.At Festival of Quilts in August I went to have a look at the “Play Area” for the Grace Long Arm Quilting machines and frames. The stands were a collaboration between JB Sewing Machine Co (based in the UK) and The Grace Company, who came over from Utah.
The rep from The Grace Company was very welcoming – even though I visited every day to have a play on a different element!
It is fair to say that I have never been tempted by Long Arm Quilting – I love my domestic sewing machine, and am passionate about the opportunity and adventure that walking foot quilting offers, but as I was visiting FoQ with the sole aim of having fun, seeing quilts and all the exhibitions, and as the rep was so welcoming on that first day when I poked my nose in, I thought it would be good to really test things out!
Trying out one of the Grace Q’nique machines on one of the Grace frames was ….. AMAZING! It was so very easy to create some good free motion stitching. The stitch quality was great. I had super control and my (usually rather bumpy) pebbles and feathers etc were smooth and (almost) perfectly formed! Well, they weren’t bad at any rate! Standing up to quilt and not having the weight of the quilt itself to wrangle made everything very comfortable.
The machine I was using was probably the 16X (I did ask, but I didn’t write it down!). With this you aren’t needing to co-ordinate your hands and your feet. You have thumb control for the stitching itself as part and parcel of the ergonomic handles with which you direct the stitch patterns. It had the advantage of a stitch regulator, which probably helps to explain my unusually lovely stitch quality! I think the frame was a Q-Zone – it was nice and compact, but offered a great space for quilting. Basting also seems to be a lot easier on a frame, rather than on my hands and knees!
I had a play at “normal” free motion quilting and at “ruler” quilting. Although I could see the interest for ruler quilting, I was always a bit concerned that I would stitch over my fingers while I was holding the ruler in place!
So then I did have a look at the prices – and there were some excellent show offers. A 16X machine would cost around £5000. The Cutie frame (which sits on your own table top and can be put out of the way when not in use) would be around £800. For something a lot more All Singing, All Dancing from the Grace Company ranges, you would be looking at something closer to £10,000. And, of course, you can pay even more – always assuming that you have a room that is at least 15′ long to accommodate the frame!
Many of these frames can be used with your existing machine, but with limitations. The size of your machine’s throat has a big impact. If your machine has an 8″ throat space, you are still going to have to force your quilt into that same gap. You also have the issue that you are still needing to use your foot pedal. Though I think I saw some magic gadgetry that you could plug into the foot control socket so that you could use handle controls.
So, in summary –
- if I had the space and the money, I would love a dedicated long arm quilting set up,
- and if I did have the space and the money I think I would have placed an order for a machine and frame there and then.
I did look at the Cutie frame but I think that using my home sewing machine on a frame might frustrate me more than it would inspire. But, realistically, I suspect there would always be other things on which I would prefer to spend any available money. I don’t think I would be tempted by ruler quilting. As clever as the machines are that you program in a design and just leave it, I think I would want a bit more connection with my quilting. Having said that though, I do have an embroidery machine that you can just set and go! But I don’t enjoy embroidery – just the end result!
I just love my walking foot!
(and if you want help to fall in love with your walking foot, come join us on a course!)
(If I get chance to play on someone else’s machine and frame another time, would I have a go? You betcha!).
Do let me know what your thoughts are – I always love hearing from you.