Someone from one of the Janome yahoo lists that I am on asked me a great question, and since my answer was detailed, I thought maybe it might help others so I decided to post it here. Apologies in advance for the length. Here’s the incoming (shortened) inquiry followed by my reply. Bottom line, I am THRILLED with the Janome machines I have had the fortune to use since 2004: each new version just keeps getting better and better. They have been utterly dependable with great stitch quality and all the features I need most. What you need to do is figure out what YOU need, then find the machine that best meets those needs. There is no such thing as the one and only perfect machine–just what is best for you.
I’m sorry to bother you. ….! I hope to retire within the next four years and dedicate more time to sewing/quilting. In the meantime though, I would like to invest in a very nice sewing machine. I currently sew with an XXXX . I am curious in your opinion of which brand I should buy. Thanks for your time. (Note: she specifically asked about Bernina and Janome machines, hence the brands in my reply which follows.) Signed, XXX
That’s a decision you’ll have to make, alas. Berninas are brilliant machines, at a very high price. Some of the machines (all brands) have become–for me anyway–too complicated! I like having the computerized machine, but there is a point where you need a Master’s in Computer Science to navigate all of it. Just too much…and sometimes too finicky. Where the line is depends on the individual user.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING: figure out what you need and will use. When we built a house in 1997-8, our builder told us to list Need, Want, Wish. All items on the “need” list should be in the house, a number of the wants, and even a wish or two. For example, we needed three bedrooms, a kitchen, and two baths. We wanted an extra half-bath and a studio space for me. That sort of thing. So sit down and list what you need on a sewing machine. For me, the list would be something like this:
- Harp space for Free-motion quilting.
- Really good balanced tension.
- Good satin stitch.
- “Single” (not boldface) blanket stitch
- Small increments to increase/decrease stitch width and length on zigzag, blanket stitch, straight stitch, and blind hem stitch (.01 as opposed to .05, that sort of thing)
- Good lighting
- Good local dealer/support
Bernina machines I sometimes say are all the quality at double the cost. Janome gives outstanding value for the price: what you can get on a 7700 or 8900 would *easily* cost $2-3000 (yes thousands) more in another brand, and the other brands might not be as reliable. Bernina has the best presser foot system (changing, quality of manufacture) in the industry bar none–but their feet are expensive. So buy a sturdy metal foot for $40? Or buy a Janome foot that does the same thing for $10 then replace it in a decade if/when it wears out? So far, I’ve not had a single Janome foot die from over-use, and I use my machine a lot.
Once you’ve figured out WHAT you need, then figure out what simple set of things will allow you to test different machines. When I bought a machine in 1996 just before leaving the rat race (and the nice salary), I took a quilt sandwich to each dealer and tried different things on it, writing my notes on the white cloth. If you make garments and buttonholes, take some stabilizer and cloth similar to what you would use and test-drive the buttonholes. Put notes right on the cloth (or safety pin or staple paper to the sample) to remind you what you thought as you made it: was the process easy/intuitive? Convoluted?
Repeat this process at each dealer/brand/machine. Then think about it. And don’t forget that a top dealer with good, courteous, prompt customer service is worth their weight in gold!
A couple years ago, when the Bernina 830 came out, I test drove it and frankly, it was amazing, but so far beyond my budget… so I applied to be in the Bernina teacher program despite misgivings because Janome has been SO good to me. Bernina never really answered. And since then I’ve heard some grumbling about the 830 being TOO complicated and finicky but don’t know if that is operator error or what–there are always people who grumble.
I LOVE that the Janomes are so dependable, take any thread you put on them and sew well, etc. And the price–even if I were paying full retail–is a fraction of the Bernina, Viking, etc. Not sure about BabyLock as I have never lived anywhere that had a BL dealer, so have no experience with them at all. And since that time, Janome came out with the 7700 which was pretty close to being my dream machine, and I’m thinking that the 8900 is even better (except I wish it still had that ruby red instead of the silver-gray!).
BOTTOM LINE: I’m really glad Bernina didn’t offer me the opportunity to try their machines on a teacher loan program. Since then the 7700 has come out and now the 8900, and they are simply FABULOUS machines. I’m definitely a Janome girl!
As for Top of the Line versus better but not most expensive in a given brand , last summer when teaching at Vermont Quilt Festival, one of the muckety mucks from Janome ended up sitting in my classroom for an hour or so at lunch. I had opted to stay and teach through lunch, and they needed someone in the class and were able to accommodate my desire to keep the classroom open. Well, he must have liked what I was teaching and how, because he offered to have Janome lend me a 12000 that I could take home from the show!!!! So I went down to test-drive it. Answer: brilliant machine, thank you SO MUCH for the generous offer, but not for me. It didn’t have the two feet I use most: open toe accu-feed, and circular free-motion foot (the one in the convertible set). [Note: I've heard that the open toe accu-feed will be out this month, and there is now a free-motion foot that would meet my needs that fits on the 12000.] That ruled the machine out right there. Plus, to change tension you had to go through several screens on the computer. I don’t like computer interface stuff–there’s nothing wrong with it, I just vastly prefer the simplicity and ease of turning a dial or knob like you can on the 6600, 7700 and 8900! It’s one of those “what’s your favorite flavor of ice cream things.” So I thanked the Janome honcho, said it was a fabulous machine but wasn’t the best machine for me. The embroidery capabilities would be wasted on me…. I’d rather wait until whatever was going to replace the 7700 came along—and that I hoped it had the visibility around the presser foot of the 12000 on the 7700 body. Well, guess what the 8900 is? Exactly that! So I think I’m going to be very happy with this machine. It’s a matter of figuring out what YOU need and will work for you, then comparing the machines/brands/models until you find the best fit.
Hope this VERY long reply helps, and think I’ll post it to the groups, too, as others may have the same question! Thank you for asking!
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PS: Someone asked about the knob/dial on the 7700 and 8900: it is actually a dial that you see when you flip up the lid on the top of the machine. If you think of the dial like a tire, the “tread” shows on the top curve of the dial. Just above and to the right of the take-up lever area (which is that gray stripe up the front left of the machine) is where the dial is located. It is a manual adjustment and easy pease: see, do!