Sewing machines

Size matters: machine size, arm length and harp space

Not all machines are born equal, in particular not when it comes to harp space, or the opening under the arm of the machine.ā€‹

Large projects like quilts, soft furnishings or coats can become very cumbersome if your machine’s harp space is too small. Just try stuffing a long imitation bear fur coat under the arm, you’ll see what I mean.

I keep updating this post with new measurements for more and more machines. Send me yours and I’ll add them to the list! šŸ™‚

Proper long arm sewing machines exist of course, but cost aside, would you really want a 30″ long machine in your sewing room? In particular if that sewing room is really your sitting room and you’re sewing on your dining table? Ah, may be not then. Of course smaller long arm machines also exist, but they are usually very expensive. And I still find them too large.

In my experience, all you need for that imitation bear fur coat, is just a little extra space, just a few square inches to ease the work.

I’ve had (ahem, have) quite a few machines, and some small ones seem to be more “spacious” than other large ones. Weird. So here is a list of some machine types with their bed and harp sizes, see for yourself.

Summary

  • Largest harp space – 45.4 sq. inch: Singer 27/127, bed length 14.5″.
  • Second largest harp space – 44 sq. inch: Singer 66 and 201, Jones Medium CS and Jones Spool, bed length 14.5″.
  • Largest harp space in a small machine – 32.5 sq. inch: Singer 28/128 and similar German machines, bed length 12″.
  • Free arm machines have a smaller harp space than flat bed machines of the same size.

Full size machines

These machines have the same bed size, but arm length and height varies because of the different mechanism inside.

Bed length a little over 14.5″.

Singer 27/127, vibrating shuttle, straight stitch: needle to column 8.25″, arm height 5.5″, harp space 45.4 sq. inch.


Singer 66 and 201, Jones Spool, side-facing hooks*, Jones Medium CS, vibrating shuttle, straight stitch: needle to column 8″, arm height 5.5″, harp space 44 sq. inch.
*Singer 66: horizontal oscillator, Singer 201: horizontal rotary, Jones Spool: vertical rotary.


Singer 15 a.k.a. Central Bobbin, side-facing vertical oscillator, straight stitch: needle to column 7″, arm height 5″, harp space 35 sq. inch.


Haid & Neu Primatic, forward-facing vertical oscillator, zig-zag with external cams: needle to column 7.5″, arm height 4.5″, harp space 34 sq. inch.


Free arm Lada T132, forward-facing rotary, zig-zag with external cams: needle to column 7″, arm height 4.5″, harp space 31.5 sq. inch.


New Home 500 series by Janome, side-facing vertical oscillator, zig-zag with external cams: needle to column 6.75″, arm height 4.5″, harp space 30.3 sq. inch.


Modern multi-stitch, forward-facing hooks, zig-zag with built-in cams: needle to column 6″, arm height 4.5″, harp space 27 sq. inch.


Oversized machines

These are larger than full size, thus compensating for the wider column and arm.

Bed length between 15.5″ and 16.5″.

Frister+Rossmann 800 series, forward-facing vertical oscillator, zig-zag and stretch with built-in and external cams: bed length 15.5″, needle to column 7.5″, arm height 4.5″, harp space 34 sq. inch.


Singer 317K and 401G series, forward facing horizontal hook, zig-zag with external cams: bed length 16.5″, needle to column 7.25″, arm height 4.5″, harp space 32.5 sq. inch.


Free arm Frister+Rossmann 500 series, forward-facing vertical oscillator, zig-zag and stretch with external cams: bed length 16″, needle to column 7″, arm height 4.5″, harp space 31.5 sq. inch.


Kenmore 158.1756, forward-facing vertical oscillator, zig-zag and stretch with built-in and external cams: bed length 16.5″, needle to column 7″, arm height 4.5″, harp space 31.5 sq. inch.


3/4 size machines

These are scaled down versions of some of the full sized machines.

Bed length 12″.

Singer 28/128, vibrating shuttle, straight stitch: like Singer 27/127, but smaller. Needle to column 6.5″, arm height 5″, harp space 32.5 sq. inch.


Jones Family CS, vibrating shuttle, straight stitch: like Jones Medium CS, but smaller. Needle to column 7″, arm height 4.5″, harp space 31.5 sq. inch.


Singer 98 and 99, side-facing horizontal oscillator, straight stitch: like Singer 66, but smaller. Needle to column 6″, arm height 4.5″, harp space 27 sq. inch.


1/2 size machines

These are scaled down even further! Baby machines. šŸ™‚

Bed length 9.5″.

Singer 221 Featherweight, side-facing vertical rotary, straight stitch. Needle to column 5″, arm height 4″, harp space 20 sq. inch.

There is also a 1/2 size version of Singer 15, a side-facing vertical oscillator, made in Japan after WWII, but I’ve never had one of those.

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7 thoughts on “Size matters: machine size, arm length and harp space

  1. I agree. I got a Domestic fiddle base treadle, because of the harp space, and am looking to treadle my 31-15 for the same reason. I have the original table and motor, but I don’t need fast. I need space and control. Wosre harp space ever is the newer plastic machines. The newest in my harem is my Viking Enerald 183. Many features, but tiny throat.

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    1. Yes, all those features require more shafts, gears, cams and/or electronics, and it all has to sit somewhere. This makes the column and the arm thick and heavy, eating up harp space. The only solution is to expand outwards making the machine larger in length and height. But that can quickly become too large to pass as domestic!

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    1. Hi Tiffany, arm height is the vertical distance between the bed and the arm. Basically we are measuring the space to the right of the needle as it is sometimes necessary to fit your work through that – think of stitching in the middle of the quilt. That space is called the harp space, and it is bound by the bed below, the needle on the left, the column on the right and the arm above. I should add a picture of this! Thank you for your question. šŸ™‚

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