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Longarm Choices - Looking towards the future (hopefully not too far though)

Longarm Choices - Looking towards the future (hopefully not too far though)

Old 08-17-2018, 10:26 AM
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Default Longarm Choices - Looking towards the future (hopefully not too far though)

Hello everyone,

I am quite new to quilting (not yet a complete year), but I have found that in the time I have been quilting that it is something I would very much like to do possibly full time/as an extra service for a future at-home sewing/alterations business.

I have a Juki TL-2010q at present and while this is a dream machine that rivals my Pfaff 145 industrial, I already find myself wishing for more throat (harp) space when quilting my finished tops.

My freemotion quilting is still something to be improved on, but as a 6 foot tall man who carries most of my height in my torso, I don't feel like a sit down machine is the best option for me (owing mainly to the attempts I have made at making a suitable sewing space with my Juki).

I have begun looking at all the different longarm machines out there and wanted to know what people thought about the selection I have whittled down to;

JUKI QVP-2200 Virtuoso Pro
APQS Lenni
HQ Avante
Grace Q'nique 21
Gammill vision 2.0 (standard 18" head)

While I have heard nothing but praise for all of these machines (though the Q'nique was a bit more troublesome to find reviews for), my main issues lie in the fact that I live in Canada and have a very limited selection of dealers to work with.

The Juki would be from a local Montreal dealer whom I bought my TL-2010 from, great service, quick to answer questions, and techs are on call during normal business hours for support.
The Lenni, while giving a lot of good options and seems to be a genuine workhorse only has one Canadian dealer 4 provinces away (not ideal for support or testing needs).
The Avante has a dealer 15 minutes away (not going there) and another about 1.5 hours away and seems to be backed by HQ's US support staff.
The Gammill has a dealer about 6 hours away, not ideal, but not three days of travel far either.

While all the models listed have great reviews on their own manufacturers websites, not many reviews are out there on the wide internet to balance out the hand-picked "best of the best" ones that any self-respecting company would want to show.

So I come to you fellow quilters, give me your goods, bads, ugly and worse. If I am going to sink 15K+ into a machine, I want to know everything that could go right and wrong with it.

Thank you in advance!
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Old 08-17-2018, 11:30 AM
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When I was shopping for a LA, my first choice was the Gammill. I loved how smooth it was on the frame, the light bar, everything. But the sales rep was very off putting to me and so much stuff was extra $$ in addition to the machine. I ended up buying a lightly used Avante from a dealer and have no regrets. I adore my machine, I've had it for almost 3 years and have had no issues with it other than operator error. And even with all the extras I purchased with the machine I still paid less than what just the Gammill machine and frame cost. If I had it to do over again I would still buy the Avante.

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Old 08-17-2018, 01:13 PM
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I don't know what all those machines have to offer, but I'd make sure the frame has a deadbar and is not the type that you have to adjust the back rail every time you advance the quilt. My first frame was like that and it was such a pain.

And make sure the rails of the frame are very sturdy. My first frame had rails not as stiff and after a few years of use they started to bow in the middle and that gave me greif too.

I finally upgraded to a Handiquilter (fusion) and it took quite a while to work through the operator error issues, but now I feel I've got it dialed in and really like it. I like that Handi Quilter is always working on upgrading the robotics program and adding features. I started out without robotics and added it later.
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Old 08-17-2018, 01:30 PM
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First of all, I would add Innova and put it at the top of the list.

I've taken classes at quilt shows on the Gammill Vision and did not like the way it handled. The older Gammills were better machines IMHO. I've also had classes on HandiQuilter (I think it was the Avante), and I was happy with the way it handled. That would probably be my second choice.

Some people are very concerned about having a longarm dealer nearby. I've never found that to be a problem. Innova 24/7 phone support is so good that I have been able to fix any and all problems without having a technician look at the machine. The only exception was when I chose to have the machine upgraded with lightning stitch, and then I took the machine head to a dealer. I've been able to do all other maintenance and upgrades myself.
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Old 08-17-2018, 01:45 PM
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I have a HQ Fusion with the gallery frame, and I have been extremely happy with it, it very user friendly and I have had no issues at all. Unfortunately I had to order my set up online because all 3 dealers I went to were horrible, so if possible do try to see and get a feel for the ones you are interested in. It would be great also to have an available technician nearby in the event of an issue.
It really is a lot of fun to do and once you get used to loading your quilts it’s easy peasy.
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Old 08-17-2018, 02:06 PM
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I have to 2nd Dunster on the ABM Innova. Agree also on being able to service the machine yourself with their 24/7/365 phone support and most of all ABM is a company that stands behind their machines and go above and beyond to ensure their customers are happy, you will find no better after market support than Innova and the machine is a true workhorse and built to the standards of an industrial grade machine (which is where they started and still have an industrial division). These machines can power through leather (leather quilting is very popular right now) and they aren't fussy about thread, mine has taken every thread I have thrown at it and I love to experiment with different threads. Many big name show quilters are switching over to Innova because the stitch quality is so fabulous, coupled with the responsiveness of the lightening stitch.

True there are no dealers near you in Canada the closest dealer would be the one in Geneseo NY. They are a new dealer https://mikalasquilting.blog/

Ideally you want to be able to test drive many different machines to see what you like best and for that, your best bet is a larger quilt show. Canada has a major national show every year I believe. But I think it is in different locations. The Vermont Quilt Festival, held every June in Essex Junction Vermont would be very easy day trip for you from Montreal and most of the LA brands are there. https://vqf.org/

Most people research and test drive for about a year. I know I did when I got mine back in 2010. Like Dunster, I also upgraded to the Lightning Stitch regulator after I had my machine for quite some time (I finally did it last year). The L/S regulator was definitely worth it so if you go with Innova, get the L/S up front. Well worth the extra cost, plus if ever upgrade to robotics it requires the L/S. Speaking of upgrades, another great feature of Innova, you can easily add on or upgrade to all of their models, many manufacturers you can't do that. Also their frame is heavy duty made with aircraft grade aluminum and highly customizable plus it has a great feature where you can lift the front bar to check to make sure your batting is nice and smooth with every advance. And it does have a deadbar which I agree with Macybaby is a wonderful and to me indispensable feature. Innova's frame was a big selling point for me and even more so now that I have one.
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Old 08-17-2018, 02:06 PM
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Agree that you need to consider Innova. There are a couple of Innova groups at groups.yahoo.com with excellent info. Recommend you join those groups and ask questions there.
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Old 08-17-2018, 03:49 PM
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Another vote for Innova. IMO they have replaced Gammill as the "Cadillac" of longarms. I have a lot of quilting friends who, over the last 5 years, have all upgraded to Innova from various other brands (such as Handiquilter, Voyager, Tin Lizzie, APQS, Nolting) and all their complaints have ceased. They all LOVE the Innova, and the customer service is the best.
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Old 08-17-2018, 04:44 PM
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I have a HQ Avante and it’s been really horrible until recently. I have had tension issues the whole time and just found out the dealer did not time it correctly so once I moved my needle to the right, it’s worked wonderfully. I have been very unhappy that I paid over $10,000 for a machine and the manual is in black and white with only 34 pages. They don’t give out manuals now, you have to download everything off the Internet. I find that I don’t like their instructors on the videos as they do not clearly show how to do things, they show hands and fingers or don’t finish up on how to completely do a pantograph. I didn’t order a computer to do my quilts, it’s all me. I had a dealer I would never ever recommend to anyone but I’ve been told there are some good ones. I do like HQ support but I also think I went through 3 years of misery I didn’t need to go through. I think you really need to review machines and if you want to make a business out of this, go to an Innova, they have such good reviews.
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Old 08-17-2018, 05:29 PM
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Add me to the Innova lovers. I considered all the other well known brands and Innova won out and I love my machine.
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