After months and months of researching on-line (and not wanting to wait until the next Houston Quilt Festival to try some mid-arm arrangements) I finally took the plunge and bought the Grace Start-Right frame, to use with my Juki TL-98E sewing machine, which has a 9" harp (or "throat", as it's sometimes called).
Not only was I concerned about which frame was the best for me, but also which dealer to buy from. After much sturm und drang, I finally settled on Kathy Quilts, on-line. There are no local dealers for the Grace frame in San Antonio, and this one seemed to have the best service.
|back view of Juki on Grace frame.|
|Sharon to the rescue!|
How about a little review of the Grace Start-Right frame? First of all, I purchased the 5' long frame ("crib size"), because I really don't quilt bed quilts anymore (I have my buddy Sharon to do that for me!), plus I don't have the space for the queen-sized frame, which is the only other size the Start-Right frame comes in.
I wanted this model over the other Grace machine quilting frames, because it is steel instead of wood or aluminum. It also came with a Power/Speed Control, which works quite well with my Juki.
|Tongue firmly clamped between teeth, I started quilting.|
The back "table" part of the setup is evidently being manufactured in a different place than their original, so it was actually defective in some aspects. Nevertheless, once again we were able to overcome these little obstacles and get everything together and working properly.
The only other drawback ... actually the major one ... is that the Power/Speed Control does not have a "needle up/down" capability, which I consider to be of supreme importance when longarming. (I keep using that phrase ... longarming ... because this is essentially a "short" longarm setup. The machine head moves over the quilt sandwich, instead of moving the quilt underneath a stationary machine head.)
Now for the good points. This thing is made like a tank, and is not going anywhere! Once it is set up, it's still light-weight enough to shift around a bit if I want to, but it is extremely stable, with no bounce. Each foot has a leveler on it which is very easy to use with a small hand-held wrench. My machine is perfectly balanced on the frame, which I never seemed able to quite achieve with my longarm!
And the movement of the machine on the frame is truly incredible. It is as smooth and floaty over the quilt top as my A1 ever was ... and that's saying a lot. The wheels are set up differently on the tracks, which seems to make a big difference ... take a look at the website if you're curious.
|All set up and actually quilting (well, "scribbling" is more like it.)|
(Note: I ultimately moved the Power/Speed Control to the right handle.)
And here's the BEST part of all: my dealer, Kathy Quilts, was extremely responsive to all my questions and concerns (even my complaints) AFTER the sale, as well as before. These days, that seems to be almost unheard of. Lynn was especially concerned about the issues I had with the back half of the table being properly fitted. He forwarded my detailed letter directly to the Grace Company, so hopefully they will be making corrections right away.
If you decide the Grace frame (of any size) is for you, I can't recommend Kathy Quilts highly enough. Their main goal and focus seems to be customer service, and that goes a long way with me. Check out their videos on their website and on YouTube. (WARNING! Turn your volume way down before starting the videos, then you can turn it back up ... there seems to be a big discrepancy in volume from the intro to the body of the video.)
|This is a commercial picture of the Grace Start-Right frame,|
lifted directly from the Kathy Quilts website.
I'm looking forward to quilting more, now that I have my "longarming" experience back in my grasp. (I don't do big, looping designs anyway ... all my freehand quilting tends to be tiny and detailed, so this is perfect for me. Plus, I have the option of upgrading my machine to a deeper harp, one of these days!)