As the name suggests, a free arm sewing machine is comprised of a free arm or a central piece that is longer than the standard ones. It is a platform that allows sewers to have a better control on smaller and/or curved items around the needle, as those pieces require more fine movements. Free arm machines are particularly useful for items such as collars, sleeves, hems, etc.
Free Arm Structure
The free arm contains the bobbin, shuttle, and feed dogs—the central components of sewing. A bobbin is a cylinder containing threads for sewing, and a shuttle holds the bobbin. A feed dog is comprised of metal pieces that spin and push/pull the sewn object across the needle. As a free arm, this structure is narrower than the standard flat-bed one, and it protrudes from the sewing machine—similar to a cliff. Most machines enable the free arm to be converted to a flat-bed piece, often by snapping on an extra piece.
Comparisons between Machine Types
Free arm machines tend to be simpler, cheaper and portable. They are more likely made out of plastic and may not have advanced sewingauthority functions. While free arm machines can be sturdy, the more solid alternative is a cabinet sewing machine (stationary). This machine is often more costly and bulky. However, it is likely more aesthetically pleasing—a more vintage or antique approach—and more steady. It is made with more lasting material; the material is usually wood. It usually does not have a free arm, therefore sewers would have to adapt to sewing smaller items by learning tricks and practising. Another drawback is that it is tied to a cabinet, therefore storing the machine at different locations and/or carrying it on a trip can be rather difficult tasks. Standard sewing machines can be seen as a hybrid between the cabinet and the free arm. These machines can be portable, yet they do not have a free arm, which is a more specialized function.