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New to website, and just starting to look at purchasing a long arm. Space is one of many hinderances besides money. So why APQS and not HQ sweet sixteen, or the TinLizzie. Would the George be a better machine? Are these machines a good way to start with quilting some of my tops. Tired of sharing and paying someone else to quilt my pieces.

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You are at the turning point many avid quilters reach--too many projects and not enough time/money to get them finished. Plus the desire to finish the whole project yourself.

Since you've decided to take the next step, try all the machines you can. Obviously you know longarmers, so ask them their opinions and don't be surprised if they laud the machine they have. That's human nature. If they are friendly and don't view you as potential competition (assuming you won't be starting a business unless this is part of your long-term plans) ask if you can come over at their convenience and try out their machine. Take only a half-hour of their time and take a small gift with you. :)

Try every machine at every show you can get to. Haunt the websites of the ones you are considering to check the calendar for demo places. If there is an LQS with rentals available, try those machines out as well. Check this site for dealers close to you--you'll get a soft-sell and a thorough demo of all the great features of the APQS machines. Look for other brands' dealers near you.

Don't expect to join the APQS forum and not get an avalanche of recommendations for "our" machines. :wub:

And finally--set your budget. When you do that, remember that if a machine doesn't meet your expectations or you decide you need a bigger one or one with more features, the re-sale value is always good. If you buy a machine for $9000 this year and need to sell it next year, the value may only depreciate a couple of hundred dollars. What you buy will retain its value. not like a car.

Good luck in your search, check all the sites with used machines for sale, dig through the archives here for mountains of good information, and have fun! Let us know what you decide!

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Welcome, Sewtime! Linda's advice is right on. Check to see what big shows are happening in your area; then plan on attending so you can drive all the machines! You don't say where you are from; but we could give you links to shows in your area if you let us know your general area. Also, my humble opinion is when you set your budget; do not be afraid to look at used machines of a higher quality. This is where I started (and a lot of us on this forum) and am so glad I did not buy a new "cheaper" machine - and frame just because it was new.

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Test drive the service/support network, too. I ruled out one company when the techs could not keep its machines running smoothly during a course I took at Road to California. I figured if there was that much trouble with new machines with the techs there, the likelihood of my keeping things running smoothly at home was small. (BTW, Road 2Cal is at the end of this month in LA if you are within striking distance.)

I liked using a computerized Tin Lizzie at a local dealer that makes one available for rent by the hour. But the model I used was only available new, at twice the price of the reconditioned Lucey I bought from APQS. (Although my Lucey is not computerized, of course.) I am still just getting going on it, but I can't say enough good things about the support and service from APQS!

Have fun with your research!

Cynthia

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I, too, bought a used machine, although not an APQS. I have a Gammill and I am very happy with it. It has never given me problems that wasn't user error. So I second the sugestion to look at used machines. You will be able to get a higher grade one for much less money. Mine is a 2004 model and 3 yr old when I bought it. No regrets. And try to get someplace to try them out like Linda suggested. She is wise.

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I think the quality of the HQ machines has improved greatly since they were first introduced. It is my observation that the longer the manufacturers have been in business, the fewer problems people have with the machines. Some of the "off brands" might be made, for example, by Tin Lizzie...but that doesn't mean the quality is the same. They put different names on them for a reason. I don't know of a single person who bought one of the off brands that is actually happy with their machine. On the other hand, I have heard very few complaints about APQS, Gammill, Innova, and A-1.

The George is a sit down machine, where you move the fabric and the head stays stationary. You have to pin baste the layers, and no matter how careful you are, it isn't easy to get a backing that doesn't end up with a pleat of you are doing a large quilt. If you do mostly small quilts like wall hangings, table toppers, etc....it might be just the machine for you. Because of my experience quilting on my domestic machine, I knew I wanted an actual longarm with a 12 foot table. George takes up far less room than a longarm, if space is a factor.

I chose APQS after a lot of research and hands-on trials. The main reason was the warranty, and other owners glowing recommendations about customer support. I have had virtually no issues with the machine in 3 years. When I have called APQS for help (in re-timing the machine) they were very helpful. I have never regretted my decision for a minute.

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I have George and find he works great for what I have time for right now. I did like that I could use the same movements that I already knew with my dsm. I had a dsm on a frame previously and didn't have the time to learn how to use it well and there wasn't room for much quilting with the roll of quilt.

Go to as many shows as you can, and try them out. Take a friend with you, and have the friend try the machine too. My husband was able to focus on the vibration of some machines that I hadn't thought about when I drove the same one. If at all possible check to see if there is a Road Show close to you. I went to an APQS road show and spent about 3 hours with only a few other "shoppers" and a couple of dealer/salepeople. The things that I heard and learned about in that setting was well worth the time I spent. When I was shopping the prices of the HQ and George were very close, the warranty from APQS was a better factor and the amount of throat space was different.

Check to see what the handles are like on the machines you are considering. Will you drive from the front or from the back? Can you have comfortable reach from either direction. Do the handles have a different shoulder position for you when you hold them, are they adjustable? Does the table come with a height adjustable option?

Have fun shopping, come often to see what these folks can share. There are a number of other machines on this forum.

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I started out with the Handi Quilter which used my DSM that sat on a rolling base. That worked for a while and then I decided I needed more space to quilt in.........then I got the HQ 16 and used that for almost 5 years. I only quilted for myself as well. Then as I got more experienced, I decided to move up to a larger machine where I could have more space to quilt designs/patterns in blocks..........that's when I got the Millenium. I had no intention of getting a Millenium the day we went to test drive the APQS machines, but they were having a great sale that day and it was a no brainer to get the Millenium. I also chose APQS because the dealership is in Des Moines and the factory in Carroll, Iowa which are not far from where I live. That might make a difference in your choice as well............where is the dealer and service center located? I enjoyed my Handi Quilter, but their factory is in UTAH...........a long way from Iowa. :( We had to drive 5+ hours one way to get to the nearest dealer for service. To me, having a dealer/service center not far away was a big selling point. Have fun in your search............ :)

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Sewtime: I've owned 4 different longarms over the last four or five years, so I have some experience. What I've learned is that some machines are better than others. The first thing you have to look for is the quality of the table. If the table isn't stiff and level with a good track system, you're not going to be happy with how the machine works. The next thing you should look at is how the machine is designed and built. If the machine is a conversion, or made for something other than long arm quilting, there will be compromises. Finally you need to look at machine/customer support. If you can't get answers to your questions, or parts for your machine you might just as well not have it.

In my research I've identified the following machines as what I call "first line" becuse they meet my requirements: APQS, Gammill, Nolting, A-1 Elite, Innova, Prodgy, and KenQuilt. All of these companies offer at least one machine in their line that I'd classify as first rate. The other machines out there like the HQ or the Tin Lizzy fall into the lower tiers.

When it comes to the first tier machines, my purchase decision would be made on the basis of the price and the machine features I feel like I need. Any of them would suit my purpose. All of these machines are industrial quality. built for years and years of heavy service. They are all well supported, and anything that goes wrong can be fixed without too much trouble. I have no reluctance to buying a used machine because the life of them is long. The purchase decision really comes down to what features you want, and how much you want to pay. Decide what features you want, keeping in mind that some can be added to machines that did not originally have them. For instance, I own an APQS Ultimate 2 that was not built with needle up/needle down, single stitch or stitch regulator features. I had these features added to my machine through the installation of an Intellistitch stitch regulartor. I also have a Gammill Classic which I also upgraded with an Intellistitch stitch regulator. I like both machines. They are different, but both serve me just fine. My APQS Ult2 came with a wooden table which a lot of people don't like. There's nothing wrong with the wooden top based table. The problem is mostly with the roller configuration. I rebuilt mine, but I'm probably more mechanically inclined than most (I also built a power lift system, and added electronic channel locks to the machine), and would suggest you approach this cautiously. The point being that the old technology (my Ult2 was built in 1997) is upgradable. Had I known at the time what I really wanted (this can change as your involvement and skill at quilting grows). It probably would have been nearly as inexpensive and a lot easier to buy a set up already equiped as I ended up with. Therefore it is very important to define your needs. If cost is of no consequence, buy the top of the line machine built by whichever of the first line manufacturers you like best.

At any rate, I would have saved a good deal of money by buying what I ended up wanting to begin with. Turning over machines costs money. Now for some suggestions on defining your "needs":

1) You definately want needle up/needle down capabilities. Turning the machine manually to draw up the bobin thread gets old fast!

2) I would recommend a stitch regulated machine. Stitch regulation allows you to easily do things that are difficult to do without it. The least inportant of these is the actual length of the stitch IMHO.

3) You want a table that is not only strong stiff and stable, but also user friendly. I wanted one that I didn't have to raise and lower the take-up roller as I quilted (like the APQS, Innova, and Prodgy have). There is a price to be paid for this feature however-reduced machine stroke. If you don't mind the idea of doing this adjustment, the other 4 are fine(the Gammill and A-1 being better than the Nolting or KenQuilt) Some other quilters value a power advance/retreat (I think only A-1 actually offers a power retreat) system. It wasn't that important to me. The same applies to the track system. I think each manuafacture has their own system they think is best. They all work. Try them out and see which you like best, and which best fits your buget. I personally think too much emphasis is put on this feature, but others swear that it is all important -to each his/her own.

4) A power lift system is a really good feature. You wouldn't believe how much more comfortable quilting is if you can raise and lower your table.

5) Bobbin capacity. APQS, Nolting and Prodgy offer "L" bobbin (little) as well as the "M" (massive) bobbin systems. Gammill, A-1, Innovaand KenQuilt only offer "m" systems I think. There are a lot of opinions on this. All I can say is that changing the bobbin half as often by employing the "M" system (both my machines have "M" bobbins) suits my quilting a lot better than having to do it twice as often.

6) Electronic channel locks are very nice. You can use a manual channel lock systemm and it works well, but the electroniocs are so much more convient. I think all the first line companies offer electronic channel locks on at least some of their models except maybe Nolting and KenQuilt. They were important enough for me to go to the trouble to figure out how to build and install them on my APQS Ult2.

Other features like laser pointers both front and back,and horizontal spool holders can be helpful. I thought enough of them to modify my Ult2 to include each, but I have to admit I raqrely use any of them. A bobbin camera also falls into this category. I have one and use it, but it is not indispensible.

You must understand that I love building machines. The satisfaction I get from coming up with a solution to a problem, and fabricating a system or tool to accomplish my end is a real motivator for me. Some of the stuff I've done is probably over the top. There are things on all these longarm systems that I like, and things i don't like. Not one is my dream machine. I guess I'll never be satisfied.

If you decide that cost is of consequence, then think used. There are several internet listings, and sometimes some auction services that have longarms for sale. Getting a machine to you from a distant location can be intimidating, but it really isn't all that difficult. Finding one locally and hauling it yourself is probably preferable. but you should not compromise on your "must have" features inorder to do that. If you can easily add the feature to a local machine, fine, but don't settle. You'll just be buying a different machine a couple of years down the line. There are a number of used machines for sale on this forum, and APQS sometimes offers used trade in machines at discounted prices. It's not my intention to trash any ones machine. People use them, like them, and they get the job done. I'm just offering observations I have from owning several machines in the past. The APQS machines are outstanding. I love the one I have and am happy I bought it. Don't settle, you"ll be sorry. Regards. Jim

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Before I bought my APQS Lucey, I test drove numerous long and mid-arms machines that were being shown at two large US Quilt Shows. I made a list of all the machines, and took a couple of hands-on classes to get the feel of a longarm. I did a price and machine warranty comparision, then began eliminating the "clunkers" from my list of potential machines. Critical for me was whether there were dealers in Canada.

I seemed to be drawn back to the APQS booth, the sales reps were well informed and helpful, all new machines have an 8 year warranty, and the price was competitve with other similar brands.

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I was in your shoes a short while ago, back in the fall. It hurt my head looking at all the machines and trying them out, reading the forums etc. It almost seemed easier to forget the whole thing at times. Well anyway, my hubby helped me shop around to find the right machine and finally went with the Millennium. Over and over again, I kept seeing people who weren't happy with the smaller machines and then upgrading to a larger machine. I said if I was going to do it and spend all this money, I wanted the top of the line, so we did. I'm still learning since she was purchased right before Christmas. It's great that I have all winter to play with her. So far, I can say good things, set up was good and she stitched right out of the box. Now, I have to do the work and learn my free motion, which might take me forever ;-) I did one of the pantographs they sent along and it went well for my first time. Also, I went to one of their roadshows and got a very good price, along with the extras they throw in.

Good luck in your search!

Sandy

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Thank you so much for all the valuable insight and information. I will certainly not rush into this purchase and I really appreciate all the advice. Seriously each quilters journey adds knowledge to my decision as I start this process. My biggest obstacle my be getting my husband on board! Again Thank You

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I love my Lenni. I only quilt for me and while all of the features and extras available for the Millie are great, Lenni with the Bliss system is perfect for me and the price tag was more affordable. I looked at machines for several years and the people at the APQS booth in Houston were always the nicest, year after year.

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Sewtime,

You mentioned that space is an issue. It may be possible to get a custom length machine with APQS if that is where your space issue is.

Otherwise I would agree that you should get the longest table you do have room for.

One of the key reasons to get an APQS machine is the quality of the machine, the ease with which you will be able to manage every aspect of keeping of using it, servicing it and generally keeping it in great working working order and the wonderful service from APQS. If you have been lurking for a while you may well have noticed Dawn Cavanagh, the APQS National Educator, popping on to the forum to help someone with a machine issue. That is an example of the excellent service you get from APQS.

Take advantage of some of those nearby APQS dealers all of whom, I am sure, would be more than happy for you to try out the machines.

Good luck with your decision and happy quilting.

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