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Thread: Quilting Machines- Domestic, Small, Long-Arm

  1. #1
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    Quilting Machines- Domestic, Small, Long-Arm

    I am a new quilter and just finished my first two quilts (cribs). I quilted them on my sewing/embroidery machine just using straight stitch. I know I can't do a queen/king quilt on my machine (or can I?). I want to make quilts for my family (next is grandson's wedding - already have cut out) and know I can take it to a LA place to quilt, but I want family quilts to be done completely by me.

    I am so confused whether to purchase something for quilting - Something like a Sweet Sixteen/Tiara III or something bigger like a small long-arm (Coronet). Will I be in the same shape if I buy a table quilter? I know these are for free-motion, but will I regret not being able to add digital later? Of course, place to put it and funds are always a large consideration, but I don't want to regret later what I have purchased.

    I just know enough about this to be be confused (or maybe dangerous - HA). Any thoughts and suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you for help!!!
    Last edited by Little Lulu; 05-05-2018 at 05:17 AM.

  2. #2
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    The biggest advantage of mid or long arm machine is that you do not have to sandwich the quilt. The top and backing are loaded on the roller bars and the batting is tucked in between. I do not like the "sandwich" process... and that was why I purchased a long arm machine. Big decision - but have never been sorry!! Good Luck!

  3. #3
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    Midarms and Longarms are a big investment. I suggest that you attend a quilt show that will have longarm and midarm vendors and just visit with each of them and try the machines. This is a very important decision and one that is made based on your particular needs. Midarm machines will only quilt up to a certain size so if you are going to be quilting large quilts that is not the machine that you will need. If you do a Google search you will find tons of information about buying quilting systems.

  4. #4
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    If you have room for a stand-up longarm, that is probably the way to go, unless you are sure you would not want to work standing up, or are sure you would want more tactile connection with your quilt. I think the effort to move the quilt under the needle as opposed to moving the needle over the quilt is the most significant difference between a sit-down and a stand-up machine (but I am one who does not mind basting).
    Lisa

  5. #5
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    A couple thoughts for you, Lulu:

    1) You can quilt whatever size you want on your machine, but it will really depend on how much patience and effort you want to put into it, and whether you have any physical limitations (arthritis, illnesses, bad back, etc). I do all of my piecing and quilting on a small domestic that has a 6.5" harp and I've free motion quilted king sized quilts, queen quilts, and many twin/lap sized quilts. I am a relatively new quilter, started in 2012, and when I started, I wasn't sure how much I would like it so I didn't want to invest in a super expensive machine only to have it sit there unused. I built a cheap foam insulation topper for my table to fake inset my machine so that the surface is level, and that makes everything much easier. It is definitely a lot of work to wrangle a large quilt through a small machine, but we are limited on space and funds, so this works for me.

    2) You can rent time on a longarm. Many quilt shops offer this service where you can purchase a class from them to learn how to load and use their longarm, then you can rent time on it for an hourly fee. That way, the quilt is still made entirely by you, but you're just using someone else's machine. This is what I'm looking at once my tots are bigger, since space is a limitation and the cost is a big factor for us right now. It's $20/hr for me to rent time on the longarm at the shop that I frequent, so you may want to check around for your area.

    3) I've read often from members here on the board and other reviews/blogs where there are other issues with owning a longarm that don't crop up with a domestic. Making sure your frame is level is very important. Some people don't have a dead bar on their frame? Tension, just like on a domestic, can be a headache on a longarm. Some longarms are finicky about threads and you can throw off the timing if you hit a very bulky seam. Some longarms require yearly maintenance and some don't. Some require more frequent oiling in multiple spots, and some require oiling in just one or two spots. How the machine feels as you move it is so important, and again if you have any back/shoulder issues, this would be important to know how you feel about doing the motion for hours. You also lose about 5-6" of harp space due to the roller and quilt as you quilt more, so a smaller machine with a 16" harp will only allow you about 10" of quilting space. Most quilt blocks are 12", so it's difficult to do a custom design inside a block without having to advance the quilt.

    As others have mentioned, you should definitely try out as many as you can, and for as long as you can. I'm happy to move the quilt, and I glue baste so at least basting isn't as terrible as it could be. I'd love a longarm, but that's not really a possibility for me currently, however much I may dream about it. I plan to rent time on the shop's longarm once life allows, and that will also show me if I really want to own one or not, and if I will use it enough to justify the cost for myself.

    Hope that helps!

  6. #6
    Super Member Kitsie's Avatar
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    Sephie, thanks so much for all the information! I have only quilted very simply on my Pfaff which has a 9" throat and it worked very well. I usually hand quilt now, but do really appreciate your knowledge!
    http://s1248.photobucket.com/albums/hh485/KitsieH/
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    Hehe, I thought of more things!

    Shoving a big quilt through a small harp on a machine is no easy task either, so it's very physically demanding, but at least you're sitting while you're doing it. I've read that some people get a saddle stool or something so they can sit while they longarm, but then you have to constantly move the stool too - I imagine they make rollers you can put on them? No idea how that would feel. Apparently loading the quilt can also be challenging the first few times (or more?) that you do it but I know that experienced longarmers can load very quickly.

    On a sit down machine, like a Tiara or a Sweet Sixteen, you still have to baste. I believe you cannot glue baste with these machines? Not sure on that, so hopefully someone can weigh in on that. You still have to move the quilt though, and some have built the suspension system that hangs from the ceiling so the quilt is supported and is easier to move. Not necessary, but it's another idea to consider if you don't like the weight of the quilt as you move it.

    You cannot use pantographs on a sit down like you can with a longarm on a frame. I mean, you can, but you have to somehow transfer the marking (needle punch then transfer like a stencil), or copy it a ton of times, attach, and stitch through it, then remove the paper later. So, not like on a longarm

    Ruler work is different, since you have to hold down the ruler while holding the quilt while pushing it through the machine! On a longarm, I believe you hold down the ruler with one hand and move the head of the machine with the other.

    A sit down is purely a free motion quilting machine. It doesn't have feed dogs. There are sewing machines that have 11-12" harps that can also do embroidery and regular sewing but they also cost a pretty penny. If you want a machine that does "more", that could be a consideration for you since it could replace your current machine and then it's not just a unitasker (only does one task) taking up space. Space is at a premium for us right now so I'm not willing to give up the space for a sit down either.

    You'll want to consider how many quilts you're thinking about making, and how often you would use the machine, and weigh that against cost, space, enjoyment, and anything else you can think of. Have you tried any of the machines yet? Some people love/hate certain ones. Everyone's brain works differently - some do better moving the pencil, and some do better moving the paper. Stitch regulator or not? How steady is your foot and steady your hands? Different brands have different regulators and some work better than others (both sit down and standing). Some quilters hate basting, so while you don't have to baste with a longarm, you do have to load the quilt and that takes time too. I can glue baste a quilt in well under an hour, but then I have to either wait for it to dry or iron it, and I have to move all the toys to make enough space to do it

  8. #8
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    You can quilt a big quilt in parts which cuts down the difficulty of quilting a big quilt by domestic machine. There are books and Craftsy classes about how to do this

  9. #9
    Power Poster dunster's Avatar
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    Machine Quilting in Sections, by Marti Michell, is a great book for learning to quilt in sections. I did that until I got a longarm.

  10. #10
    Super Member Watson's Avatar
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    One thing you have to consider between a sit down and a long arm is whether you are a push the quilt kind of person or a push the machine kind of person.
    I can do some decent FMQ on a domestic machine and have done queen sized quilts on my domestic. I have also rented time on a long arm and I have recently purchased a short arm on a frame, where you move the machine. I am terrible on the long arm/frame and just cannot do free motion at all.
    I am beginning to believe that I am a "push the fabric" kind of girl and prefer to sit down and be close to the needle and the fabric to create the designs.
    You really should try both the mid arm and the long arm and see which you prefer, if possible. It also seems to me, and I could be wrong here but from what I've read and experienced, that the long arm/frame has a much bigger learning curve than the sit down.

    Watson
    Last edited by Watson; 05-05-2018 at 11:06 AM.

  11. #11
    Super Member deedum's Avatar
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    I have done queen size quilts on my old 1946 Singer. Getting ready to FM a King size. This of course is a bit more work, but I am always pleased with the results. No desire to for anything else here. It just depends on your needs and wants and price factor. One thing to consider, when buying a longarm or mid, will you feel you need to quilt for others to offset the cost? that is a whole new subject in itself.

  12. #12
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    Welcome and happy quilting!

    I'm not sure that you have to make a "final" choice over long arm on a frame or a sit down machine. I have an HQ16 I bought used. The original owner bought the hq16 as a sit down and later converted it to work on a frame, with a computerized software/hardware combination.

    So ask about that before you purchase anything.

    There are pros and cons to either set up. The decision was made for me by my fibromyalgia, inherited neuropathy and the back, shoulder, arm and hand pain I would be in if I were to free motion quilt on a table. Just not possible.

    I still deal with pain on the frame set up, but I can sit down after I get each row lined up to quilt and start the machine. (I do have to stay with the quilt while the machine does it's thing, because, well, stuff happens when you walk away.) On a good day, I can get 3 - 4 rows of quilting done on a quilt. On a medium day, I can usually get a quilt mounted, and maybe a row done. Some days, i don't quilt at all.

    My HQ16 has not been professionally serviced since I bought it used in 2010. My DH takes it off the frame every 18 months and cleans it, makes sure everything is where it looks like it should be, and so on. My timing was off for a while, but it turned out a straight pin had managed to get itself into the needle area and was causing some ugliness. After it was removed, all was well.

    It has not needed oiling anywhere but at the bobbin hook, and that matches what the manual says. It is greased inside, not oiled. Usually, the only dust/lint found in it is in the needle/bobbin area. I use Connecting Threads polyester cones for quilting, and it works well.

    The bobbin area needs to be cleaned after every 8 hours of quilting, but it is easier to remember to do it after you finish a quilt. I usually take the needle plate off while cleaning, so that is as clean as can be, too. Note that when quilting flannel or fleece, the bobbin/needle area need to be cleaned more frequently.

    Tension problems can/do occur. At this point, it usually means I threaded the machine wrong or put the bobbin in backwards. Sometimes it means that my thread is extra linty, so it doesn't feed correctly. However, tension can be a huge problem when you are learning to use your machine, because you are learning to use your machine. The last time the tension was a big problem for me my bobbin case had worn out. It looked ok, but one day it just fell apart.

    That was a clue! I bought a new bobbin case - it was like a miracle occurred!

    The only thing bad I can say about the HQ16 is that the manual is way too skimpy. It gives very high level instructions, but doesn't go into great detail about anything. Fortunately, we have the internet and You Tube...
    Last edited by cathyvv; 05-05-2018 at 02:51 PM.
    A quilt is like a good life. It's full of mistakes, but, in the end, it looks pretty good.

  13. #13
    Super Member cashs_mom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dunster View Post
    Machine Quilting in Sections, by Marti Michell, is a great book for learning to quilt in sections. I did that until I got a longarm.
    I did a king sized quilt using her method on my older Bernina. The throat is quite small on this machine and it was still a bit of a challenge, but I was able to do it.
    Patrice S

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  14. #14
    Super Member AliKat's Avatar
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    For now you might want your budget and space available to help make your decision.
    I've quilted a large quilt on my DSM. It was a bit tedious. Since then I've only done one other very large quilt. The rest are large throws.
    I do have a HQ Avante and love it. 5 years no interest loan. Glad I got it. Though thereis no longer a guest bedroom in my home. There is now a studio.
    Have fun quilting! If it isn't fun, you will miss a lot.
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    Guess it would depend on your budget. I machine quilt all my quilts on my domestic machine, even king size. I have a Janome 6600 with a 9" harp space so that helps.

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    THANK YOU EVERYONE for taking the time and sharing with me. I have learned so much reading from your expertise, knowledge, and suggestions. I will keep all of this in mind. I didn't know about renting time; I definitely will be checking into that as well. THANKS again.

  17. #17
    Member crzypatcher's Avatar
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    I glue baste and do my quilting on a sit down Sweet 16. I have not encountered any problems. I spray basted a few times and it gummed up my needle so I was constantly having to clean it off.

  18. #18
    Power Poster solstice3's Avatar
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    I have the Tiara. It was a learning curve but the price was right compared to some of the other options. I just need more space on either side for bigger projects so I could exten with folding table etc (sewing room is cramped)

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    Thanks, crzypatcher. I've been curious about that myself, so thanks for chiming in.

  20. #20
    Power Poster sewbizgirl's Avatar
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    I would definitely quilt on your DM for a while before getting anything bigger for quilting. You need the practice to learn the mechanics of FMQ before jumping to a longarm, or you may be disappointed that the machine does not just do the quilting for you.

    Have you considered Quilt As You Go as a technique for quilting big quilts on your DSM? It gives you a great opportunity to learn free motion, without having to struggle with the weight of a big quilt. I've had great results with it.
    http://www.etsy.com/shop/sewbizgirl
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    I think you have been given excellent detailed advice, but I would like to add that you should give this decision some time. Give yourself a chance to explore ALL options including quilt as you go and using your embroidery machine. I have found that I love my Janome 14000 in embroidery mode for quilting "special" quilts and I am working on building my FMQ skills on my Juki 2010. Let yourself enjoy the process of evolving into what is most comfortable and enjoyable for you.
    "The great doing of little things makes the great life." Eugena Price

  22. #22
    Super Member Wanabee Quiltin's Avatar
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    i have a HQ Avante long arm and dealing with the tension is pretty awful. I went to a busy quilt store the other day that does long arm work for customers and they had two long arms working on quilts. I asked if they ever had problems with the tension and the clerk said “All the time”. So if you are thinking about a long arm, be prepared. It’s not fun trying to fix the tension and it’s nothing like a regular sewing machine.

  23. #23
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    I w-a-n-t-e-d a longarm but I did not feel I could afford it. Like you, I wanted to “make the whole thing myself”. I rented from a couple local shops (different brand of machines). This only intensified my desire to own my own machine... :-). I did get my own machine, without the computer, and have never looked back.

    Aside from cost and space, the most important reason for my decision on the brand of machine I bought was—local service and support!!! I am very happy with my machine, but again and most important, if I need assistance all I have to do is pick up the phone and make an appointment. I do not have to pack up my machine and mail it to Iowa or Utah or wherever they are made.

  24. #24
    Super Member ccthomas's Avatar
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    Do you have a photo of your foam insulation topper. Did you find a link for building your system?
    Carol

  25. #25
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    It is so cheap and so, so easy! It just took a little time, and it's probably the best thing I've spent money on for our hobby.

    Marguerita McManus has videos up on Youtube showing the tutorial for it. You custom build it for your sewing machine! So perfect. https://youtu.be/g14govA4pIM

    She did a couple videos on it - I can't remember if you actually need to watch them all or not, but I did. You may not be able to find the super thick blue insulation that she used. I think the thickest they had at my home improvement store was maybe 1.25 inches? I can't remember now, but it's this purple/pink color with the pink panther on it I got the vinyl covering at my local big box store for a couple bucks. It was supposed to be a table protector/table cloth type thing. I used packing tape to tape it down around my foam so that the edges were covered. Just like wrapping a present.

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