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Thread: quilting machines

  1. #1
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    I was talking to my local sewing machine shop owner and he discouragaed me from getting a long arm for just myself to use if I was not going to quilt for other people. He also said the frame does not come in pieces and you must have a straight shot into a room because you can not turn with the pieces. Can anyone tell me about quilting machines and frames as I am interested in purchasing for doing my quilts only. Thanks in advance for your help.

  2. #2
    Super Member Maride's Avatar
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    I am not in the market, but if I was my first choice would be something that does the job but not tak much room. I have my eye out for this:

    http://www.apqs.com/machines_george.php

    or

    http://www.quilttrends.com/hq16.asp?...FYKB3godwlb4RA and go to the link that reads Sit down Version


    I like to move the quilt rather than the machine and these smaller machines are more appealing to me.

    Hope this helps,

    Maria

  3. #3
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    I will say that your dealer is partly correct. Most frames come in different sizes, with some being adjustable for size. Usually you purchase a frame in the length you want. If it's a frame like the Hinterburg, you actually purchase a frame kit and purchase your rails locally when you assemble the frame. It uses simple electrical conduit.

    I recently posted this on another board that I frequent. If you have any questions I'll try to answer them,but I have been researching for a couple of months and this might save you some time. Sorry about the length but it is not a subject that you can cover quickly.

    "Along with many other members on this board, we are shopping for a longarm sewing machine. I have been asked by other members to share my research and experiences with the board. So here goes.....

    One of the first things that we found out is that there are several different types of "Longarms" in the market place. The market is basically divided into 3 segments, true longarm machines, mid-arm machines, and short arm machines. The designations refer to the length of the arm the machine has. It's important because it dictates the amount of quilting area that you can access at one pass of the machine. It is determined by the amount of space between the sewing head and the support of the arm the head is connected to or throat space. It ranges anywhere from 8 inches to over 30 inches. The sewing machine is mounted on a roller carriage, that rolls front to back and side to side.

    Shortarms are usually anything with up to 12 inches of throat space. There are several machines in this range and are usually a great value for someone that is quilting for themselves or has a small sewing area to work in. They are usable on inexpensive frames usually designed for home use. Some of the frames made by the Grace Co. and other vendors work very well with these machines.

    Mid-arms encompass machines from 12 inches up to 18 inches of throat space, which allows a greater quilting area. Many of the machines are available with a dedicated frame usually table mounted or an actual table mounted frame. They have an attendant increase in investment for the increased capability and they begin to have space issues, they take up a good amount of floor space. Some offer front and rear controls either as standard equipment or optional accessories. It's something that you need to find out if you are shopping in this area. It can add a significant expense to the machine and it is really something that you need to utilize the full capability of the machine. Rear control comes into play if you plan on using pantographs, which are printed quilting patterns that you follow with a stylus, usually a laser light. Sometimes the laser is included, sometimes not.

    Longarms encompass machines over 18 to 20 inches. They have a quilting area that can range from 10 to over 20 inches. They will almost always have a table mounted frame that is brand specific to the machine. Depending on the throat space and length of the frame, they range anywhere from 8 to 14 feet in length, they cover a huge amount of floor space. Consider a machine with a 12 foot frame and 26 inches of throat space, for front and rear access consumes a space of almost 16 feet by 8 feet. All will have space for mounting pantographs and usually the laser guiding light is standard. They range in price from under $10,000 to over $35,000 for a complete robotic quilting machine, where you just push a button and the machine quilts fro you. They are available from several different manufacturers.

    That covers the basic classifications. When shopping you'll find everybody in the market place touts their machine as the end all, to do all. Don't be be swayed by all the advertising hoopla. Choosing a machine is a very PERSONAL decision. Each machine will have subtile nuances unique to that machine or brand. You need to test drive the machines you are interested in and not for 5 minutes. You might find that after 20 minutes the machine which looks great and sews great starts to make your back hurt or the controls give you carpel tunnel. Remember you are going to be using the machine for long stretches at a time.

    The most important thing to shop for is Customer Support both from the dealer and the manufacturer.

    Purchasing a machine is like purchasing an automobile, options and more options, which ones do you choose ?

    Stitch Regulator, does it come standard or it it an option ? Do you want one ? Personally, I'm not that smooth, so I want one. A SR gives you nice even stitches not matter how fast or slow you move the head, most of the time. You can over run the SR and end up with uneven stitches. What type of SR is it ? Is it computer controlled or a manual control ? A computer controlled unit is better because it uses sensors to sense head speed and balances stitch length according to movement of the head. Is the SR adjustable? Some stitch regulators have different settings for overrun speeds and the way it operates. Can it be used in idle mode ? In idle mode the needle is always moving even when the head isn't. The needle slowly goes up and down and speeds up when you move the head. How does the SR react when you make rapid movements ? Does it square off small curves ? Useful to know if you do small stipples, you wouldn't like squared off stipples would you ? If it has an idle mode can it be switched between modes without stopping ? If it works in other modes, there are instances where you might want to work in idle mode, for instance if you are doing a bunch of direction changes, it's nice to have the needle moving all the time so you don't have large stitches when you quickly change direction. If you are doing a nice smooth pattern, with an adjustable SR you can turn off the idle and have the machine run only when you move the head. Lot's of stuff to consider.

    Table options are numerous. Things to look for, does it have channel locks ? Channel locks are nice, they lock the carriage channels in either or both of it's ranges of motion. Great if you want to quilt parallel lines or cross hatch. Access to the batting, you'll sometimes need to remove errant threads or want to do trapunto. Can a light bar be added ? If options are available, can they be added at later times ? Motorized fabric advance, table height adjustment ? All of these options and more are available. You might say no to one initially, and then decide it's a feature that you really want. Remember, that to quilt a full size king size quit you need at least a 12 foot long table, and that even at 12 feet you still lose usually 12 to 15 inches of quilting space because of the size of the machine.

    I know that this information just touches the surface of purchasing a quilting machine. It's a decision that you really have to do your homework on and refine your decision on the fly. Once you start testing machines you begin to find things that you like and things that you dislike. I look for how the machine moves on the table. Is it smooth or kinda herky jerky ? What's the noise level like ? Does it vibrate ? How are the controls laid out ? Are they easy to use and in an accessible place or adjustable ? How are the ergonomics of the machine ? How easy is it to maintain and repair. Most of the time you are on your own when it comes to maintenance and minor repairs. There are a few machines on the market that ship with a timing tool so you can time the machine yourself. Are you up to the task ? I'm 6'2" tall what fits me probably won't fit you. I've developed some favorite machines and then crossed them off the list because of lack of customer support or they just didn't feel right. You'll develop a short list of machines that you like. I'll post a couple of reviews later with likes and dislikes from my point of view."


  4. #4
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    I have a Grace frame...the GMQ Pro....which comes flat, unassembled. You will need to have someone assemble it for you. It takes several hours as there are hundreds of screws and nut and bolts.

    I also bought a Bailey 13" Home Quilter. These also come in 15" size.

    I have been pleased with mine and have finally decided that it is not necessary to do all the intricate stuff a long arm can do. It is possible, but at age 75 I do not want to spend the rest of my life quilting in tiny segments. Or making feathers, etc.

    I have given myself permission to be "free wheeling" in my quilting and now I can do a quilt a whole lot quicker than I once did. I do free motion and have developed some of my own designs, that appear to be meander since they are in no way regimented over the quilt. It fits my style. Free-wheeling and Free-flowing fits with Free-Spirit.

    There are all sorts of frames and machines to fit all sorts of needs. This one is a good fit for me. I am very happy with my purchase.

    I trust you will find just the right thing.

    Continue to ask questions. I joined 4 Forums to gather information before I chose the Bailey. I had nearly decided, then would go back to something else. I took 8 months to decide mostly because we were having our basement finished and I could not get it until the room was ready. This was once when time was a luxury.

    Best wishes for your search and final decision.

    June

  5. #5
    Senior Member Shelley's Avatar
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    You'd be amazed at how small a space people can put a true longarm in. I visited a new friend last week. She had a 12' A1 in the back bedroom of her single wide manufactured home. They had taken the doors off the closet, and part of the machine was in the closet. To get to the back of her machine, she had about a foot at one end to squeeze thru. Luckily, she's a teenie tiny thing. I'd have to take off the batting roll rod, and stop, drop, and roll to get from front to back! I have no idea how they got it in there, I would have guessed it to be impossible, but they did it!!

    The dealer that sold my A1 to me said that 75%-80% of the machines she sells are to people who are not going into business, they are doing their own quilts.

  6. #6
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    Actually, a lot of people have long arm machine setups for doing just their own quilting. It's becoming more and more common. Many people who have tried to take in quilting jobs as a business quit because it can be frustrating when people bring in tops that don't lie flat, are crooked, have weak seams, etc.

    For lots of information and advice, try joining the homequiltingsystems group at http://groups.yahoo.com . Quilters have all different kinds of setups depending on what kind of quilts they do, how much room space they have, how much money they can spend, etc. I'm not sure, but it seems to me that most of the quilters there use long-arms just for their own quilting.

  7. #7
    Super Member butterflywing's Avatar
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    i have the tin lizzie 18"-er. the machine comes alone, of course. the frame is a wood one (hinterberg) that comes flat with instructions. the poles are ones that you buy at your local home depot. because everything is shipped flat and assembled by you (or a paid assembler) at home, you can put it wherever you like, according to the length poles. i have chosen 10' poles. 120" is more than i will ever need. if necessary i will do a larger quilt or bedspread in 2 parts (highly unlikely). dh had no problem trying it out in several rooms and we decided on the basement, which was around a sharp corner, down a full flight of stairs, and around another sharp corner.

    i don't understand why your guy would say that. there are so many machine/frame setups that fit through odd places. also, many quilters are buying for themselves, not to make money. a lot of setups are reasonable :?: in price (around $5 - 7000) not the really high prices that used to be the only choices. is he trying to prevent you from buying something that he doesn't sell or doesn't service?

  8. #8
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    I really think now that is what he was doing since he doesn't sell them

  9. #9
    Super Member butterflywing's Avatar
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    bad, bad man. shame on him :hunf:

  10. #10
    Super Member azam's Avatar
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    I have a a Tin Lizzie 18 along with a Pinnacle Frame. The frame comes with everything you need to assemble it, no need to buy extra parts. I have it set up for king sized quilts, 120". My DH put it together in a few hours. We carried it up a flight of stairs around two sharp corners with no problem. As far as servicing, my DH does that too, we called Ernie and he told us how. By the way, I didn't buy it to make money, I bought it so that I could finish all the tops that I had accumulated. Sure beats trying to quilt them on a small machine. Hope this helps :!:

  11. #11
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    I believe that your dealer wasn't knowledgeable and was covering up for his lack of knowledge by using the head in the sand technique.

    Just make sure that you test drive the different machines and find one that fits you and your style. It's more important than buying this or that brand. You might not like the machine I do, it might be noisier or vibrate more than you like. Don't listen to what anyone else says, see for yourself. It's going to be your machine not theirs. I've test driven 8 different machine, of which I'd purchase only one. They are all different, some the prices were insane, Gammill for example, some were too hard to operate, some were heavy and others moved too easy for me.

    Good luck with your shopping and I'm sure once you weed through them you'll find YOUR machine.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Stitching4Fun's Avatar
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    I have the Hobby Quilter (now called the Fun Quilter) by Nolting. It has a 17" throat. I have it on the Hinterburg frame. I purchased them separately. And I did purchase the rails for my frame. And they do come apart. Mine has been moved from one room to another. I can not imagine the shipping that would be done on these if they were put together.

    I like my machine. Of course, I haven't tried any of the other ones. When I got it, I had to go with one that was in my price range. I tried it before I bought it also. And I did get a free learning class after I purchased it.

    I don't quilt for other people. My daughter makes alot of quilts as gifts and she uses it from time to time. I do make quilts as gifts also and since I bought it, I find myself making more for myself. I did send them away at first, but my problem.............the wait to get them back. Now I just do it at my leisure, but I can get it done so much faster. And when in a time crunch to make something...........it is so available!!!

    My grandson used it when I first got it. I was practicing on it with sandwiched muslin and I let him glide the machine around and make designs. He was about 5 at the time. He had to stand on a stool, but he enjoyed it. So see, it is so easy to use a 5 yr old can do it!!

    I love having mine and now don't know what I would do without it.

    Barb

  13. #13
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    You have done some great research I'm sure those that are looking for a quilting machine really appreicate your knowledge. I hope they find exactly what they are looking for.

  14. #14
    Super Member butterflywing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by azam
    I have a a Tin Lizzie 18 along with a Pinnacle Frame. The frame comes with everything you need to assemble it, no need to buy extra parts. I have it set up for king sized quilts, 120". My DH put it together in a few hours. We carried it up a flight of stairs around two sharp corners with no problem. As far as servicing, my DH does that too, we called Ernie and he told us how. By the way, I didn't buy it to make money, I bought it so that I could finish all the tops that I had accumulated. Sure beats trying to quilt them on a small machine. Hope this helps :!:
    hi azam,

    mine is also 120". i shoot for a 95 - 98" quilt and call it a queen size, because my antique bed is so high off the floor. add to that today's high mattress and box spring sets and wow! you really need that extra. if i had a king bed i don't know how big the quilt would have to be with the tall mattress/box spring sets. you still need enough to cover the box spring with the drop. by having the hinterberg frame, we could have gotten the poles a little longer. eeek! it would be sticking out the window with that setup :roll: .

    for a king, what size do you try for? i leave a blank area on the sides to refill the bobbins. do you? and how do you reach underneath to snip off the threads at the end of each pattern? enquiring minds want to know.

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    thanks everyone. I now know a quilting system WILL go upstairs. I thought maybe the rollers were the full length but they come in pieces. My dealer told me they come full length. Now I have to find some places where they sell them so I can try some out. I live in a very small town and anything of any size is at least 100 miles away.

  16. #16
    Super Member shaverg's Avatar
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    You should get Harriet Hargrave's heirloom machine quilting book. She was one of the first people that started machine quilting in the early 80's. Her work is beautiful and she does King and Queen size quilts with a regular bernina. She has great tips. You should be able to get it at the library, she is terrific.

    I am just starting to really machine quilt after 20+ years, but after reading her book. I feel I can do it with my Bernina, and not have to buy a longarm. But it is all preference.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by butterflyquilter
    I was talking to my local sewing machine shop owner and he discouragaed me from getting a long arm for just myself to use if I was not going to quilt for other people. He also said the frame does not come in pieces and you must have a straight shot into a room because you can not turn with the pieces.
    My husband didn't buy his hobby car so he could charge other people for riding in it, nor did we buy our photography equipment with the idea of making money. I did fine without a long arm for a long time, but I'm having a blast with it now, as are a couple of friends. That's the whole point of a hobby, isn't it?

    I had a Grace frame that I liked a lot, but I couldn't fit the king-size extension in the room. I now have a Handi Quilter (more of a mid-arm) that fits in the same space but enables me to do quilts up to 120" wide. I had one 4-hour training session at the dealer's store, and one 3-hour session in my home once I got the thing assembled, both free of charge. If you can get instruction, I recommend it.

    The Grace frame came in a bazillion pieces, but I wanted to do it myself so I could understand it better. It did take much longer than the "one afternoon" they told me to expect. The HQ16 table was incredibly easy to assemble, and I only needed help lifting the 50-pound machine itself up onto the tracks.

    I spent an entire day trying out every machine at the Pacific International Quilt Festival. It was a great way to spend a day, and I paid special attention to who offered training. I know Tin Lizzie and HQ come with instruction. I'm pretty sure Gammill does, too. Try them all, even if you don't think you'd like them. I was set on Tin Lizzie, but sometimes you're surprised. Have fun with the process of deciding.

  18. #18
    Senior Member k_jupiter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shaverg
    You should get Harriet Hargrave's heirloom machine quilting book. She was one of the first people that started machine quilting in the early 80's. Her work is beautiful and she does King and Queen size quilts with a regular bernina. She has great tips. You should be able to get it at the library, she is terrific.

    I am just starting to really machine quilt after 20+ years, but after reading her book. I feel I can do it with my Bernina, and not have to buy a longarm. But it is all preference.
    Ya, little known fact is Harriet plays middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears and has arms to prove it. Love her books though.

    I have done a queen size quilt on my old Bernina 830. There are pictures on this board somewhere to prove it. I am thinking there is a Tin Lizzy somewhere in my future because I don't want to do that again. I am a big old 220 lb guy with some serious upper body strength and I'll tell ya, wrasslin that much fabric through the machine that many times and still having limited ability to do FMQing is a drag, not to mention tiring.

    But... we all have to prove it to ourselves and I look forward to seeing some of your work.

    tim in san jose

  19. #19
    Super Member butterflywing's Avatar
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    butterflyquilter,

    be patient and wait for the next big show. all the venders are there and you can try them all out and compare. they will answer any questions and they are the most knowledgeable. you will see features that you never thought to ask about. sometimes, they will sell the sales model right off the floor at a discount. that's usually a really good deal. always ask about that. they sometimes don't want to ship them to the next show. they would rather sell them and be done with it and start out fresh. especially if the next show is across the country and they won't have time to break down and set up again quickly. so they can be having the next one setting up already while you're taking this one away. if you have transportation, no shipping. always ask.

  20. #20
    Super Member azam's Avatar
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    Hi Butterflywing,
    To be honest with you I haven't yet quilted a King size quilt, but the frame is set up so that I can. Sometimes, though, I attach my quilt to the feeder cloths by the sides rather than the top and bottom. This gives me more workable space before I have to roll it, which I love.
    I do leave a blank area on the sides so that I can check my stitches before I actually sew on my quilt. As far as filling the bobbin, I fill it as I'm quilting. I buy two of the same color thread and away I go. Eventually, all the thread is used up but it takes a while (several quilts).
    I don't snip any threads on the bottom. I pull the thread up to the top, take a stitch or two with the needle in the needle down position, tie off the top and bobbin threads and snip the thread leaving it long enough(approx. 1.5 " - 2") to tie it and hide the threads. Using a self threading sewing needle (needle with a slit at the top of the eye) I weave both threads through the batting pulling the knot so it gets hidden in the batting. The self threading needle is a must, the thread just slips through the slit no need to try to put the thread through the eye the conventional way. I do the same when I end the motif, I pull the bobbin thread to the top, tie it off and hide it in in the batting.
    I like doing it this way because I know it's secure and you can't tell where I started and ended. It looks professional, like I know what I'm doing, ha, ha! :lol: Hope this helps! Please let me know. :-) Happy quilting :!:

  21. #21
    Super Member butterflywing's Avatar
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    hi azam.

    good idea about cutting the thread. i'll try it next quilt. the reason i worry about king sized ones is i make my queens square, but with a king they wouldn't be. they could still be 98" (which would be top to bottom) across and whatever up and down. i guess about 120" for a 20" drop.

  22. #22
    Power Poster sandpat's Avatar
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    Thanks for starting this thread...its very interesting and has some great information. I have quilted all of my quilts..(including several large size queens) on either my old Singer or my regular 200E Bernina. I don't have any trouble really moving it around (and Tim...I"m 5', 110 lbs.)

    I guess its what you are used to. I'm sure that if I tried one of the larger machines, I would never do one on my regular little machine again! I know that I would LOVE to have a mid-arm at least some day, but for now...I'll just bookmark this thread for my beginning research.

  23. #23
    Super Member shaverg's Avatar
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    Thanks, Sandpat,

    I thought Tim was being a little condesending toward me.

  24. #24
    Senior Member k_jupiter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shaverg
    Thanks, Sandpat,

    I thought Tim was being a little condesending toward me.
    Huh?

    I don't know you. You said nothing stupid. Why would I be condescending?

    I relate my experiences, you either take those observations or you ignore them.

    tim in san jose



  25. #25
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    I have done my first quilt on a Little Gracie II with a Janome 1600 DBX. In my opinion I have mixed reviews. The frame is very good and easy to maneuver. But I wish I had explored further the Bailey 13" mid-arm machine. I make 12" blocks and my Janome only has 9". Lots of stops to advance and it's hard to pick up in just the right spot. I found the frame very hard to assemble and finally called and got the videa. They should have sent it with the package! Would have saved a lot of frustration. I got the thread cutter and find that it pulls the top thread down when it cuts. So then I need to clip all those short little pieces from the back. The platform maneuvers easily, but the Janome is very heavy and it is hard to make smooth patterns. So I guess my feeling is that I like the frame very much, but have frustration and some buyers remorse with the Janome. Thanks for letting me vent!

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