I made my way to QuiltCon. I woke up this morning with an idea to spend the day playing with long arms. And so I did.
Since I arrived in the afternoon, instead of early in the morning, the parking at the Pasadena Convention Center was horrible. It looks like it is under construction so there were not a lot of spots to park. The ways were dark and narrow with random dead ends. There was a lot of turning around for me. But once I got through that, the rest of the day went by fine.
Better than fine. I spent a brief break with the ladies of Hobbies up to Here and we got to know each other a little more. We had so much fun that I forgot to take a picture! 🙁
I bought black batting for my Moon Glow quilt. I didn’t know that black batting only comes in 100% poly or 80/20 cotton/poly blend. I got the blend.
Okay on to the big stuff… long arms. Here’s what I paid attention to:
- Vibrations. The Bailey vibrates a lot and I get tired pretty fast.
- How the stitch runs while I’m moving it. How the machine feels while I’m using it.
- How much it costs
- And later… whether I could upgrade to a computer attachment or not.
A. Juki – long arm on a frame – I don’t have the exact name of the machine I tried but after a quick search on google, I think it was Juki TL-2200QVP. I ran this machine fast and I didn’t like the vibrations. I honestly can’t remember the show price on this but it might have been around $8,000. It didn’t pass my first test so I moved on pretty quickly.
B. Baby Lock Crown Jewel – This was a nice one. The vibrations weren’t too bad. The stitching was nice. The show price was $5,000 with the frame so I felt it was affordable. The only thing I didn’t like was the frame. That’s not a big reason to say no to this machine and I didn’t ask about the possibility of upgrading to a bigger frame. Maybe I’ll ask tomorrow. I also didn’t ask about whether there was an option to upgrade to a computer later on because I didn’t think about it until later. However, I don’t think it’s possible.
C. Bernina Q 20 – This is a sit down machine. They didn’t have the long arm on a frame so I tried this one. I loved the machine. I didn’t love having to sit down. I think now that I’ve been quilting on a frame, I do not like having to move my quilt underneath a machine. Even with such a big harp space, the idea of trying to quilt a Queen or King size quilt under it was not appealing. This was around $13,000 show price. The price included the cool desk that would pull out, get bigger around and behind the machine. There were a lot of cool features on the machine like all the thread and stuff was in the front and accessible. I didn’t realize this but it reminded me of how often I have to go around my frame to turn the machine on or off or to thread the machine or to move the needle up and down manually. The only thing in the back is the power and the sales lady said to put the machine on a surge protector and have the surge protector under the desk so I could easily turn it on and off with my foot. The machine itself was really nice. I just don’t want a sit down machine. I believe the long arm on a frame is WAY too out of my price range.
D. APQS – I tried the new machine called Larry and the the Lenni. It seemed that Larry was 18″ harp while Lenni had a 20″ harp. The Larry was $8,900 show price while the Lenni was $10,900 show price. There were more differences between the Lenni and the Larry but I felt that I loved the Lenni the best between the two. I actually really liked this machine. There was no vibrations at all, the stitching whether I went fast or slow was even and it was easy to move the machine around. When I asked about possibly upgrading to a computer later, I discovered that it was not possible. The ones with the computer now was $17-$18k and that’s way out of my price range.
E. HQ Avante – I played with this machine while at Road for my long arm class. At QuiltCon, I actually tried this out after I tried all the others since it had been some time since Road. I liked it better today than when I played with it at Road. It didn’t vibrate at all and the stitch quality was really nice. The show price was $8,500. AND if I wanted to add the computer component I could add it later! 🙂
F. Gammill – I didn’t even try this one out. They look so big and intimidating. Maybe I’ll have enough guts tomorrow. I think its way out of my price range but I don’t know that for sure.
If I was to buy a machine today, it would probably be the Baby Lock Crown Jewel because it’s affordable, and it’s good enough. I’m not a professional quilter. This is just my hobby. However, I would have to upgrade the frame because even though the sales people said I could quilt a King size on it, I’d have to move it around a lot. I’d rather get a big frame I can easily load a King onto. So, maybe it would be more than $5,000. Since I am not going to buy a machine today, I’m thinking APQS Lenni or Larry or the HQ Avante. I really like how the APQS machines ran and felt. In fact, I like it better than the HQ Avante. But the only reason I’d get the Avante over the APQS machines is for the option to later add the computer component.
I totally forgot to take pictures. I’ll try to remember tomorrow. 🙁
Should I be looking at other things in a long arm? I definitely want the option to move the needle up and down, a needle threader, bobbin winders. Let me know if I’m totally missing something.
~ wishful dreaming
Speed of the stitching. You can always turn it down slower (on a good longarm, anyway), but be sure that it will go as fast as you want, also. Sign up for the APQS newsletters. A couple times a year, they sell their demo machines for less. Also, stay in touch with a local dealer to find out about buying a used one. The Gammill is no more frightening than the APQS. It comes in as small as 18 and as large as 36″, so I hope they didn’t only bring the bigger machines! Nolting is my favorite of the three, but we may be looking for different things in a machine.
I had a 1992 Gammill Premier for 10 years and it worked just fine for my quilting business – and I didn’t have a stitch regulator, but you quickly learn to regulate your own. A-1 makes a wonderful machine, but it’s on the expensive side. The Homesteader is made in NC, and I don’t think they go to western shows, but it’s too bad because I don’t know of any machine that moves more smoothly. He invented a wonderful table which involves some rubber springs and I don’t know what, but the machine is a dream to use.
There are so many made today, don’t settle on one that doesn’t make you happy. It’s better to have one that’s ten years old, but has the feel you like, than to have a new one that doesn’t, no matter what the price is.
If you can, try the Innova. I used one at RD2CA for a class and it was really smooth and easy to use. At the time, they were pretty affordable too. Another thing you may want to look at is availability and cost of handles that attach to the back for doing pantographs. Have fun!
Thanks for posting about your QuiltCon experience and testing the longarms, really interesting !
Sure thing Colleen. It was fun! 🙂