Thursday, January 5, 2017

Handi Quilter Sweet 16 Review

I've had my Handi Quilter Sweet 16 (I call her Chloe) since July, so almost 6 months, and in that time I've quilted several lap quilts and several runners on her. I really, really enjoy using her, and overall she is a joy to use, but it took a little bit of getting to know her before I was consistently happy with the results. I know it's always good to send a review of the machine out into the wild to help other buyers make informed decisions, so here's mine.

General Usage:

In general my Sweet 16 works really great. I've found it very easy to use. However, I have never even tried a queen size, so far the biggest quilt I've done is 60" x 80", and already, I can tell that there's a huge amount of gravity and drag fighting me. However, I've been able to manage it so far with my suspension setup with dog grooming stands. I don't consider it a bonus ... it's a necessity. Otherwise, even if my entire quilt is lying on the table, even if there's no downward drag, the physical weight of the quilt becomes an issue as I'm stitching, resulting in some directions being excessively hard to maneuver, causing wobbles and uneven stitch lengths. The suspension setup, while not perfect, makes a huge difference.

Stitch Regulation:

I bought the TruStitch regulator because I thought it would make my life easier. Well, I never use it, I wish I could return it. It's simply not very user friendly, and has a learning curve all its own. I wrote about it extensively here. I'd suggest you save your money. My reason for this is pretty simple ... even stitch length doesn't matter as much as I thought it did. All of the "ugly patches" of quilting in my quilts is caused by poor traveling, bad tension, wobbles, hesitations, drag, and not one of those problems can be fixed by even stitch length. As I practiced and got better at all of those other things, my stitch length consistency also improved.

Tension:

This took me awhile to figure out, and no doubt every machine is slightly different as people use different threads and have different sewing environments, but I don't go by Handi Quilter's official way of testing bobbin tension. Their way is to load the bobbin, then let it drop down slowly, like a spider. I've found that when I get that sort of bobbin tension, and even adjust the top tension accordingly (so that the stitching looks great), my thread breaks more. What works for me is to make the bobbin tension tighter than their "spider" drop, and up the top tension too, and then my stitches look perfect and my thread hardly ever breaks. I'm not saying do what I do ... I'm just saying don't necessarily go by Handi Quilter's recommendation for perfect bobbin tension! Some people just get a Towa tension gauge, and combined with the easy-set top tension number on the machine, find their own happy tension number for each thread and write it down. It might be nothing like what Handi Quilter recommends, but that doesn't matter if your stitches look great and your thread rarely breaks.

Maintenance:

So far maintaining this machine is really easy. I clean the bobbin area with a pipe cleaner every bobbin change, and I oil the bobbin area every other bobbin. I plan to take it to the shop about once every two years for a "cleaning". So far, after many many hours of stitching on it, I've not run into any issues.

Bobbin Winder:

I don't like the bobbin winder. There, I said it. It took me a long time to figure out how to wind polyester thread properly. Aurifil was easy. Polyester thread (like Isacord or Superior So Fine) was tough. It kept flying out of the tension disk. Eventually I figured out to wind the Aurifil thread around the tension disk once, Superior twice, and Isacord three times. But even in that scenario, the bobbin isn't able to fully fill up. It just doesn't wind evenly after a certain point, and I've not been able to remedy this. It works, but it's not optimal. I try to use prewound bobbins as much as I can to avoid having to wind bobbins.

Accessories:

I didn't buy a whole lot of extras. As I said TruStitch was a waste of money, but I did like the table overlay, and find that it completely eliminates the need for a Supreme Slider. I bought one extension table because that's all that would fit. I really like the extension table and find when combined with suspension it works really well.

***

Here's a picture of the suspension in action. It's not pretty, but it really works, and I wouldn't quilt anything remotely sizable without a setup like this.

Overall I love this machine, and I highly recommend it. It has so much more visibility than my domestic sewing machine, and it sews at a much higher speed. I have spent a lot of time enjoying this machine and hope to spend many, many more hours with it.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the information...found it interesting. Currently debating whether to get a HQ16

    ReplyDelete

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