I’ll bet from the title of this post that you’re expecting me to give you a chart of some kind, with various brands and features, and present myself as an expert on the subject! That’s not happening.
First of all, I’m no expert on anything other than my own opinion. Secondly, writers of blogs choose post titles carefully so they can easily be found, and calling this “If you’re in the market for a longarm you might want to check out some of these suggestions” would register as TOO LONG AND BORING! LOL
However, if you ARE in the market for a longarm you might want to check out some of these suggestions:
- Don’t be hasty.
- Do your research and make comparisons very carefully.
- Try various brands even if you have to travel a bit of distance.
DON’T BE HASTY
If you’re looking at buying a longarm machine, you could potentially be investing as much money as you would to buy a new car, or perhaps a small house, depending on where you live! Now, not everyone is buying the biggest, fanciest machine with all the expensive technology, but the point is that this is no minor purchase and just as you would weigh the pros and cons of buying an economy vehicle next to those of buying a luxury sedan, based on your needs and your budget, you need to consider a lot of different things in order to make the best decision FOR YOU.
If you’re an impulsive shopper – STOP IT! This isn’t something you want to buy in a hurry, or on a whim like when you’re at a big quilt show and you want All. The. Things. This is one of those items to go gather information about and then go home and think about, not one to load up in your truck alongside all the bags of fabric and kits and gadgets you don’t really need but just had to have…)
“But there’s a special deal on today!” Come on, we’ve all been around the block (quilt pun intended) enough times to know that there will always be some kind of deal if we are just patient and wait for it. Getting a special deal on something you will later regret buying is NOT a special deal. And next month’s special deal might be even more special anyway, so just stop and think. There should be a mantra for this, like stop, drop and roll. Maybe “stitch, stop, and sleep on it.”
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Talk to dealers about everything you can think of with regard to their machines.
Ask about warranties, what they cover, what they don’t, and which circumstances have limitations.
Ask about service and regular maintenance:
- Who does it, you or the dealer?
- Where is it done, in your home or somewhere you have to take your machine?
- How often does it need to be done and how much does it cost?
- Does the price include training? Where will that happen?
Find out if the people selling the machines are also USING the machines. Are the dealers/owners actually longarm quilters themselves or are they sales people? Do they have hands on personal experience and insight to share with you and help you make your decision? If not, think about whether or not that difference matters to you.
MAKE COMPARISONS CAREFULLY
This is a very tricky area. You won’t be comparing apples with apples while comparing longarm machine brands. You’ll be comparing apples, oranges, bananas and passion fruit. I threw that last one in there because there’s a little part of each of us that is enticed by the “extras” we might or might not actually need to do the job we want to do. But they might be fun, or allow us to grow more in our skills, or make something easier.
Because direct comparison can rarely be made, you need to look at various things on each machine to find out what the features do, why they’re helpful (or not really), if they’re things you need to have or not, things you will grow into, things you want to afford or things you don’t. Notice I said “want to afford”. Sometimes we’re looking at items we CAN afford but choose not to. Each person must decide for themselves which features and prices suit them, but having said that, again I stress that your comparisons should be CAREFUL ones.
I would suggest not using price alone to determine your final choice, unless all other things have first been considered and price is the only significant difference. Budget is important of course, but keeping in mind that you aren’t comparing apples with apples, sometimes the price can be deceiving. A machine that appears to be cheaper, might in the long run end up costing nearly the same as another once you decide to accessorize it – either at the time of purchase of later on – with features that already come standard on the initially more expensive option.
Sometimes what you think is a convenience ends up being a sacrifice. For example, if you like the idea of portability, you’ll likely be sacrificing weight and sturdiness, whether we’re talking about longarm machines, sewing machines, or other bigger items you use around the house. Lighter weight versions might have more vibration causing louder volume during use. If the DIY setup/install appeals to you (it’s usually cheaper), you might be sacrificing quality and materials that would be heavier and more difficult to break down in the item that must be delivered and assembled by a professional. It is, of course, our own choice to sacrifice or not according to our own situations. The important thing is to consider the possible trade offs in both directions and not ignore them.
If there are features available that you aren’t familiar with, watch some videos on YouTube to find out how others are using them and why they might be advantageous to you, remembering that until you actually have a machine in your house and use it regularly, you can’t always be certain what you will and will not use.
TRY VARIOUS BRANDS
Unless you have owned a longarm before or used one extensively you won’t necessarily know which one is a good fit for you. Depending on were you live, it might be difficult to access a variety of brands and try them out, unless you can get to a trade show or quilt show where dealers will be demonstrating their machines. If this is the case, I do suggest giving yourself a chance to try a few different ones. Even if you already know of a couple you do not want, give them a try at a show where you can also try others on the same day so you can make some direct comparisons as to the weight, the smoothness of operation, the sound, vibrations etc.
Don’t rule out a particular brand because it’s hard to get to a demo. It might be the right one for you, and Murphy’s Law states that you will find that out precisely two months later when you do get to a show after you’ve purchased the one you thought was a good idea for valid reasons at the time, and end up kicking yourself for it. Especially when some people who know you pretty well suggested you should wait and get the other one. And one of them even offered to drive you four hours away to see it in person but you still didn’t go. But I digress…
My point is that when you are new to anything, there’s a lot of stuff you don’t know. There’s a lot of stuff you don’t even know you don’t know. So ask questions, read reviews, find out why prices are what they are, what’s included and why, and make an informed decision, not a hasty one, not an impulsive one. All we can do is make the best possible decision at the time with what we know. Make sure you know as much as you can, about the machines you’re looking at, and about yourself!
In the words of a smart guy I know, “It’s cheaper to buy one longarm machine than to buy two.”