We are always happy to have visitors come to the factory. You can see how the machines are built, meet the people behind the scenes, and see and play with new machines. Please call to let us know when you are going to visit the factory. We want to have machines available for you to operate. If you are in the area please stop by. It's fun.
Some older Nolting Longarms have a high lifting hopping foot. All of the machines made after 1995 have the lower lifting hopping foot. You will be able to use a true 1/4" ruler or template. There is a simple test to find out how high your foot lifts. Move your longarm over to the side and remove any fabric from the throat of the machine. Using the hand wheel lower the hopping foot to its lowest position. It should be about a Dime's thickness off of the throat plate. Now roll the hand wheel until the hopping foot is at its highest point. Get out your allen wrench set. Lay an allen wrench on its side on the throat plate and try to slide it under the foot. Start with the 1/4" allen wrench. Does it slide under? If it does, you will need to use 3/8" rulers. If it does not slide under, you can use 1/4" rulers. We have a round foot that is 1/4" away from the needle all the way around. Check out Trouble shooting for more information on getting one for your machine. We also carry large ruler bases that help when using rulers. You can order them at the Accessories Page.
Your question comes up pretty often. As you suspected there is much more to the story. I hope I can shed some light the subject.
Hand quilting has always had an influence over longarm quilting. Many of the "rules" of hand quilting apply. 1/4" echoing, 10 stitches per inch, don't cross over your lines and many of the designs all have passed from hand quilting to longarm quilting.
There are many machines that use cones both top and bottom. The mechanics of using cones top and bottom creates a stitch that does not have a desirable look to quilters. I have not yet met a quilter that would like a cover stitch, chain stitch or serger stitch. The process of making a knot is as old as humans. To make a knot with thread that looks somewhat close to a stitch that was hand quilted [the lock stitch] can only be made by wrapping the top thread around the entire supply of bottom thread twice for each plunge of the needle. Over the years the bobbin or shuttle evolved to create the lock stitch.
Next comes quality. Quilters want every stitch to look exactly like the last, both in size [stitch length] and in shape [tension]. Trying to form as many as 2500 stitches per minute where the top thread wraps around the bobbin 5000 times per minute [remember two wraps per needle plunge] or 83 times per second, while sewing in 360 different directions, while sewing with two threads that when looked at with a microscope are very irregular. Let alone batting when held up to a light you can see the density fluctuations everywhere. Then top it all off with a quilt top. A quilt top lovingly made from thoughtfully selected contrasting fabrics, produced by different manufacturers using different production processes and supplies. Cut up and sewn back together with seams and eight point star points. And to add to the challenge we want to perform all this high speed fiber gymnastics and then stick the landing in less than 1/64", the compressed thickness of the quilt top, thin batting and backing. We offer our commercial machines with the L bobbin or the customer can select the M bobbin. M bobbin tension is much more finicky than L. The size of the loop of top thread is more than double the L and retrieving all that thread to create a nice snug lock stitch knot and doing it before the next knot is started is borderline. On a tangent the M bobbin is really made to work with large diameter thread like used in shoes, purses and leather goods. This type of sewing is done at very slow speeds.
We can make a machine with oversized bobbins or shuttles but they would need to sew so slow they would not be desirable. We can make a machine that uses cones top and bottom but the knot is not desirable to quilters. So for now we produce machines that use a bobbin and produce the preferred lock stitch.
I have attached a link showing an animation of the lock stitch being produced. It is not entirely accurate because it only shows one rotation per plunge but you get the idea.
We have worked very hard to make the new features available as a retro fit to older Nolting machines. We can add most of the current options to your machine. Laser pointers, round foot, stitch regulator, needle positioner, Hartley Fence, and now the track lock can all be added to your machine. Contact us about retro fits for your machine.
Do you still make parts for the Nolting and Gammill machines you built? Yes... we still have or build parts for all the machines we have made. We can send you the parts or we can work on them at the factory.
We are always interested in working with you on a trade in of your current Nolting Longarm. You can trade in the machine and table or just the machine. We can build a machine to fit your current table. We refurbish them and make them available to people as used machines. We offer them with a short warranty. We do entertain offers to trade other brands, but we are not very enthusiastic about them. Please contact us if you are interested in making a trade. It can be much easier than trying to sell it yourself.
Sometimes machines are no longer needed. They will not fit into the new house, physical challanges make it impossible to use, or an estate. We would be interested in purchasing that machine. Contact us if this need arises.
We recommend that you make a space large enough to be comfortable while operating the machine. A minimum of two feet on the front, back, and on one end. On a 24" by 12' table, we recommend 8' by 14', minimum. This will be tight but you can operate the machine. More would be better. We can make custom length tables to fit your room.
Longarm quilting machines are high-speed, multi-directional, industrial sewing machines that typically require stronger thread than your home sewing machine. Therefore choose threads with high tensile strength. Polyester, cotton wrapped polyester core, and selected cottons have proven to work effectively. Nolting carries a line of quilting thread that works very well on Longarm machines.