While I was at the Denver Quilt Festival a couple weekends ago, I tried out quite a few of the longarm quilting machines. I've been thinking about getting a longarm both for working on my own quilts and also as a way to earn a supplemental income for the household. Of course I'd have to save money to get one since they are the price of a good used car.
The first machine I tried was the Tin Lizzie. My stitches came out very nicely but there's no dealer nearby so I don't think that I'll go with them. Here's a picture of my sample spiral stitches ... see, not bad for a newbie:
I didn't snap pictures but I did try out a Nolting FunQuilter 20" that was on a Hinterberg Stretch Frame which had the plus of being expandable so it would fit in a smaller area. I have seen a few of these machines for sale online for a reasonable amount. The stitch quality was good but once again no nearby sales rep.
Next up was a HandiQuilter Avante' ... sadly the threads kept breaking. The sales rep told me it was because the spool of thread was almost out. If so then I wish she would have changed to a new spool so that I could see how it really stitched. The good thing about them is that there is a relatively close dealer (within a couple hours) that has a quilting store that has classes on the HQ and will rent time on the machine. That's a plus for me so that I could get used to it while saving money to buy one. No pictures on this one either, although to be fair I wouldn't have shown them because of the thread breakages ... if it truly was due to end of spool I'd want to give them a fair chance.
Finally was the APQS family of machines which I've heard such great things about. I started on the smaller ones, Lenni and Lucey but after hearing about the bonuses of having a longer arm length I tried out the Freedom and Millenium machines. Wow, they are a bit heavier but since they were on the new Bliss system they just glided along without any problems. They too have a sales rep within a few hours and a quilt shop that has classes and rental time ... yay! My stitches came out very nicely too.
So far I've logged into the APQS forum and have been reading lots of info. I've also joined the Yahoo groups for HQ, HQ Fusion (the 26" throated machine), Nolting, and Machine Quilting Professional (which is also open to wannabees who don't have a LA yet). Basically I'm just trying to absorb as much info as I can. I know that I'd be interested in doing FMQ, ruler work as well as pantographs and E2E. As much as the CAD systems sound interesting I don't think that I'd want that (too expensive) but perhaps it's good to know that you could upgrade to it later. I do know that I'd want a stitch regulator because I did see the difference of stitch quality with and without it. The only certainty is that it'll take at least a year or so before I can earn the money to buy one of these. It'll probably be a used model so that's a consideration in choosing a brand/model.
In the meantime I'll be signing up for the APQS class even though it's in Colorado Springs, CO which is a 3 hour drive. Maybe I can talk Steve into driving the 8 hours to this Saturday's MQS show in Wichita, KS so that I can test drive the machines again.
So for all those Longarm Quilters out there, what would your advice be? Any longarmers near Cheyenne, WY or the Ft Collins and Denver CO area that I can talk to?