Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sewing Machine Shopping: What I Learned

As I mentioned yesterday, I spent the better part of last week shopping for a new sewing machine. Say hello to my new baby, a Janome Horizon 7700!


I've only had her for a few days, so I haven't used a lot of the advanced features or quilted yet, but so far she is a rock star! Sews like a dream, soooo quietly and steadily. Every time I walk past, I just have to give her a little pat. : )

But now that the process is done and I've got my beautiful new machine, I have one simple question: Why does sewing-machine shopping have to be so confusing? It isn't easy to compare models and features when most dealers carry only one or two makes. I don't like getting the hard-sell from salespeople, and what's with all the secrecy about what people are actually paying for these things? It's worse than buying a used car!

So I spent an intense couple of days reading everything I could about the various models and test-driving machines at dealers. Here's my wish-list of the features I was looking for:
• a larger throat space to fit quilts under (my old Baby Lock had about 7.5" from the needle to the side of the machine)
• a dual-feed system (which means it feeds the fabric from both underneath and above)
• needle up-down feature
• auto needle threader and thread cutter (my Baby Lock had these, so I don't think live without them now!)
• knee lift for the presser foot (my Baby Lock came with this, but I could never use it comfortably with that machine)
• good extension table for quilting
• excellent free-motion quilting feet/accessories—preferably included

With that list in hand, it didn't take me long to narrow down some contenders via the reviews. My "finalists" are below. I found both The Quilting Board and Patternreview.com to be good sources for reviews, although on Patternreview.com you have to register to read reviews more than six months old, and I was unable to get their log-in screen to work (it kept re-directing me in a loop). There are also Yahoo user groups for certain brands/models, which may be helpful—just do a Google search for a specific group.


A note about prices: The thing that most drives me crazy about shopping for sewing machines is the fact that you can't see prices online, and nobody ever pays the actual retail price on a machine. As an avid online shopper and price-comparer, this makes me insane. So for most of these machines, I'm including a "fair price" estimate. Please take this estimate with a grain of salt. These are my own rough estimates, based on what I was quoted at dealers and/or what a few random people reported paying for it in reviews and online forums. So your mileage may vary! For certain models, prices truly were all over the map. Look for sales and floor models, try shopping at quilt shows for special show pricing, and always try bargaining with the dealers. Yes, you can and should haggle for sewing machines.


The Baby Lock Serenade
Fair price: $1,100 to $1,200
This was the first machine I looked at. I liked the idea of buying an upgraded Baby Lock, since I mostly liked my old one and staying with a familiar interface sounded good. The feed dog issue I've been experiencing with my old machine doesn't seem to be a common problem, since I can't find anything about it online, which made me more confident about buying another Baby Lock. The Serenade has a well-reviewed dual-feed system and a 9mm stitch width, which would be great for straight-line quilting. But with only 8 5/8" of throat space, it wouldn't be much of an upgrade for me in that area. And many of the machine's overall reviews weren't great. So in the end I didn't look closely at this one. 


The Baby Lock Symphony
Fair price: around $2,000
This was a great option for me and it gets fabulous reviews. Really the only big negative on this machine: No dual-feed mechanism. But the 10" of throat space helped make up for that! It also has a pivot feature that raises the foot automatically when you stop sewing with the needle-down option on. In my test-drives of this machine, I found the pivot feature worked well—it seemed to intuitively know when I was slowing down (and thus kept the foot down) and when I really was stopping. And how's this for crazy: You can even sew sideways on the Symphony! It sews very slowly in sideways mode, but it does it. I could see the pivot and sideways-sewing features being useful for straight-line quilting when you're turning a lot of corners. My Baby Lock dealer quoted me $1,999 for this one (with some haggling—they started out at $2,200).



Brother Laura Ashley Innovis NX-2000
Fair price: Around $1,800- $1,900?
I didn't even consider this machine or read the reviews of it before I went shopping. But one of the dealers explained that Brothers and Baby Locks are made by the same parent company, so this machine is actually the Symphony's twin. The user interface, the threading and bobbin winding mechanisms, etc., are all more or less identical. But this machine is a few hundred dollars cheaper! I asked the dealer why it's less expensive, and she said, "Because it's a Brother." Honestly, this had more the effect of putting me off the Symphony than interesting me in the Brother. Does that mean Baby Locks are overpriced? Is Brother the victim of a bad rap? I don't get it. But if you're interested in a Symphony, it's probably worth checking into this one as well. A little research into what the differences really are could save you some money. My dealer had this machine priced at $1,899, which makes me think, with haggling, it could be purchased for less.


The Pfaff Smarter 1100 Pro
Fair price: Didn't research prices, sorry.
Rachel of Stitched In Color recently bought this machine and I read about her machine-buying experiences with interest (here and here). Her description of the Pfaff Smarter sounds great, but unfortunately the nearest Pfaff dealer to me is local quilt shop where I have had bad customer service experiences in the past. A good relationship with your dealer is almost as important as the machine itself, so I didn't try this one out (or any Pfaffs).


The Janome 6600 
Fair price: between $1,100 and $1,500
Very good reviews, lots of useful features, a reasonable 9" of throat space, and Janome's Accufeed dual-feed mechanism. That's a lot of bang for your buck! The biggest drawback to this one seems to be that it doesn't have a free arm (which means you can't make the bottom part of the machine smaller to put sleeves, pants legs, bags, etc., around it). My old machine has a free arm, and while I certainly didn't use it frequently, I used it often enough to wonder if I might miss it. And I've been wanting to try sewing more clothes for the girls, so if that ever becomes reality, the free arm would be important to have.


The Janome Horizon 7700
Fair price: between $2,100 and $2,500
This one has 11" of throat space—what? That's huge! That's a full 2" more than the 6600, and 3.5" more than my old machine! It has the Accufeed system and all the other bells and whistles I've been looking for, and people rave about the free-motion quilting capabilities on this baby. This is the machine Leah Day of the Free Motion Quilting Project uses and loves. You can read her reviews here and here. There are some negative reviews out there of the Horizon, but most of those seem to center on a design flaw in the original 1/4" piecing foot, which has since been fixed. Every registered Horizon owner was sent a new version of the 1/4" piecing foot when it was released—they didn't even have to ask for it. That's good customer service (and a reason to remember to register your machine!). Some people don't like the click-wheel stitch selector, but I love it—if you've ever used an iPod, you'll find it familiar and intuitive. The lowest price I found for this machine was $2,399 for new, $2,299 for a floor model that was on the floor for about 3 months. You may see a lot of higher prices for this machine as well—I think the Horizon was more expensive when it first came out, but prices seem to have dropped since then. 


Viking Sapphire 875
Fair price: around $2,000?
This machine has 10" of throat space and a sensor system that automatically adjusts the presser foot based on the thickness of your fabric, which sounds interesting. But for the price, it was missing some features I wanted, like dual-feed and a knee lift. And there aren't many reviews out there on it. So in the end I didn't try this one out.


Berninas—honestly, I didn't even look into Berninas. I've heard they're very well-made, but with price tags to match, and none of the dealers I visited carry them.

To tell the truth, I had fully expected to leave the store with a Baby Lock Symphony. It had everything I wanted with the exception of the dual-feed mechanism. Plus it was a Baby Lock, a brand I was already familiar with. But when I sat down at the Janome Horizon, I fell in love. Something about that machine just clicked for me. And that's really what it's all about with sewing machines—what felt right for me may not be ideal for you, and vice versa. Regardless of features and pricing and everything I said above, you need to test-drive the machines to find the perfect one for you. And it really doesn't matter how many features a machine has or whether other people use those features and like them. The most important thing is that it has the features you use and need. The best way to know that is to spend as much time as possible testing them out.

So the Horizon was my choice! After spending the last several years working on a machine that was missing key features, I decided it would be worth a few hundred dollars more to get my dream machine. I ended up buying the floor model for $2299, and the dealer threw in this custom table for $200. (I priced out the table elsewhere and other dealers were asking $350 to $400 for it.) The Horizon does come with a huge clear extension platform, but I saw a Horizon set up on this drop-in table and couldn't get it out of my head! This all means that I'm finally sewing at the correct height and have an amazing surface for quilting, flush with the bed of the machine. I think when I'm quilting I'll try to push the table up against a wall or possibly next to our large dining room table (if it's the right height) for the perfecto quilting set-up!

Thank you, Sew With Me in Waukesha, for great service and a good buying experience! I'm very happy with my purchase so far. I'll write a full review of the machine after I can spend a little more time getting to know her. In the meantime, I hope you'll find my sewing machine round-up a helpful starting point if you're in the market any time soon.

98 comments:

  1. eep I have that machine too - had it for nearly two years now and love it more every day! Great choice and a great post too - I'm the opposite of you. I saw this one, wanted it, bought it - job done. I'm the laziest consumer in the world!

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  2. Thanks for all your input. With the baby-lock brother issue. There are so many products out there that are like that. Whirlpool and Kenmore appliances, they come from the same line and get different name badges at the end of assembly depending on the order they are filling. Kenmore's cost more money. American Standard and Trane air conditioners, same thing. Trane's cost more.etc etc etc..........Glad you found a machine you really love though. I have a brother now, and love that machine.

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  3. Thank you for all the reviews! I have the 6600 and the table and the table is AWESOME. Sometimes, I need extra help supporting the weight of a larger quilt while quilting, so I butt my cutting table up against the back end to hold the weight of the quilt, but otherwise, the table rocks. (And the lack of free arm is a little annoying on the 6600 sometimes, I keep a little singer as a backup for any free-arm required stuff)

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  4. Great review Lee, I've enjoyed reading it. I sew on a brother nx400, not sure why it gets a bad rap, as I love it. Its starting to get a bit dated now and it looks like the 7700 might be the way to go? The throat space does look amazing, I know I would really appreciate the extra wiggle room!

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    1. Laura, I have a Brother NX400 as well! I love it. I admit to having a hard time spending as much (or as little, compared to other machines) as I did. It was an anniversary gift actually. I got my Mom a nx400, the quilting version of it, and she also loves it! I've had it for 4+ years and so far, so good. I do love the 7700, based on the reviews I've read online and this post. I haven't looked for a new machine at all. LOL

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    2. I don't know a lot about Brothers, I only know I never seem to hear much about them one way or the other (positive or negative), so I guess that's why I didn't research them more thoroughly. If it's just brand snobbery bringing the price down, I guess that could actually be a good thing, because it means you can get a good machine for less?! : )

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  5. Congrats on your new baby! So exciting! I bought my machine a bit over 6 months ago (Pfaff expression 2) and I love it - mainly for the massive throat space which is awesome for quilting. I still have no idea what half the features do though - but I'm happy! Although thanks to Aneela's post last week about her Pfaff I have discovered the half speed button which is great for straight line quilting. Amazing the things you can find out. Enjoy!

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  6. Congratulations on a great purchase! Like Lynne, this is the machine I wanted, so I bought it! Luckily for me, it came with the drop in table. The best thing ever! Enjoy your wonderful new machine.

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  7. Great review! I'm not in the market for a new machine (yet), but will definitely keep this in mind.

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  8. Oooo!!! Congratulations! You are going to love it! I sew on the 6600 and I can say - Janomes are wonderful!! Enjoy that awesomeness!!

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  9. this would be my choice if i was to buy new....i love that table...my friend has one...makes a world of difference

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  10. Thank you for the reviews, I have never sewn with a dual-feed. I probably shouldn't try one now or I might just need one. I have only heard good things about Janome. Does your machine have a stitch regulator, half speed or similar stitch control for quilting? I have a Viking Sapphire 870 Quilt.

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    1. Nope, no stitch regulator—I don't think any of the machines I looked at had that. But it does have a speed control dial. Love it!

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  11. Lee - great reviews! Buying a machine is HARD and you are right, what is up with the secrecy and no one posting prices anywhere? I think sewing machine dealers and manufacturers need to realize the next generation of buyers is used to being able to get information online. Make it easier for people to get into sewing, not harder! Seriously, I could go on all day about it. :) Love your choice!

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  12. I bought my Janome 7700 in the spring after alot of shopping around and research as well. The first quilt I free motioned quilted on with this machine made me feel like a pro. I'm a novice quilter but this machine is so great, everything just flows. You will be thrilled with this new baby.

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  13. this is amazing....does the horizon have a automatic stitch regulator for when you are doing FMQ?

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    1. I just bought this same machine. And it doesn't have stitch regulation when FMQ. The only brand that I know has that is the Bernina, but I sooo love my machine so far.
      ~Amy

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  14. I wound up getting the same machine this past spring and just LOVE it. You are so right, though, about all the secrecy in pricing. It's also frustrating that prices can vary so differently. I paid $2000 for my machine, but the dealer charged me $500 for the table (and that's a number I worked him down to). A friend in another state got a demo model for $2000 with the table thrown in for free. The variation can be insane! In any event, it's a GREAT machine, and I'm glad you like it!

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    1. $2,500 total for the both the sewing machine and the table seemed to be the magic number for me—some people charged more for the machine, less for the table, while others wanted more for the table and less for the machine ... but it always came out to exactly $2,500! I even had one dealer who would take my old machine as a trade-in, but his price for the machine and table were much higher ... so with the trade-in factored in, it was, you guessed it, $2,500. LOL. (So obviously your friend got a great deal!)

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  15. Janome is a great machine, congrats on your new machine!
    I did a lot of research and calling and visiting a couple of years ago and found that there are really only 3 or 4 places that make machines and many of them are made at the same place by the same people. Researching sergers is interesting too, even less people make sergers. :)
    And I agree, more machines would be sold if they could sell new machines online. But most makers do NOT allow or want their machines to be sold online. Used ones are allowed, but not new. Shame.

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  16. Oooh - so jealous :) While I haven't test driven the Horizon, based on doing some research and its features, this looks like my dream machine. Some day...

    Thanks for all the info on the other machines too. You're right - there are so many options it is a little dizzying to try to decide. Congratulations on your new machine!

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  17. Good for you and congrats. I pretty much guessed your choice yesterday because that's what I would've bought (in my dreams)... Appreciate the reviews. I'm sure they will be referred to often and wish I'd had a chance to read them in January when I had to replace my machine. The decision was nerve-wracking. The comment thread with readers talking about their own machines is helpful too. I just couldn't bump up my budget to go for the Horizon and am happy with what my Baby Lock Serenade has done so far.

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  18. When I win the lotto this is the first thing I am buying!

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  19. I've had my Janome 3160 QDC for nearly a year now and I love it. I had a really hard time researching machines, too, and I really hated that I couldn't research prices online before going into a dealer! Congratulations on a great purchase. I'm sure you'll be happy with your new machine for a very long time! :)

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  20. thanks for the great review! I bought the same machine, (I named her Jenny) and love it! You will too, I am sure.
    I have the clear plastic tray which probably isn't as nice as your table, but works well. I do have it up against a wall, and also bought a small plastic folding table (from Home Depot/Lowes) to sit at right angles at my left elbow. That supports the bulk of the quilt, which really helps.
    Enjoy!

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  21. Great reviews & glad you were able to get something you'll really use & love.

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  22. I don't know how anyone sews without a drop-in table . . . you will love it!!! Thanks for the thoughtful reviews.

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  23. Thanks for the great, great post! I am thinking of getting a new machine in the next 6-9 months and really appreciate the detail. I live in a small town in Texas and am really looking forward to the quilt show in Houston in the Fall and the Modern Quiltcon in Austin early next year so I can test drive some machines there. Thanks again and congratulations!

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  24. Great review. Thanks for adding a price range too. Happy sewing to you!

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  25. I'm so eff'in jealous right now it's sick!

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  26. Thanks for the great post. I have read it all, even that I am a happy owner of Janome Horizon since when it was first presented at the market. I have had a few issues with it in the beginning, but they were corrected with immediately and I love my machine.

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  27. oh good! another person who has this machine! I just started using mine that I won and I'm sort of a blind man in the dark with it. Because I won it I didn't get the benefit of buying it from a local dealer and any instructions. Luckily I'm a quick study and have used a lot of machines, but it will be fun to see what you discover.

    So far it is quilting like a dream! So smooth!

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  28. I looked at the Horizon last fall when I was looking for a new machine. I actually ended up buying a Sapphire 835. It had everything I wanted (the sensor system gives me perfect fabric feeding).

    I found the secrecy in pricing absolutely insane as well. I like to do my comparison shopping online first too. I think sewing machine manufacturers are missing out and a lot of people end up buying crappy first machines becaues of it!

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  29. I too have a horizon and i absolutely love it. the free arm can be a little thick sometimes if you are stitching a narrow sleeve hem or something but overall it's a fabulous machine.

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  30. This is my dream machine, thanks for the research. Somehow I doubt retailers here in Canada would let these machines go for anything resembling those fair prices but it is good to be armed with an estimate of their value when I go shopping.

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  31. Thanks for sharing your research! The lack of prices on the internet frustrates me as well!!!

    - Katie Fleming

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  32. Thanks for sharing, I agree, I need one and it so confusing. I also need a good IRON..... I dont want such a heavy one, the Rowena's...

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    1. LOL, I've had three irons in the last two years and haven't liked any of them, so if you find a good one, please share! : )

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  33. Yea! That's my dream machine too! After buying a used Pfaff QE4.0, I'd NEVER recommend it to anyone serious about quilting. It's been a FMQ-ing nightmare. My old machine was a Janome (actually a New Home), and still works like new. I'm now saving my money for a new Janome 6600. I shied away from it too because of the lack of the free arm, but still have my old Janome, so hopefully soon I'll be able to get the 6600 and try to unload the QE 4.0. FWIW, I think the Pfaffs, Vikings and Singers are all pretty much the same machines now, so I'd never buy one of those either. Congrats on your new machine!!

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  34. This was a great post and will be very helpful to anyone researching to buy a new machine. Congratulations on your new purchase

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  35. Oh I am so jealous! I really want a machine that awesome but my budget just doesn't allow. You are so lucky!! Enjoy!!

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  36. I have had my Janome Horzion for 2 1/2 years now and am still very happy with it. However it does get quite a bit louder eventually (as all machines do) and I have had to replace the bobbin holder a while ago. This is a weak point of the machine as it is a plastic bobbin holder and if your needle gets stuck (which can sometimes happen) it leaves uneven marks on the bobbin holder which make a lot of noise while sewing. I tend to file these marks away with a nail file.

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  37. SO helpful, Lee! Thanks for taking the time to write this up!

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  38. Another factor that can affect price is location. Add about $500 and you have the prices here. I paid $1900 for my 6600 In February.

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    1. So true! Being in Milwaukee, I would guess our prices are fairly middle-of-the-road—not the highest, but not the lowest either. So everyone should factor that in when trying to figure out a fair price.

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  39. I hope you love your horizon 7700. I adore mine and am really, really happy with the FMQ results I get. It was expensive and took a bit to save up for, but well worth the money.

    Have you named your machine yet? Because I'm sure you'll be good friends for a while.

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  40. I've got that one too :D I love sewing on it and have made a point of trying out all of the quilting stitches! I wish I had the drop in table, they are super hard to find around here. I'm another one that doesn't get the £ secrecy or why brands don't want their machines sold on line. Considering I pay the utility bills, grocery shop, gift buy and shop for fabric online I find it out of this wold that we can't even see the prices let alone buy a machine online.

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  41. Congrats on your new machine!!!!! I am so very excited for you. Can't wait to see what you make with your machine.

    Dianne

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  42. Yay for a new machine! That's awesome! Thanks for sharing so much information as to your search. I am not in the market for a new machine, yet!, but I know when the time comes I'll be looking online for reviews. I remember when I was looking it was hard at heck to find info online! The manufacturers need to at least share a little info.

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  43. Great review post! Congrats on a new machine. I got the Symphony two years ago and paid $2000 for it from our local dealer. I never even tried out the horizon, so I'm not sure if I'd like it better. I do like the idea of the dual feed, though. Does that stand in place of a walking foot?

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  44. Congratulations on your new baby! I have the same machine and table and LOVE it! Join the yahoo group for the horizon if you haven't already...it has a ton of great information.

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  45. GReat review...I have the Janome 6600 and it is my very best friend. I bought it before the Horizon came out. I also have an old Bernina 1230. I say that I used to be a Bernina girl, but now I am a Janome woman!! Enjoy your machine!

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  46. Thanks for this...I am in the market for a new machine and the whole SUPER SECRET PRICING is driving me nuts. Makes me want to never buy another machine. I also agree with you on the hard sell....worse than my experience buying my last car!
    Great guide!

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  47. I'm SOOOOO envious. This is my dream machine and I have the big new brochure laying on the coffee table under my husband's nose so he will see it every night. I know it is in my future! I saw a demo recently and fell in love with it, too. I have a Janome Harmony (from Sears) and it's been a fantastic machine, but I want something that will do it all for my daily quilting and sewing. I'm so very happy for you!! :) Have fun!

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  48. Love my Janome I have the 6300 and have done over 15 quilts on it. I needed to keep my price point around 1000 and Janome beat everyone out. Great customer service and I'm saving for a Horizon now

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  49. Wonderful post...I am in the process of looking for a new machine. Unfortunately in my town the only quilt store only sells Bernina and I am not wealthy enough for one!

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  50. Great info!! I'm saving this post. Happy with my Janome QC for now, but I'd love larger throat space.

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  51. I sew on a Pfaff Quilters Expression 4.0, and I have never tried a Janome machine so far. I heard that Berninas are more or less the Porsche among the sewing machines, but whatever your wishes may be, the price tag limits them considerably. You can just enjoy what you have and make good use of it, no matter what the price tag said. Happy sewing and lots of fabulous projects with your new machine! :-)

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  52. Sounds like loads of research :o) I'm lucky enough to have a dealer that sells a wide range of machines and he gave me fabulous advice when I was shopping around. I ended up with the Brother NX 2000, which made sense as I already had a baby Brother, so I wouldn't need to buy all new bobbins and accessories (although Big Brother came with loads of accessories!). Plus it was the most affordable for what I needed, and I love it to bits. There does seem to be an odd snobbery against Brother's though, but I've no idea why, even my overlocker is a Brother!

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  53. Wow, I love Janome and that is totally my dream sewing machine! I totally understand what you mean about sewing machine shopping. Last time I went, the shop owner would ask my budget and then tell me prices...that isn't how I work! Totally pinning this entry for future reference!

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  54. Great post! 3 yrs ago I purchased the Bernina 440QE and really like it. The throat/harp space made quilting the larger projects a challenge, though. One of the bloggers did a review of a Juki TL2010Q (an industrial styled home machine) The harp space is much larger (not like the Horizon) but only does a straight stitch & no free arm. The type of machine I used when working for the "Company Store" making comforters. The stitching is beautiful, perfectly balanced and does FMQ great! Prices, unless you know someone who's purchased a machine, are impossible to come by!!!! The Bernina definitely is overpriced and I really do not like the stitch regulator.....I want the machine control and not the machine controlling me when it comes to FMQ!

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  55. Congrats on your new machine! I followed Rachel's posts on buying a new machine, too. I tried out several Bernina's - I wanted to love them, but I couldn't. And I loved the prices even less. Next up was a Viking Sapphire which I just loved. However, finding out that they are not made in Sweden any more, and the poor reviews put me off them - and it was $2200, which was considerably over my budget. I wound up trying a Janome 6600 in the next store, and when Itold the owner I'd have to think about it, he gave me a brand new machine still in the box to take home with me to use for a week! He didn't even ask for a deposit or credit card #. Well, 4 days later I was back in the shop, credit card in hand to buy this machine. I loved it, and love it even more now!

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  56. Oh, I forgot to say I paid $1469 plus tax for the Janome 6600!

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  57. You should have asked! I followed Leah Day's advice a year or two ago and bought a Janome Horizon as well. I'm a novice FMQ but am improving, thanks to the machine (and her advice on thread, etc.) I love this machine. You know I hadn't heard of dual feed and still don't know what you mean, but if it is there - great. I actually piece on my old Bernina because I love those stitches best and I keep the Janome set up for FMQ. I'm sure I'll get experienced at some point on all the Janome has to offer. I was thrilled with the auto? threading needle and thread cutting button - it doesn't take much to make me happy! I also have the table and love it.

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  58. Congratulations on your new machine! Welcome to the family. I have a 7700 and I love it. It is a work horse and a great machine. You are really going to enjoy sewing on it.

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  59. I also have this machine and love it! I found the Janome Clear View Quilting Foot and Guide Set to be very helpful if you don't like the 1/4" piecing foot that came with the machine. While I didn't have any real issues with the original foot, I am much more comfortable seeing the seam guides from above. I just wish my dealer had told me about it originally!

    Enjoy!

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  60. Great post and congrats on your new baby! Glad I'm not the only one who cannot stand all the price secrecy!

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  61. I love my horizon, I think you have made a good choice. I have that table too. Thank you for setting out all the other information, as I agree, trying to figure out the details about sewing machines is really difficult.

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  62. I'm so with you on the "unpublished" prices on things. As soon as they stop telling you prices, you can pretty much assume it's expensive. It's like they feel they need you to look at aaalllllll the features, bells and whistles, guess at a much higher price, and then decide when they reveal the actual price that it's truly a bargain for what you're getting rather than have you balk right away at the price. Sigh. So frustrating.

    Enjoy your new machine! I got a Janome for Christmas (albeit a less fancy one...) and love it beyond loving it.

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  63. Congrats on your new machine AND for having a hubby who presumably went along with such a major purchase!

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  64. I love my Horizon. I had to make a spreadsheet to choose my machine. Oddly enough...I originally bought the Viking 875Q which was my second choice machine after the Horizon. I had it for about a year (where I lived previously I didn't have a Janome dealer even within an hours drive from me). The 875Q doesn't need a knee lift as the foot automatically lifts just a smidge off of the fabric every time you lift your foot off of the peddle. It was AMAZING!!! Especially for appliqué or sewing curves. I so miss that feature. I hate the knee lift after having had that amazing feature. It also had a plate that popped on and off...no screws to fiddle with.

    But, a year after I got it and it was due for it's annual service it started acting very weird. Popping thread every 12 inches or so. I tried everything I could think of, and everything that was suggested to me. Nothing. Popped threads over and over. It was a pain as I tried to finish the quilt I was making my dad for Christmas. Also my bobbin would bounce in the housing. Not problems I had had originally. I took it in for service. It came back worse than it was when I brought it in. So bad that my husband checked the serial number to make sure I got the correct machine back. The customer service at this place was AWFUL, and I missed my original dealer. I realized I couldn't work with these people, so I sold the machine and bought the Horizon. LOVE IT!!! Quilts like a dream.

    I did test out the fancy Bernina Quilting machine. The 820. That thing was AMAZING...to look at. But, it was so complicated and had such a steep learning curve that even the lady that worked at the shop didn't know how to use it. It wasn't intuitive at all. And from what I read...even after their free classes...you still don't know everything you need to know. With 2 small kids at home I decided that I didn't have the time.

    You'll love your Janome. It's a great machine. My back up is a Brother innovis 40. That machine is awesome too. Not one problem with it in the last 3 years. Not one. As far as pricing...Mine was about $1800 and that came with a roller bag, quilting thread, and some extra feet as well. :)

    Sorry such a long comment...but I did a ton of research so I thought I'd share in case anyone else wanted to know. :)

    -Amanda-

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  65. I really appreciate your insight into the arena of sewing machine shopping! Sewing machines are a HUGE investment and there is so little information about how to purchase new. As a user of a 20+ year old machine, I am waiting for it to give up before I face that hurdle myself.

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  66. Great post, Lee! This is very helpful and I appreciate you sharing all your research. I'll keep this in mind for when I'm ready for a new machine.

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  67. i've got the janome horizon - just a tip - ALWAYS 'set' when the machine asks you to 'set' - i didn't and the needle hit the metal thing underneath and caused an almost fatal error - i had to have the piece replaced. other than that, i love this machine :) good choice!

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  68. I've had my Janome for 22 years and it never misses a beat. It has lots of features that I love and does everything I ask of it. Its not electronic though and if there is one feature I would like it would be the needle up/down feature. The extra space would be great too. I've been eyeing off the Horizon since it came out but I really don't need a new machine and here in Australia it retails for $3500, although I've seen it advertised at around $3000. Definitely my one day machine!

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  69. Thanks for the great information - you've done all the legwork for me!! You are going to LOVE sewing on this machine, it is the one I have been drooling over. I hope you have many happy years together!

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  70. Great post, Lee, and great information.
    I have a Viking, which I love, but given your list of must-have's, I'd probably switch over if I ever bought again.

    Thanks!
    Elizabeth E.
    opquilt.com

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  71. Thank you so much for this comprehensive review and pricing. The prices have gone through the roof on these machines and it is nice to read opionions of the people who are out there looking. Congrats on your new machine - it looks like a beauty. Bernie

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  72. Love the review...if anyone is thinking about the Babylock Symphony...I love her!

    And WHAT is with all the secrecy...I think it is worse than a car. And my poor sales/negotiating husband gets completely baffled by them!!

    Enjoy your new girl! I have heard GOOD things about her!!!!!!!

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  73. A little bit green but I am happy for ya. I have to say that your Janome dealers are far kinder than the ones in my area. As I wrote in another comment; They wanted $3300.00 new and $3000.00 for the floor. For the table you got, our dealers wanted $600.00+. Needless to say Lee you got a good deal all together for the machine and the table.

    Even though I love the machine you have and I too fell in love with it. But I do more than quilting so I needed a free arm on a machine. I agree on the Viking that throat space could be a bit more open than what it is. That is what I like most about the Janome is that it has a wider throat space.

    The other thing I did not even think of was the dual feed. Is that where the foot and feed dogs grasps onto the fabric more evenly?

    Anyway congratulations and enjoy learning to get to know your new machine! She is a beauty!

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  74. I am so jealous! I was really leaning toward the Horizon when I bought my new machine back in February but my husband freaked when he heard the price. I had a hard time convincing him that I should buy the 6600. (Which is what I ended up buying.) I felt the same way you did about the lack of "proper" pricing when I was machine shopping online. It's so frustrating. Enjoy your new baby! She's awesome!

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  75. Wow, thank you for this amazing rundown, Lee! I had a Kenmore that would probably be fine with a tune-up, but I decided to get a new machine. For me it was between the Baby Lock Melody and Sofia. Maybe it was the machine in the store, but the stitch quality just seemed nicer on the Sofia. But now I have a whole new expense--embroidery thread and designs! Ack! Anyway, I could have also gone Janome and Brother shopping, but Baby Lock is the most convenient, so I opted for the Baby Lock. I've heard that even though BL and brother are owned by the same company, Baby Lock is a world ahead in terms of quality--but I don't know about that when you get into the expensive Brother machines. Anyway, congratulations! :)

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  76. Thank you for your great review! I'm in the market for a new machine and was trying to compare the Horizon with the Juki F600. I'm in an area with few retailers so checking out all the machines is a problem. Did you consider the Juki at all or have any idea as to how it compares with the Horizon?

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  77. Hi Lee! Your new sewing table is a Gidget II. I just bought one! It's in my new sewing room with a Bernina Aurora 440 in it, a sewing machine I recently won. I'm still waiting for the custom insert for the table, but I paid only $250 for the whole thing from a local vacuum and sewing machine store. Enjoy your new Horizon. I've heard only good things about it.

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  78. You made a terrific choice! I've had mine for 21 months and every single time I use her I love her even more. The Accufeed feet make piecing, straight stitch quilting, and just sewing, in general, the most amazing experience! FMQ is a breeze, too. I have not talked to anyone who is sorry they made this purchase. I hope you adore your new Janome Horizon as much as I love mine.

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  79. thanks for sharing all the details of your search! i use this model at work for our education programs and love it! Janome is one of our workshop sponsors at the Quilt Museum and take good care of us machine-wise.
    it's so easy to pick up and figure out and all the features you were looking for are on it and so great when quilting.

    the only thing that can be tricky that i've noticed after a year with this model is that there's no warning/beep to let you know the bobbin thread is running low. so be sure to check your thread level before starting into long seams or lots of free motioning! Enjoy getting to know it. :)

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    1. Bee, you are sooo right! Low bobbin warning would have been the icing on the cake. She has so many other great features that I tend to overlook that one tiny flaw. :)

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  80. Hope you have many hours of fun using your machine.
    I also have the Horizon and would love to have a table for it. Is the table also made by Janome or is it an independent manufacturer?
    Janette

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  81. 1) Great reviews! Thank you for sharing your hard work with us!
    2) Because I have NOT been looking yet for a great machine! (new quilter and only working on a $200 Brother)c I have to ask if machines have the 'bobin low' indicator?? My Mother Had a fancy schmance Memory Craft some-thousand LOL (12 years ago) and I remember it haveing a beep when your bobbin got low! Do machines still do that or is it something people did not find important??
    Man I wish I had her machine!!

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  82. Thank you for sharing this. I, too, have been thinking about buying a new machine, and have been going insane over the BS of companies not giving any prices. I've resorted to looking at dealers on ebay to get an idea of pricing, but would never buy a machine there because as you say, the dealer relationship for AFTER the purchase is equally important. My other option has been to ask people how much they paid -- don't worry, I haven't been crass about it, and I've mostly only asked the women in my guild after getting to know them a bit better. I think I'll be looking at the Janomes and Jukis because of the features that I want, but I'm fairly sure that one of the ladies in my group said that Viking, Brother, Singer, and Babylock have models that are manufactured by each other, and the main difference in many cases is the branding (?). I do know that at least Babylock Brother and Singer are all sent to a special place near here (Laverne, TN, just outside Nashville) for the big-time service issues, but perhaps because they are a Singer manufacturing facility, maybe they just have a lot of great repair folks there that understand the machines from the ground up. Congrats on your new machine!

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  83. Hi Lee! I just want to thank you for writing up this great post, but more importantly, thanks for all the time you devoted to researching tnis decision. I have been looking at the Horizon for the last year or so, have read lots of online info and Leah's reviews. This is alot of moola for (just) a sewing machine. Today, I took the leap and finally got my own Horizon, (aka: Red Hot Rita). Your post, and all the info behind it, made my decision much easier. I felt informed and prepared to negotiate. Many thanks and happy sewing!

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  84. I want to thank you again for this post. I recently had to shop for a new machine and your insights and research saved me a lot of headache! I was especially thankful for the price ranges, because without them, I would have no idea if I was getting a decent deal or not. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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  85. Too bad you didn't try the Sapphire... Why do you need to use another part of your anatomy to operate the machine (aka knee?)... Just tapping the foot control lowers the foot. A touch of a handy button lifts. Plus an auto lift feature when working needle down! knee lifts were developed for speedy manufacturing techniques, and if you use them often can result in lower back and/or knee pain!

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  86. i am looking for a new sewing machine , come across your blog , very helpful. i am somewhat of a beginner, have no plans of spending that much on a machine, but it was interesting to see which brands are the best, thank you

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  87. This might be a silly question, but I'm new to sewing (in a class just learning how to use a sewing machine, lol), but I was wondering what you meant by, "nobody ever pays retail for a sewing machine". Are you saying when I go look for a sewing machine (new) I should try to bargain on the price? Just curious because I'm on the prowl and not sure how to go about new, used, or brand.

    Right now I'm considering Janome, Bernina, Juki? and Viking. I plan to do mostly totes, handbags, duffels (heavy duty material like canvas or denims), and some simple clothing alterations like hemming my husbands pants. Not really into quilting.

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    1. Yes, that is exactly what I mean! Buying a sewing machine is very much like buying a car. However the dealer has it priced, please haggle with them. That price is rarely the lowest they will go. Also, many dealers will match each other's lowest prices, so don't be afraid to play them against each other.

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    2. I'm looking at buying a new machine also. I bought a refurbished Viking 830 Sapphire about 5 years ago and have been struggling with it ever since when I do FMQ. Every time there are skipped stitches, nest under neath, etc. I love it for piecing and appliqueing but FMQ .......GRR!! A dealer told me the Bernina is the way to go for quilting and a Viking for embroidery. Now, I'm reading this review and will definitely try the Janome (and possibly a Babylock). I, too, wish prices were listed online for all of these. It's very confusing!

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