What is a Free Arm Sewing Machine?

There are a variety of options in the sewing world for the aspiring seamstress. Cabinet, standard portable and free arm machines are the three main types offered on the market. All three offer different advantages depending on the job to be done.

A free arm sewing machine is a variety of portable machine. It is not set into a cabinet and thus is easy to transport. All sewing machines have an area under the needle where the bobbin, shuttle and feed dog are located. In the free arm machine, this area is longer allowing for more room to manipulate curved material such as collars and cuffs. In a standard portable machine, the shorter length forces the seamstress to wedge the extra fabric above the needle often, making the job much more tricky and the odds of error higher. Another option is fitting the collar or cuff around the shank of the machine, a difficult maneuver known as “sewing in a teacup.””

Though free arm machines offer no advantage for sewing long, straight seams, many come with a plate that snaps on and off easily, allowing for easier sewing of straight pieces and making this a versatile and portable option. Quilters may find very little use for a free arm machine though, as they require the best surface for straight seams. Some models have the option of custom plates that are wider than the one included with the sewing machine though, so quilters may just find that they do like a free arm sewing machine after all.

As a seamstress, it is important to choose a machine that best suits your everyday needs. Regardless of the machine, you select, always remember to cover the machine when it’s not in use to prevent dust and grit from getting into the delicate moving parts. A portable device such as a standard or free arm sewing machine will easily fit into a closet or under a desk when not in use. Some people prefer the beauty of a cabinet sewing machine as furniture. Either way, be sure to keep that cover on.

The free arm sewing machine is probably the best choice for a seamstress who works on a lot of curved pieces such as collars and wants a lighter, portable machine. If you are on the go a lot and prefer to do your sewing wherever you are, rather than being stuck at home in your sewing room, this might just be the option for you. For quick repairs, the free arm machine is ideal in any room and can easily travel with you on vacation.

Like all sewing machines, the free arm model comes in a variety of options and prices from the companies you know and trust. Be sure to do your research as each model has different capabilities such as embroidery, adding buttons, monogramming, etc. They are also ranked according to affordability, ease of use for beginners, weight, adjustability and sturdiness. Whether you are a brand new seamstress or an old pro, there’s certain to be a free arm sewing machine that meets all your needs as well as your budget.

Is a free arm sewing machine right for you? Regardless of your decision in machine, there are ways to get every job done. Whether it’s portable or cabinet, half the fun of sewing is trying new ways to do things, so have fun with your sewing and see what you come up with. You just might surprise yourself. When in doubt, there are many online resources to offer instruction or just to chat with like-minded individuals whose passion is sewing.