Update 7/21/16: Currently I would not recommend purchasing the Juki TL2200QVP long arm. It sewed perfectly from September through June. Then it all went to h#$%. I do not have a dealer to help me since I purchased it at a quilting show. I contacted someone at Juki for help. It's been over a month and they are not helping me, just telling me that I need to wait while they test new parts and then I can BUY(!!) a part to fix my machine that has a known defect. Other people who own the same machine and have the same problems have received the part for free. The machine is also still under warranty. I am generally pretty easy-going, but I have to say they have horrible customer service!!!!! Unless you're a glutton for punishment, stay away from this machine.
Many quilters long for a long arm. It's hard work to machine quilt a large quilt on a regular domestic sewing machine. I greatly admire people who successfully do so. I am not one of them. When I started quilting in the 1990s, hand quilting was standard. I have hand quilted two large, bed sized quilts along with some smaller ones. My hand quilting is not lovely. It takes forever too. My machine quilting is also not lovely. Thus the large backup of unfinished tops.
I have been drooling over long arms for probably five or six years. I like going to large quilt shows where all the dealers are set up so that you can try lots of different machines (not just long arms, but regular and embroidery machines too). I originally considered Tin Lizzie because the price was attractive. I'll admit it's not the best reason, but it is a real consideration for many people. It was still too much for us to spend and I didn't really have a place large enough for it either. I ended up buying John Flynn's system for a home machine. It works great for up to baby sized quilts, but gets pretty heavy for anything larger. And you still need a fair amount of room to use it. But for around $100, it gets the job done pretty well!
We attended a large quilt show in Ohio in 2013. I tried many machines. I found the Juki and Handi Quilter. I really liked the Juki but it was new to the market. I tried Handi Quilter and thought it stitched better than the Tin Lizzie although I felt like my arms were really vibrating a lot. Various dealers told us it usually takes five years from initially looking at a longarm to actually buying one. We did not buy one, but I kept thinking about the Juki. Meanwhile, we were still working on the house. Of course, here it is 2.5 years later and we are still working on the house. I don't know if we'll ever be done working on the house. We like projects and we work slowly. What can I say?
Anyway, this spring I got the bug to go to a large quilt show again. Paducah is only a 4.5 hour drive. And I was feeling sorry for myself because my husband was going to Hawaii for work and we couldn't go with him. So we went to Paducah. I tried a large variety of machines again. And again I was between the Juki and the Handi Quilter. And again I felt like I was vibrating while using the Handi Quilter. Apparently whatever frequency its motor runs at is directly at odds with my body. It's almost like getting shocked repeatedly. And I still really loved the Juki and felt like the sales people were friendlier and more helpful. We tried to buy the floor model but it had already been sold. The Juki rep (Joe Kuehl! Like Snoopy!) sold us a brand new one for the same price as the used one. Plus, I could attend a free training class in Miami at their headquarters.
The machine was delivered in June. We assembled it. I was scared of it. The machine is pretty daunting and the directions that come with the machine are not especially helpful. There aren't a lot of YouTube videos out there either. I tried to get into the training. It was difficult to get any response but I kept at it because I knew I needed the training. All scheduled sessions were full. I finally got invited to attend a fall session. I tried to use the machine a few weeks before I went to the training and I could not get the tension correct, so I gave up and waited for the training, which I attended in late September.
I was nervous because I was traveling on my own and I am also shy, which makes it scary to go into a room of strangers. But I did it. The training is held at the Juki Miami headquarters, fairly near the Miami International Airport. I flew in to Fort Lauderdale and drove to Miami. Lots of new experiences for me on this trip! *As a side note, I drove to the American Girl Place Miami the first night and it was such a nice store. The sales people were very nice and the store was large and not crowded at all.*
Anyway, we all got to tour the warehouse, which was really interesting. I didn't think to take any pictures. They do domestic and commercial machines there and some of the boxes were almost as big as cars! The training session I attended was taught by Pat Alderman and Karen Pharr. I opted for the two day session because the third day covered robotics, which is not something I am planning on having. I learned so many things and took a ton of notes and a few videos.
I cannot say enough good things about the training. Karen and Pat went out of their way to help everyone and answer our questions and troubleshoot our individual problems. We all received bags of goodies. My laser clamp broke before I even turned on the machine. Even though that is a Grace part, Karen got me a free replacement that day. We learned who to call for help on various parts, how to maintain the machine, the all-important how to thread and wind bobbins correctly, all about threads, pantographs, ruler work, loading the quilt. Just so much information. I had a rental car, but if you didn't, Juki provided transportation from your hotel to the headquarters. Generous lunches were provided daily, along with snacks and drinks. The second night we were all treated to dinner at Texas de Brasil with Rich Gold, Pat and Karen, and some of the other Juki staff.
After the training I came home, rethreaded the machine, and was off and running. I've completed three tops so far and have lots more ready to go. I have sewn through denim and used cheap polyester batting with no issues. I'm really happy with it so far. I have only done pantographs so far. I really need to move to the front of the machine, but I'm kind of intimidated by it. I have so much more to learn.
It is challenging to find help and support locally and online for this machine. There is a helpful Facebook group. Many people post their problems on there, so it seems like there are more complaints than not, but don't be scared by that. There are a lot of happy users. Karen has made a series of brief videos for Juki that are helpful. If you have this machine, really try to make the effort to take the class. All you have to pay for is hotel and transportation.
I am happy to share my limited experience with you. Feel free to contact me with any questions.