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Thread: Long Arm questions

  1. #1
    Super Member DogHouseMom's Avatar
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    Long Arm questions

    I'm doing my home work ... considering a Long Arm. I test drove just about all of them this past week in Chicago at the show. I have a few basic questions.

    I'm considering a smaller machine (18" - 22") and wondering if I would be able to do a King size on either machine. I neglected to ask this question of the rep's. Most of the machines have a very high harp area, so I doubt if they would be a problem, but some (Tin Lizzy for example) has a much lower harp area and I worry that there is not enough harp space for a larger quilt. So ... what is the minimum harp height I should look for on an 18" or 22" machine??

    Also ... how important is the "dead bar" to you? Is this an option that you would not live without??

    I'm still early days in my homework, but I went to the show with the express purpose of "would I like the way it feels" and "could I control it with accuracy". The answer to both was YES especially with micro-handles (boy those made a considerable difference!!).

    Thanks!
    May your stitches always be straight, your seams always lie flat, and your grain never be biased against you.

    Sue

  2. #2
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    I think the dead bar depends a lot on personal preference in combination with how many quilts you do. I do not have a dead bar on my Voyager/Hinty setup and do not miss it. I did install Bower lifts so it is easy for me to adjust takeup bar height when I need to, which is not for every roll. However, I do not quilt for long periods of time. I quilt just 2 or 3 hours per day when I have a quilt in the frame, which is not every week, and quilt only for myself. If you quilt for others or do a lot of quilting every day, a dead bar eliminates the step of adjusting height when rolling a quilt.

    The type of batting you use can affect whether or not you can roll a king size quilt in a given area. My Voyager has a 17" throat and I have had no trouble rolling an oversized queen on it using Warm'n'Natural batting.

    It would help if you could narrow down a list to the specific machines you are considering. Every machine/frame setup seems to have its own quirks.

  3. #3
    Power Poster PaperPrincess's Avatar
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    I have an older Tin Lizzie and there's no problem doing a king length. I like my machine a lot, but wish I had a nicer frame. I've used a friend's set up. She has a dead bar and I can really see the advantages. Her frame is also steel, with solid rollers which are very sturdy. Mine is aluminum and has a join in the middle that flexes a bit. Of course, her frame cost 3X what mine did. I only quilt for myself and a few relatives so my frame, although not top of the line, still works just fine.
    "I do not understand how anyone can live without one small place of enchantment to turn to."
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  4. #4
    Super Member DogHouseMom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prism99 View Post
    I think the dead bar depends a lot on personal preference in combination with how many quilts you do. I do not have a dead bar on my Voyager/Hinty setup and do not miss it. I did install Bower lifts so it is easy for me to adjust takeup bar height when I need to, which is not for every roll. However, I do not quilt for long periods of time. I quilt just 2 or 3 hours per day when I have a quilt in the frame, which is not every week, and quilt only for myself. If you quilt for others or do a lot of quilting every day, a dead bar eliminates the step of adjusting height when rolling a quilt.

    The type of batting you use can affect whether or not you can roll a king size quilt in a given area. My Voyager has a 17" throat and I have had no trouble rolling an oversized queen on it using Warm'n'Natural batting.

    It would help if you could narrow down a list to the specific machines you are considering. Every machine/frame setup seems to have its own quirks.
    Thanks Prism ... I will not make a dead bar a major qualifyer in my decision.

    I don't plan on quilting for others, and I don't see myself at the machine for more than 1-2 hours at a time, perhaps more on weekends on occasion - but not often. Very similar to yourself I guess.

    I have already narrowed down my machines, and one of them is the Tin Lizzy which has a lower harp area. An 18" Tin Lizzy has less total harp area than the 18" Innova because the harp on the TL is not as high. If the lower harp area on the TL is going to present a problem with a larger size quilt using a fairly lofty batt (wool probably), then I can scratch the TL off my list and concentrate on the others that I liked. So far I've narrowed it down to Innova, APQS, Tin Lizzy, Baby Lock and Juki.

    My final decision will be based on all these factors: the machine itself, the frame, and the local dealer/support. Price will play a role only if it's the deciding factor all else being equal.

    At this moment in time ... if someone said I MUST choose a machine this moment, it would be the Innova with the Lightning stitch. Looooved that Lightning stitch!!! The fact that I could walk up to that machine and immediately micro-stiple at a fairly slow pace, with nicely formed uniform shaped loops, with consistent stitch length and no eyelashes ... blew me away. From what I understand it's one of the more difficult things to get master on a long arm. It's quite possible that my initial knee-jerk choice will be my end result, but I would be remiss if I didn't give everything my full consideration, as you know it's a pretty big decision.
    May your stitches always be straight, your seams always lie flat, and your grain never be biased against you.

    Sue

  5. #5
    Super Member DogHouseMom's Avatar
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    >>Mine is aluminum and has a join in the middle that flexes a bit. Of course, her frame cost 3X what mine did.

    Hmm ... I had not thought about that. I'll have to look at that a bit closer on the machines/frames I'm considering (I am definately considering purchasing them as a unit). I know a lot of the frames come in sections.
    May your stitches always be straight, your seams always lie flat, and your grain never be biased against you.

    Sue

  6. #6
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    I would eliminate the Tin Lizzie based on complaints I have seen about tension. If you do a search on the QB for the Tin Lizzie, I think you will bring up quite a few threads that discuss it.

    In your situation, I would definitely opt for the Innova with Lightning Stitch. That is my dream machine! For me, the 18" would be enough (can do a 12" block on point). Go to 22" if you think you may want to add computerized quilting. I would never want to do that; I do enough on the computer as it is!

  7. #7
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    I have a dead bar and I love it! When I got my machine, it did not have a dead bar, but my dealer got it recently as an add on kit option and I wanted it immediately. I hated trying to decide when and how much to raise the bar. Now I don't have to. I've quilted both cotton and wool on it and didn't have to adjust anything. Earlier this week was my first time using wool batting and when I saw how thick it is, I was worried, but I didn't have any problem. That quilt was roughly 75x85 and there was more than enough room under the harp. I only have a 10 ft frame, so I can't do a king (and I'd probably be overwhelmed anyway so I don't mind).

    I have the Pfaff PowerQuilter P3, which is made by TinLizzy and I believe is essentially the same machine just with a different name. Everyone has their preferences when it comes to long arms, but I considered the BL Crown Jewel and the newly released Juki. I decided on the Pfaff because the dealer support is amazing and they gave me private lessons, which I really needed. I didn't like the APQS or the Innova, but again that was just my personal preference.

    Keep us updated on what you decide. It's a big decision and you are smart to be researching and asking questions.

  8. #8
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    Here are a couple of the threads I had noticed about the Tin Lizzie:
    http://www.quiltingboard.com/main-f1...m-t195665.html
    http://www.quiltingboard.com/main-f1...p-t185148.html
    And there are some comments lower down on this page:
    http://www.generations-quilt-pattern...ng-thread.html

    One thing about the Innova is that customer service seems to be 24/12. Posters on the Innovalongarm group on Yahoo all mention the great telephone support and service.

  9. #9
    Senior Member cindi's Avatar
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    I, too have the Voyager with the Hinterberg frame, and, while I don't do anything much bigger than twin (personal quilt size preference, not because I can't) I have TONS of room left above my machine when I get to the end of it. I also prefer Warm & Natural batting because it's thin - but warm - and gives just the right amount of "pouf" for my quilts when I wash them.

  10. #10
    Super Member DogHouseMom's Avatar
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    Thanks again Prism ... yes that lightning stitch is a pretty seductive thing I did indeed see several threads on tension issues with the TL ... but I believe they were older models. I still stored that info on my spreadsheet of pro's and cons as a general remark.

    Thanks Nilla ... and indeed it is interesting how we each have different preferences. The BL Crown Jewel and the new Juki are both at the bottom of my list of 5, while the Innova and the APQS are at the top of my list.

    I liked the Juki well enough (loved the LED lighting on it), I liked the frame a lot ... I had a major problem with the dealer which is really really weird because he's the owner of the LQS that I frequent! One would think that my regular LQS would be a shoe-in as my LA choice ... but the owner really ticked me off at the show when I test drove the machine. Had one of his girls been on the booth instead of him it probably would have been a hands-down sale. I'm keeping the machine on my list cause I liked it, but boy did he leave a sour taste in my mouth.
    May your stitches always be straight, your seams always lie flat, and your grain never be biased against you.

    Sue

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prism99 View Post
    Here are a couple of the threads I had noticed about the Tin Lizzie:
    http://www.quiltingboard.com/main-f1...m-t195665.html
    http://www.quiltingboard.com/main-f1...p-t185148.html
    And there are some comments lower down on this page:
    http://www.generations-quilt-pattern...ng-thread.html

    One thing about the Innova is that customer service seems to be 24/12. Posters on the Innovalongarm group on Yahoo all mention the great telephone support and service.
    Goodness! As I mentioned, my machine is made by TL and I've only had it since January, but I've never had a problem that wasn't solely user error. I know the Pfaff version is a newer one, released in Sept 2012 I think. I wonder if TL also released a new version and the problems were with the older one. This brings up a good point though. I have a local dealer. I buy fabric galore from them, other sewing and embroidery supplies, have purchased DSM's from them and take classes with them. I see them more often than I see some family members! If you aren't purchasing from a local dealer that you can trust, company customer service is very important since they'll be your point of contact for questions and concerns.

  12. #12
    Power Poster feline fanatic's Avatar
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    Hi Sue,

    OK I am totally biased for the Innova we will get that out of the way right now. Harp space makes no difference in doing a king, it is the rack length that matters. A 10 foot rack really only gives you about 100" of quilting width. Even then it a tight fit. So for a king you will want at least a 12 foot rack better even a 14'.
    A good rack makes a HUGE difference and all bias aside the Innova rack is an engineering marvel.
    1. It can be adjusted for many user heights so if you are vertically challenged it can be set up to YOU.
    2. the dead bar is wonderful in that you don't ever have to make adjustments to your take up bar as your completed quilt grows. Many other makes you must make adjustments to the take up bar. Additionally because the take up bar on the Innova is high up off the machine bed you lose very little quilting space
    3. It is made of aircraft grade alluminum. Very sturdy, won't bow in the middle as it is all one piece and minimal vibration.
    4. NO Learning curve with the Innova rack.

    And the lightening stitch is a thing of beauty. It really is the most responsive SR on the market today. But I understand A1 is coming out with something just as good right now.
    between 18" and 22", consider a 12" block on point. You will not be able see the full block in your quilting space with 18". 22" you will.

    Edited to add Innova customer service IS indeed 24-7 INCLUDING holidays. I had a problem over the Christmas long weekend and 3 techs called me back within 20 minutes, INCLUDING Michael, the owner. He walked me through a workaround that got me back up and quilting. THAT is customer service.

  13. #13
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    The Innova is my dream machine too for all the reasons listed above.

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    Power Poster ckcowl's Avatar
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    my machine is a 16" and I do king sized quilts all the time- no problem...it depends on how big of a quilting design you are doing- by the time I am at the bottom of a king sized quilt I have about 6-8" of quilting space- if i'm using a fairly lofty batt. more if using a thin batt.
    hiding away in my stash where i'm warm, safe and happy

  15. #15
    Senior Member laurlync's Avatar
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    I have a Gammill Vision 18-8 with a 12' frame and I quilted a 120" x 120" king with Hobbs 80/20 batting. It was a little bit difficult changing the bobbins because the backing reached almost to both sides, so I had to bend or squat to see what I was doing, but that really wasn't a big deal. If you are doing a pantograph on a quilt this size, you would need to use one with a narrower stitch path because as you roll the quilt onto the take up roller, more and more throat space will be taken. I was doing an freehand design so that quilt so it was not a problem for me.

    I have done a couple quilts that required me to roll the quilt back and forth to complete a pattern due to not having a large enough throat, but, since it doesn't happen often, it's not big deal either.

    My frame does not have a dead bar. I think it would be a nice feature, but it really is not a big deal to adjust as I can usually do 2, 3 or 4 rows between adjustments and those adjustments take less than a minute to do.

    Good luck on your decision and I hope you enjoy it as much I do!!!
    Laurlyn
    Innova 26" w/LS

  16. #16
    Power Poster dunster's Avatar
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    I do enjoy having the dead bar. I didn't even realize how important it was until I watched a friend adjusting her take-up bar to roll the quilt and thought "I don't have to do that." I would love to have lightning stitch - it wasn't available when I purchased my Innova - but the standard stitch regulator is also very good, and I haven't had any complaints with it. Harp space does matter on some machines. It would be really helpful to figure out how wide a kingsize quilt with huge batting is when rolled up on a standard bar - wish someone would do that for us, because the question does come up pretty often. I have a 26" machine and have never regretted it.

  17. #17
    yel
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    i will add a ditto in the innova ...love it

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  19. #19
    Super Member DogHouseMom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dunster View Post
    It would be really helpful to figure out how wide a kingsize quilt with huge batting is when rolled up on a standard bar - wish someone would do that for us, because the question does come up pretty often.
    indeed ... that's what I am trying to figure out. I know I need at least 12' frame to fit the width of a King size, but the length of a King is also larger - therefore a larger "roll" of finished quilt on the take-up roller. This is where the total harp size comes into play. It doesn't matter if I have a 26" harp if the top of the harp will interfere with the finished quilt on the take up roller. The Tin Lizzy looks pretty "shallow".

    Feline Fanatic ... thanks for your thoughts on both the frame and the customer service that Innova offers. I must admit when I looked at the frame at the show I liked some of the features (the dead bar and the lift at the front to access the batting), but when my husband looked at it (pictures) he picked it apart. My husband and I run a business and we build machines out of the same extruded aluminum - so whenever I looked at the extruded aluminum (called 80/20) on the machines and the frames - I knew exactly what it was. Anyway ... because he engineers this stuff all the time he was picking apart some of the fittings they were using to brace and connect ... they do it differently than the way the 80/20 extrusion was designed be connected and braced. I think I'll take him up to the dealer and let him climb around on the frame a bit I DO appreciate your advice (and was secretly hoping you would answer this thread!) because I know you use this machine, and I've admired your work. I wanna quilt like you when I grow up
    May your stitches always be straight, your seams always lie flat, and your grain never be biased against you.

    Sue

  20. #20
    Super Member Ruby the Quilter's Avatar
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    Machines are like cars we each have our preferences. No matter what machine you go with there will be a learning curve and some frustration. I have a Tin Lizzy 18DS and have learned that most of my problems are because of something I did or didn't do. Know you will enjoy your machine.
    Quilting in the Desert

  21. #21
    Power Poster mighty's Avatar
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    I used to have the Viking 18x8 on Imperial Frame with the Qbot. It would handle a king size no problem. The size of your frame will make a difference if you can get the width of the king size loaded. My frame was only 10ft and was a real tight fit. I now have a Babylock Crown Jewel on a pearl frame with CT also a 18 in machine and no problems at all with a king size quilt. Had a dead bar on my first frame and it was so helpful, I loved it. The pearl frame is a much different frame and a dead bar is not necessary. The Viking is the same machine as the Tin Lizzy, it was a good machine but I prefer the Babylock makes a much nicer stitch and much easier to guide. Have fun shopping and enjoy your new machine!!!!!!

  22. #22
    Super Member Farm Quilter's Avatar
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    I have an 18" Innova and my frame has a dead bar - love it! I have my take-up bar as high as it will go and I never have to move it to keep my quilting area level - I hate having to remember to lift that bar up as I go (I borrowed a friend's machine when I was quilting out of state). I have done king size quilts on my 12' frame. It does end up making the quilting area smaller when you get to the end. If I were to get another machine, I would get the Innova 22" just for a few more inches of quilting space with no loss of control. I do love the honest-to-goodness 24/7/365 free tech support that comes with the Innova. I have called on Christmas day afternoon when I had a quilt that had to go out of town the next day...they are always available because they sell industrial machines world-wide and those cost major $$$ for every minute they are down. I love my Innova and I have had it for almost 5 years.

  23. #23
    Super Member #1piecemaker's Avatar
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    I have the Nolting 30 inch Pro. I do not have a dead bar. I'm not sure what that is. My frame has three rollers. One for both ends of the backing and one for the top. All I have to do is roll my bar up with a handle to different heights as I quilt. And to advance my quilt, I just ratchet it up. It is a neat set up and works great. I can do a large panto. The Nolting fun machine has a 15 inch throat and works great for about. If you haven't, you might want to check it out.
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    First off, congrats on what ever machine you choose. You will love it which ever one you choose. You didn't mention Handi Quilter in your list. They make the Babylock Jewel so if you like the Jewel you might like the Handi Quilter Avante. Same neck space (18") both can be upgraded to include a Pro Stitcher if your interested in that. The Avante frame also has the tension bar (dead bar in this thread). You mention some machines with longer neck space. The Handi Quilter Fussion has a 24" neck space. If you are purchasing the Pro Stitcher as well, the neck space can be either. I'll explain a bit. Depending on how tall you are should factor in to what neck length you choose. As the Pro Stitcher would be running your machine. But if you want to free motion or do pantographs now the neck length matters. You want to be able to stand shoulders down, elbows in to quilt comfortably. If you are reaching across the quilt it won't take very long before you back will get tired. So if you aren't using that extra 6", why pay for it? How many 18" blocks on point do you quilt? I am 5' 5" and the 24" machine is a stretch for me. If you are taller, no problem. The height of the neck does matter to me. I don't care how long the neck is. When I roll (advance) my quilt the quilt rolls on in a circle not an oval. My quilts would fill that space before I finished my quilts. All of these machines have the precsion stitch so quilting is a breeze. You mentioned eyelashes. That is a tension issue. Your instructor should teach you how to adjust tension no matter which thread or batting or fabric you are using. I totally agree with everyone that mentions how important support is. Just to be clear here. I quilt on a Gammill. And yes I love it

  25. #25
    Super Member Cindy60545's Avatar
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    Don't discount Tin Lizzie for tensions issues. Tension problems are operator error. I have the QueenQuilter18, which is the original TL. I don't have a dead bar, but would like to have one for more precision work, as it stabilizes the working area better. Something to consider in your choice of machine is what do you want to do quilting wise? Pantos? Freehand? Computerized? Do you want to do custom quilting? Do you intend to quilt for others? Some machines are better than others for more custom work. Actually, it's the frame & not the machine that can make the difference. I have to agree with gotta-sew, don't discount Handi-Quilter. They're good workhorses. I've looked at upgrading to another machine & Handi-Quilter & APQS are at the top of my list. Whatever you choose, enjoy it!

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