Inspiring Quilters, Stitch by Stitch
Hello Everyone! I'm new to the group (and MQP). I have decided to take the plunge and invest in a longarm so I would love to pick your brains! I currently own a Bernina 820 and have a frame for it. Love the machine but am ready to have a dedicated longarm machine (will be selling the Bernina frame!)
I think I have narrowed it down to APQS, Handiquilter or a Babylock. A friend and I are shopping together for this. We have demo'd these at various quilt shows more than a couple times. We even took classes in Houston from Kimmy Brunner and Linda Taylor. SO we have done a fair amount of trial with the Gammil and APQS. I know that I do want a stitch regulator.
I'm curious what everyone's experiences are. Do you have an easy time with your tension? Problems with skipping stitches? Size wise I am 5'3", I found with the larger machines even when the table is lowered to the right height I cant reach to the back of the quilt. Is it worth it to have the bigger machine just for space (as in when the quilt roll starts getting larger and that limits your quilting space)
Thank you in advance, I'm sure I will keep peppering you with questions!
(I did go back and read every single post in this group already - such a wealth of information here!)
Welcome, Birdie! I'm sure either brand is very good, but l think the availability of dealer support and proximity to same would swing the vote for me. l think you two should get the largest machine you can afford, thus saving the need to upgrade.APQS has an excellent forum for owners, with advice on starting a longarm business ( in case that's your goal), and lots of pictures, ideas, troubleshooting. l own a different brand , non regulated, but found there was still a learning curve with larger machines on the frames, even with previous experience. With regard to height etc. , one quilter uses a raised platform of plywood on 2X4 's along the walking path.
Thank you for your input Riana! I am just now researching where the dealers actually are. I know where the APQS dealer is and it is very convenient. I agree about purchasing the biggest I can manage. I doubt I will be able to 'upgrade' after this purchase so I need to be really sure when I buy!
As far as height the table can be lowered, so it isn't really how tall I am vs. how far my arms can reach! I'm looking for the APQS forum now. :-)
I highly recommend the Innova. Others will recommend the brand they use - they are all good machines.
I am 4' 11" and the Innova is able to be lowered to my height and yes, I can reach the back of the machine.
I had an APQS and got an hour and a half class with the rep (this may have changed since I purchased the APQS.) With the Innova I got three days of classes. Reason I recommend the Innova - SERVICE! I sent an email on Sunday morning and within 15 minutes had a phone call. I have the Lightning Stitch and it does perfect stitches no matter speed, etc. (as will the other long arm machines.)
All the long arms are wonderful and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you try every one of them out at the shows and…..find someone in your area and try them in a home or shop. Makes a difference in their setup.
Good luck on your long arm journey.
HI Laura Thank you for the speedy input!
We test drove the Innova at a couple shows and maybe it was the setup there but it just did not seem 'smooth' The Dallas show is coming up maybe they will have a booth there to try again. We don't know anyone that owns one so a home demo is not an option. Do you have the 18 22 26 or 32 inch model?
Glad you are testing the machines! Find what works best for you. A longer throat if you can't reach to the back, only helps if you have a large design that makes it easier to stitch in one movement, but if you can't reach back there at all --probably not worth getting. I have a Gammill Optimum Plus and use the big throat fairly often, but for anything fairly precision I don't quilt much more than my natural reach for control purposes.
What type of quilting do you see yourself doing? If highly custom, then you might sit at the machine anyway. If doing pantographs from the back, then whatever size panto you generally use then that throat size would be sufficient. If you're doing freehand from the front all the time, then whatever you arms length plus a couple of inches to give you a bit of room if you want it, will likely be ideal.
Are you quilting for yourself or for business? Having good ergonomics with the loading process on the frame is really important, especially if you're doing this for business. Something that doesn't usually get discussed when you're 'testing' the machine. I've now used several other frames, and still love my Gammill table/frame the best by a significant amount.
Thank you for the advice Marlene!
Right now I am very limited as to size of panto with the Bernina 820. I tend to really like the 12 inch and up patterns when I am shopping. I currently can only use a max of 8" though. I really do not want buy a new setup and again wish for something else!
I quilt for myself, I can see me quilting for friends too but don't see me getting into a business situation. I enjoy freehanding (with a good stitch regulator to help me out!)
What makes you love the Gammill as much as you do?
The rollers are very 'healthy' and roll smoothly....most frames and their rollers are quite flexible. An Innova and a Nolting frame I found very cumbersome to use, little to no handles on the end, so you're grabbing the roller with your hand and twisting it around and trying to keep the top and backing rolling on evenly. Perhaps these were lower end tables, but just want to point it out as a consideration. My tops and backs go on so easily on the Gammill table. I do like to use Red Snappers to attach them to the leaders as well. Very quick --the first few times your hands might be sore, but they wear in and your hands get stronger too.
I believe you'll find the Innova WITH lightning stitch (major $ option) will have fantastic stitch regulation.
I agree with the ladies, having a dealer close by for support is essential. The frame that the machine sit on, and where you intend to set it up in your workspace is also very important. Are you going to buy a new or used machine? Will the dealer set it up, or because of distance will you have to (you really want the dealer to install the machine). Also think of the size of the room, seeing a machine is a large room really doesn't give you the idea of actual size and the space that is needed for that machine. Some machines do require more space. You should also leave space around the machine for movement. There is also the issue of do you want a 10' or 12' frame. My advice is measure your room, and then the frame.
My machine is a Pfaff powerquilter P3 which is made by Tin Lizzie my dealer sells both machines but I liked the frame on the Pfaff better. They are less than 3 miles from my home (really nice for questions and any items I need that day). Because my space was on the small side (I still have some of my children's things in the room) I put my machine on furniture glides. The machine is on carpet and I can move it myself a few feet if needed (you just need to make sure that it is still level).
Good luck, I hope you love your new machine.
Thank you for your advice Kathleen,
I understand the concerns about the size of the machine vs the size of the room! I currently have a 10 foot frame in my room (kid's old playroom is now MINE!) and it would be a bit tighter but I could handle a 12 foot frame. I'm currently searching out dealers for different machines in my area. I agree it is very important. My Bernina dealer is 30-40 min away which is not ideal but workable. It was worth it to me I love my 820 :-) I don't think I have ever seen a Pfaff. I will have to see if I can find one to look at.
In my current frame, the leaders velcro to the bars, is this what most people use? I have heard of zippered leaders and think I may be interested in those. What are people's thoughts?
I agree with everyone about dealer support and we are actually going to be visiting some of the dealers to see what we think.
Does anyone have any advice when I am comparing machines and deciding which level to buy at.... what are some things your machine has that you would not want to give up?
Have fun shopping for your LA - how exciting. My best advice would be to go to a major show and try out every machine. What is perfect for one person may not work for someone else. I have an Innova and love it!! I played on every machine at an AQS show many times over several days. I had planned on purchasing a different machine but kept going back to the Innova booth till I knew it was the one for me. The reasons I chose Innova are:
24/7 service. I have no dealer near me but that's not a problem because I can talk with a tech anytime. I've only needed help a couple times but each time had a response within 5 minutes.
Ease of movement - There is no drag and it ran smoother than any other system I tried. I can easily drive one handed if I want. Many other brands have changed their wheel system since I bought my Innova a couple years ago so some others are equally easy to move now.
Lightening Stitch - I can't make a bad stitch even if I try.
Easy to update - They are designed so any new updates can be added to any machine. You don't have to buy a new one to get all the latest bells and whistles. They've recently developed new handles for their rollers which are now standard on their machines.
Good luck finding the perfect mchine for you.
Thank you for the info! I keep test driving machines at shows. I am really taking my time with this and asking all the questions I can think of anywhere I can! I'll have to look at Innova again. :-)