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Thread: Should I invest in a long arm?

  1. #1
    Junior Member kcferrel's Avatar
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    Should I invest in a long arm?

    I am seeking feedback and thoughts on purchasing a longarm. I am considering the Babylock Crown Jewel and frame. I attended HMQS last week and have made an offer.
    My arguments for: I have the interest and passion for Fmq and I have the room in my house. I am fairly new to quilting, around 2 years. I have taken many hours of workshops in quilting the quilt and i am getting competent.
    How difficult is it to start a longarm quilting business?
    I am afraid that if I start taking in outside work I may burn out and be left with a large investment.
    I have been looking for a used long arm but honestly, this set up new cost less than most of the used machines I have found. Thoughts? Ideas? Gotchas?
    i would need to take in quilting to offset the cost of the machine, or I could rent time to other quilters?
    thank you, there is a wealth of knowledge and experience in this form.

  2. #2
    Power Poster feline fanatic's Avatar
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    Some things to consider:
    How many other machines have you tried besides this one?
    What happens if you don't get enough jobs to make the monthly payment?
    There is a lot more to purchase besides the basic setup, threads, batting, needles, tools.. and all things for LA are pricier than for regular sewing machines, at least it seems that way to me.
    Do you have any business plan at all on getting clients?
    Do you have the time to quilt for others?
    After making such a huge investment would you really want strangers renting time on your machine? What happens if they break it?

    Getting a LA is big investment. I saved for over a year to purchase mine and I still work full time so I only quilt on weekends and the occasional weeknight when I am not too tired. Thankfully I don't have to depend on clients to make payments because I am sure that would totally stress me out and I wouldn't enjoy it as much. Not to mention how scared I would be when I don't have any client quilts lined up. I also bought the dealer demo model to save on the cost.

    I don't want to be all doom and gloom because I love it and wouldn't give it up and I have absolutely no regrets, but I also found out I have a natural talent for LA quilting. I have read many stories of people who made the huge investment and did not have the patience to put in the practice. They expected too much too soon and got frustrated and gave up.

    Ultimately this only a decision you can make. There are many things to consider

  3. #3
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    I own a Gammill and an Empress. I am very inpressed by the Empress and sell them in my shop. They come with the Grace framestitch regulater, winds a bobbin as you sew lazer light and sight over the orking area. It is super easy to run and if you can doodle on paper you can run this machine. Made by Tinlizzie. Very affordable for the homeowner. Check this out before purchasing one, you won't be dissapointed.

  4. #4
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    I purchases a smaller long arm quilter just to start out on. I have learned the basics and save the money to move on.
    If in doubt Husquarna has one that is resonale price with the table and all for it.
    Can also look on e-bay and craigs list to find a used one. I sat mine up only took about 4 hours but well worth the time and effort for it. By the way invite a friend it takes 2 to do it...Havent stopped quilting yet..
    Good luck!!
    J0092aaaaa

  5. #5
    Super Member wolph33's Avatar
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    the Empress is on sale here http://mosewco.com/empressquilter.aspx My daughter and I have a long arm-mostly we do our own quilts and a few customer quilts.I say go for it ir you can afford it and have the passion for it.
    http://www.etsy.com/shop/Upnorthcrafter

  6. #6
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    I would be very hesitant to rent time on it -

  7. #7
    Super Member LynnVT's Avatar
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    Do you make a lot of quilts yourself? Enough to justify the savings of having your own machine, regardless of how much work you got? If mostly you want to do your own quilts, why not reconsider improving skills for doing it on your own sewing machine? This site really inspired me in that regard: http://www.daystyledesigns.com/
    "The business of life is making memories. In the end, it is all we have." Butler Charlie Carson, Downton Abbey, season 4, episode 3, PBS.

  8. #8
    Super Member LynnVT's Avatar
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    Oh, and have you considered all the tax implications with having your own business like that? Maybe you can deduct some expenses, but IRS is tightening up on that stuff. It could kick you into another tax bracket and cost more than you make or save. JMHO
    "The business of life is making memories. In the end, it is all we have." Butler Charlie Carson, Downton Abbey, season 4, episode 3, PBS.

  9. #9
    Junior Member Xtgirl's Avatar
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    I bought a longarm and computer in October with the hopes of starting a business right away.I think I underestimated the time it takes to get competent enough to feel comfortable taking in customer quilts. I am just now opening my business after spending a lot of time working on charity quilts for my guild and doing projects of my own. I think if it's interesting to you, you are excited about it and have the money go for it. From my perspective, I'm glad that I don't feel that I have to take in business to make the payment. That pressure I think would force me to do things I may not be ready for.

    With your purchase, just think about how much quilting space you need to do a good job on customer quilts. If you feel like you have the appropriate space and can afford it, go for it your insurance need would increase if you allow people to rent time on our machine but that's just something to think about, I know people that do it, but they usually have two machines and rent time on one....

    Best of luck!
    The Potomac Quilter
    Innova 26 with Lightning Stitch and Autopilot

  10. #10
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    I am hoping to get a LA within the next couple years. I am hoping to do mainly my own quilts....think I would be worried about majorly messing up someone else's beautiful quilt! Let us know what you decide!

  11. #11
    Super Member Christine-'s Avatar
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    I bought a long arm a couple months ago... haven't set it up yet because the week the drywall finishing was to be done turned into 2 months. I started talking to a few people... (only four, LOL) and now 2 months out I've got people asking me to quilt and the machine isn't even set up yet!

    I'm cautious though, I want to spend at least 6 months doing charity quilts, and my own, before taking in anyone else's quilt. I'm told there are online resources to help learn how to start a LA business... I owned a small business for 12 years so I haven't checked online resources, but you might continue asking on the quilting board. The people here are faaaaabulous, like no other place online I've found. <<>>>
    https://quiltdasher.blogspot.com

    I like to make lists. I also like to leave them laying on my sewing table and then guess what's on the list while at the fabric store. Fun game.

  12. #12
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    Don't underestimate the time it takes to get good. Some of us need lots of practice. Then have you got the nerve to quilt it however you want. This one surprised me. My first 4 customers all told me to do what I want. YUK! I stressed lots about that even though I like to figure out what design to use on my own quilts. I gave up on the idea of doing customer quilts and will write another book instead.
    On the other hand, if you go for it, don't get a 10 foot pole. You need 12 foot minimum. Good luck and have fun.

  13. #13
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    i just purchased mine because it was costing me lots to have them
    long armed. well i am not in the business and dont plan to be
    some friends have ask me to do theres and i have said no.

  14. #14
    Senior Member lfletcher's Avatar
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    I bought a Gammill Vision 18/8 with a 10 foot frame last June. I love it. I had a midarm prior so I had some experience. My friends started asking me immediately to quilt for them and I did. Mainly pantographs at the beginning and now I'm doing some custom work. I have been doing about 4 or 5 per month and that is all I want to do. I can't say I've made that much money because I continue to reinvest in additional pantographs, rulers and thread. I took the money out of our savings to purchase (my husband got a fancy fishing Kayak) so I didn't have to worry about payments. I don't have much time anymore to piece which I also love so that is a negative. I have decided not to let others use my machine (I have been asked) because there is just too much of a learning curve with the quilting and maintenance and I think I would spend all my time helping them. Hope this helps.

  15. #15
    Super Member hperttula123's Avatar
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    If it's really something you want to do, I say go for it. I quilt mostly my own quilts(some for others), but I also have a full time job and three kids to take care of. There is a learning curve to quilting(if you've never done it before). It took me about 4 years before I was comfortable enough to work on someone else's quilt. Everyone is different though.
    enjoy your life...it's the only one you have!!!
    Heather

  16. #16
    Power Poster PaperPrincess's Avatar
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    Long arm quilting is way fun! but it's a large investment of money and time so be sure to think everything through.

    I would be hesitant to let others rent time on my machine. There may be additional tax and insurance implications. You can't learn on customer quilts. You may be a natural, but most folks need a fair bit of practice before they become profficient. You say that you have the room, but remember that you need at least 2'-3' around the front, back and one side. You will need to get to both sides and the back. will you get lessons from your dealer? Will they come to the house for setup and/or major problems? Most machines are very heavy and difficult to bring in for service. How many other brands have you tried? it's a big investment and you want to make sure that they machine is the right one for you. Quilting for hire is a business, and like any other business you need to do research in your area to make sure that there is need for this service in your area. I would also recommend the book: "Ultimate guide to LA Quilting" by Linda Taylor. She has info on setting up a business.
    "I do not understand how anyone can live without one small place of enchantment to turn to."
    Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

  17. #17
    Junior Member homebody323's Avatar
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    I've had my Gammill Classic + since '96 and would not encourage anyone who can't make the payments for at least 8 months from another source - to make the leap. Stress of money can certainly affect all you do creatively and affect your homelife and relationships. I would never rent my machine - if they break it you are going to end up paying. Don't think it's worth the risk. Especially if you have a new business and your own committments are ending up delayed because of it. Your reputation is primary. If you decide to procede - the way I started, I bought enough from a couple shops for a sample they could hang on their wall. Pieced and quilted it - gave it to them. They got a free sample. People always want the fabrics they see done up if it's nice. In return, they gave out my cards and of course the sample showed my skills. WIN-WIN. I was able to deduct the cost of the materials as advertising expense. I did that for 2 local shops and that is the total of my advertising since the beginning. I will do some charity quilts, but set my limits for the year and when someone asks me about doing their charity quilt for free. I decide if it's a charity I believe in and if not, I say I have already committed all the charity spots on my schedule.
    Recently I have changed my way of scheduling regular quilts. A quick turn around is bringing in more business every week and I'm keeping up. I work 1 day a week out of town to sub for my office replacement from the old days. A lot of my customers are in that area. I pick up at my 1 day job and bring back the following week. No interruptions during the days in between. The day after I pick up, I call each customer and tell them what their bill will be, before I start quilting. They can cancel at that time if they like - doesn't matter. You may need some experience before your customers say do whatever you like. All mine do and that is so nice. Often I see something I want to do to a quilt that I didn't quote for - if I do it - the price doesn't change. It fills my need to create and Enjoy the process. I don't get to feeling like it's drudgery as I would if I were locked in to something. Each quilter does their own thing, their own way and I only say what has worked for me. Hope it works out for you too.
    Sally Dolin
    Rock Island, IL

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by kcferrel View Post
    I am seeking feedback and thoughts on purchasing a longarm. I am considering the Babylock Crown Jewel and frame. I attended HMQS last week and have made an offer.
    My arguments for: I have the interest and passion for Fmq and I have the room in my house. I am fairly new to quilting, around 2 years. I have taken many hours of workshops in quilting the quilt and i am getting competent.
    How difficult is it to start a longarm quilting business?
    I am afraid that if I start taking in outside work I may burn out and be left with a large investment.
    I have been looking for a used long arm but honestly, this set up new cost less than most of the used machines I have found. Thoughts? Ideas? Gotchas?
    i would need to take in quilting to offset the cost of the machine, or I could rent time to other quilters?
    thank you, there is a wealth of knowledge and experience in this form.
    You say that you have interest and passion for Fmq but I missed it if you said you had practice and experience.

    Several of us do just fine without a long arm set up. I have the space commitment of one corner of my bedroom for my sewing machine and a bakers rack full of quilt tops and UFO's in our "junk room". I will not go into debt. If I can't pay cash for it, it doesn't come home.
    I got a little frame last year, and I found out that I hated it. It took up way more room than I thought it would, it was hard to load the quilt on correctly, change the bobbin... Just seemed like it was more trouble than it was worth and it was frustrating and not fun one bit. I am glad I hadn't invested much in it, because it was dragged to the garage after about a week. I splurged ($50) on a Pfaff that I love and I don't get frustrated with it at all, only beautiful results!

    Some would say to do "whatever it takes" to get a long arm: Layaway, payments, sell the kids, throw out the dining room table, sell the small house and get a larger house or add a room for long arms, etc, etc, etc... but my motto is "USE what you have" and be the best at it!

  19. #19
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    After waiting several years, I recently purchased a used longarm machine. I made my purchase outright so that I would not have any payments on the machine and feel pressured to take in work immediately, which is why it took so long to be able to get it.

    One thing that I am giving myself is TIME. I work full time outside the home, so evenings and weekends are my 'play time' on the machine. I would dearly love to have my own longarm business and am going to work toward having one. However, I won't take in someone else's quilt top to work on until I feel confident that I can do a great job on it.

    The machine I purchased is a Nolting, and their customer service and support is unbelievable. They go above and beyond to help their customers. This is something you need to consider. Make sure you factor that into your decision. You need to be comfortable with calling someone for help and being able to get that help.

    Good Luck!

  20. #20
    Senior Member sandybeach's Avatar
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    It seems to me you say you have the time and room, but not the money. Why not start with a used short arm machine? I purchased mine for $1,500. It is a Pfaff Grandquilter with only a 9" throat on a 10' frame. I have had it for about 1.5 years and love being able to finish my own quilts. That said, I only do one or two pantos and no FMQ, and it will only handle about a lap quilt size before you run out of room on the take-up bar. I have found that my back cannot take standing for long periods of time. But it would give you the time to practice without the investment. And you would find out what it is like to load a quilt, clean out the machine while on the stand, change the bobbin, etc. And you can easily resell it and get a larger machine when you are ready.

  21. #21
    Power Poster BellaBoo's Avatar
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    Since you said you have taken many hours of workshops on quilting then you know this is what you want to do. Don't fret over the decision, just start on the new adventure and feel good about it.

    I have room for one and can get one if I wanted it and always thought I wanted one, UNTIL one LA I know let me spend a day working/learning with her. I lost interest after the loading of the first quilt. That part was boring and tedious for me, everything about it was boring except the actual quilting part. I would have to hire someone to load the quilt and get it all set up and then I'd have the fun of quilting it.
    Got fabric?

  22. #22
    Junior Member An Arm Long's Avatar
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    I bought a Baby Lock Crown Jewel a year ago and have done 21 quilts on it so far. I would say go for it if you are willing to practice alot and a long time and to take classes. I have helped two friends to use it after a day of practice for each. I did not charge as I am still considering a business but need more time. It was an experiment so to speak. And now I have decided that I will not rent it out as it takes way too much of my time to teach a person to use it and that I am getting good enough to quilt for others.
    To me the best thing about the Baby Lock was the 4 day class with Kay Capps Cross in St. Louis. (4 days morning through evening with meal breaks) It costs and you have to pay to stay in a hotel or motel, but I came away feeling like I really knew my machine and frame and that I could do it.
    I have quilted for others on quilts that our guild is doing for charity (no charge) and found that to be a wonderful way to get experience. But first I did some of my own so that others could see that I wouldn't destroy their quilts!

    I have saved all my receipts for all the items I have bought for it and will possibly start a business as some point, but do not want a full time job.

    I love the machine - so smooth and easy to use. I have had no problems with it. PM me if you need more info on that machine.
    Beth in Maryland

  23. #23
    Super Member Latrinka's Avatar
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    If I had the money and space, I would, but I wouldn't want to have to count on customer business.
    If a woman's work is never done....why start?

  24. #24
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    I don't have a longarm system, but hope to when I get the room. The house we own now does not provide me enough space for one. That having been said, hasn't kept me from looking at what is available out there. How many different longarms have you tried? I have tried a bunch and thought I knew which one I wanted and then tried an Innova at our State Fair this past year and my mind has been changed completely. You can move them with one finger they are so easy to manuever. Who knows by the time I get around to purchasing I may change my mind again, as I intend to keep looking and trying all I can as they make improvements all the time. I have seen people on the board say they are very satisfied with "this and this" and when I tried those machines, I found they definitely were not to my liking.

    So think about what features you want on a machine and try 'em all with an open mind. Know that it is gong to take a lot of practice and I do mean a lot, and when you take in quilts from others, you are dealing with imperfect quilts most of the time and by imperfect I mean wavy borders to compensate with, not well sewn seams, crooked rows etc. which show up when you put them on a quilting machine. I have used an older model, no stitch regulator (which I have decided is a MUST when I make my purchase) and have done some tops for members of our club and for charity and believe me there is a LOT to learn in the process. I still have a long way to go, but am improving, but am not a natural like some people.

    As for a business, don't count on it paying for your setup, if you go into business look at it as an added plus that you have gained. A lot of times when it becomes a business it is no longer fun and you may not want to do it, plus the pressure of perhaps an unhappy customer etc. So make a list of all the things that can go wrong and then imagine a lot more you haven't even thought of. Weigh the pluses and minuses and go from there, but definitely look at all brands and try them out, maybe more than once before purchasing.

    Good luck in your endeavor whatever it may be and God Bless!

    themachinelady

  25. #25
    Super Member jlm5419's Avatar
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    I have a 15" Bailey, so I consider it more of a midarm, but it has queen size frame. Others have mentioned that you should plan for lots of practice time, and I second those comments. With a long arm, you are moving the machine, rather than the quilt like you do on a domestic machine, so there is a little difference. I do recommend test-driving any machine you decide to buy. I also recommend stitch regulators.
    jlm5419-an Okie back in Oklahoma!
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