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  • Looking at long arms

    Old 07-06-2023, 07:29 AM
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    susananne's Avatar
    Join Date: Aug 2015
    Location: Minnesota
    Posts: 12
    Smile Looking at long arms

    I'm thinking about getting a long arm with a large throat (probably 22 inches or better) and computerized stitching. This would mostly be for my use and friends so not looking to break the bank. Wondering what folks have and what they love about their set up, or what they don't like.

    Thanks for helping me decide what direction to go.
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    Old 07-06-2023, 08:49 AM
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    Longarm University is still a good place to shop for a used machine near you. Helps with the bank a bit.


    Have you spent any time test driving any machines?
    Finding the one that's right for you is an individual preference sort of thing.
    It can help to test drive different models/brands and figure out what you specifically want in a machine, and how much space you have to set up the frame.

    sometimes it comes down to machines available in your area, or support from dealers/shops available to you
    happy hunting

    Last edited by 1CharmShort; 07-06-2023 at 08:51 AM.
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    Old 07-06-2023, 10:47 AM
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    Location: Pacific NW
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    So much depends on YOU. What is your budget, how big a space do you have, can you perform basic maintenance on your machine or will you want to have it serviced by your dealer, and so forth.

    I own an Innova, quilt only for myself (and let the occasional friend come over and use it), and do not have robotics.

    Here's what I have to say about choosing brands:
    Years ago, when I was a baby quilter and before I bought my Innova, I joined a group of longarm quilters. We would get together monthly, rotating locations amongst our homes, and share troubleshooting tips & tricks, learn about longarm techniques, and have show-n-tell. Ownership of longarms ranged the gamut of brands - A1, Tin Lizzie, Gammill, Voyager, Nolting, Innova, Homesteader, Handiquilter, you name it, someone had it. Gradually, everyone traded in their previous longarm for an Innova with 2 exceptions: we still have one Gammill owner and one HQ owner. Our meetings have gone from complaints and frustration with the machines, and how-do-you-solve-this-problem, to lots and lots of show-n-tell. There's a reason why so many of those companies I mentioned are now out of business.

    People will tell you to "test drive" the machines at shows. I don't think this is good enough. When I was in the market, I took a class that was designed to teach me how to use the machine so I could rent time on one in the future. This was a 5-hour class and covered everything: winding bobbins, threading the machine, changing the needle, loading the frame with backing/batting/quilt, adjusting the tension, how to change the feet and which foot to use when, troubleshooting, and we even got into some basic maintenance. I was able to see how much space the different frames took up, and I got to play on the different machines (robotics vs non, 22" vs 26", etc.) I learned SO much in that class, I was much better prepared when I went to the shows and shopped the other brands. I knew what to look for and what I wanted.
    I ended up buying an Innova for these reasons:
    1) It's not picky about thread. (I can't tell you how many times I see people say "my machine only likes XX brand thread"). I can use any thread I want in my longarm without issue.
    2) I can service it myself. The owner's manual shows me how to fix common problems, and support is a phone call away (see next paragraph).
    2) Innova is the only brand that I'm aware of that has 24/7/365 telephone support - yes, even on Christmas Day. You don't have to wait for a service tech to come to your house, you don't have to ship the head somewhere for repair, and you're not down for 3-4 weeks. Having said that, I've owned mine for 5 years and it's never needed to be serviced.
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    Old 07-06-2023, 11:20 AM
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    Join Date: Aug 2015
    Location: Minnesota
    Posts: 12

    Great info. I have a nice, large space for the machine so that won't be an issue, I like the idea of self-servicing it. I have rented at my LQS and used a Gammill and an Innova. Both were computerized and I really liked that. I'm probably going with a used one for the cost savings.

    I'll check out Longarm University. I live near Mpls so would like to get one not too far away.

    Anyone have any issued buying a used one?
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    Old 07-06-2023, 12:10 PM
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    Location: Myrtle Beach, SC
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    I have Q'nique 21 since 2018. I purchased the Quilters Creative Touch (QCT) Beginners system to do the actual quilting. It's on a 10 foot Continuum frame, which is plenty big for me.

    I enjoy using it and (so far) have had only one non-operator error problem with it: Timing! Was able to work with Grace Tech support to get it fixed, Thank goodness. I also give credit to my husband for his unflaggig help sith the timing issue.

    At one time, I thought I might upgrade to the fill version of QCT, but now realize that I'm content with Beginners version, so the upgrade won't happen for me.

    I've probably quilted 75+/- quilts on it since purchasing it.

    Started out quilting with a used Handiquilter 16, with a computerized quilting system called PC Quilter. It was one of the first automated Quiting systems available. The user interface was pretty rudimentary, but it could do just about anything. Unwanted more quilting space, so upgraded to Q'nique. I loved the HQ16 and would have purchased a bigger
    HQ system if money was not a factor. But it is/was. My sister has the HQ16 now, and is using it for her quilts. She uses it with QBOT.

    Happy hunting.

    Last edited by cathyvv; 07-06-2023 at 12:19 PM.
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    Old 07-06-2023, 03:05 PM
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    Originally Posted by susananne
    I'm probably going with a used one for the cost savings. Anyone have any issued buying a used one?
    That's a good place to start. It's pretty rare to find a used Innova, because once people buy them, they stick with them. They don't "upgrade" to other machines, and any upgrades in equipment (such as adding robotics to a non-robotic machine) can be done to the existing machine, no need to buy a whole new system. You might want to seek out your local dealer and have a conversation about the possibility of a used Innova. I told my husband if I died first, he should contact my Innova dealer and have him sell my longarm on commission. He'd probably have it sold within a week.

    I don't have warm fuzzies about Gammill because a few years back, Gammill burned their dealers by refusing to support them and compensate them for warranty work. Gammill also does not have 24/7 phone support. They do have good machines, though.
    Peckish is offline  
    Old 07-06-2023, 03:31 PM
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    Location: Ohio
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    I started off with a HQ Fusion, added the robotics 2 years into owning it and then sold it just before the pandemic. I purchased a used 2017 32in Innova that had Mach 3 and the Embroidery module as well. IMHO, HQ has a steep learning curve for the robotics. Innova on the other hand is very user friendly and easy to use and set up, and I have had zero issues with it, so happy I purchased it.

    I agree with looking at Longarm University for used machines, you will more than likely find a good deal, and Cindy at Longarm University does longarm classes too, she is a wonderful instructor!

    Let us know what you decide, you will have so much fun!
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    Old 07-07-2023, 05:25 AM
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    Location: Carroll, Iowa
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    When I decided to try out quilting for myself, I started out small back in say 2005-6. Viking had just come out with their MegaQuilter 9" on an Inspira frame so I ordered one but went with a Grace Pro frame as I wanted wood, not metal. Anyway, it didn't take long to realize 9" isn't much to work with and after chatting with a few of my quilter buddies, one of the had a PCQ robotics made for smaller machines so I ordered that. Still, 9" isn't much to work with so I ordered their MaxThroat which would move your carriage back and forth up to 17". Only problem with that was it didn't work like it should most of the time and customer service was lousy.........at least for me. Then someone came up with MQR that would take the parts from the PCQ to work with their motor so you didn't lose all you had invested in PCQ. Worked great. Still 9" isn't much to work with. Then my friend heard about a guy that stretched Singer machines as well as Juki 98Q and one of the Brother/Babylocks to 18". WOW, didn't have a Juki but I put my name on his list and waited. While waiting, I looked for a used Juki 98Q. Found one and shortly there after my name came up right when I sold my house and was moving from Florida to Iowa so I shipped it and gave them my sister's address to ship it back when done.

    Loved that machine and my MQR worked great with it and I didn't have to change a thing on it. Then I started having issues with the MQR and the guy that created it was moving back to Canada but was working on an upgrade so I gave him money for the upgrade as many of us did. We never heard back from him so we basically donated money for his move back home.

    Before the MQR crapped out on me, I'd decided to go bigger on the machine and went with an Innova 26" after testing a bunch out at a quilt show. Had to upgrade the MQR to work with a much larger machine too. Once it started crapping out on me, I searched for another robitic system and found IQ as it was similar to how the MQR worked plus it came with a Thread Break system and you could turn off IQ to baste using channel locks that was connected to it. Haven't had problems that weren't made by operator error and you can do so much with it.

    Now I quilt only for myself and when you think how much I've invested in this system thru the years, you'd call me nuts but it's only money, I can't take it with me and it gives me pleasure to make quilts to gift out to others. Innova, as someone else has mentioned has customer service 24/7 and I've used it at all hours. Michael is such a nice guy to help you work thru your issues too. I've never regretted my choices with the Innova and the IQ robotics. Still it's a lot to invest in so your best bet is to go to a quilt show and test all the machines you can to see what fits you and your needs as wel as your pocketbook. I also added a rider to my house insurance to cover everything I have in my sewing room including all the fabrics, threads, machines and whatever you need to recreate.

    Sorry this was long.
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    Old 07-07-2023, 06:48 AM
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    I might be mad (probably am!) but I just bought an APQS Larry and it should be delivered next week. I went against all the "rules" for buying a long arm and bought it without test driving one. I'm at home ALL the time with my kiddos and never can get out for quilt shows or quilt lessons or demos. I've been watching all the usual recommended used longarm websites for about five years and I figured, even though anything is better than my current setup, I didn't want to buy something with questionable reputation or someone else's lemon. I also really didn't want to travel hours away to pick it up. We have an APQS dealer here in our tiny town of 1500 people and my hubby was determined to get me my dream machine. He organized it all and I just signed on the dotted line! My APQS dealer threw in some deals, like $1k off, free in home setup, a day of lessons, batting, needles and the ruler base. I added Bliss to the system. I'm beyond excited and can't wait to play with it! I never ask for things or buy things for myself so I really appreciate my husband getting me such a big toy! One far off day I might quilt for others, but as of right now, I'm just planning on quilting for myself and family.
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    Old 07-07-2023, 07:03 PM
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    Location: northern minnesota
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    I started out with a Viking Mega Quilter and yep, nine inches is not much to work with especially as it went down to 4 inches by the time you reached the end of a large quilt and the original Inspira frame was very interesting to work with. As it was made of aluminum, it started to sag in the middle which made it even more interesting. It did teach me I wanted to learn how to longarm though. So, I started researching machines. I finally narrowed it down between an Innova and an APQS. Innova had just come out with their home longarm and there really wasn't anything used at the time. I ended up buying a "demo" APQS" Lucey which has a 26 inch neck (yep, way better than the 9 inch I had before) and I opted for a 12 foot frame and the bliss which makes it so easy to move the head on the frame as you go. Yep, can move her with one figure. I have had her for about 12 years and never had any problems with her other than user error. You can also do most of the repairs yourself with help from manual or a call to the service technicians in Carol Iowa where the machines are made. APQS usually does not have used machines for sale but on occasion they do as they have been around for quite a while. But, they do have a couple of "Demo" sales per year where they give a discount off on the machines that have been used for shows or showrooms. These demo machine usually come with the lifetime warranty as long as you own the machine. I have found Lucey to be fairly easy to keep happy with the regular cleaning and oiling. I have stitch regulation on it, needle up/down and a horizontal channel lock. I have used different threads on her just fine but being somewhat lazy, I have gotten a supply of Superior's SoFine so most of the time, I do not have to do any tension adjustments. I do not have robotics as I quilt mainly for myself and am basically a utility quilt maker and doing meandering type free motion is just fine for me. I had them set up my machine for me and a local dealer gave me two 4-hour lessons. Since then, I am fortunate enough to have a dealer for APQS open a shop in my area and have taken a couple of lessons from her. I think taking a class to be able to rent time on a shop's long arm is an excellent idea if you can do that as you learn if you even like quilting. Some people find they do not. Oh, I have kept track of the quilts I have I done on my set up and I think I have actually paid for my machine in the money I have saved from not having had to send my larger quilts out to be done by someone else.
    Susananne, I see you live in Minnesota. If you make it up to the Duluth, Karen McTavish has her shop up here and it is wonderful place to visit. Much creativity happening.

    Last edited by sewingpup; 07-07-2023 at 07:07 PM.
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