What Is A Free Arm Sewing Machine: Uses And More

Last Updated on 9 months by Susan Mayrich

The answer to what is a free arm sewing machine is that it’s a type with its arm free, hence the name. In particular, the arm or the bed is suspended in the air. We’ll talk about it in more detail below, and you’ll also learn how to use it. 

what is a free arm sewing machine

But since there are different types, do you already know how to buy a sewing machine? Then, please read that separate buying guide to select the best type for your needs.  


What Is A Free Arm Sewing Machine And Its Advantages?

A free arm sewing machine is a type of machine with its suspended bed in the air, hence the name “free arm.” Therefore, you can slip tube-shaped sewing projects over this free arm. The area which has the bobbin, shuttle, and feed dog also extends when needed so that you can manipulate the material under the needle. 

Is a free arm sewing machine the same as a portable sewing machine? Unfortunately, the answer is no, even though free arms are a common feature on portable sewing machines since you can’t usually have them set into a cabinet. However, please note that not all portable sewing machines have a free arm. 


Pros of a free arm sewing machine

  • Easier to manipulate the fabric under the needle than sewing machines set in a cabinet
  • Perfect when sewing tubes such as sleeves and pants without worrying about the fabric bunching up
  • Makes it easy to sew around, such as in collars and handcuffs
  • Easier storage when not in use, especially when you have not much space


Disadvantages of a free arm sewing machine

  • Limited working area
  • Straight stitching is more difficult to do


When to use a free arm sewing machine?

  • Mending garments such as pants, which are tube-shaped that you can slide over the free arm
  • Sewing small projects such as baby items 
  • Attaching and hemming sleeves
  • Hemming and adding cuffs to pants
  • Sewing around collars 


Free arm sewing machine vs flatbed sewing machine

A free arm sewing machine offers a narrower working space since you’re removing the accessory tray. Most sewers also believe that it’s not necessary to get a free arm sewing machine since you can do the projects meant for it in a flatbed sewing machine as well. But of course, it might be more comfortable sewing around with the free arm. 


Free arm sewing machine vs long arm sewing machine

A free arm sewing machine will be significantly smaller than a long arm sewing machine. Therefore, it’s best for tubular fabrics than the larger long arm sewing machine. As for a long arm sewing machine, it gives you a larger working space, so it’s ideal for quilting and other massive projects. 


How Do You Sew A Free Arm?

  1. Remove the flatbed attachment on your sewing machine to access the free arm
  2. Slide the fabric, such as a pant leg, over the free arm
  3. Start sewing and guiding the fabric, so that it won’t create folds 
  4. If you’re doing straight stitches for your project, simply attach the snap-on plate on the free arm sewing machine to extend the working area
  5. On the contrary, remove the snap plates when working on tubular stitches


What Is A Free Arm Overlocker?

Sewing machines are not the only devices that have a free arm feature. There are also free arm overlockers, which have a free arm to allow the user to hem and finish challenging projects such as pant legs, dresses, and sleeves. You only need to check your desired serger if it is a free arm style. 

Speaking of overlockers, you can read more about what is a serger sewing machine. You can also find out in that article if it’s worth getting a separate serger. 


Who Invented The Free Arm Sewing Machine?

The first free arm sewing machine can be credited to the Spanish engineer, Dr. Ramon Casas Robert. The idea of making the first modern household sewing machine with a free arm is inspired by him seeing industrial sewing machines with a cylindrical part and how the housewife that tends to repair sleeves and trouser legs can benefit from this design. The free arm sewing machine prototype was finished in 1934, with its carry case having the free arm shape cut out of its side so you can extend the sewing area. 


What Is Free Arm Sewing?

Free arm sewing refers to sewing with a free arm sewing machine. This means you’re putting the tubular fabric around the machine’s extended arm to make the process much easier. But if you’re working on a larger project, there should be a plate that you can attach to make the working area bigger as well.



And that’s it! To recap what is a free arm sewing machine, it’s a machine that has its bed suspended in the air. This makes it ideal for sewing cylindrical fabrics such as pants and sleeves. 

However, you don’t need to get a separate free arm sewing machine. After all, you can just manipulate the fabric on a flatbed sewing machine when you’re sewing tubular projects. However, if most of your projects are tube-shaped, it’s better to invest in a free arm unit to make your job easier. 

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