Can You Do Straight Line Quilting on a Longarm?

Straight line quilting is a go-to for quilters who quilt on their home machines. But what happens when you have a longarm quilting machine at your disposal, too? Where you should you do your longarm quilting?

The truth is both machines come in handy for straight line quilting, but for different purposes.

When to use a longarm machine for straight line quilting

Changing directions

A home sewing machine can only sew straight lines in one direction. You must physically rotate the quilt each time you want to change direction. This process is immensely tiring and difficult on a large quilt. 

A longarm sewing machine can sew in any direction, so if your quilting design requires frequent shifts, longarm is more user-friendly. Once the quilt is loaded, you simply move the machine head as desired.

For example, consider the straight lines quilted in the negative space on the quilt above. Notice how the lines are oriented in many different directions. Such short lines are simple to quilt on a longarm machine where you could  quilt freehand, changing direction with ease. The same pattern would be a nightmare to execute on a home quilting machine if your quilt is larger than baby size.

Long, straight lines

What about quilting long, straight lines? With no direction changes, it's definitely possible to quilt long lines on a home sewing machine. However, even if you've marked lines in advance, it's pretty difficult to execute flawless long, straight lines. If you strive for perfection, you might not be happy with the results.

If perfection is your goal, a longarm machine can make the quilting job much easier. Use the channel lock feature, which locks the wheels on the machine head so it can only move left to right or front to back, sewing perfectly straight lines. You may even be able to set the width between lines in order to quilt with perfectly evenly spacing.

Quilting a grid

Keep in mind that on a longarm, only part of the quilt is exposed at a time. This means you can sew long lines across the width of the quilt exposed. 

To quilt edge to edge lines along the length of the quilt as well, in order to quilt a grid, you will have to advance the quilt to expose new sections. Each time you advance the quilt, you will need to remove the needle from the quilt in order to roll the quilt.  You can restart sewing in the same location once a new section is exposed.  In this way, lines might appear continuous, but in reality must be started and stopped multiple times.

When to use a home machine for straight line quilting

Stitching in the ditch

One popular type of straight line quilting, called stitching in the ditch , involves stitching straight lines along the patchwork seams. 

Depending on your design, standing up to do all this quilting is tiring and creates extra distance between you and the quilt. Most quilters find it easier and less tiring to stitch in the ditch on a home sewing machine.

Short straight lines

Perhaps you want to quilt short straight lines, creating a simple design on a patchwork block. 

On a home sewing machine, the walking foot acts as a guide to stitch parallel lines. On a longarm machine, you'd need a handheld ruler to sew straight lines longer than 4-6".  Generally, it's a challenge to create consistently straight lines with a longarm ruler.

So, is it easier to straight line quilt on a home machine or on a longarm?

That depends entirely on your skill level and quilting plan. Generally, simple stitch in the ditch or continuous straight lines are easy enough on a home machine. For more advanced quilting designs with changes of direction, a longarm sewing machine gives you endless possibilities!

March 01, 2018
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Can You Do Straight Line Quilting on a Longarm?