I’ve gotten quite a few questions lately about how and if I am still enjoying the Babylock Coronet long arm that I bought so I thought I’d do a blog post to talk about how it’s going and give you some things to consider if you are thinking about adding a long arm to your studio…
First though let me address the question of if I am still enjoying having it in the studio – the answer is a resounding YES! I couldn’t be happier to have the Babylock Coronet in my studio and it’s definitely had an effect on my workflow and the finished results of the first 3 quilts that I’ve made on it so far:
How? Well for one thing I am much more comfortable doing free motion quilting on my pieces with the long arm than I have ever been on my domestic machine. These three pieces all have a lot of free motion stippling and quilting on them. For me, it is much more comfortable to do free motion work by moving the machine instead of the fabric. It’s less stress on my shoulders and arms and it’s faster. I feel I have much more control doing free motion work with the long arm vs a domestic machine. In the past, I would have just stitched some simple way lines as the background on these quilts. I would have just done simple lines of straight stitching on the tree limbs and trunk. The result would have been good quilts but I think with the addition of the more complex free motion stippling and quilting to fill the spaces the result is great quilts.
These quilts also have some straight line stitching on them too. I did these straight stitched lines on the long arm using a ruler to guide the machine and keep the lines straight. It took me a lot less time to do this on the long arm than it would have on the domestic machine.
The only thing I used my domestic machine for on these quilts was to stitch down the center of the black lines. The black lines are very thin and I don’t really feel like I have enough control over the long arm machine yet to trust myself to stay in the center of the black lines. That will come in time with more practice.
So what led me to specifically choose the Babylock Coronet to add to my studio? There were several reasons behind my choosing this particular machine:
1: I only had a space measuring 9″ x 6′ in my studio to give up for a long arm so adding an 8′ wide long arm just wasn’t an option for me. Sure I could squeeze it in but an 8′ frame takes up more space than that when you figure you need to have a foot or two all the way around it.
The Babylock Coronet comes with a free standing quilting frame that assembled takes up only about 5′ x 3′ of floor space. This made it a perfect fit for the amount of space that I had available.
2: I didn’t want to buy a frame that would dictate the widest quilt that I could create on it. Traditional long arm quilt frames use a roller system. You attach the quilt to rollers on the front and back of the frame and that is how the quilt is advanced for stitching on. This means that your quilt has to fit within the length of the rollers.
The Babylock Coronet free standing quilting frame uses a clamp system instead of a roller system. This clamp system has several benefits. It functions like a big embroidery hoop and it means that you can work wider than the actual frame width. The clamp system makes it easy put the quilt on and take it off the machine to reposition it depending on where on the quilt you want to stitch. The excess quilt just hangs off the edges of the frame or you can roll up the excess and use clamps to secure it to the hoop to keep it out of the way.
3: Price. Long arm machines are not cheap! You can easily spend more than you would on a car for a long arm machine depending on the configuration that you buy.
My budget for a long arm was 5k and I got a great deal for my Babylock Coronet. It was a show special that was offered at the Houston International Quilt Festival that my local dealer honored so that I could buy the machine locally. I paid less than $4500 for the 16″ Babylock Coronet and the frame.
My advice to anyone looking to add a long arm to their studio is this:
1. Consider the way you work. In my case as an art quilter my work flow is a little different than a traditional quilter. I don’t wait until after my quilt is assembled before I quilt it. I quilt my background first, then I add details, then I add more quilting and I repeat until the quilt is finished. This means taking the quilt on and off the frame several times. This makes the clamp system of the Babylock Coronet a perfect fit for my style of working which is one of the main reasons I chose it.
2: Be realistic about how much space you have for one. Don’t buy a machine that is too big for the space you have just because it is a good deal or it’s the machine you have your heart set on. You need enough space to be able to walk around it and comfortably position yourself to use.
3: Be realistic about how much money you have to spend. Like I mentioned, you can easily spend as much as you would if you were buying a new car and most dealers will offer a financing option so it’s easy to get in over your head with spending more than you should.
4: Do your homework. Don’t buy the first machine you try. Before I decided to buy the Babylock Coronet I test drove every long arm machine I could find. It took me a little under a year to do my due diligence before I made my final decision to by the Babylock Coronet. Take your time and make an informed decision before you buy.
5: Buy local if you can. If something goes wrong and you need service, being able to drive your machine to a local dealer is a lot more convenient than boxing it up and shipping it somewhere. A lot of the dealers I spoke with in Houston who wanted me to take advantage of the show special and buy their machine right then assured me that their telephone support was top notch and that it was rare to have to send a machine in for support but I didn’t want to risk it. I also wanted to support my local dealer – I was spending a lot of $$ and I wanted that to go to supporting the local dealer I have a relationship with.
I hope that all this information is helpful to you if you are considering adding a long arm to your studio. If you have any other specific questions that I haven’t answered here please don’t hesitate to write me and ask!
My other posts on this subject: