When I was looking at the various machines, I struggled to find a site that would give some personal input re using them. Naturally, all the manufacturers make their machines seem like the best possible choice! So for anyone who's currently looking, here are some reasons why I picked the Sweet Sixteen. I'm not getting paid to write this, and these are my opinions based on how I quilt. You may have a totally different work space/work flow etc. I think one of the most important things is to analyze what your needs/wants are going into the selection process.
1. Size: I don't have space for a longarm. The men in my basement would only make more Adolphia comments! The Sweet Sixteen is a sitdown midarm. It takes up more space than my Bernina, but not that much more.
2. FMQ action: there seem to be two main ways to free-motion quilt. On a longarm you drive the needle, much like drawing with a pencil. On a sit down machine you move the fabric and the needle is stationary, like a standard sewing machine. For me, it came down to personal preference. I learned to FMQ on a sewing machine. It took lots of practice to get some decent looking stitches, and I don't feel like learning a whole new technique.
3. Features: Look at the light on this baby! Plus a 16 inch harp, top speed of 1,500 stitches a minute and a great table that comes with the machine. It is very heavy. Ain't going to be no machine bopping around, no matter how fast I go.
4. Support for a big quilt: I have made 2 queen size quilts on a standard sewing machine, using the quilt-as-you-go method, so I'm sure it won't be an issue for me to do big quilts on this machine either.In fact the table is so wide that it will be a big help, and other tables can easily be butted up against it for additional support.
5. Price: this is the third most expensive thing I have ever bought, behind my car and my house. The longarm is probably a third again as expensive. I can't justify that. I already feel incredibly self-indulgent (and very blessed..)
6. User experience: I tried long arm machines at quilt shows, and frankly I feel like they run away with me. This is probably me not putting in the necessary time and practice to make it work for me, but hey, life is short. I sat down at the Sweet Sixteen and produced nice stitches straight off the bat. Instant gratification.
7. Preparation: I've never loaded a quilt onto a longarm, but it looks like there is quite a process there. With the Sweet Sixteen I just need to put the quilt under the needle, switch it on and go.
8. Brand names: I was actually looking to buy a Pfaff Powerquilter, after reading Linda Kemshall's raves about it, but it seems as if many of the brand name midarms are actually Handi Quilter machines that have been relabeled, much like Kia and Hyundai cars. I had a really good experience with my Handi Quilter dealer when I went for a test drive, so it seemed to make sense just to go with the Sweet Sixteen.The dealer is going to provide lessons, service etc. so your relationship with him or her is important going forward.
Hope this was helpful! As I begin to work with the machine, I plan to add more posts, giving some honest feedback on how I find quilting with it.