Sewing Machine Review: Juki 2200 Sit Down Longarm
Welcome to this review of the Juki 2200 Sit Down longarm sewing machine! I purchased my table mounted longarm in April 2015 at Quilt Fest Savannah. The main reason I bought this machine is the large harp space (18-inches between the needle and the motor) and the increased visibility around the needle.
I also hoped this machine would improve my posture while quilting large quilts. I'd noticed when quilting on my Janome Horizon machines I would often hunch forward and curl my shoulders inward in order to see the needle around the bulky front of the machine. The Juki 2200 has a much more open space around the needle area with high powered lights positioned to illuminate this area perfectly.
Watch this video to find the complete sewing machine review of the Juki 2200 QVP-S:
What is a longarm sewing machine?
Just in case you're not familiar with longarm sewing machines, these are machines specifically designed for free motion quilting. They have a much larger space between the needle and the motor of the machine and many times the machine is positioned on the table perpendicular to your body with the needle closest to you, and the motor to the back.
These machines do have a limitation in that they ONLY free motion quilt. You can't piece or machine quilt with a walking foot on a longarm sewing machine because they don't have feed dogs.
Because the machine is mounted onto a table there isn't any special software you can buy to do the quilting for you. You're still moving the quilt to make the design and fill the spaces of your quilts, so movement and design wise this feels very similar to machine quilting on a home machine.
Table mounted longarms, or sit down longarms, are often designed with fewer features than typical home sewing machines. Many do not have bobbin winders, thread cutters, needle threaders, or even hand wheels positioned in a convenient place on the machine.
Some of these machines do come with stitch regulators to help you balance the speed of your machine with the movement of your hands to create consistently sized stitches. However, Juki does not have a stitch regulator for the sit down version of this machine.
The Juki 2200 QVP-S was unique in that it has a hand wheel positioned conveniently on the side of the machine so you can drop the needle down exactly where you what it in your quilt. It also has a needle up/down feature and can be programmed to always end with the needle up or down, depending on your preference.
This sit down longarm also has a thread cutter which is very convenient when quilting large quilts. To cut my thread, I bring the needle up and move the quilt over 5 inches, then hit the thread cutter to leave long thread tails I can hide in the middle layer of my quilt.
Most longarms come with a ruler foot - a foot with a tall base designed so you can hold a ruler or template against the foot and quilt that shape exactly on your quilt. I also purchased an open toe foot for my machine so I could clearly see the needle area for travel stitching.
How much did the Juki 2200 cost?
This machine costs between $5500 - $7000, depending on what special offers your dealer can offer you. While I got a great deal at the show I was attending, I regretted buying my machine from a dealer that was two states away and not receptive to my questions after the purchase.
As I mentioned in the video above, I strongly recommend purchasing a machine like this from a local dealer. Purchasing from someone within 1-2 hours of your home means that you can get help setting the machine up and better service and supplies for the longarm in the future.
Overall Impression of the Juki 2200 QVP-S
Because this is my very first longarm, it's hard to draw a fair impression of this machine. At first, I was quite disappointed that I couldn't stop the foot from hopping, and I struggled to find a good location for the machine within my sewing room.
With time and practice I've gotten used to the hopping foot and positioned the machine in the left corner of my sewing room and expanded the table surface to the side, front, and back to make it more comfortable for quilting large quilts. The entire setup is now taking up 59 x 75 inches in the corner of my sewing room.
I did have to replace the monitor on the machine as it would often stop responding after a length of time. This was replaced by Juki, but continued to be occasionally glitchy.
It also is inconsistent with ending after a thread cut. Sometimes it cuts the thread, pauses a second, then drops the needle down, and sometimes it doesn't. This has caused me to break a few needles forgetting that the needle was about to drop and pulling the quilt, which bent the needle and caused it to hit against the needle plate.
One annoying feature was the lack of holes in the M sized bobbins. I quilt with Isacord thread, which is very slippery and can be challenging to wind on bobbins. Without a hole in the top of the bobbin to pull the thread through, the thread was often making a mess at the beginning of every bobbin wind.
I purchased some HandiQuilter bobbins which do have holes in the top, but these have a smaller center hole that fits on the bobbin winder too tight and is nearly impossible to pull off the bobbin winder without bending the bobbin.
My dad ended up modifying the M sized bobbins by drilling small holes in to the top. We used a very fine drill bit on the drill press in order to make this modification. Now I can pass the thread through the hole on the top and hang onto the end while the bobbin winds smoothly.
Helpful tools for the Juki 2200 QVP-S
Because I'm still moving the quilt when quilting on this machine, I find using a Queen Supreme Slider absolutely essential because it makes the quilt glide and slide easily on the machine surface. I also still wear Machingers Quilting Gloves to help get a grip on the quilt and move it easily.
The area around the needle is much more visible, but to keep my posture upright, I still wear a Quilters Back Support to remind me to keep my shoulders down and relaxed. I especially love the bright lights around the needle area which perfectly illuminate the area I'm quilting.
I also still use my quilt hanging system to lift the quilt slightly to reduce the weight and drag of the quilt. This is a simple system created with a clamp attached to a bungee cord that hooks to a handle screwed to my ceiling.
I still prefer to use Isacord thread on this machine and began using Eroz-Becket size 80/12 needles. You do have to use specific longarm needles and I had to search around a bit to find a size and brand I liked. This size needle is the smallest I've been able to find so far.
Which is better - Longarm or Home Sewing Machine?
Now for the comparison you're probably wondering the most about - how does a sit-down longarm compare to a home sewing machine?
In a lot of ways, the longarm is better for quilting large quilts. You do have a lot more space between the needle and the motor of the machine, and better visibility of the needle area.
One of the most frequent questions about this machine is why it has handles on the front when it's a table mounted machine. The handles are lights, perfectly positioned to illuminate the area you're quilting:
However, it's important to note the downsides - this machine cannot do anything other than free motion quilt. It cannot piece, applique, or stitch digitized designs when table mounted like this.
Yes, it will still require a lot of practice and effort to find beautiful, balanced, consistent stitches. You will also still need a substantial sized table setup in order to keep the quilt on the table and easy to quilt.
Because of this, I feel a sit down longarm machine like this would be best for quilters who already love free motion quilting, but feel limited by the small harp space on a home sewing machine. If you have the space and the cash, a table mounted longarm will make quilting big quilts easier.
However, it's important to remember that it's very big change from a home machine to a longarm and you will need to take time, practice, and a few simple projects to adjust to this bigger machine. Please don't expect your starting stitches to look perfect when stitching on any new machine.
I wouldn't recommend this machine if you are just starting to free motion quilt. You can absolutely learn how to quilt on the home sewing machine you're using right now! I feel that it's such a big investment, it would be silly to purchase a machine this big and expensive just to learn how to free motion quilt.
It's sort of like purchasing a grand piano when you're just learning basic scales. It's a huge investment of a very large piece of equipment. Be sure you actually like free motion quilting and have the space and time to invest before jumping into a machine this large.
Update 2017 - After a few months with this machine I had to face the facts - I just didn't like it. I had repeated issues with the monitor on the machine blinking out or becoming unresponsive. Even after being replaced it remained glitchy.
I also never found it comfortable to quilt with the needle facing me the way the table was designed. Maybe it's because I quilted on a home machine for so long, I'm not sure, but even with the modifications I made adding an extra shelf to the front and a table to the side, I always felt like the quilt should be easier to move, but it wasn't.
I moved the Juki to a Quilty table which worked much better, but I still felt uncomfortable filming videos on this machine. For this level of investment, for it's size and space consumed, I wanted the machine to work reliably every time I sat down to quilt on it.
I began shopping for a new machine in 2016 and found the Grace Qnique 14+. I've been quilting on this machine since January 2017 and really love it. The Qnique is smaller than the Juki 2200 and has fewer features, but it's consistently worked and has proved to be a very reliable machine.