New Machines for Free Motion Quilting

I am completely distracted today by the internet, by email, by my To Do list.

So it's a great time to procrastinate by writing a blog post! I should be cleaning my sewing area since I promised some 'after' shots asap.

Source: via Amy on Pinterest

Amanda gave me a good idea on my spring cleaning post that gave me a solution for my lavender blocking board. I'll show the results of my cleaning spree tomorrow. I promise think.

On facebook, my somewhat local quilt shop who is a dealer for Gammill posted that they now have a sit-down Gammill! Squirrel!  I dragged myself away from google search paused after a few minutes of futilely searching for the price on line, because I know that it's not in my budget. Nor is it really able to fit in my floor plan until I launch a child into the adult world (some 10 years or more from now).

I knew it was only a matter of time before there would be more sit-down long arms, or bigger domestic sewing machines with more harp space. There's just such an interest in free motion quilting now, and a regular long arm is just not in the cards for many of us. Whether it is price, floor space, ability (or percieved lack of ability), or just the principle of the thing, full long arm ownership is not going to become standard equipment for all quilters.

I have yet to take an IRL look at the Gammill version, but I have looked at the Handy Quilter Sweet 16 Sit-Down version, and APQS's George. Even took them both for a spin. The biggest difference between the 2 machines for me was the orientation. The Handiquilter is oriented in a long arm position, perpendicular to the user. The APQS George was oriented parallel, like a sewing machine. Guess which one I preferred?

I learned to FMQ on my regular sewing machine, so I found the Handiquilter disorienting. Plus if one is moving the quilt away from the quilter, it's going to get bunched up behind the needle eventually if making a good sized quilt even with the 16inch arm. With the parallel orientation, the quilt will touch the body of the machine off to the right side, just like a sewing machine. A better arrangement if you ask me.

The Gammill is oriented parallel also and one thing that caught my eye in one write up is that it has voice controls! That is a HUGE plus if it works like I hope, though I'm sure it isn't a cheap function.

It looks as if every long arm manufacturer now has a sit down version available. I have to admit to be somewhat pining away for George. If I were given one I'd take it in a heartbeat! I'd even feature it prominently in the blog......hint, hint. Hey, never hurts to state what you want! But at this point in my life, the price isn't something I want to dole out right now. If you've had kids you know how it can be.

But are these machines necessary for good, even great quilting? Nope. Especially if you aren't doing king-sized quilts. You might want a 9 inch machine, or even an 11 inch machine, which are still possible to find for a few thousand less than these sit-down long arms depending on the manufacturer. I learned to FMQ on a Kenmore machine with not quite 6 inches of room to the right of the needle. It didn't even have needle up/down on it. Then a 6 inch Janome (3182QDC, great machine) with needle up and speed control. That helped a bunch. Then I moved up to my Janome 6600P with 9 inches to the right of the needle. That made a huge difference!

If you are struggling with quilting your quilts, don't just chalk it up to the machine's fault, nor your own perceived lack of skill. There are a lot of variables that can affect your progress and it takes time to develop this ability! Learn all you can before spending a bunch of money for a new machine or giving up. Try some of the tips on my new Tips for Free Motion Quilting page.

I'm still hoping Janome comes out with an 11 inch harp space machine similar to the 9 inch 1600P, which is a straight stitch only powerhouse (1600P on Amazon). This means you wouldn't pay for all the bells and whistles that the other big machines have and could leave it set up for free motion quilting work.

Now, for a little cleaning before more school with the kiddos! Why don't you tell me your thoughts on these new machines in the comments? I'd love to hear what you think.


  1. I have found I have to use genuine bobbins in my Viking. I bought a bunch of knock offs (read: SUPER cheap) off ebay. I kept having problems. One time I finally realized that when I had problems it might be when I was using one of those bobbins. After three times of having a problem and saying "I'll bet when I check it is one of those bobbins" and being proven right ... I threw them all in the trash. No more problems.


  2. Interesting information. I dread the quilting part and do it sheerly out of necessity. I guess I haven't learned the joy of that part of quilting yet!

    1. I dunno Nancy, your quilting looks better than sheer necessity to me. I haven't exactly learned the joy of piecing so I guess it's a good thing that I really enjoy the quilting!

  3. just want to say that - you know its bad when your teen says to you - Momma - step away from the lap top and go into your studio - LOL!! sighhhhh - Ohh and I saved for a year and a half for my Horizon - love the 11" harp on it and really I do use most of the bells and whistles (could do without all the fancy stitches and touch screen). Yeah I know its the most expensive piece of electronics in the house - but I use it a ton so it was worth it.

    1. hubby said I could get whatever machine I wanted when we were at the local Janome dealer. At the time the Horizon 7700 was the machine I wanted, but *I* decided it cost too much despite hubby's words. So I got the 6600 instead, and while I love it, those 2 extra inches make me think about moving up occasionally. Hubby says, "I told you to pick what you wanted then!"