Friday, July 8, 2016

The Longarm Dilemma

I'm in the market for an entry-level longarm machine, but it's a big decision so I'm indecisive. I have my eye on a Handi Quilter Sweet 16, as I like the idea of being able to sit down, it takes up less space than a traditional longarm, and being able to move the quilt instead of moving the needle means it's not a paradigm shift from quilting on my sewing machine.

Yesterday I went to my local Handi Quilter dealer to try the machine. It feels different certainly, but I love the stitch regulator and the visibility offered. One of my biggest problems on my DSM is that I cannot see behind the foot very well. Though I know the regulator is like training wheels, it does offer beautiful and even stitches when I want to concentrate on nothing but the design itself. I like to go really slowly and stitch really precisely. I recognize that it's a lot better to stitch slowly than to stitch quickly and have to rip ... ripping takes longer and is a lot less fun! However, the regulator obviously has limitations of it's own ... that is, I always need to make sure it's at a position that it's moving at the same rate as I'm moving the quilt. If it's lying in a corner or bunched up and doesn't recognize my quilt movements, it's useless ... as I discovered when my stitches suddenly looked very unregulated.

While there, the salesperson also asked me if I have considered a traditional longarm with a frame. Though the idea of bringing home something so big scares me, I've always been curious what it's like to stitch on a traditional longarm. I tried my hand at the Babylock Coronet, which is on a frame and is a bit more expensive than the HQ Sweet 16, but not prohibitively so. If I had never done free-motion ever, it would have been easier to stitch doodle by moving the machine, but I'm already used to moving the fabric and don't even think about it anymore in terms of design, so now moving the machine feels a bit odd to me. The Coronet has a built-in stitch regulator, so my stitches looked good, but my lines were definitely wobbly and my work looked worse than on the sit down. However, I know it's because I'm not used to the movement and the awkwardness will go away with practice.

So I'm torn about which machine to get. The HQ Sweet 16 has on its side a slightly cheaper price tag, the ability to sit down, a less steep learning curve, and most importantly, it will fit in my sewing room. The Coronet will not fit if I get the frame that will fit queen-sized quilts so I'll have to place it in the open where my young children can access it, and that's not appealing at all. Even if that's not a concern, it's still very inconvenient if it's removed from all my other sewing supplies. However, I know once I'm used to it, I'll probably be able to quilt faster on the Coronet.

Tough choice ...

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