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Thread: Long Arm Learning Curve??

  1. #1

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    I have been quilting on my DSM but its getting more difficult with larger quilts. I have tried different brands of LA's at quilt shows but find that the extreme ease of movement, which is a feature that LA companies strive for, makes it hard to control detailed quilting.
    1.I am wondering from other LA quilters, how do you control the free-flying movement when you want to backtrack over stitching? Do you brace you elbows at your sides or are there settings to have more control over machine movement.
    2. Many say they have tension problems to overcome. Is that an issue on LA's?
    3. Why would you choose to quilt without the stitch regulator on? Is it because you can go faster, slower, more control??
    4. Is there any LA purchaser that had buyer's remorse. I see how thrilled many LA quilters are with there purchase but haven't heard any negative feedback.
    5. If it is not going to be used for a business, can the costs be justified?

    Thanks for any suggestions.

  2. #2
    Moderator kathy's Avatar
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    well my mid-arm, Bailey 15" has ways to put tension on it so it doesn't fly away. you can let the rolled quilt drag on the bed or lower the foot so that it drags a bit, some of that fly away is the frame, super smooth movement. I haven't turned my stitch regulator off since I got it a few months ago but on most videos I watch if they are doing stipple or meander or anything that you can just go at steady they always turn it off.
    I think a little artistic talent would go a long way in LA quilting, , I don't have a drop of talent so I have to rely on patterns, templates and pantos, they are all much easier and better since I got the SR. IF I could safely handle another payment I would get one with more bells and whistles but I can't , but I am happy with what I have, cost me around $3000 to get going, of course I've added $$$$ to it in 2 yrs.

  3. #3
    Senior Member cattailsquilts's Avatar
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    I don't have a LA, but I do have a semi-industrial 9" machine (Pfaff GrandQuilter) in a frame.
    1. Go slow. Take your time. I have problems with this still.
    2. I don't generally have tension issues, unless I screwed up the threading. On the LA's, I really don't know the answer to this.
    3. The stitch regulator helps keep the stitch length consistent regardless of the speed of the machine. Once it is properly calibrated, it makes all the difference in the world! I can't imagine *not* using mine!
    4. At first I thought I was insane for having dropped the money on my setup, even though I got a great deal on a used one. A LA is a MUCH different investment from my setup, however, so not sure my experience is helpful here.
    5. How much do you spend sending your quilts out to be done by a LA'er? How many quilts do you do a year? Do you think you might someday quilt for hire, even if you don't intend it to be a significant source of income? Depending on the cost of the system you're looking at, your answer may be yes, it may be no. If you're looking at a $9k used or basic system, I'd say absolutely. If you're looking at a $25k Gammill or AQPS? Maybe not, but only you can answer that.

  4. #4
    Super Member bamamama's Avatar
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    I have just had my long arm since the beginning of Feb so I'm still learning. I picked up on it pretty easily probably because I quilted on my regular machine before buying one. Backtracking gets better and easier with practice, and practice is the key to the whole thing when it comes to LA quilting.

    Tension if the hardest thing that I've had to deal with the the LA. It changes depending on the thread or even the batting you use.

    I always leave the stitch regulator on.

    After you get the machine you will find you need other things, templates, rulers, pantos....the thread is really expensive! My machine works best with King Tut and it is $30 for a large cone.

    Good Luck!

  5. #5
    Power Poster Sadiemae's Avatar
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    One of the times you turn off the stitch regulator is when you are doing micro-quilting.

  6. #6
    Super Member fabric_fancy's Avatar
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    1.I am wondering from other LA quilters, how do you control the free-flying movement when you want to backtrack over stitching? Do you brace you elbows at your sides or are there settings to have more control over machine movement.

    i have micro handles and i have a ruler that fits on the foot that allows for more controlled movements and i use these for micro quilting too.

    2. Many say they have tension problems to overcome. Is that an issue on LA's?

    lucky for me i haven't had tension issues but this is a simple thing to fix if you are.


    3. Why would you choose to quilt without the stitch regulator on? Is it because you can go faster, slower, more control??

    i have no problems with speed with the stitch regulator - thats the entire point of the regulator no matter if i'm take it slow or fast the regulator keeps up.

    very rarely am i a speed demon with my machine.


    4. Is there any LA purchaser that had buyer's remorse. I see how thrilled many LA quilters are with there purchase but haven't heard any negative feedback.

    i've never been disappointed with my purchase but i have read someone's blog here and when she got her machine last year or so she was thrilled and lately her blog has been nothing but complaints about the setup not working properly.


    5. If it is not going to be used for a business, can the costs be justified?

    this is only for you to answer. i never feel the need to justify my spending.

  7. #7

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    Thanks for all the great feedback. It's a big decision to make - not only the expense - but all the space it takes up. Yet I can't quit thinking about one!
    Thanks again.

  8. #8
    Super Member feline fanatic's Avatar
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    Dont look at where you are at (where the needle is) look where you are going. Have you ever shot pool? If you look at the pocket you want to sink the ball into rather then the ball you are hitting you will hit your target (that pocket) a lot more often. How about when you drive? You are looking down the road a ways not right in front of the hood of the car. It is the same with LAing.

    I found that if I spend more time looking where I want to go and not look at where I am my back tracking is a lot better. Even the best LA quilters will stray off the line when back tracking. No one is that perfect, some are better then others and sometimes it just boils down to having a better day then others. If you see LA work with perfect backtracking I will guarantee you it is computer generated and not hand guided.

    Tension issues: Well compared to a domestic sewing machine you most definitely have to adjust both top and bobbin tension a lot more. I call it futzing with the tension. But with my particular machine, I find I only have to do the occasional tweak now and then if I notice the stitches not being up to my high standards as I am quilting.

    Wouldn't be without a stitch regulator. As you go fast the machines needle goes fast. As you go slow the needle slows down. Love my SR. Don't know why anyone would turn it off but loads of pros do. Not sure why.

    I have no regrets. I have read about some who are afraid of the machine once they get it. I was worried about that so made sure I jumped in with both feet on mine and try to quilt anything BUT a meander. I want to be fully versed in other techniques and don't want to get stuck in a rut. I have read about many many LAers who won't do anything but an all over meander, afraid to step out of their comfort zone. Such a shame.

    A LA is a big expense. You are right to be concerned. I had to dwell on the purchase for over a year before I finally took the plunge. So glad I did. Ya only live once and life is short!!

  9. #9

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    Love all your detailed feedback. Just what I was looking for. Right now I am looking at the HQ Avante or Fusion or the A-1. Trying to find a nearby show where I can try both.
    Thanks to all for your great info.

  10. #10
    Super Member Rose L's Avatar
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    1.I am wondering from other LA quilters, how do you control the free-flying movement when you want to backtrack over stitching? Do you brace you elbows at your sides or are there settings to have more control over machine movement.

    I let my arms hang loosely at my side. It takes some practice when you're first starting out to teach yourself to relax. I have an older Grace frame with a metal carriage upgrade and mine moves smoothly but it's not like a puck on glass when moving around. I have to use some effort to make it move. Personally I think smoother movement would improve my stitching rather than make it more wild and difficult.

    2. Many say they have tension problems to overcome. Is that an issue on LA's?

    I have a Bailey 17 Pro. I have never had any tension issues and have been able to use all threads that I've tried so far, even very cheap and very old garage sale threads.

    3. Why would you choose to quilt without the stitch regulator on? Is it because you can go faster, slower, more control??

    I bought the stitch regulator with my machine. I've never tried to use the machine without it and I have no intention of ever NOT using it.

    4. Is there any LA purchaser that had buyer's remorse. I see how thrilled many LA quilters are with there purchase but haven't heard any negative feedback.

    No remorse on my part. I did not buy a top of the line machine just because of that possibility. At this point I am wanting to invest a little more into my system and add on a robot (computerized stitching system) so that I can get more uniformity in doing specific patterns on blocks and in bindings rather than to rely on myself for getting the scale correct throughout. I have forced myself to do learn to do it on my own just in case but would now like the freedom to use a robot and increase the speed at which I can complete a quilt.

    5. If it is not going to be used for a business, can the costs be justified?

    In my case I think the cost is justified. While at this point I am not doing quilts for anyone besides my self I do always have that option. It can cost between $100-$300 to have a quilt machine quilted in my area, depending on size and what you how you want it quilted. At the $300 price tag my setup will pay for it's self in ten quilts. To me it was worth the investment. I do hand quilt also but there are many quilts that I make that I just don't want to invest that kind of time in.

    I bought a used Grace frame @ $500 and spent less than $2200 on my Baily set up with all the bells and extras. Not bad for starting out IMHO. Good luck with your decision!

    Rose L

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