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Long Arm Suggestions

Long Arm Suggestions

Old 05-01-2012, 06:27 AM
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First --- look for a dealer of ANY machine that's close to you. You do NOT want to have to ship your machine every time you need a check on it or a maintenance work done. Also, if the local dealer offers classes, then that's a big plus.

Two -- are you going to do professional quilting??? If you're doing one just for your use, then don't go into the $40 or $50 thousand dollar machines. I quilt for customers and do just as well as those that have expensive machines.

Three -- Go check out my quilting --- you do NOT need a computer. I had the advice of a LQS owner that has longarms....she said to learn to do free-motion quilting first, then think about a computer. My machine is in an outbuilding.....I had "babysat" a longarm with a computer. I found it boring as all get out --- I'd have to stay near the machine and there was nothing to do out there while the machine did the work. I prefer hands on doing it all myself. My work isn't perfect, but it's ME!
Another: How much room do you have? If you have limited space, then be sure to look into how much room the machine needs. I have a HandiQuilter Avante (18") -- I wish I had room for the Fusion (22") but if I got that I wouldn't be able to walk around the machine. You need at LEAST 2 feet on each end and I'd say at least 5 feet more on the front to back measurement.
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Old 05-01-2012, 06:47 AM
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Look at the internet for websites of the different machines. Make a list of the features on different machines of what you think you might need, want, like. Take that list to every dealer around you, try their machines, and ask about the different features. If you can go to a major machine quilting show that has a lot of different machines at one location go and try all the machines, not just once but several times. You will only be able to know which machine fits you if you can have hands on time with them. Have fun, relax and really play with the different machines. When you think you have narrowed it down to 2 or 3 machines, ask others who own these machines about customer service, their likes and dislikes. Yes, its a lot of research, but these machines are not inexpensive and you may need to live with your choice for years to come. I did a lot of research on 3 machines (A-1, Nolting and Gammill) before purchaseing my Gammill 12 years ago and I have never been sorry.
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Old 05-01-2012, 07:00 AM
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A lot of the answer depends on the type of quilting you plan to do, your budget, and the space you have available. Renae Haddadin wrote an excellent article on shopping for a longarm (she eventually chose Innova) and you can find it here - http://www.quiltsonthecorner.com/inc/sdetail/1349. You have to put the article in your shopping cart (at zero cost) to receive it. Good luck with your purchase. Like Renae, I decided on the Innova, but I got the 26" on a 12' frame before the lightning stitch was available, and I am very happy with it.
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Old 05-01-2012, 11:00 AM
Join Date: Apr 2012
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I just went through this agonizing decision.

I "shopped" for four years. Test drove every major brand at the Quilt Expos in Georgia and Florida and read everything I could, paying special attention to what QUILTERS said. I considered buying used, but due to my inexperience with longarming, I decided I wanted the security of a warranty and technical support.

I finally decided on the Innova with AutoPilot this past March when ABM International had a great promotion happening. I had wanted a 22" but settled for the 18" in order to afford the AutoPilot. I had my right hand operated for Carpel Tunnel 2 years ago (quilting too many Queen sized quilts on my domestic Bernina 440QE) and am now having arthritis and nerve problems in my arms, so robotics were important.

I love my Innova, even if it is only 18". I can't imagine the reach you'd need for a 26" or larger. I like the fact that ABM, who manufactures the Innova, have been around since 1947. They just broke into the domestic longarm market, having manufactured the larger industrial machines for mattress tops. The Innova isn't the prettiest machine out there - it does have a rather industrial look to it, but it's solid. And the customer service is first class. My dealer is very new to longarms and mine was the first AutoPilot installation he'd ever done, so we had some very tense moments during the installation - so much so, that I vented rather loudly on this forum at one point. Not more than 2 hours after posting my experience, the President of Innova called me personally from Texas, assuring me that he would fly an ABM technician from Houston to Toronto the next morning, if necessary, to ensure that the unit was installed and up and running to my satisfaction. I was definitely impressed.

As far as value for the money, you'll find Innova is extremely competitive. And I do know that it can handle just about any thread you throw at it, whereas I've heard other major brands are very thread sensitive and require far more oiling and have more tension issues.

Good luck with you decision and keep us posted.
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Old 05-01-2012, 07:32 PM
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Not wanting this to seem like a mini Innova party....but I researched machines last year and also chose an Innova. I have the 26 on a 12 foot table with lightning stitch and autopilot. I am very happy with my decision, but I think you will do best by trying the machines at a quilt show. I drove 3 hours to PA to make sure I could go to a show that would have all the brands to try. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with most of the machines. Each one had a different advantage. I needed a nice free moving machine because I have RA and I don't want extra stress on my hands...several offered that in my opinion and it can also be affected by how well the machine is set up at the show ...the thing that finally made my decision was how well the compuer system integrated with the machine and how awesome the stitch regulation is...so consistent. 24 hr customer support is also nice and trust me I've used it, being a new inexperienced user.

But I'm not trying to be a salesman. They all have good selling points and you just have to find the one that is the right fit for you. I'm in northern va if I can be of any help as I consulted several dealers of each machine before making my final decision.
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Old 05-01-2012, 09:27 PM
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You really need to go test drive them, it's all so dependent on YOU and what YOU want. You might think you want a 24" machine, but then you discover that's too far of a reach for you and you really should get 18". You need to make a list of must-have features that you can't do without, stitch regulator being one among many, many options. You should probably determine what your price range is first, then research and test every machine in that range.
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Old 05-02-2012, 04:03 AM
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I like the recommendation of also shopping for a dealer. My machine is a pill but my dealer is very supportive. That said, I still wish I owned an Innova or a Gammil. Their owners always have good things to say about their machines. PM me if you want to know what not to get!
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Old 05-02-2012, 04:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Christine27 View Post
I like the recommendation of also shopping for a dealer. My machine is a pill but my dealer is very supportive. That said, I still wish I owned an Innova or a Gammil. Their owners always have good things to say about their machines. PM me if you want to know what not to get!
Oh, good point -- PM me and I'll tell you which one not to get, too!!!!!
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Old 05-02-2012, 03:40 PM
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One more thing to consider besides the machine and frame is your own vision. I have a 17" machine and quite honestly, at my age, I would not have the ability to see a greater distance across the quilt top if my machine were longer. It can be pretty tough to see thin pencil lines or small pock marks placed to show you where to go, especially on busy fabrics. You would have the option to roll the quilt back and forth so you can see better but honestly, depending on your frame rolling the quilt can be a big job in it's self.

Another thing, besides considering if you have room for the frame and machine with good walking room around it is to consider the lighting of the area where you plan to place it at. Stand in the area at different times of the day and night (yes, sometimes we get out of bed at night to quilt) to see how much lighting there really is and try to see if you'll be able to see tiny pencil lines on busy fabric. Hiring an electrician to wire, re-wire or add more wiring to install more lights can be a pretty hefty unplanned expense.

I would also consider your own patience. There is a learning curve with every machine and I have heard too many quilters say that they haven't touched their machine since they got it __x_ years ago. Really! It takes a lot of practice and a lot of patience with yourself to get good at it.

Best wishes in making your decision!
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Old 05-02-2012, 04:31 PM
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I agree with 2 aforementioned points.
1. Try them all. I went to a large quilt show that had most machines. I tried them all the first day and then again the second day. I stood around and listened to people who were asking questions and then found some who had those machines that I was viewing and asked them all kinds of questions. I questioned the dealers about their frames that come with the machines and shook each frame hard. I bought a Baby lock Crown Jewel (18 inch throat) with a Grace Majestic 10 foot frame and have had no problems with them. I love using them.

2. I would ask about dealers in my area. I live on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. There are not many dealers around me and none within 50 miles that sell Longarms. Baby Lock had one near Baltimore and another in Croften. I called them and they were very helpful. So far I have not had to take my Crown Jewel to anyone, but I feel confident about my dealer.

Another point that I would mention is classes. Baby Lock offered a 4 day class in St. Louis and because the teacher of that class was at the show, I had the class included in the deal. I think it was special on that day. I learned so much at that class and felt so confident when I got home. But I practiced alot before doing a quilt.

Best of luck to you. I know you will really enjoy whatever brand or size that you get.
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