) Your work looks good to me, and I’ve seen some awesome work at shows that was done on domestic machines. I like hand quilting, too. =)

  9. Thread crazy says:

    I too loved quilting on my DSM but constantly found myself fighting the machine while trying to quilt. So I took the plunge and bought a mid-arm, HQ Sweet Sixteen Sit-down model. It fits me as it’s just like quilting on DSM plus after trying several longarm machines I found my arms were just a wee bit short and just got too tired!

  10. treadlemusic says:

    Love, love love your post!!! I couldn’t agree more with the fact that a long-arm machine is NOT the answer to machine quilting! I am a great “promoter” of the DSM for quilting even those larger quilts. Last Nov. I purchased a HQ Sweet Sixteen because of space BUT also because I love to move the fabric!!!! I have no desire to move a machine over a stretched out quilt! I am reblogging this with much excitement!!!!…….hugs…….

  11. Polly @ Pieces by Polly says:

    That’s good to know. We just don’t have room in our house for a long arm…but I’m 5’2” and my arms would probably be too short too. I’ve got so much to learn about quilting on my home machine, I figure I need to master that first anyway.

  12. Amy says:

    Thanks for including me in your post! There are so many cool things we can do on our sewing machines! It does take practice, but it’s worth it. A long arm is great if it fits your budget, body, and house, but great quilting can be done either way!

    And you, Christa! You are as cute as a button!

  13. Darlene Crosby says:

    I will be satisfied if I can do a great job on my domestic machine. Christa, your quilts are alway so professional and gorgeous! I am taking a couple of Craftsy classes to learn how to do them on my machine. I am learning, and it is not as easy as I thought it would be. I have no where to put a big longarm machine anyway!

    • Christa says:

      Yay for you for educating yourself! Just think about how hard it was to first learn to write in cursive when you were young! The same thing applies to FMQ. It can sometimes take months or years of practice. But just as we all learned to write, we can learn to quilt, too if we are patient enough 🙂

  14. Lee @ Freshly Pieced says:

    Well, isn’t that interesting! I’m only 5’2″ and have small hands. It never occurred to me that might be helpful when quilting on my home machine! : ) I tried the swirly quilting from the Angela Walters class on my home machine for the first time just last night, and I swear I did far better with it on my home machine than I did on the long-arm, so I’m right there with ya!

  15. Renee says:

    I never thought of being short as a problem with a long arm (I’m 5’4″ and want one–though not in the cards for many years)! Thanks for linking to all those wonderful quilters, I have some new inspirational people to follow 🙂

  16. malinisquilts says:

    You are so funny! I like long arm because I get my quilts quilted faster. But I still love quilting on my domestic machine. Its always fun to read your blog, nice comparison on the hands ;).

    You made me curious about the curve rulers for quilting on home machine.

  17. Michele says:

    It’s all about finding what works for each person. Your quilting is always wonderful so as long as you are happy with it, keep doing that. And thanks for the link. I’m always looking for new people to inspire me.

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