Longarm quilting machines primarily sew together a quilt top, batting and backing without making the user baste the quilt or spend a lot of time hand-sewing a large project to completion. Users can operate longarm quilts by hand or with a computer.
The two methods for longarm quilting are to use a pantograph or to custom quilt. A pantograph is a long design that rests above a quilt top for the quilter to trace with her hand or a computer. This process effectively quilts the design laid out by the pantograph into the fabric. Custom quilting is a freehand method that allows for more flexibility at the expense of more time, energy and materials.
Without a longarm machine, quilting requires quilters to spray and press down on both sides of a quilt to baste it. This isn't necessary with a quilting machine, as longarms allow quilters to load each layer into the rollers and frames. Avoiding the energy output that quilters spend basting is one of the common reasons for longarm purchases.
Quilters looking to use a longarm have the option to hire a longarm quilter to assist with a project. Another option is to purchase a personal longarm machine for home use.