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Need advice in buying a longarm!

Need advice in buying a longarm!

Old 01-02-2018, 05:29 AM
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Location: Palm Bay, Florida
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Default Need advice in buying a longarm!

Hi All! I know many of you have written this thread before, but I am in the market now and it seems the more research I do the more confused I get! I have space constraints- my room is 11'5' x 11' 7". I guess that pretty much keeps me down to a 10' table pushed against one wall? I had kind of decided on the new Handiquilter Amara 20",
a dealer would be a couple hours away. But then I don't know much about other brands- should I go bigger- if I find a used one no one responds. I'm only looking to do this for myself-maybe just close friends to help with the payments. I'm slightly handicapped, so I will be using a saddle stool when possible. I have also decided to wait on a computer until I know I will really use it with ease. Is my room big enough?
I am going to three shows- one in January in Orlando, one in Daytona where I am taking class with Judi Madsen on a Handiquilter(I have never sewn on a longarm before) I have a Viking Platiumun 16 sit down now.
then I am going to a show the end of March to make a final decision.
I need to be able to load the quilt easily- I have a bad back- I'm only 61, but love freemotion and ruler work. I'm not great it it yet, but looking for the longarm to help with ease. Any recommendations you have I appreciate! There are really no other dealers locally- Babylock/Viking/Bernina, but Bernina is too high and though I'm a Viking girl, the long arms are not reliable as far as I can see. Love the sit down, but the dealer can't even get the longarm together.
The new Babylocks don't look as good as the old crown jewel- they look cheap- please if someone has experience tell me! I really am looking for personal experience here. I am spending hours and hours a week on this and my friends are sick of hearing about it. It's a big investment and I don't want to blow it! You guys are so awesome- thanks for any of your thoughts! The space is a big worry!!
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Old 01-02-2018, 05:56 AM
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Off hand, I would say that a 10 foot table is not going to fit very easily. I have 10' frame on my HandiQuilter Avante. I just went down and measured it and from one edge to the ends of the crank handles is about 10'7". If you want to do pantos, you will need to work from the back of the machine and you won't be able to do that with only 1' to spare. It will also be difficult to load and advance quilts without being able to get easy access to the roller handles. They usually suggest 3' on the ends. How wide is the doorway? Maybe you could install it so the end with the handles is in the doorway? Will you still have room to get in?
As far as going bigger, with a bad back, I wouldn't look at a head longer than 20". Remember that you will be stretching forward the 20" to quilt the entire area.
I'm also a Viking gal but I also would stick with a longarm from a dedicated long arm manufacturer.
I think it's a very wise decision to take a longarm class first. That will give you a good idea of what you are getting into.
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Old 01-02-2018, 07:03 AM
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It is a good thing that you will be visiting 3 shows --take the opportunity to test drive machines that you may be interested in. I have had 3 HandiQuilter machines - started with the 16 - moved up to the Avante 18 and last year made the move to the Fusion 24. I think that the new 20 inch Handi Quilter would be a wonderful machine - the table is adjustable height wise so that could be adapted to make use a bit easier and the reach on the 20 is a great solution as far as quilting area in concerned. A friend of mine had space issues for her Avante 18 - but found if she angled the machine in the room there was enough room for her to use it. The handle to advance the quilt was placed toward the doorway and it worked just fine. I have about 26 inches of space on the back side of the machine to allow for panto use....that could be a bit narrower with a smaller machine like the 20. Good Luck in your decision - take advantage of the test drive possibilities. I am not connected in any way with the HandiQuilter company.....but I will tell you that I am wholeheartedly a HandiQuilter Gal. Love those machines.

Happy quilting.
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Old 01-02-2018, 07:07 AM
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I agree with PP that it will be tight fit in that room. You really do need to be able to get to the back or the front of the frame easily. That said, I am pretty sure my 10' frame is set up in a room not much bigger than yours. I would have to measure but I think my LA room is at least 12' long. I know I have about 2' on one side of the rack to travel to the back of the machine.

I also agree with PP about the throat. If you plan on quilting mostly with a saddle seat and have a bad back you may want to consider a smaller machine, like an 18" throat, but definitely nothing larger than a 20".

It is great that you are planning on attending shows to test drive because you really need to find the machine that fits you. No matter what one person recommends it may not be the right machine for you. And based on my experience, we pretty much are biased towards the brand of machine we each have, unless the person you speak to had the misfortune of getting a lemon or thought they could LA like pro right out of the box and blamed the machine.

Personally I LOVE my Innova and I also love that you can add on or upgrade later on these machines (they are designed that way). The rack is solid as a rock and also very easy to modify to your needs. My machine is a workhorse and has never given me a bit of trouble with any thread I have thrown at it and has plowed through seam allowances with no problems. HQ was in my sites as well but once I tried the Innova I realized how much more bang I got for my buck as the two are pretty much in the same ball park in pricing. Or I should say they were back when I got mine.

There is an Innova dealer in Tampa which I know is a few hours away from Palm Bay, but it looks like a very nice dealership. And is also a training center. http://www.floridaquiltingcenter.com/

One thing to keep in mind, a good, supportive dealer will go a long ways to making your longarming a much more enjoyable experience.
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Old 01-02-2018, 07:12 AM
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I'm afraid I agree with PaperPrincess about the 10' machine not being usable in your space. I only quilt from the front of the machine (rulers and free motion) but I still need to be behind the machine for various reasons, so I would hate to have it shoved up against a wall. I have a saddle stool and have not found it very useful for me, but you might enjoy it. I would recommend trying one out before you purchase a longarm. Be sure to test drive the Innova. It is lighter and easier to move than most longarms, and that would be a consideration with your back problems.
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Old 01-02-2018, 07:16 AM
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I have a HandiQuilter Avante (18"). I second what PaperPrincess said - your room is *not* big enough for a 10 foot table. You need to be looking at an 8' option. My Avante has that option - I can set my table up at 8 feet (it's 3 4-foot sections). With that table, you'll be able to quilt something about 72" wide at most (you lose about a foot at each end of the table for machine space, and backing space, etc. I can put 120" on my 144" table). You'll still want the table pushed against one wall. Even if you never quilt from the back (pantographs), you still need access to it for changing thread, loading quilts, reaching the power cords/power switch, etc.

Handiquilter is definitely a good brand, I really like my Avante. I'm with you that I'd avoid the Bernina. For me, one of the main reasons is that the tension is electronic, rather than a dial on the side of the machine. And it doesn't remember your settings (tension, stitch length) from one session to another.

If you are planning to sit for most of your quilting, you might find even 20" is too wide to reach. I cannot see the angle well enough to do accurate ruler work at the far side of the quilt, from a sitting position (and standing to do ruler work is hell on my back). A saddle stool is great for most free motion (and saves my back), but it does limit your reach, so again, you might not be able to take advantage of the full 20" - consider perhaps smaller if budget is a concern. Taking a class is a good idea. If at all possible, see if you can try a stool while you're there (or try one at a dealer).

Also important to consider, if you are comparing across brands, is actual quilting space, rather than throat size. For example, my APQS (26") is 8" wider in throat than my Avante. But only gives me an extra 4" quilting space. So I don't think it compares favorably to a 26" Handiquilter for usable space.
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Old 01-02-2018, 07:22 AM
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I think you need to check which machine has tension issues more than others. I did not do this and I truly regret it. I have a HQ Avante and the tension is very difficult. I’ve read so many blogs and I believe the Gammell and the AQS are better at tension than the HQ brands.
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Old 01-02-2018, 07:29 AM
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you have gotten great advice! Try out every machine you can get your hands on at the shows. Keep in mind what you want, the room size limitation, and your budget. You will LOVE sewing with Judi! She is a sweetheart and has lots to teach. She is a great first longarm teacher. One machine will call your name- TRUST me on this! HA! I am an Innova quilter like Feline Fanatic, but you need to buy what fits YOU. Have fun!
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Old 01-02-2018, 07:33 AM
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The Handiquilter site recommends 12-13 x 7.5-8 feet for a 10-foot frame. I'm also thinking of purchasing and have tried the HQ Amara and Avante and the Innova. All are base priced at $10,995. I'm not sure if a 20 inch throat (Amara) would make a big difference from the 18 inch (Avante). The Avante includes the rear handles, touch screen and laser for pantographs. They're separate (and $1000) for the Amara. Will you be doing pantos? I've quilted two quilts on the Innova and I liked it, but it seems everything is an extra cost for them. If you want the better stitch regulator - what they call lightning stitch, it's an extra $4000. If you just want the regular stitch regulator but want a touch screen, that's extra. I didn't see any difference in the quilting or ease of use of the machine between HQ and Innova.
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Old 01-02-2018, 08:27 AM
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All the babylock are handiquilter machines so the are well made. You do have to add to the 10ft for hand wheels and such you need at least a clearance on one sidebto walk around the back. And if you plan to use pantos those will be done from the back sof yout wI'll nor want it agains a wall wit no clearance. I got a great deal on an avante in august due to them being fazed out for the Amara but I think they will still be sold as babylocks.
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