Ask Jo: Quilting Machines

Every so often I get a question from a blog reader that I believe others might be interested in too.  I answer them here on the blog.  Today is one of those days.

This question comes from Debbie, “I’m just curious if I were to purchase a GQ (Pfaff Grand Quilter) 1200 used what price is good or not good and if it comes with a grace frame…. is that good? I am new to quilting. Have made a dozen tops but am wanting to start quilting my own quilts.  Any advice given would be greatly appreciated!”

I have to say, of all the questions I am asked, questions about my Grand Quilter are among the top 2 questions.  If you’re curious the other question I always get is how I get so much done in a day.

If you are unfamiliar with the Pfaff Grand Quilter 1200 machine, it can be used two ways…one as regular sewing machine like shown above or two…as a quilting machine like shown below.


The most extensive post I’ve written about the machine is here.  After reading that feel free to ask more questions…but today’s question is about something a little different….pricing.

As a sewing machine, the Pfaff Grand Quilter is priceless.  I love it.  If I needed a new machine and didn’t want any bells or whistles, this is the machine for me!!  It is a work horse.  It can go WAY faster than I can sew.  It’s a straight stitch only machine without a bunch of computer mumbo-jumbo.  I LOVE it.  If Kelli comes for a sewing day we fight over who get to sew on this machine.  I would get another of these in a heartbeat.

As a quilting machine and frame, I would only pay the price of the machine….for me the frame was more headache than it was worth.  There are people all over who didn’t have the problems I had…there are people who like their frames just fine, but I am not one of them.

If you look through magazines and see machine quilting that you admire and think is wonderful and you hope to one day to be able to do it, this is not the frame for you.  There is not enough room for you to maneuver the machine to be able to do that.  If you want to do simple stipples, meanders and the like, and you want to do them on every quilt that you have, you’ll be able to do that on this machine if you don’t end up with breaking thread issues like I had.  If you have thread breakage issues be ready to be crying bucket loads of tears…I did.

I will always recommend buying a refurbished APQS machine.  That’s what I did after years of frustration.  I don’t regret it at all.


If you are looking for a machine, APQS has a forum where people buy and sell used machines.  You can find that here. Better yet, call in to the company and ask if they have any used machines that they are selling.  I would by far add a little money to your fund and purchase a used machine from them over any other machine.  If you tell them what you are hoping to do with the machine, they’ll lead you to the right one.  All refurbished machines were either show room models or machines that were traded in.  The company goes completely through them and gives you a 1 year warranty on them.

I’ve had to call in a couple times and ask a question, I’ve always had excellent service and was never dismissed because I bought a used machine.  I love the company and love the service….best yet, they delivered the machine and set it up for me.

As far as pricing goes…that is so hard to answer.  Everyone has price points and budgets that are different than mine.  For some $500 is a lot…for others $5000 is a lot.  I spent close to $12000 on my APQS Millennium.  For me…that was a VERY-VERY-VERY lot.  But I don’t regret it.  If you price out what I paid think about this…If want my machine to “pencil out” I could look at it this way.  If I paid $12000 for the machine and I quilted 120 quilts with the machine, I would still be paying $100 for each quilt that was quilted.  I’ve had my machine 2 years now and I think I’m getting close to being about at this point.

More about pricing…If Debbie’s 12 quilt tops are single to full sized, she’d likely pay somewhere around $125 or more per top to quilt.  That’s $1500 worth towards a new machine.

I do have one piece of advice though….If you make the investment, use the machine.  Some time ago Hubby and I stopped at a quilt shop.  There was a guy outside by his car and Hubby and he started talking.  He talked how his wife had a quilting machine for two years and hadn’t touched it as she was afraid to.  She was still taking her tops to a long armer even though she had bought a machine of her own.

Starting out you will not be able to do the fancy stuff….Starting out you’ll just stipple or meander to get a feel for the machine….is that okay for you??  Starting out you’ll have lots of imperfections…is that okay for you?  Do you like to doodle…do you draw…Take a look at your quilt tops, can you see how you’d want them to be quilted?  Being a long armer isn’t for everyone.  It takes a special talent.  If you don’t know..try a machine out.  They have them at trade shows all the time.  There are also local shops that sell them.  Check out Lucy at o2b Quilting.  She’s in Spring Valley, MN.  She has several machines set up and available to rent.  Give long arming a try before you buy.

I have to say…I love my APQS Millennium.  I love that I can finish quilts on my own time frame.  Quilting is my main hobby…and actually a part time job for me.  For me, spending the money made sense.

I wish everyone who is struggling with the decision on whether to buy a long arm machine or now the best in making their decision.  It’s a hard one to make.

6 thoughts on “Ask Jo: Quilting Machines”

  1. I want to add tht you should be sure you can physically work the machine standing and using your arms while doing a quilt. A friend found out that she could not so sold her midarm setup and bought an HqSweet16 sit down machine. She loves it. I took a class from David Taylor at a show and used the sit down machine and it was fun from the very start.

  2. I couldn’t justify a machine on my own but a friend and I went in on one and we just love it! We got an APQS Millenium, have excellent service and help is just a phone call away! We did visit a shop first and used theirs before we decided and checked them all out at the Houston Show. I’ve gotten so many more quilts done because of it. I hated pin basting but now if I didn’t have the longarm I’d probably spray baste.
    So if you can’t afford it, go in with some GOOD friends!

  3. I’ve had a Nolting long arm for some time. Then I had the experience of demonstrating a Pfaff Grand Quilter. NO comparison! So frustrating! As you say, Jo, go with a Bolting, an APQS or Gamill if you can. Well worth it.

  4. When I was a new quilter 6-7 years ago, I bought an Innova longarm after I had been piecing quilts for 9 months. A week after I set it up, I had a customer quilt on the frame. Love the machine – easy to use, it can use most any thread and I have free 24/7/365 tech service just in case I have a problem – and they didn’t mind me calling and getting help for adjusting my thread tension when I was starting out. Love the quality of the machine and how it makes me look like a good quilter!!! Try out as many different machines as you can, because what is right for one person doesn’t mean it is right for the next person. I was going to get a Gammill…so glad the Innova came with all the “extras” Gammill was going to charge me for because for me, the Innova was the perfect fit!

  5. i have had a Pfaff Grand Quilter 1200 for about 5 years but didn’t sew on it much because I was using a similar machine the Babylock proquilter. It ran perfect for 11years with just the basic oiling and cleaning then the leg lift attachment broke and then it was another thing finally I sold it to a sewing machine shop for a $200, he can use it for parts to repair other ones. I loved that machine. When I bought the Phaff I thought I would use it for the machine quilting but not in the frame, just freemotion. Will I have a lot of quilt tops. So now I am using the Phaff for the piecing, It sews good and I have oiled it and my question is since it sat unused for those years do you think it need to go in to the sewing repair shop for internal grease? I have other machines all in good condition but not being used on a consistent bases and I am wondering about them. How long can a sewing machine sit unused and still have the lubricants in place to work properly and not be to noisey. I do keep them covered from general dust.
    Thank you.

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