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Thread: Need advice in buying a longarm!

  1. #1
    Senior Member petpainter's Avatar
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    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!!

  2. #2
    Power Poster PaperPrincess's Avatar
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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.
    "I do not understand how anyone can live without one small place of enchantment to turn to."
    Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

  3. #3
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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.

  4. #4
    Power Poster feline fanatic's Avatar
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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.

  5. #5
    Power Poster dunster's Avatar
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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.

  6. #6
    Super Member kristakz's Avatar
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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.

  7. #7
    Super Member Wanabee Quiltin's Avatar
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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.

  8. #8
    Super Member soccertxi's Avatar
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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!

  9. #9
    Junior Member indycat32's Avatar
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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.

  10. #10
    Super Member Dolphyngyrl's Avatar
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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.
    Brother (XL-3500i, CV3550, SQ-9050, Dreamweaver XE6200D), Juki MO-2000QVP, Handiquilter Avante

  11. #11
    Power Poster feline fanatic's Avatar
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    Just wanted to add regarding stitch regulator. The reason the lightening stitch is so much more expensive is it requires a different motor (one that can get a digital message as opposed to analog message from the software).

    After 7 years of quilting on it with the regular stitch regulator, I just splurged and upgraded my Innova from the regular to the Lightening stitch (LS). I have hemmed and hawed about it for several years, thinking the price wasn't worth the upgrade, especially because I was, for the most part, satisfied with what my regular SR was doing. Boy was I wrong! The responsiveness and stitch quality of the LS is so wonderful. I know I will definitely get my monies worth out of the upgrade.

  12. #12
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    First, I know nothing about longarms, just what I've read from quilters on sites like this. However, If I were considering spending $10,000.+ for one, my homework would begin with using several and talking with others who live close to you about their service.

    I'm in a large metropolitan area, so there are several quilts shops that offer rentals by the hour. You have to take a class in that machine (usually $75.00) before you can rent time. Some shops sell those machines and some just offer the rental as a source of revenue. You are not too far away from Tampa and Orlando to take those kinds of classes. It not only would give you a chance to use the machine and see how you like it, but to know what to expect when your machine is working correctly.

    The other thing I would want to know, is how responsive is the dealer in your area? How long have they been in the long arm business? How many technicians do they have? Can you visit with some of their current clients (both new and old) in your area? How far away is the dealer?

    Then, how responsive is the manufacturer? What if your local dealer goes out of business. What if they don't have a local dealer? If they don't have a local dealer, what do you do when you have a serious problem? Do they send a technician? Who actually sets up the machine?

    It seems the people who have the most problems are the ones who can't get help when they are initially learning (or setting up) the machine and have problems. There are long arm groups on Facebook (some are specific to brands) and on yahoo groups. I'd join those groups and ask questions.

    Be aware that the people demonstrating at the shows are good sales people. If they weren't good at selling, the manufacturer/dealer would not have them there. Participating in trade shows is expensive, so persuasive sales people are a must. Don't be persuaded to buy something you are not sure about. Since you set March as your decision date, beware of making a decision just because it's March.

    For me, $10,000 is a lot of money. I'd want to make the best decision possible.

    This is just my uninformed opinion. Take it for what it's worth.

    bkay

  13. #13
    Power Poster Mariposa's Avatar
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    I have an HQ16, and I love it! My table is 11" long. I have the machine in a room that is 15' 6" by 9'6", and it's a great fit. I have access to all sides with ease.
    Hope you try out several different machines to see which are to your liking. I'd suggest making a "want list", and then compare the machines.
    Be a blessing to others, as you may entertain angels unaware!

  14. #14
    Super Member newbee3's Avatar
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    I bought mine used from a dealer it was cheaper and they are in the same area within 50 miles check out the dealers
    I would not go with Bernina or Viking I would go with gammil or babylock innova these are all good brands and nolting of course

  15. #15
    Senior Member petpainter's Avatar
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    Thank you all for all your responses! Paperprincess- thank you for measuring, I called the dealer a couple days ago and at that point I was asking about the Avante...she told me if I had one side against the wall I would have plenty of room. I think the footprint recommended on the website may be even a hair bigger for the Amara- of course it will be deeper due to the throat difference, but I think the width is , too. Just a couple measly feet!!!
    There is a local national teacher that moved in my town last year I met and went to her home briefly, that bought an Innova. I don't know her well but am considering calling her to see if she will let me pick her brain. She belongs to my guild. I would like to have the ability to do pantos- I didn't think so at first, but if I'm paying that much money I think I definitely want to have the option. With the Amara just coming out it has confused me on going for the new features (but no laser light for panto) or save and go with Avante if I pick Handiquilter! I'll keep studying!! Thank you all so much- you're awesome!!!

  16. #16
    Super Member redstilettos's Avatar
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    Things I learned the hard way when purchasing my longarm:
    * I can't put it against the wall. I need to be able to check the back, cut threads, or untangle birds nests etc. It happens. You will need more room than you will ever think.

    * I didn't purchase new. Longarms are touchy things, and support is a must. Unless you like the frustration of not having lessons, or technical support when things go bad.

    * Decent lighting sometimes takes on a world of its own. Lighting....GOOD lighting is a must. And get more than you "think" you will need.

    I just went back and reread your post...sorry...you were specifically asking about size.

    Get the largest size your "room" will allow....but the other posters are correct.....you won't be able to have a 10'in that space unless it is "open" to another room (i.e. no door....just open space)

    Good luck!

  17. #17
    Super Member kristakz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by petpainter View Post
    Thank you all for all your responses! Paperprincess- thank you for measuring, I called the dealer a couple days ago and at that point I was asking about the Avante...she told me if I had one side against the wall I would have plenty of room.
    She was wrong. Unless she was talking about the 8' option for the table. There is no way you can put a 10' table for ANY machine into your room and actually access the back of the machine.

  18. #18
    Power Poster feline fanatic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kristakz View Post
    She was wrong. Unless she was talking about the 8' option for the table. There is no way you can put a 10' table for ANY machine into your room and actually access the back of the machine.
    Unless she crawls under the rack to do so!

  19. #19
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    You might want to consider a sit down machine. Innova has a model that gets good reviews but I do not know anything about a sit down machine. I have an Innova 22/ 12 foot but when I took my new owners class I watched a lady sew on the sit down and she loved it.

  20. #20
    Super Member Peckish's Avatar
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    My non-guild quilt group actually started out as a kind of longarmer's support group. We would go around to each other's homes and check out each other's longarms and setups, compare tips, problems, solutions, notes, etc. We had all kinds of machines: Tin Lizzie, Handiquilter, APQS, Gammill, Nolting, Voyager, and Innova. However, most of the group has gradually moved over into Innova machines. We have a couple of HQs and a Gammill holdout, but Innova is the sweet spot, and the Innova owners in our group have no complaints, they all LOVE their machine. I think that's about the best recommendation any machine can get.

    I recommend finding someone in your area that rents time on the machine, or will give classes. That is actually the BEST way to test drive a longarm. I took longarm classes at Boersma's, an Innova dealer south of Portland. I had the chance to load the quilt on the frame, I adjusted the tension, worked on different size machines with different features, did a LOT of practice quilting, was able to pick the teacher's brains for 5 hours. Yes I paid for the class, but let me tell you, when you're making such a major purchase, $100-$150 seems like a bargain when you're trying to make the best, most well-informed decision.

  21. #21
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    I have an APQS Lenni, 20 in. 10 ft. table and it has given me no trouble. Their customer service has always been excellent. That said, I don't know about the newer machines now. They have made so many changes in the machines. I've had my machine 10 years this august and have never needed service. The tension is always good, with very little, if any, tweeking. It loves almost all threads and with that tweeking I mentioned, I haven't found the thread I can't use. It makes a beautiful stitch. It doesn't require a lot of maintenance. I'm not tall and I chose Lenni for the 20 in. throat reach. With a back problem I don't think you would want larger.
    I have a saddle stool and use it all the time, even for pantos.
    Whatever machine you choose (I would go with a longarm company) try as many as you can before deciding. They are not all created equal. And, of course, there is always the lemon factor.
    As for space, you are kind of tight, even for 10 feet. I would not go smaller than 10. That's a lot of money for not being able to make at least a full bed quilt. If you have a double closet, maybe you could put one end of the table in there, then you could walk around the other end. Or maybe the table could be placed at an angle coming out from a corner. Just some ideas.
    Jan

  22. #22
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    Another show in February that might work for you.

    http://www.pslcrazyquilters.com/2018-show.html

    Check out the vendor list. Good luck on your decision.

  23. #23
    Super Member patski's Avatar
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    You need about 2 feet on each side and at least 3 feet front and back. I am a size 10 and I need that much room to get around. You might be better off with the smaller frames they make now.
    Patski
    always learning

  24. #24
    Senior Member petpainter's Avatar
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    I spoke to an Innova dealer today and she said they can make a 9 foot frame- but I do want to be able to make a queen top- that being said, she also said they can put casters on the frame to move it around so I can get behind it to do pantos etc. I can move it on an angle to get behind it. I have plenty of space for the width. I really need to physically see one in person to measure and picture it exactly- not by what they recommend since everyone has a different opinion. I did remeasure and the room is a few inches bigger than I thought! I think I see a big diet in my future to move around lol!

  25. #25
    Senior Member petpainter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rhonda K View Post
    Another show in February that might work for you.

    http://www.pslcrazyquilters.com/2018-show.html

    Check out the vendor list. Good luck on your decision.
    Thanks Rhonda- My guild Seaside Piecemakers has our show in Melbourne in Feb also- not too far from PSL!!

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