Last week I posted about my frustration with free motion quilting on my domestic sewing machine. (By, the way, that article is my most frequently viewed post this year, having garnered more than 1,370 views in just one week. There must be a lot of frustrated quilters. I feel your pain.) I mentioned that I’m considering buying a long arm quilting machine.
On Thursday I went to the Scottsdale Quilting, Crafts, and Sewing Festival at WestWorld to explore the different options. I got a $2 discount off the $12 ticket, and I was happy about that, until I arrived and discovered that parking cost another $10. Although my admission ticket was good for three days, I now knew I would not be returning.
Incidentally, I wore my mask, but I’d say 70% of the people there were maskless.
There were many booths and many vendors, but by far the largest exhibitor was a local store chain (where I get my Pfaff serviced). They carry sewing machines by many different manufacturers, and they had company educators demonstrating the machines. These machines can do many things: embroider, make appliqués, and quilt robotically. The representatives varied in their helpfulness. I’m an introvert, so I dealt with the reps who reached out to me.
The first machine I saw was a Brother Luminaire 3, a sit-down machine with automatic computerized quilting, a section at a time, within a frame. (I didn’t know a sit-down machine could do that.) 10 all-over designs are programmed into the computer, but you can manually program more. The show price for the machine was $16,999 (a discount of $4,000), but still way out of my price range.
I walked down the gauntlet of booths and saw Jukis and Janomes and Huskvarnas and Singers and Pfaffs and I don’t remember what all. Then I saw the Handi Quilter Capri that I’ve visited at the store (and at a show price of $6495 instead of the usual $7995, I thought that was the one I wanted). But next to it was the Handi Quilter Moxie, an “entry-level” stand-up machine. The difference between a sit-down and a stand-up machine (other than the position of your body) is that with a sit-down, you move the quilt under the machine’s needle with your hands. With a stand-up, the quilt is attached to a frame, and you use handlebars to move the machine where you want to stitch. To me, that seemed a lot more intimidating. The representative asked me if I’d like to try it out, and I said yes. Surprisingly, the machine glides along easily, and while my stitches did not look amazing, I could tell that with practice I could get very good at it. The representative said it’s like signing your name: which is easier to control, moving the paper or moving the pen?
The Moxie is available with or without a computerized option, Pro-Stitcher Lite, which is programmed with 400 quilting patterns ranging from all-over designs to ones scaled for certain areas, like squares, rectangles, borders, corners, triangles, etc. Pro-Stitcher Lite differs from regular Pro-Stitcher in that it’s made for the Moxie, which has a 15-inch throat, as opposed to an 18-inch throat common for longarms. (I guess that means the Moxie is a mid-arm.) You can really only work on about a 12-inch deep strip at a time, which means more frequent rolling. The advantage to buying something with this limitation is price. The show price for the Moxie and frame is $4495, and for Pro-Stitcher Lite is $5495, both of them discounted $500 each. That makes it far less than the first machine I saw.
So, the show is now over, and these prices are no longer valid. Also, prices are predicted to go up shortly. Please don’t expect to find prices like these in your store now. Do your own research. Go to a show if you can.
I’m 95% sure that the Moxie with Pro-Stitcher Lite is what I want. My big question is, it comes with either a 5-foot frame (any quilt larger than 48” wide would need to be hooped) or an 8-foot frame (which can handle up to a queen-sized quilt). Do I even have enough room for either of these frames?
Since I don’t want to give up my living room, family room, or dining room, and there’s definitely no room in our bedroom, that leaves me my little study, which is jammed with boxes of stuff that for years I haven’t found a good place for.
I walked around the rest of the show and saw even more machines, including one from a small company in Utah. The proprietor said he is the inventor of the Handi Quilter longarm. I was tempted to order his machine, but I’d rather have a local resources for servicing. So I went back to my local Handi Quilter distributer and locked in my price for the machine by committing to a layaway. The shop owner assured me that if I decide not to go through with the purchase, they will refund my money.
So now I have a big chore ahead of me—I will have to reconfigure my study. Undoubtedly, that will mean getting rid of some of my stuff. I am bad at that. My husband thinks I should just move everything to the garage. Read The Garage of Doom and The Garage of Delight to see why I’m reluctant to do that. (Man, I wish our garage still looked like those “after” pictures; but it’s filling up again. I blame my husband.)
By the way, there were lots of interesting fabrics, patterns, and accessories at the show. In addition to the usual offerings you would expect to see at a quilting, craft, and sewing festival, one booth had fabric, panels, and baskets made in Africa; another had parts of old Japanese silk kimonos, so you could make a purse out of a sleeve, a table runner out of an obi sash. One booth had very colorful fabrics and panels in original designs, not available in stores. The designer, P.Carter Carpin, travels around the country selling at shows and festivals. (She also has an Etsy shop.) Look at the lovely quilts she’s made from her fabrics! So simple, and yet so impactful because of the colors and patterns of the fabric. I bought 7 fat quarters (at $4 a pop) because they were so gorgeous and unusual.
I enjoyed reading about your buying process, the pros and cons of each machine. Good luck on cleaning out your stuff! I’d offer to help, but if I’m going to clean out anything, it should probably be from my own garage of doom! (I definitely blame my husband!)
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It would be hard to help me on this job, because I’m the one who has to make the decision which things to keep and which to give away. Greg tries to help, and it just sparks anxiety. . .
Ooh, this sounds so exciting! And I will profit from your research myself. 🙂
Yes, I think it is definitely easier to move the machine than the quilt.
As far as frame size, if you started with the smaller frame, could you trade up later if you wanted to? I think it would be great to have the larger frame so you could make bigger quilts, but if you don’t have a lot of room, maybe the smaller one is the way to go.
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Yes, I could at a later date get the big one, I’m pretty sure. That’s at the back of my mind.