Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Dresden Plate Progress and the Hunt for a Long Arm

Michele over at Quilts from my Crayon Box left me a really nice comment the other day and asked to be updated on how my search for a long arm is going.  She has a lot to say and a really nice blog so check her out if you get the chance - I really enjoyed it!

If you know me offline then you are probably going to be sick with irritation as I embark on an entire post (mostly - I have quilting progress too) discussing my favorite topic of to thread...and that is long arm  quilting machines.  My family knows immediately that when I put my arm up in the air and mimic a feathering sweeping motion as if to ... quilt on a long arm ... to run the other direction because I'm on the verge of an I'm-a-gonna-get-a-long-arm freak out.  I have been passively shopping around, but more gathering information so that I can make the best purchase for myself and my family in the spring.

Our goal as of now is to try to get something used or refurbished to save a little money.  Ideally I'd like something around 20" with a 12 foot frame.  I WANT stitch regulation but I'm discovering, unless I buy a 20 year old machine that may not happen in with my budget.  Other than that as long as it sews I'll be happy.  I could easily plop myself in the middle of a $25,000 loan and have all the long arm goodies I've been dreaming of - but my Husband quickly brings me back down to reality and reminds me...I don't work.  Lol*  So unless we get a GREAT deal (or I can talk my Husband out of his sensible reserve) a used long arm it is.  The hope is that my endeavors will be successful enough that in a few years I can justify an upgrade.  *Fingers Crossed*  I am not looking to store 50 quilts in my living room and book myself up until next Christmas but I would just like to earn enough extra income to fund my increasingly expensive quilting habit and possibly some repairs/updates around the house.

Right now the two machines on my radar are the Handi Quilter and the Innova.  I tested a Handi Quilter at a local was very light and easy to use.  I have ZERO long arm experience and I felt like within a few hours of practice I could have jumped right in and practiced on a real quilt.  I tested the Avante - and I see these used a lot around here (likely because they sell them nearby) - it was on an older less expensive folding table/frame.  I know it looks cheap and sounds cheap but I'll tell you, it was very sturdy - and I pushed that baby to it's limits.  I did notice that I felt like my range of motion was a little limited....or awkward, or something.  A friend turned me on to Edgerider wheels...maybe that would help?  I don't know if they make them for the Avante though, I only saw the HQ16 on the website - does it matter?  I also find that it tops off at a slower speed...1800 stitches per minute I want to say?  Or something comparable.  I thought at first this would be a real negative.  But realistically, how fast do you NEED to sew?  I want to offer the option of less expensive pantos or edge to edge free hand designs but my heart is pulled towards custom quilting...and detailed quilting just doesn't go fast by nature.  One negative - the micro handles are $300.  OUCH.  But, there are TONS and I mean TONS of gizmo's and gadgets for the HQ machines.  Major plus.

The innova I have not tested yet but I'm stalking the Sewing Expo website (figuratively speaking lol*) to see who the vendors will be and if Innova will be there.  The Husband said he'd be willing to go to the show and I hear you can get good deals on new machines at shows *fingers crossed*.  From what I've read it's light...and I think that's what I'd like for myself in a machine.  Also it seems to come with a lot for the price.  The real clincher for me, the customer service has rave reviews.  That is HUGE.  Customer service has just been lost on this generation.  It's sad, because we make more money than ever, and I feel like a lot of companies don't value it.  I have read such amazing stories about the great lengths Innova's owner has gone to in an attempt to help a customer.  That alone puts them at the top of my list.  It also stitches to much higher speeds and has a couching attachment that.  Oh - micro handles - $200.  Plus.  :)

So that's where I am.  A big huge, wait.  Unless we find the deal of the century that we have to move on FAST, probably there won't be much more to tell until spring.  We need to replace the roof on our house and then we can really seriously start the hunt.  Right now it's kind of all preliminary.  This is going to be the LONGEST twelve weeks of my life.

Ok so in other news...what was truly nothing less than a miracle, I was able to find some time to sew yesterday.  Today I won't get to do much until later...the kids went back to school and the house looks like we spent the last week and a half eating all over the place leaving dishes around and throwing our dirty laundry about.  Ugh.  Here's how my oldest daughter's Dresden's are coming...

I accidentally cut those stripes the wrong way.  I think I'm going to go back and recut...I just ran out of time last night.

I did my nails too!  I'm on a purple kick right now.  I want lots of purples in everything.  I always start to crave bright colors like this around this time of year.  Everything is gray and white outside...cannot wait for warm weather.

What a happy mess!  :)  This is the kind I'm ok with.

Most of the pieces have been turned but need pressing.  I think she's going to love this quilt.  One more top to set aside for long arm play!  :)


Shelley: the Dread Pirate Rodgers said...

Hiya, Valerie.

Just a commentary on the Innova. I own a Tin Lizzie, which I purchased in 2006. I love my machine; it's a basic model (with stitch regulation!) and does everything I ask of it. The cost of my Lizzie has been recouped for several years so I am not looking to replace it any time soon.

But, that doesn't stop me from test driving different longarms I see at shows. I test drove the Innova recently was simply AMAZED at how wonderful it felt and stitched! Very easy handling, did diagonal lines and circles (even pebbles) & feathers very easily. It was *smooth*. If the Innova had been available at the time I bought my Lizzie in 2006, I might have had a much more difficult time deciding which brand to buy.

So, if you do find an Innova to try, I urge you to do so. It seems to be a lovely, lovely machine that handles great. As you noted, customer service is a Big Deal, so I would weigh that heavily in favor of a machine.

Also, you don't NEED all the bells-and-whistles to do fantastic quilting! There are some basic tools you do need but you don't need a commercial kitchen to make Mac-n-Cheese, ya know? :-)

Have fun and enjoy the quilting!

best regards,
Shelley Rodgers

calicokat said...

Good luck on your longarm search, it will be awesome once you get one!

There are some sights online to look as well that offer used machines, "House of Hanson" has lots of brands listed. Also, there are discussion boards for longarming - some are brand specific. They often have a "for sale" section to let their members sell items including machines.
I have a 1994 machine with no stitch regulation or anything at all fancy on it (literally, just an on button and a light!) I am the second owner and it runs great. These machines are made to last, so don't be afraid to try going the used route -- you might get more machine for your dollar.

Rachel said...

I bought a "floor model" from a dealer at the end of a quilt show. Great deal (really great), same customer support, etc. I will say this about what I used to own. I used to have a frame and a dedicated machine. I wish I had actually used it for a couple of hours straight before buying. Standing at the machine (no matter how we adjusted the height) caused back pain (for me). I ultimately sold that set up and a few years later discovered the new sit down long arms. I purchased one and I could not be happier. Seriously. It did not have some things I thought I wanted/needed, but in the end I did NOT need them or I do not miss them. Now, the sit down I purchased is by Tin Lizzie. I know the reputation online is not perfect. Let me tell you, without telling a super long story, when I got the machine home I had a problem. A big one. I called the shop Monday morning. By noon on Monday I had a call from one of the owners at TL and the problem was completely solved. Suffice it to say it was stupidity on my part and they did not make me feel stupid. I really just wanted to say that while I have read negative stuff about the customer service at TL, my experience was fabulous!FYI, I have had this machine for well over a year and still love it!

Happy Cottage Quilter said...

I am following the same dream. I am looking for a used HQ16 as I have always liked their machines. I've looked at them all, at shows, tested and asked tons of questions. But I think the best advice you can get is like these ladies have shared. Experience using the machine is better then talking with a sales person. Plus trying for yourself. Hope you find your dream machine.

treadlemusic said...

Very interesting discussion. I totally agree that each person is different and doing a personal "test drive" is the way to go (if possible). I had certain parameters that I had to accommodate: lack of floor/room space and absolutely no desire to manipulate a frame-mounted machine. I have been very happy with my Sweet Sixteen (HQ). It does everything I want and stitches perfectly with any thread I put on it.

Michele said...

Hi Valerie,

Thanks for the shout out. i do appreciate it. I'm glad to see that you are considering the Innova. I am considering that one too. And I want to let you know that I'll be spending a lot of time in the coming couple of months actually using one. I have a dealer local who is actually also a friend and once I get to really try it out, I'll know a lot better if that is the way I want to go. I'm also going to attend either the show in NJ at the end of Feb or the one in Lancaster in March so that I can test many of the others available. I also have a good friend that owns a Voyager 17 and does amazing work on it. The deal from Hinterburg with a Strech or Summit frame is great. I don't know what your budget is but it is a less expensive way to start with a great machine. Oh and I've learned that used Innovas are rarely available since their owners love them so much. The only time one goes up for sale is when the owner upgrades to a bigger machine, they typically are resold through a dealer and they are gone within days.

snowlady said...

I have a innova and have had it for going on two yrs. I love it and the customer service is great. They get back with you quickly and are nice and willing to help solve any problems.
Good luck in your search for the machine for you.