1. KNOW YOUR GOALS
You must be able to articulate exactly what you want to do with the machine.This is important because if you are not careful some sales people may say “sure you can quilt on our machine that’s what we made it for”.Important questions to ask….
- Can I roll up a queen or king size quilt in the throat?
- Can I sew my design through the entire length of a queen or king size quilt?
- What is the frame’s working area size?
- Can I put a larger ma-chine on this frame later?
- Can I upgrade my controls to stitch regulated or comput-erized operation?
By getting answers to these questions you will flush out those that say “you can quilt on our machine” and those that really can.Beware of the quick yes to these questions. For example it is possible to do a king quilt on a home sewing machine. The downside is that it maytake weeks or months of tedious labor to accomplish this goal, whereas it may only take 2-4 hours on a real long arm.So in summary. Know your goals, make the manufacturer prove their answers.Kow your space too. You will need approximately 2’ to 5’ of space around 3 sides of your frame.
2. "SIMPLER IS BETTER-ER"
Caution is the key here. Quality longarm machines are designed to run all day. They don’t need bells and whistles. In fact adding complex gadgetry and buttons to a longarm may only result in more points of failure. Why would you want to be sidelined without a machine because one of the bells and whistles broke. Not good. When looking at machines look closely at not only what is there, but what is not there. Simpler is better. Find a manufacturer that has a proven record for up time. Shy away from those that have complex gadgets to repair.
3. UNDERSTANDING MACHINE CONTROLS
Over the years machine controls have changed. In the early years, a speed dial was all that controlled the machine. “Stitch regulated” controls are now a common device. A stitch regula-tor allows you to set a dial or digital setting to a number such as 6-8-10-or 12. The machine motor slows and speeds up with your movements to try to put the chosen number of stitches in one inch. Be careful here, there is a wide range of quality and accuracy in these stitch regula-tors. Quality usually follows price in this case. Many people start out using stitch regulated mode but grow out of that and back into stan-dard speed mode. Make sure to try both modes so you can get a feel for both. Then there are the computerized controls that come with various preprogrammed patterns and design tools. There are a wide range of approaches to the computer, but what most peo-ple overlook while being wowed by the computer is what drives the machine. Be careful of overly complicated belt and pulley systems that can make it very diffi-cult to hand guide the machine when desired. Find out if the com-puter can be added later, and which can be added later.
4. SERVICE AND MAINTENANCE
A true longarm machine is NOT a sewing machine. Sewing machines are famous for needing maintenance every 6 months or year. This of course costs you money. A quality longarm should be able to be ser-viced by the operator with basic and familiar tools. This is where simpler is better. Questions you might want to cover are; How do I oil the ma-chine and how often do I have to do this? How do I change the bobbin? How difficult is it to set the tension or timing? How do I clean the machine and how often? With regard to their customer service, do they have tiered levels of service? Meaning, do you have somebody in the area who can help me? Is there somebody at the factory that can assist me? Frankly, a quality long arm does NOT need to be serviced in the same way as a sewing machine. These are industrial machines. They are simply made to run, run, run.
5. MAKE THE RIGHT FRAME CHOICE FOR YOUR NEEDS
you want to use. The frame that a longarm quilting machine sits on WILL have an affect on the overall experience. If the frame is light and flimsy the ma-chine may not be stable. There may be extra vibration and reduced smoothness in the movement of the machine. Caution is in order here.Also, will you need to dismantle the frame from time to time or will it be set up permanently? Get a table that is easy to load the quilt on, easy to roll the quilt forward and sturdy enough to give you smooth movement of your machine. You can expect to pay between $ 2,800 and $6,500 for a good frame and table. Find out if the table is shipped to you or delivered and set up. Does the table come complete or are there other parts you need to purchase. Do you need to purchase special tools or do you have what you need?
5. HANDY HINTS
- Have good lighting in your sewing room. Natural lighting is better when selecting your thread colours.
- If time allows, try to wash the garment or fabric you wish to embroider, Prepping a garment or fabric will help take care of any shrinkage that may occur.
- Always use a well wound bobbin, with good quality thread.
- Having the necessary tools for embroidery is the key to success. Sharp snips and scissors, fresh marking pens and pencils, good quality thread and colour choices, don't sacrifice your creative recipe by using less than perfect ingredients.
- Always remember the size and density of the design will affect the weight and quantity of stabilizer you should use.
- Garment and fabric choice will dictate what type of needle to use for the embroidery, take the time to look at all factors to achieve perfect embroidery.
- If you are in doubt about an embroidery design â€“ sew a test sample, this can later be made into a cushion or a gift, it is never a waste if it enables you to achieve perfect embroidery.
- Make sure your embroidery thread is in a position to feed through the machine freely. If the machine has to pull the thread from the spool it will create extra drag and distort the tension.
- For Metallic threads try to position the thread to feed vertically. Using a thread stand behind your machine is the ideal solution for all types of embroidery threads. Using this system creates less twist and will minimize thread breakage.
- When Hooping, try to achieve tight as a drum tension on the fabric or garment.
- Have a proper hooping area, clutter forces you to hoop on your lap or ironing board which results in less than perfect tension on your fabric or garment.
6. WHAT IS A TRUE LONGARM MACHINE
A true longarm machine is designed from the beginning for the purpose of hand guided quilting. It is NOT a stretched sewing machine.Longarms are fundamentally different from sewing machines in the following ways:
- DC vs. AC Power. This means they have a smaller motor with more power and stitch controls.
- Hopping foot vs. pres-sure foot. This allows for free movement over the quilt top’s seams.
- Industrial components with critical tolerance to reduce vibration.
- All metal gears, shafts, parts and body.
- Built in handles in both front and rear.
- Easy access to bobbin
- Great line of view
- Great task light