Tuesday, November 8, 2011

No buyer's remorse with my HQ Sweet 16

HQ Sweet Sixteen (stock photo)
I purchased a Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen mid-arm quilting machine at the AQS Show in Des Moines in October. Several have asked for my opinion of it. 

The features that convinced me to buy it:
1 -- The table it sits in is compact, 30" x 36" -- (I don't have room for a long-arm machine.)
2-- This is a sit-down machine, and the table height is adjustable for my comfort.  I do not want to stand and quilt, . 
3--The machine stitches from 10 to 1500 stitches per minute, easily adjusted on a touch screen.
4--The generous space between the needle and motor, (16") plus the roomy flat surface, gives me plenty of room for quilting even large quilts.
5--A heavy duty bobbin winder for the M class bobbins is included.
5--The machine is less expensive than long arm machines.
6--It's manufactured and assembled in the USA, and each machine undergoes thorough testing before it's shipped.
7--A local HQ rep came to my house to train me with my machine.  She was patient, thorough, and a great teacher.  The company knows that a well-trained owner of the machine will be happier with the product.
8--This machine can be upgraded in the future with handles, framework and a computer package to become a long arm, if I'm interested.  I can also add a stitch regulator, if I decide to go that direction. (currently about $1000 to add)

extension added to R side of table; adjustable legs
I like to be prepared, trying to anticipate the future.   At the AQS show, I purchased extra bobbins, an open-toe hopping foot, a horizontal spool pin, mass quantities of size 16 and 18 sewing machine needles, and two 18" extensions to add to the sides of the table.
That last purchase was not necessary.  I quilted my first large project before I had an extension attached.  I set up our standard card table on the left side.  It was the same height as the HQ table and worked great!   DH has since added the hardware so I have an extension added to the right side of the table.  It can be extended to support the quilt, or it can hang down, out of the way. 

[UPDATE:  My extra, unused extension has since been sold to a lady in MN to use with her HQ Sweet 16.]

touchscreen and good lighting (stock photo)
My impressions after using the Sweet 16 to machine quilt--
The visibility is wonderful!  When quilting with my Brother 1500, an extended arm machine, I'm always dipping my head, craning my neck, peeking around the machine, looking to see what I've done, where I've been, where I'm going.  With the Sweet 16, I just shift my eyes and I can immediately see my progress.  A light ring with 28 LEDs aids visibility while stitching.

The bobbins hold a lot of thread, more than the standard bobbins I'm used to. On my first large quilt, I barely started a third bobbin. (I usually don't add a lot of tight quilting, so that statement is relative.)  Regardless of how densely anybody quilts, large bobbins save time.

The biggest difference, which I'm not used to -- there is NO presser foot.  I still reach around behind the needle now and then to raise the presser foot lever, and there is none.  Oops!

Love the color touch screen.  It's a multi-purpose tool.  I can change my speed easily, save 3 favorite speeds, needle up or down, change light brightness or volume of the beeps, troubleshoot with diagnostics that check quality of performance, and my personal favorite -- keeping track of # of stitches.  It's like the odometer on a car.  I reset the stitches each time I start a project, but the total  stitches in the lifetime of the machine continue to add up.   In a couple weeks, my total is over 300,000 stitches.
  
Maintenance is basic.  One drop of oil in the bobbin case area after 2 bobbins' worth of sewing.  Gently brush lint away.  Replace needles regularly.  If there are problems, the diagnostics on the touch screen can help.  The HQ rep is available to give advice, and there's tech support available online or by phone.  

Easy set up and take down.  If I wanted to move it, I could do it myself, or DH would help.  (So far, it hasn't moved since being set up.)  Machine is 53 pounds, and the table may be a similar weight.  It's a strong, solid table and does not shudder and shake when I'm quilting at a high speed.


This machine is not a magic tool for perfect quilting.  I have to move the quilt under the needle-- just as I did with my domestic machine.  The Sweet 16 does not move above the quilt, as with a longarm.
I did not purchase a stitch regulator (though that can be added for an additional price). There are no plug-in pantographs.    I'm responsible for the quality of my stitches.  I'm responsible for the length and evenness and direction of the stitches.  While quilting  in the middle of a large quilt, I still have a lot of quilt to settle on my shoulder and/or chest and/or legs until I've quilted away from the middle.   I'm in charge of manipulating the quilt, balancing its weight, and controlling those stitches.   HOWEVER -- that 16" space and the flat surface make it so much easier than quilting with my domestic machine, as I previously did on our dining room table.   

If interested, you can read more about the HQ Sweet Sixteen machine on the HandiQuilter website here.  There are a couple introductory videos, Getting Started #1 and Getting Started #2.  You can find the location of dealers (including Australia) and there's a map of where machines have been shipped. (updated periodically)   Plus quilters who have bought Handi Quilter products have sent their stories to the website.

BTW--I'm just sharing my comments and observations here.  I have no connection with the HandiQuilter company, other than I bought one of their machines, and I'm very glad I did.

UPDATE:  December 2013.   Since this post was published 2 years ago, I've received many e-mails from interested ladies who had questions.  I reply to comments, if your comment is connected to an e-mail.
If you're a "no reply blogger," then I have no way to answer your question(s).  If you received no reply from me, it's because I didn't know how to contact you.  Sorry.   If you had included your e-mail address with the question, I could have answered. 
Latest no-reply blogger:  LHump

UPDATE:  October 2014 -- If you're curious how much I use my HQ Sweet Sixteen, quilt #87 was finished last week.  A few of those were crib-sized, many were lap size, and the rest were twin size, full size, and queen size.  The lifetime stitch count on my "Nellie" is currently 4,857,371.  (yes--it's approaching 5 million)

36 comments:

Janet O. said...

I appreciate all of this information. I realize That I had just recently duplicated questions I had already asked you about your machine--I've been asking a few midarm bloggers about their purchases and I guess I forget what I have asked of whom.
This is a very concise summary of your machine. Thank you for posting it. : )

Cherry Red Quilter said...

This is great, thanks for sharing. I have arthritis in my hands so I am not sure I should commit the money to a quilting machine but it is great to see what you think of the Sweet 16 as so far it is my preference if I do decide to go ahead. Thanks so much.

Barb said...

I am going to have to look this puppy up, thanks for the info!

Jean said...

It's good to hear about another quilting machine. So many people do not have room for the 12-14' table so think they can't have one. I'm also glad that you are comfortable working on it! That takes some practice as well!

Rhonda at Cobblestone Quilting said...

I have really been thinking about a long arm lately. I checked out the HQ Sweet 16 web site and it looks great. I need to start putting aside $$$$ because I truly think this would be better than some of the bigger, much more expensive machines on the market. I like to quilt my own quilts versus sending out to a long arm quilter and I can see how this will make it much easier than with my regular machine. Thank you for the information!

Darlene said...

Fabulous information, Vivian. I'm glad that you're happy with your purchase.

Lori said...

I love it when large investments work out so well. Fantastic!!

Needled Mom said...

What a nice review! I am glad to read that you are enjoying it.

Terri in BC said...

Thank you for your review, Vivian. I really would love to have a machine for quilting some day, and have started researching myself. I don't have the room or the dollars for a long-arm, and I have pretty made up my mind that an HQ Sweet Sixteen is in my future so it is good to hear about it from an actual user.

AnnieO said...

Very good review! I think a long arm is such a totally different creature it would take quite a bit of getting used to--i.e., loading a quilt, etc, whereas this machine is simply "you", only with better lighting, speed, visibility and space! Great impulse buy :) Sorry, can't help with getting your extension tables off your hands!

Amish Stories said...

I thought id stop by and post a comment since im checking out some new blogs. So greetings from the Amish settlement of Lebanon ,Pa. Richard from Amish Stories.

Sharon said...

Thanks for sharing...I am wishing to get something like this in the future, so this has been very helpful. Looking forward to seeing more quilts from you!

Karen said...

What a great newsy post. So glad you are happy, can't wait to see all your creations!!

Marie said...

Really good post on the medium-arm quilter. I know you will enjoy using it! I just want to find a sewing machine with a reasonably long throat! Do they even exist anymore in this era of computerized machines?

Dawn said...

Looks like you have lots of fun ahead of you!!

MulticoloredPieces said...

Ahh, this sounds like heaven. The company should hire you to promote their product! I've been thinking about a new machine lately. Wish I had more variety to choose from here in Tunisia.
best, nadia

Maureen said...

Thanks for the thorough review. I know of others who are very happy with their HQ. It's not in my budget and I don't have room for it now, but would love to some day. Glad you are happy with your purchase. You certainly put it to good use right away!

terry said...

Great review. It's always nice to hear from someone with hands-n experience, both good and bad. I have one question. Is the quilt basted as you would for home machine quilting with safety pins. Or do you spray glue quilt to batting?

Thanks. Terry

Connie said...

Very interesting reading about your new toy! Looks like you will have a great time with it.

Barb said...

so glad to hear your positive report.
Thanks for all the info!

Janet said...

I was very interested to read your review. I hope to some day buy something easier to quilt on. I'm glad to hear you like it.

Quilter Kathy said...

That was a really interesting blog post to read. I was wondering how you were finding the machine and set up. This is on my "bucket list"!

imquilternity said...

Well, congratulations on getting such a wonderful machine! Your review was so thorough and precise - great information for a perspective buyer. Will be watching all the lovely quilting that comes from you now!!

Ann said...

Thank you for your informative review, I have considered purchasing one of these machines to use in conjunction with my frame "Mulberry Millie Upright Quilt Basting Frame" It will be some time in the future though as I am busy with my family and frame at present.
Thanks again, Ann.

Thistle said...

I also purchased a sweet sixteen. I have only been sewing / quilting for 3 yrs. but love quilting my own quilts. Truly, The first thing I did was a whole cloth quilt, I made up my own designs and just kept going. It turned out to be a queen size quilt. I astounded myself and the people I purchased my machine from. It is such an easy, comfortable & inspiring machine.

Carol said...

Thanks for your honest review. I am going tomorrow to do another test drive and your thoughts were helpful.

Laura Davies said...

Hi, do you still like your machine? I am thinking of getting one. Tried it out briefly in the local shop, but I didn't like that the needle plate seemed just a bit higher than the table surface. Is that a problem for you? Seems strange to feel that bump when I was quilting. Guess I am used to my flush little domestic machine. Would love your opinions. Thanks!
Laura

RT said...

Laura, I just happened to see your post. I've had my Sweet Sixteen for about 3 months, and I love, love, love it!. I do all my piecing on a Janome 8900 and then move over to Q-bert ;-) I have the stitch regulator, but not used to is yet, so have to reserve judgement on whether it's worth the price or not. There is a little bump on the table, but there's an overlay you can get which pretty much smooths out that area. I think the overlay is about $90...seems like nothing comes cheap in the quilting world. I didn't get any classes or instructions with my machine - just got lots of books and classes on craftsy.com to learn as I go. Hope that helps you some.
Ruth

iamaquilter2 said...

Thanks everyone who posted about the Sweet 16. Have 3 Berninas but need something to quilt bigger quilts. Will try out the machine at the AQS show in Grand Rapids this August. Can you use silk thread and bottom line on the top to quilt? I like to use these threads in my quilting. Do you have to use a 12 or 14 needle?

iamaquilter2 said...

Can you use fine threads like silk and bottom line? Can you use a size 10 needle?

victoria girl said...

Re the table height with the throat plate bump, a friend of mine just put 2 washers between the lower table brace to bring up the height of the table top so it is flush. There is a great Yahoo group for HQ sit down machines with lots of info. I don't have one, just investigating a future purchase.

Thriftyideastoday said...

This has been very helpful. I have been debating on a Sweet Sixteen/sitdown or up grading my 7700 H. I am now leaning more towards the Sweet Sixteen. It looks like it would be easier to move the quilt top around and a bit more comfort.

LHump said...

I'm also in the market for a mid arm and was looking at the Tin Lizzie as well. Just wondering if you tried any other brands. The Tin Lizzie Sit Down machine is oriented differently in that the throat space is to the right of the quilter not in front as on the HQ16 which means the quilter isn't hampered by the weight or length of the quilt since it's supported by the extension table attached in front of the Tin Lizzie. Have you found that having only the 16" throat space has made it difficult when moving / quilting bigger quilts? Just wondering why the two machines were oriented differently. Thanks for any info or thoughts you can offer. :)

iamaquilter2 said...

I love love my Sweet 16 and have had no trouble on large quilts. I saw a post from Becky Goldsmith on her blog from Piece of Cake and she has a way to suspend a large quilt. I copied her idea and just love it. Works so well.

Raewyn said...

Hi Vivian, I was intersted to come across this post as I have not long bought a Sw.16 as well and am loving it although I haven't had much time ot play as yet. Janet O was a great help when I was coming to my decision re purchasing. Happy Sewing!!

Sue Duffy said...

Hi Becky this is a great idea, thank you so much for posting! I am really keen to try it as I am struggling with a not terribly big quilt and i have a Queen size one to do after the current one! On my HQ Sweet Sixteen. I have a few problems with my shoulders so this will hopefully help tremendously. I hope it's ok I shared your post on my blog: ratherbequilting.wordpress.com as some of my friends here in Australia may find it really useful too..
thanks again,
Sue Duffy.

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