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Free Arm Sewing Machines Explained (How And When You Should Use One)

When purchasing a new sewing machine, it is imperative that you do your research beforehand. One sewing machine may suit one project but not another.

Therefore, you need to consider the features a certain sewing machine model has to ensure it is right for you and your sewing jobs.

Free Arm Sewing Machines Explained (How And When You Should Use One)

Just a quick glance at sewing machine features and you will discover that there are many to consider. One of the main factors to think about is whether to invest in a free arm sewing machine or not.

Free arm sewing machines can make your life a lot easier if you’re sewing sleeve or pants hems and other forms of fabric tubes.

But, the question remains – what exactly is a free arm sewing machine? Today, we are going to enlighten you with the answer to this question and look at how and when to use one.

Let’s get started!

What Is A Free Arm Sewing Machine?

Free arm sewing machines have quite an unusual design in that you can remove their entire wide base, exposing the actual free arm.

Today, most modern sewing machines tend to be built with this feature to access the free arm.

So, what is this machine?

In essence, a free arm sewing machine features a detachable section from the sewing bed. In most designs, this is in the shape of an arm or sleeve, allowing the sewer to sew challenging-to-reach areas, such as cuffs, sleeves, or pant legs.

The free arm feature allows for greater flexibility, versatility, and ease of use, especially when compared to traditionally designed flat-bed sewing machines. 

As we mentioned, many modern sewing machines are made with a free arm (see also “Our Favorite Made In USA Sewing Machines“).

However, most of these are smaller and portable versions, such as the Janome Fastlane sewing machine.

But, for many larger models, the flatbed needs to be slid off in order to access the free arm. This typically includes removing the accessories compartment, too.

When Should You Use A Free Arm Sewing Machine?

In most cases, free arm sewing machines are used when sewing fabric in the round.

Using a free arm makes guiding the fabric under the machine’s needle much easier, plus there is less chance of catching another part of the fabric in the machine accidentally. 

Some of the times you should use a free arm sewing machine include:

  • When you need to attach sleeves.
  • When you need to add cuffs to pant legs or sleeves.
  • When you need to hem sleeves and/or the bottom of a pair of pants.
  • When you need to sew smaller items, including baby or doll clothes. However, some garments may still be too small to fit correctly around a free arm.
  • When you need to fix clothes, such as knees on pants or elbows on sleeves. You simply slide the fabric over the free arm and start mending.

In general, it is usually quicker to sew with the free arm. This is because you will not spend as much time manipulating or adjusting the fabric so it sits right on the sewing machine. 

Free Arm Sewing Machines Explained (How And When You Should Use One) (1)

How To Use A Free Arm Sewing Machine

Using a free arm sewing machine is pretty simple, especially if you already have experience in sewing.

Here’s how to use a free arm sewing machine:

  1. Start by selecting a stitch pattern from the stitch selector found on your sewing machine.
  2. Now, wind the bobbin by placing the thread in the bobbin case. Wind this according to your machine instructions.
  3. Next, it’s time to thread the needle. Guide the thread through the needle, ensuring it is securely in place.
  4. Adjust the stitch length and width to your desired setting.
  5. Now, you’re ready to start sewing. Guide the fabric through underneath the needle with the free arm and use the foot pedal to start sewing.
  6. Once you have finished sewing, cut the threads and raise the needle. 

And, that’s it! Easy!

Top tip: Make sure you clean and oil your sewing machine regularly. Frequent maintenance will ensure it continues to work properly for longer.

Choosing A Free Arm Sewing Machine 

So, you’ve decided you need to invest in a free arm sewing machine. But, before you head to the store or look online, you need to consider certain factors. 

All in all, there are two main factors to look at when choosing a free arm sewing machine:

  1. The free arm’s length.
  2. The free arm’s diameter.

The length of the free arm determines how much fabric you can slide underneath it.

For larger jobs, like mending knees on pants, a longer free arm is required. Smaller, narrow free arms are good for baby or doll clothes.

The diameter of a free arm determines how small the circle size is when sewing with a free arm. Smaller diameters allow for smaller items, like baby or doll apparel. 

In Summary

A free arm sewing machine makes a sewer’s life easier in a number of ways. But, they are not always required by everyone.

Nevertheless, most modern sewing machines come with free hands built in, so the feature is there if needed. 

Liz Miller
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