Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Sewing Machine Question...

Marjie asked this question:
"I need a new machine, and the lady I work with here is highly recommending Janome. Have you any words of wisdom for me?"

Marjie, I hope you don't mind that I turned this into a post but I think every blogger faces the sewing machine question sooner or later, so let's talk about it. Personally I love Janome machines.  In my sewing history, remember I've been sewing since I was 11, I've sewn on a Sears (starter machine), a Singer (purchased in college - a middle of the line machine) a Brother (lower end machine purchased from JCPenney's when I first got married), a used Viking (bought when my DDs were small and I sewed almost everything for them) and finally the Janome 8000 (also bought used) and now the Janome 6600.

What do I love about my Janome?  The stitching, the way it handles, the up/down feature, the extra high lift of the foot, the snap on feet...I could go on...but I truly believe that each sewist develops an affinity for a sewing machine line. That's why there are sewists who swear by Bernina, Pfaff, Singer or Husquverna Viking machines. It's how the machine works for each sewist especially since these days there seems to be only two or three manufacturers of sewing machines instead of the many different manufacturers back when I learned to sew.

So my actual advice to you is if you are able to, go to a sewing machine store and sew on the machines. Don't use the flimsy pieces of fabric that the sewing machine store provides, bring some of your own swatches and sit down and put the sewing machine through it's paces.  Try out the stitches, see how easy it is to thread...does it have enough light for you to see...can you work it easily or do you constantly need to refer to the manual...or does it just feel weird to sit in front of and use or do you feel like you're home in front of it?

Before you go to try out a machine, do your homework.  Know exactly what features you want in a machine.  Do you want embroidery?  Do you want an automatic cutter?  Do you need embroidery or 150 stitches?  Do you want computerized or mechanical?  Or are you a vintage sewing machine woman?

Finally, what did you love about your old machine? Make sure that any potential new machine makes you feel the same way you presently feel when you sit in front of it or you will never use it.

I know that I didn't exactly tell you to go out and buy a Janome but that's because I believe that each sewist needs to figure out which sewing machine works for them.  Just like each driver figures out what car works for them.  You are going to spend a lot of time with this purchase, so it should be comfortable and do the things you need it to do especially if you are going to part with a lot of money for it.

Now I know that I haven't even discussed dealerships and repairs 'cause that's a whole nuther can of worms.  All I can say is take friends recommendations, your desires, the things you love about your present machine, a couple of fabric swatches and go out and test drive some machines. I would love to know what you finally decide upon...because I'm a Janome girl...but the person who gifted me with my baby...just didn't like using my beloved!

If you have any other words of wisdom, please be sure to leave them in the comments.  I don't want to give the impression that I'm the end all, be all of sewing machine buying.  I know which line works for me.  How much I love my machine and how it makes me feel as if I can create anything while sitting in front of it. always, more later!



  1. Very good advise. It is rather like driving a car - test drive, test drive, test drive. And if anyone won't let you sew with their machine (yes, I did experience that when I was shopping) then move on. g

  2. Good advice! I have only owned one sewing machine (low-end Brother that I got on Amazon before I really knew anything about anything) and while it has served me well and I love it dearly, I have also noticed that some parts aren't not holding up as well as I would hope. Though I don't think it is the time yet for me to upgrade, advice on what other people like or don't like or advice on testing out machines is really helpful.

  3. I have a mechanical Janome that operates much more loudly than my daughter's computerized model. But I love it because it is consistenly accurate and it feels more solid. I also inherited my mom's machine last year, a computerized Janome, but I still like the older version the best! (Love my Babylock Emagine serger, too.)

  4. I have a Janome 11000MC. I bought it used on ebay from a dealer of Vikings who took it as a trade in. It's very reliable and straightforward. I bought a top of the line machine because I needed to do fancy machine embroidery to make an Irish Dancing dress. I was able to pull it off as a rookie with this machine, so I am happy. I
    t looks like my daughter wants to quit Irish Dancing so now I have more machine than I need! It's kind of heavy and I wouldn't mind downgrading to a machine that doesn't do embroidery because I don't have a dedicated sewing space and have to move the machine around all the time. On the other hand, if I tried to sell this machine and buy a new one, I might loose so much money in the buying and selling that I should just sit tight.
    Now that I have so many Janome feet, I'd hate to switch brands.
    Nice to have a sewing role model with a Janome:-)

  5. I love my Janome. they do have a great reputation and I will buy one all the time. Bernina are considered the rolls royce of sewing machines so and f I had the cash, that would be my first choice.

  6. Just bought a Janome 4030-quilting type- machine and I love it. My old chugging Toyota is still there ready for all the denim I can throw at it but the new machine is silky smooth, electronic and (my favourite part) I don't have to use the foot pedal if I don't want, just the stop start button. ANd with an ankle injury that's important :-)

  7. I'm another Janome girl. I have had my MC3000 since 1997 and it has served me well. If I ever upgrade it will be to another Janome. I can't imagine using anything else.

  8. I love my Bernina and will never get rid of it.

  9. I have a Bernina that I LOVE. If there's ever a problem... it's because of user error, never the machine. Definitely test machines out before you buy, it's the only way you'll know if it's the right machine for you.

    I'd also recommend that you go through an actual dealer as opposed to picking something up at Hancock's or Joann's. In my experience, The dealers usually have a good connection with someone for repairs as well, which can be quite helpful.

  10. BRAVO! Great advice. I'm a Pfaff girl myself. Have used several others, but as you said above, it's like a car.
    I literally wore out my first Pfaff, 26 years of sewing every item of clothing from bras to suits. For myself, grandchildren, husbands, daughters, and sons-in-law. It's still here and used for topstitching and a few other chores. Can't bear to part with it so I keep it. Too many memories!

    When I bought my new machine, I tried several, but the Pfaff just felt like home to me.
    Best to try many before deciding on one. You should spend many thousands of happy hours with your machine if it's the right one.

  11. I have a Pfaff 2124 and a Janome 1600P (mechanical). I love them both, the Pfaff for the IDT foot-evenly feeds fabric layers and the Janome for the speed 1600 stitches per minute. My only problem with Pfaff is they are using plastic parts now. I have my first Pfaff 1171 Tiptronic and it has made in Germany on it, the newere Pfaff has some parts made in Germany. The newer Pfaff has been in the shop many more times than more first one. I tested the Janome 6600 and fell in love with it! Just can't justify buying it right now, maybe if my Pfaff dies I'll reconsider it. Pattern Review is a great place to research other opinions on sewing machines. I, too, agree that a dealer is the best place to buy rather than Walmart or JoAnns. I took several fabric samples along when I was testing machines, too. Good luck on your search

  12. I drive a Janome 6600 Professional. It has a wider opening for quilting, the speed is 1500 stitches per minute and slower, it has a built in walking foot attachment, many embroidery stitches and purrs like a kitten and is quiet as a mouse. Yeah! for Janome.

  13. As a sewing machine dealer of many brands, I can tell you that when you buy a good quality sewing machine, you buy the dealer. I suggest a dealer that really know their brand well and takes the time to know YOU. Plan to spend a lot of time in the store and see what kind of classes are being given. Take a few classes with other sewests and observe how the students handle their machines. I know that on many of my machines, included in the price were 2 to 12 classes on the features. Have a ball park figure you want to spend when you go into the store, but don't buy a machine on your first visit, even if you think you are in love with it. Make sure there is a sewing machine tech in house. Ask to meet him and look at the area he works in. Be careful of second hand machines. In some cases the warrantee is not honored by the sewing machine company and the dealer will give the warrantee on his own. RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH Scour the internet groups for reviews of this machine. Go to Yahoo groups as many of those have a group of participants. I bond with my sewing machines when I get them. My biggest and deepest bond was my Singer Futura. I always tell my customers, the machine you love is the machine that gives you the best control over what your doing. In some cases for newer sewers that means a speed control. As Carolyn said, needle down, a good buttonhole, ease of use and threading, possibly a knee lift so you can sew hands free and other features might be important. Good luck!

  14. It is such a personal decision. I have a 20 year old Pfaff 1475 and wouldn't trade it for anything. Perfect stitching with dual feed, enough "fancy" stitches to do everything and will sew through concrete and silk. It was an expensive machine at the time but so worth it.

    In addition to what you've written before, I would add to buy the best you can afford. Don't low-ball yourself because there really is a difference in quality between what most uninformed people would consider a bargain machine and what will actually stand up to use!

  15. well said, Carolyn. I have been sewing nothing but knits for the last few weeks, so my Pfaff has been getting a real workout. It is an older model, but still works perfectly. For me, nothing beats a Pfaff and the IDT.
    Having said that, this spoiled woman also owns a Bernina, which is wonderful when I am sewing wovens.
    So, for me, I actually have two machines and love them both, depending on what the project requires.

  16. I am a first time Janome sewer and I love it. I have had a brother and Bernina. But I think the Janome has been the better one of them all. Have also found it easy to get parts for them (Broke the foot holder once by accident. I am sticking to the Janome brand!

  17. Thank you all for your comments, and Carolyn, thank you especially for your detailed answer. I have a sewing machine store just 8 miles from my house, and I know Gary, the repair man, and Jan, the first class sales lady. I already told Jan to prepare to spend a couple of hours with me on Saturday, and I will let you know what I decide. Thanks again.

  18. Sold Janomes, taught Janomes and love them. I use an 11000 every day, have 1600, coverstitch and a Jem and felting machine too. My 3 sergers are Bernina, 30 years old and don't need replacing. It ain't a hobby, it's a business and I need reliable everyday and they all deliver!

  19. Excellent post. I have (and have had) a number of types of machines - but my go to machine that I dearly love is my Singer 201-2 from 1946. It is amazing. The only thing it can't do is zigzag - and I have another machine I use when I have to go beyond a straight stitch (which is only only once in awhile). I guess that makes me a vintage gal =:o

  20. While shopping for my current machine I brought scraps from a couple of recent projects and the cut off bottom of a pair of jeans. I wanted to be able to go over the seams of jeans if necessary which are very thick.

    My Janome hasn't let me down. I've sewn a variety of things; swimsuits, aprons, tote bags, costumes, pillows, and mended a fair number of jeans with no problem.

  21. I have two Janomes and I love them both. I have the Memory Craft 6500 and the other one has a carrying case. My future wish is to own a JUKI high speed but I probabaly will upgrade to another Janome 1 day. They are durable.

  22. I am a Babylock lover, and the first machine of my very own, a used Singer I gave to my daughter in law when I bought what I thought was a good deal, but while I "test drove it" I did not take my own fabrics of varying thickness and texture - typical of what fabrics I like to work with (think scraps!). Lesson learned. We ended up buying 2 of the Singers on Ebay when we found it was an out of date model one for me to use, one for spare parts. They are now one's my husband is allowed to use. I researched my Babylock for 3 years before I purchased it. I even visited a variety of Babylock dealers, finally choosing the dealer that gave me a great deal, and had been the best at giving me several opportunities to try out the model I was convinced I wanted, and checking out the models that they wanted to sell me. I still bought the model I initially wanted. That was 7 years ago. This article is exactly how I found my "baby". Great advice. It is individual.

  23. I have owned both Janome and Bernina machines. I currently use a Bernina Aurora QE as a primary machine and a Janome Memory Craft 4000 as my backup/daughter's machine.

    If money is an issue, I think that the middle and high end Janomes offer the best value. The stitch quality is consistentlly excellent and the interface (user experience) is intuitive and well-designed.

    (I have heard bad things about the durability of the plastic parts in the low end Janomes, but have no first hand experience with those.)

    Janome uses snap-on and low-shank feet available from many makers at a reasonable price.

    The Bernina also has excellent stitch quality and I rely on the knee lifter. I also like the BSR for free-motion quilting.

    My Bernina works just a bit better than the Janome IF I have the very expensive specialized foot for the task. Buying the machine is just the start. You need a special foot to do everything.

    Bernina interfaces really fall short. The method for programming writing (word art in quilts) is so bad, I gave up and use my Janome for that.

    With a Janome, a few feet does everything. It doesn't do it as well as a fully-equipped Bernina, but it does everything competently.

    I liken them to a Toyota (Janome) and a BWM (Bernina).

  24. Not sewing related, but I know how you loved Whitney Houston. I just found this on YouTube this morning. Singing, and having lots of fun are 4 of the greats in the singing world.

  25. I agreed with every piece of advice you gave on this post. I guess you need to acknowledge what your needs and wants are and go from there. There are so many machines on the market that it tends to get very difficult to choose.

  26. Part of the issue can be budget as well. I found it helpful to look at consumer reports and old sewing magazines with sewing machine reviews first. They often group the machines by price range. That made it easier to identify good machines that I could afford. After that, I went to a few dealers that carried the machines I was interested in and tested them out. In the end, being an advanced-beginner with a small budget, I got the Brother Innov-is 40 and it's been great to use.

  27. Excellent advice. I sew on vintage machines, a 1978 Bernina and a 1930s Singer Featherweight currently. I started out with a Kenmore 19001 (Janome made) and I loved that machine. I wish I still had's one of those "don't know what you've got til it's gone" things. I had new machine envy, so I traded it in for a Viking Lily, which I also loved (and kept for my daughter). I moved to Bernina to try out the 180E with embroidery unit, and that's when I found "my" machine. It was a very instinctive, dramatic sigh of content moment. It just fit.

    I personally prefer the metal vintage machines, but I'm going for longevity, and never needing to replace one again. Not everyone wants or needs that. I expect both of my current machines will outlive me.

    All of my machines were used, btw. The first 2 were dealer floor machines and an excellent price. Definitely check for that if you can Marji!


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