What machine is right for you?
So you're ready to purchase a longarm quilting machine. It's getting exciting! You've looked around, attended a couple of quilt shows, maybe tried your hand on a demo machine or two at a local quilt shop - there are so many options! Here are some questions you use to find out which system is going to be a perfect match for you.
Ten Questions To Ask Before Buying a Longarm Quilting Machine System
1. Does the machine have stitch regulation?
Survey results show that stitch regulation is the most requested feature on a longarm quilting machine. Stitch regulation provides even-length stitches at a variety of quilting speeds. Look for two modes of stitch regulation. In one mode, the machine stops stitching when the quilter stops moving the machine. The other mode allows the needle to continue stitching at a chosen minimum speed, so you can precisely position stitches at corners and along rulers. A machine that offers both modes of stitch regulation offers the most versatility.
2. Does the machine’s manufacturer have an authorized representative who will provide personal training and machine service, and is customer service and education readily available?
Hands-on training should be included by trained dealers or sales representatives when you purchase your machine. A trusted warranty for mechanical, electrical, and the outer casting provides you a guarantee of quality craftsmanship when investing in a quilting machine. Reputable companies will also provide you with convenient customer support service and education options.
3. How much quilting space does the machine offer?
The throat space and quilting space are not equal. Be sure to ask about available quilting space. When considering a quilting machine, remember bigger is not always better. The best quilting space is always a comfortable distance for both sight and reach. The recommended distance is from a 12-inch through 14-inch reach for comfortably controlled quilting.
4. Does the frame system require constant adjustment as you roll your quilt?
Making adjustments to your quilting surface, by either raising or lowering your quilt frame to provide a flat surface on which to stitch, each time you roll your quilt, becomes very inconvenient and extremely time consuming.
5. Is the machine upgradeable with integrated computerized quilting capability?
Machines that are built with the ability to upgrade when new technology or components are available provide you a better value as you will not need to purchase a new machine. Many machines can be retrofitted for computerized quilting. Integrated computerized quilting functions provide you better control, increased functionality, and more quilting options.
6. Are any dangerous moving parts mounted on the outside of the machine?
Machines with exposed belts can be a significant safety hazard. Motors mounted inside the machine are safer and quieter than outside mounts.
7. Does the machine have integrated functions as well as add-on accessories such as a laser light, electronic micro handles, and more lighting?
Lasers provide a convenient way to trace pantographs and patterns. Make sure that the laser is not battery operated and can work from the front and back of the machine. Micro handles provide you with a way to have additional stability and control when doing detailed work. Adjustable lighting and electronic fingertip controls are important features.
8. How much does the machine weigh? Does the machine run smoothly at both high and low speeds?
A machine that is too heavy will cause stress on back, neck, and arms. Test any machine for five minutes or longer to get a sense of what several hours of quilting might feel like. A comfortable weight is usually 65 pounds or less. Too much vibration can cause excessive noise and poor stitch quality.
9. Does the machine have a hopping foot and a large bobbin?
A quilting hopping foot “hops,” eliminating dragging and unwanted folds in the fabric. This foot should be round with 1/4 -inch equal distance between the needle and the outside of the foot. The hopping foot should be thick enough to accommodate 1/4-inch thick acrylic templates and rulers to help quilters achieve precision quilting, including stitching in the ditch or echo quilting around pieced seams.
M-class bobbins are the largest in the commercial quilting industry and hold nearly three times as much thread as an L-class bobbin (depending on the thread weight). Large bobbins save time, while maintaining superior stitch quality.
10. Where is the machine manufactured and is there a trusted warranty?
If it’s important to you that your quilting machine is manufactured in the USA, then ask the question. A trusted warranty for mechanical, electrical, and the outer casting provides you a guarantee of quality craftsmanship when investing in a quilting machine. Reputable companies will provide and stand behind their written warranty and will provide you convenient customer support services.
10 Questions To Ask Before Buying a Computerized Quilting System
1. Is the computerized device integrated with the software and hardware on your quilting machine?
Integrated systems are important because they enable you to control all of the functions of the computer and your machine from one location. This provides more control, better functionality, and precise quilting.
2. How long does it take to learn the quilting program?
Programs should be simple, intuitive, and easy to use. They may require you to learn a correct sequence in selecting, loading and changing your design, and which buttons to push to begin to quilt. Make sure you are comfortable with the computer screen, help menu, and quilting instructions. Try it a few times.
3. What is the warranty on the product?
Warranties from reputable companies will provide you a list of specific items that will be covered for a specific time. Warranties for a computerized device should cover mechanical, electrical, and software components.
4. Are software updates provided for free?
Ensure that basic updates to the software are provided to you as a courtesy for at least 12 months. Technology changes quickly and you don’t want to be purchasing software updates frequently.
5. Is there a dedicated customer service or help line available to answer your questions?
Knowledgeable customer service and support is a must to help answer your basic how-to questions. Ensure that the company has dedicated technical support for software issues and questions that may arise.
6. Can I free-motion and computerize quilt using the same system and quickly and easily switch between them?
Systems that have the ability to quickly switch between free-motion and computerized quilting will provide you with more freedom and satisfaction in your quilting. You don’t want to be limited by having to choose between computerized or free-motion quilting.
7. Who will assist me with the installation? Is the computerized system easy to set up by myself?
It is best for a company to have qualified dealers who can assist in setup, especially if you are uncomfortable with doing this on your own. However, if you prefer to set up the system yourself, ensure that the company provides detailed installation instructions and technical support.
8. What computerized quilting features are part of the system? Can I change the designs, or quilting patterns, after they are loaded into the system?
In addition to creating designs, computerized systems should enable you to control and modify a design – rotate it, resize it, repeat it, wrap it, record your movements on the machine, trace the design, crop portions of the design, and retrace or track the stitching – all while you are quilting. On-screen or on-board controls are the better choices. Systems should include design software for creating and modifying both your own designs and purchased designs. It is extremely important to have the ability to quickly change digitized designs while quilting, since quilts and quilt blocks may be irregular.
9. Does the system come with ready-to-use designs?
All systems should come with some basic designs that are ready to use. Look for systems that include at least 100 designs.
10. What types of designs (i.e. file formats) can I use on the system?
Look for systems that are able to read a variety of formats or file extensions to give you the ability to purchase designs from a wide range of designers. Some systems limit the designs you can use to only one file format.