When I began exploring art quilting I was very excited to get going. I had good sewing machine (a Pfaff) and a large table with plenty of surface to support my fabric. It was an adequate set up for my skill level. As I got better I started looking at equipment I would need to “up my game”. While walking through a quilt show I starting playing with a long arm frame that would work with my home machine. It seemed so easy…..
What a deal. I bought the floor model at a great discount, the dealer dropped in off at my house and a month later his shop closed without notice. In the end I sold that frame for half what I bought it for and learned a valuable lesson. Tools are an investment in your artistic practice.
The next time I invested in a sewing machine I did my homework. Several members of my critique group used the Bernina I ended up purchasing. My local shop where I bought my first “real” sewing machine (a Pfaff) allowed a generous trade price, sold me a floor model and was always there when I was learning how to work with my new machine. .
When I bought my large Koala table after I retired, I was already skilled and took advantage of having a large professional table that allowed me to move my heavily painted material on a smooth surface. My free motion quilting improved immensely after by having a great machine with a great set up and spending time working on my skills.
Recently it became clear the need for a larger inventory. I needed to invest in a tool that will increase my productivity and allow me to expand my skills. After much thought, I started looking at long arm and mid arm quilting machines.
A long arm sewing machine is used to sew a quilt top, batting and back together using a frame that is usually able to accommodate a twin, queen or king size quilt. The cost for this large beast can be prohibitive unless you are using the machine to quilt for other people.
A mid arm machine takes up less space and usually has a table instead of a frame. The mid arm is a machine midway between a long arm and a regular sewing machine. The mid arm has a large throat space, a big bobbin and the ability to change the bobbin without taking your quilt off the machine.
Both machines are made to exclusively to quilt. They are the premiere tool for a free motion quilter. I started by window shopping at my local quilt guild’s biennial show. On the sales floor there were a few vendors showing machines. I stopped at each booth, collected their promotional material, watched them demonstrate on the machine, tried the machine myself, took measurements and asked the same five questions.
- How much is this machine?
- Where would I get this machine serviced?
- Will this machine be delivered?
- Does this machine work easily with a variety of thread?
- Is there a local quilter who is a customer that I can talk to?
After a couple of months of research I bought the “Sweet 16” made by the Handi Quilter. Here are the reasons why:
- A reasonable price ($6000) with the bonus of no interest financing over 48 months.
- The machine is made in Utah and my local shop offers good dependable service and is happy to have you stop in for troubleshooting.
- The machine was delivered to my door for $20 and the setup took 30 minutes.
- Before I made my final decision, I went to the shop with 6 different spools of thread made by different manufactures, weights and material. Although the shop recommended using Superior Threads (our local manufacturer) because of their high quality, the machine easily handled any thread with an easy adjustment to the tension.
- Most importantly I walked over to a friend and fellow art quilter in my neighborhood and played on her machine. She was honest about problems she has, but also provided some easy solutions.
I have moved from being a weekend artist to working in my studio full time. This commitment has paid off. I am now a Juried Artist Member of SAQA. Currently I have work in nine different venues. Some of my work will be travelling for the next two or three years. Investing now is going to pay off in my ability to get my work out to a larger audience.
Until next time…….
You can see my work…….
Under The Western Sun
April 27 – July 25 2017
The Macey Center Socorro, NM
July 24 to September 11.
National Quilt Museum, Paducah Kentucky
June – September 2017
July 7 – 23 2017 and Traveling throughout the country!
Southern Utah Museum of Art
Cedar City Utah
June 30 – August 26 2017
St. George Museum of Art
St. George Utah
April 28 – August 16 2017
Poway Center for the Arts
June 1 – June 24, 2017
Ft. Collins, CO
July 5 – August 26
San Diego, CA
October 21 2017 – January 7 2018