Thinking of buying a long arm quilting machine? Part 2: The brand
We started this series a couple of blogs ago, and I filled you in on how I got to buying a long arm machine. Now, let's talk about what brand you should buy. Here's my short answer. Buy what makes you most comfortable. Sound like a cop-out? It's not, but let me tell you why.
This machine is an investment in yourself. If you're an artist who wants to express her art, or if you're a comfort quilt warrior, or if you're just a hobbyist who has the space, time, and money to invest in a long arm, it doesn't matter, you have to be comfortable.
So, you know how some people are content to drive around in a 10 year old compact car with a few dents, and some have to have the latest and greatest of shiny cars? I'm the former. I also do my piecing on a $400 Baby Lock Grace that will have to be pried out of my cold dead hands. I adore it, oh and I take care of it. Including getting it cleaned and timed, maybe not once a year, but I keep it pretty clean, and the professional sees it at least every other year.
My second piece of advice is, have a relationship with your dealer. I am SUPER lucky. My dealer is my local quilt shop (LQS), pretty much. It's in the next town over, but it counts because they are the closest long arm dealer. I go to the dealer when I have a question about what kind of needle to use, what thread would work best, how to deal with trickier fabrics (ahem, minky... You know who you are), any little thing. I can't even tell you how relieved I am that they are just one town over for the little things, let alone the big things. Oh, and along this same line, let the dealer get to know you. You make it known that you are in the market for this or that, you will be one of the first they think of when a used one comes in, or a new product is released!
So, maybe your dealer options limit the brands that you choose from, especially if you're in a less densely populated area. I'm lucky, I'm in New England, where I'm tripping over people, literally all the time. But, maybe it's just me, but the peace of mind is worth it. You wouldn't buy a car from a dealer you didn't trust, especially if you didn't have a good mechanic, right?!
My third tip is: Try EVERYTHING. Go to a quilt show, try all of the brands of long arm machine that you can get your hands on. Like I mentioned in another post, I rented time, I took a class at a quilt show, and I walked the floor, trying machines on. They all have different features, different weights, different sizes, different lights and sounds, they are all different, and you need to find what works for you. That, by the way includes the frame, as that is almost as big of an investment as the machine itself.
So I put all of those together, when making my decision on my Handi Quilter Avante. I tried it at a show, I rented time on it. I loved the ease of movement and the lightness of it. I loved the size (Goldielocks, not too big, not too small, just right), I loved that the closest dealer was a high volume store with a GREAT service tech. And I was comfortable with the price point and the features (I am a fewer features, less to go wrong kind of girl). Also, as a side note, I have T-Rex arms, anything wider than about a 20 inch throat is lost on me because I can't reach that far ANYWAY...
Do you NEED to have automatic cutters? Avante's not for you. Do you like some weight on the machine? Maybe try a Gammil. Tin Lizzie, Innova, Baby Lock, they all have GREAT machines. Find the exact one that is right for you. New, used, try it, love it, use it and maintain it! And until then:
Piece and Long Arm!