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How to Purchase a Sewing / Quilting Machine with NO REGRETS

Which one to choose

Choices…a coin with two sides. The Up Side where the opportunity to make a choice is a good thing. It allows us to be in control – allows us to pick what we want, not what another deems to be the best choice for us.

The other side of the coin or, the Downside, where often there are too many options to choose from which strips the joy of being able to make that choice.  When too many choices are available, it is fear that sets in.  The last thing we want to do is make the wrong choice – we want to avoid regret at all costs!

And, for some reason, this is what happens whenever a quilter/sewest is faced with the need to purchase new or upgrade to a new machine.  The fear of making the wrong choice stifles our pursuit of happiness.

Before a major purchase, in particular a new sewing machine is made, there seems to exist an undercurrent fear of regret collectively shared by those of us in the market for a new machine.

It’s something I have yet to explain. It took me only 30 minutes into a home showing to decide to make an offer to purchase an item easily 200X the purchase price of most any sewing machine I have seriously considered! Yet here I am, 2 years later and STILL in search of “THE” machine!

However, these past couple of years have allowed me time to develop a more focused sense of direction and more a specific answer to the question, “What do I want this new machine to do?”.

If you too are at this point in your search for the machine that is right for you and want to make that purchase with “No Regrets” then you have arrived at the right place!

“Must-Haves” vs “Considerations”

I previously published a post listing the Top 5 Things to Consider When Buying a Sewing Machine. True, that information remains valid however, it doesn’t really get into nitty gritty of what decisions need to be made before making such an important purchase. As the title implies, it is a list of things to “consider” and was based primarily on what I had read and not enough on experience.

Here, my goal is to do much more than just offer “considerations” – the goal is to give you a definitive list of “Must-Haves” if you want to purchase a machine with NO REGRETS.

For those of you who follow my blog, you may remember a review I posted a few months back on what I considered to be my “Dream Machine“. Initially, my research was in response to a concern regarding my current machine (a Janome DC 2014) and its growing list of annoying noises and quirky habits – tell-tale signs that retirement, or at the very least, an extended vacation on a warm, sunny beach with a cold beverage in one hand a book in the other was looming on the horizon.

And if retirement or an extended vacation was the case and I woke up one morning to find a note on the refrigerator that my Janome had indeed packed its bags and headed for the beach I would then be forced to answer a second question, “If I were to buy a new machine, which one would I buy?”

Taking a Test Drive

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Kansas City Regional Quilt Festival (KCRQF) in Overland Park, Kansas. In addition to “oohing” and “ahhhing” hundreds of quilts on display and visiting with vendors that allow me to spend oodles of money on must-have fabrics, patterns and anything else my mind deems necessary to joyfully pursue my quilting hobby, this festival also gave me an opportunity to try out a few high end sewing machines.

My first encounter with a much coveted machine was during a class where each of us were set up with a Janome Memory Craft 9450 QCP.

Janome Quilt Class

This is the exact machine I used:

Janome MC 9450 QCP

A Little Housekeeping

Before I go any further I want to clarify that this article is not an endorsement of this or any Janome product. In my limited experience I have had only positive experiences with Janome machines but there are many other makes and models with their own brand of greatness.

I’m choosing this particular Janome machine because it is from using this machine for several hours that I was able to determine exactly which “bells and whistles” I want/need and those that I don’t. I have spent more time using this machine than any other I’ve “test-driven” and feel I can give a more authentic description of each of my must-have items using just one machine.

Spending a good 6 hours with this machine on day one and another 3 hours on day 2 (in addition to the “test drives” on other brands on the vendor floor) I have to say I am so grateful that I did not give in to impulse and purchase a new machine before now.

Do’s and Don’ts of Researching a Sewing Machine

Read

Relying on written product reviews simply cannot compare to a hands-on test-drive. So many of the reviews I’ve read provide information is that is too general. Once you read three or four of these you begin to see a pattern of repetitious and generic content. While these “reviews” serve a purpose, the absence of specific experiential details is a clue the review was not submitted by an actual user. That’s not what I need to make this type of decision. Sure, I will continue to read reviews but only as spring board to propel me to my next level of research – the “test drive”.

Test Drive

DO visit a local deal/retail business and try out as many machines as you fell necessary. It is often through this process that you learn about options you never knew existed. And of those options you read about and thought, “yes, that’s what I want” you may also learn that option is more hype than function.

As much as I love learning a new technique and networking with others who share my interests, the main reason I attended the festival and enrolled in a couple of classes was to have the experience of trying out a new sewing machine.

While the Janome Memory Craft 9450 QCP may not be “the” machine for me however, using it for several hours has taught me what I do want and need in my next sewing machine. And, as my search continues, I will be asking about the following items listed below and the moment I encounter a “no”, that will be my signal to move on.

Good Stuff

So here we are – the “good stuff” – the top five items, I have so far, identified as items my next sewing machine must have:

1)  Box Design Feed Dog – this could easily be the ONLY item on my list. Other manufactures have a similar design, the Janome system is called the “Acu-Feed Flex”. Every other bell and whistle can go straight to the recycle bin but this Acu-Feed Flex system is a must! When it comes to piecing and quilting I cannot over – emphasize importance of an accurate fabric feed system.

Janome Acu-Feed Flex System

2) Automatic Thread Cutter – At the push of a button thread is cut at the end of a stitch which means less thread waste and no more long thread tails to trim later.

3) Auto Presser Foot Lift – Can be set to automatically raise when pressure is removed from the foot pedal or after cutting the thread. Doing this when the needle is down is perfect for sewing corners or curves.

Janome Thread Cutter & Foot Lift

4) Quarter Inch Presser Foot without Guide – FINALLY – a presser foot designed to accurately place a seam exactly 1/4″ from the edge. The eliminates the use of the inaccurate ‘1/4″ presser foot with seam guide’ that DOES NOT measure 1/4″.

Janome Quarter Inch Foot

5) 11″ Sewing Bed. A wonderful thing if you do your own quilting but do not have or use a long arm quilting machine. An 11″ sewing bed (or throat) is considered a mid-arm and in my opinion, the optimal size for quilting on a domestic machine. Many manufacturers boast about their “large” work space which is actually in the 8.5″ – 9″ range. This will do and if you fall in love with a machine that has a 9″ sewing bed that’s really not too much of a compromise. (I did a test drive on Juki with a 9″ sewing bed and I found it to be more than adequate). However, if you have the opportunity to choose a machine with an 11″ sewing bed by all means do!  I’ve yet to hear anyone complain of having too much sewing space!

Janome 11' Sewing Bed

Final Thoughts

While at the KCRQF I also had a chance to try out a Bernina, Husquavarna-Viking and Juki each an outstanding machine.  Interestingly, each of the five items listed above are things my current machine does not have so, in reality, most any other sewing machine would be a good choice!

I still have some additional test-driving to do but I feel so much more informed and more confident my decision will be based on function vs. name and appearance – a purchase made with no regrets!

I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comment section below. Tell us what sewing machine you use and how you made that choice. Were there ever any regrets?

4 thoughts on “How to Purchase a Sewing / Quilting Machine with NO REGRETS”

  1. This is amazing information,not for me or my wife but for my nana! I had no idea they had machines that were digital and it shows how old my wife and I are! Some very useful and helpful information here that I will be able to pass along to people i know do spend hours making quilts and baby things! Especially for new borns. Someone who spends hours and hours doing this hobby will appreciate this article and I will pass this along! Thank you 

    1. Thank you Trevor for your comment! Over the years sewing machines have evolved to the point that many high end machines have more computer and programming options than sewing functions but at the same time these functions are what enable many of us to more easily create most anything out of fabric with a professional vs home-made look.  It will be interesting to see what these manufacturers come up with next!

  2. Hi, My mother is a genius on the sewing machine and is looking for a new one to buy so I thought I would surprise her with a new sewing machine for her birthday next month but I haven’t got the slightest idea of what to look for so I was wondering if you could help me?

    I wouldn’t be able to test the sewing machine myself as I wouldn’t know where to start so what should I look for when choosing a sewing machine for a seasoned sewing expert?

    Thanks if you can help 🙂

    1. Thank you Matthew for your comment!  

      When buying for someone else I would suggest asking if there is anything she doesn’t like about the machine she is currently using.  Or, what options would she like that her current machine doesn’t have.  That should give you a good starting point and help narrow down the field of endless options.

      In my opinion, all five of the must-have options I listed should be the minimum available on a sewing machine for any serious quilter or seamstress!

      Bernina, Viking and Janome (just off the top of my head) include software to create your own quilt or embroidery designs – something else to think about especially if she is in business.

      Hope this helps!

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