Thursday, February 23, 2012

SOS Sewing Machines...

So, what I didn't tell you is that my sewing machine broke last weekend.

Yep, in the middle of all that Oodalolly, my machine completely jammed up.  Wouldn't sew a stitch.  Panic!  It's just a cheap Kenmore (made by Janome) $230 machine.  I've used it like crazy for over 2 years and never had it serviced (cleaned it myself).  Apparently I didn't oil it correctly because my repair man says it sounds like the gears are stuck.  This machine has served me well.  I always use a walking foot, always!  But, it definitely holds me back from free motion quilting... which I do want to do.  Technically.  I mean, I'm pretty lazy about trying FMQ, but I think that's due in large part to my machine's poor capabilities.

Anyhoo, my initial thought was to replace my Kenmore with another low-end-but-slightly-nicer machine, that I would feel comfortable letting Aria use (must have speed control!) and would be able to travel with.  Then, I should also buy a much nicer machine that has more than a paltry 6" of space under the arm and maybe even a better feed system.  Reasonable.

For starters, I borrowed my mother-in-law's new, mid-range Janome to finish Oodalolly.  It has a delay with the foot petal and some other issues, so I didn't exactly love using it.  Meanwhile, I ordered a $300 Janome from Amazon.  (I deserve the "tsk, tsk" for not buying it from my local dealer, but 2-day shipping and the good price won me over.)  Yesterday I was sewing with my new machine, not much impressed with it for simple piecing.  Then I tried to sew a seam to hem Liam's flying geese curtains.  Check out the results...

SOS Sewing Machine woes

I'm sorry to expose you to such an ugly picture.

And, yes, I used a walking foot!  The machine is only sewing through 3 layers of quilting cotton, plus one layer of microsuede lining.  The microsuede is sandwiched inside the hem, so the machine isn't contacting it.  After lots of testing, I determined that the machine didn't like that part of the wide walking foot was passing over the fold of the hem on the underside.  That "ditch" of a terrain made it absolutely incapable of sewing this pass.   

After switching things up and finding a way to sew that hem stitch (not so attractively) I began topstitching along the top folded edge of this curtain, where you see the green pin.  The machine struggled to move over the slightly bulky seams at the tips of the flying geese.

So, yeah, I don't plan to keep it.  I sew over rough terrain all the time and want something that can keep up.

At this point, I'm planning to have my Kenmore repaired and stick with it as a basic machine.  I'd like to use this moment as the catalyst I need to research a nicer machine in my budget.  But, researching a machine is a nightmare!  I hate how the dealer's websites don't display pricing (they have their reasons).  In my area, there are only Janome, Babylock, Bernina and Singer retailers.

I'm not really considering a Bernina for price reasons.  Janome has a good reputation, but their cheapest model with a built-in walking foot is $1500, which is out of my range.  I'd like to spend $1000 or less.  All other Janome models would have the same feed system as the machine I have (Janome's "7 Piece Feed Dog").  Do those of you with recent Janome's love the feed system?  Do you have to use a walking foot?  Do you know what I did wrong?

So now I'm drowning in the possibilities without even knowing prices.  Babylock has some fancy machines like the Serenade that have a dual feed system and almost 9" under the arm, but sounds like they are out of my price range.  The Babylock Symphony also sounds promising, but no idea on the arm space or price.  I don't really hear people recommending Babylock.  Thoughts?

I know that the Pfaff is considered a reputable brand.  The closer dealer is 70 miles away, but sounds nice over the phone.  He recommended the Ambition line, which has dual-feed and 8" under the arm starting at $800.  I've heard Pfaff's can be picky about the thread you use.  Otherwise, this one sounds promising.

What about a Juki?  This one has lots of room...

SOS!  I'm looking for recommendations or "steer clear" warnings.  To sum it up, I'm imagining a machine with an upgraded feed system (built-in walking foot or dual feed) that has 8" or more space under the arm and is a good investment for quilting, free motion included.  It doesn't have to have a million stitches because I can use my Kenmore for zigzags or stretch stitches.  I'd like to spend in the $800-1000 range.

xo, Rachel

203 comments:

  1. I suffered with a Pfaff for 20 years. It was horrible. 20 years of bobbin issues, 20 years of supposedly being able to FMQ, but it couldn't actually do it. 20 years of a metric plate and many dealers who could not find a part # or part for the supposed optional inches plate. 20 years with a manual poorly translated from German.

    I eliminated a Janome as my replacement when I was test driving it and found a horrible typo in the manual (the direction for something was the opposite of how to do it). The shop owner was shocked. He stared at it for the longest time ;)

    I would look at used machines at a dealer you can trust. A shocking number of people upgrade every couple of years to get the latest and greatest.

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    1. Do you think the new Pfaff's could be improved or do you hear about the same problems with new models? Unfortunately, I don't feel that "trust" with any of my local dealers. This area is not strong on sewing.

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    2. I have discovered that pfaff is going downhill like singer. Bought by investors that don't want us to have long lasting machines. They want us to purchase a new machine frequently for their bottom line.

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    3. I have had a Pfaff since 1986 and it has been very reliable and still sews well-- just has some other issues of unavailable parts (the light) due to its age! (I have been told "no one" sews on such an old machine. I agree the old manual was not translated well.

      I want a new one with built in dual feed, stop in needle down position, more room for larger quilt etc, like you. Pfaffs were always well made in Germany, but Pfaff --like EVERYONE else (except ultra high end Bernina i think) has their machines made in China. I have seen and am saving for a Pfaff "Ambition" . (Do they think that name will give me more ambition?--i hope so) I have been quoted $800 for the 1.0. The 1.5 has a few additional features --195 stitches instead of 135 (who needs 135?) a touch screen and a bobbin thread sensor. The price i was given for the 1.5 was $1025. You could write to the Pfaff dealer for information and visit if you think it is what you want.

      mary

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    4. I sew with a Pfaff 213. It is my mother´s Pfaff, which I learned to sew on. She gave it to me, when she bought a new Pfaff last year. The Pfaff 213 is about 30 years old and still works perfect. It is quite heavy as everything is metal - even the spools and bobbins. I hope this makes it undestroyable because I love this machine!

      Our second sewingmachine is a Pfaff Expression 2.0. It has a big throat -great for quilting.

      I would like to try out a Bernina because it is said to have a constant stiching lengh, even with varying sewing speed. This is something I miss at the Pfaff Expression 2.0.

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  2. Hey Rachel. Do you really need it to have a built in walking foot? If so Pfaff has some good ones. But I highly recommend the Viking Sapphires. We have the 835s in the classroom at the store. You would need to buy a separate walking foot, but the features are amazing on this machine including 10inches of harp space. If you want more details, email me.

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    1. Sure, I'm all ears! I'll email you.

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    2. I have the Sapphire 835 too, but I have to warn you, mine has had tension issues from day one. I have it in to the dealer on a regular basis and will be sending it out to be looked at as soon as I can muddle through my current WIPs. That should mean a minimum of 5 weeks with no machine because that's how long it's taking to get the machines fixed right now. My dealer told me I needed a table top thread holder because my thread was getting caught in the machine and that was the cause of my issue. She was wrong. Still too tight tension intermittently and still breaking about three needles every two weeks. Other times I went in she told me the problems were all user error, which I believed until about the 5th trip to see her for the same issue. I'm not stupid. I know how to sew. I took the Viking classes to learn about your machine. Plus, she told me not to use the spring loaded free motion foot because it didn't work, but that I could use the free motion floating foot. I'm ticked. Spent $800+ on the machine alone and it can't perform the tasks advertised. Clara and Jennie over at Clover and Violet also use Sapphires, but older models that work better. Jennie said she had tension issues for a long time but once they FINALLY fixed the problem, her machine worked fine. So, I'm hoping they will be able to fix my machine and things will work wonderfully, but for now, I'm stuck with a lemon. Also, my machine is only 8 months old and I started bringing it in within the first month. Had I sewn more (having a baby during that time took away lots of sewing time) I think I would have taken it in even more.

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    3. Wow, those are some serious issues. Thanks for sharing.

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    4. Danny - thanks so much for sharing. I bought a used (one year old)Viking (can't remember which version) and I struggle with it often...I know some of it was initially me getting to know the machine but over time, I've realized it's not all me. I haven't tried FMQ yet...I'm newer to quilting so I'm just learning the basics but I've gotten to the point where I use my little Singer for piecing (it's perfect) and only bust out the Viking when I need to use a walking foot. That's just not right...

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    5. i have had the viking emerald for about 2 years and it is great BUT....for all the sudden it wont hold the needles? If I try to change my needle...and I have tried all different brands..it will just fall out. There is only one needle that fits in it so I have not changed the needle for about a year! Which is good in one way because it has never broke but if I ever want to put in a smaller or larger needle...or even just the same size (just to replace it...it will not hold it. It is the strangest thing. Anywho..if I could pick again I would want a babylock. I have heard nothing but good things about them and I also like the feature of being able to lift the presser foot with your knee. (because of the extension bar)

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    6. I have and Love Love Love my viking 830. I bought it *supposedly* half off the original price for $900 3 years ago. I upgraded from a terrible $150 Singer and my life has been gravy ever since. I have never had a tension problem in it's life and it has tons of features that I couldn't get even on the $$$ bernina I was thinking of upgrading to, like automatic start and stop stitch locking (No more sewing backwards!)Needle stop up or down, hovering feature, programable stitches, and it will sew anything, and amazing buttonhole and button sewing functions. Love it!

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  3. Hi Rachel, I'm so glad you're posting about this. I. too, am looking to buy a new machine with more space under the arm. I've been using a basic Kenmore for 15 years and never had problems, but I want something bigger with some bells and whistles (like the needle stopping in the DOWN position when I need to adjust my hands or the quilt!).
    I inquired at my local quilt shop where they use Brother and Pfaff for classes. They tell me that for motor and parts, Pfaff is the best but difficult to get to know. The Brother's parts are not as reliable but it is completely user friendly. If something goes wrong, instructions show up on the screen to tell what to fix.
    I haven't done much research and I look forward to seeing what everyone has to say. Good luck and let me know what you decide.

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  4. Rachel, I used to own a Kenmore (25 yrs. ago) and when I upgraded to a Viking machine (425 Lily) it made a world of difference! I still own the Viking but I bought a Bernina 440 QE and I love it! It's pricey though. So, here's what I tell people when looking for a new machine:
    1. Test drive as many as you can. How are the stitches? How easy is it to use? What features does it have or lack?
    2. Don't buy it off the internet (or Costco)! You get no free classes to learn how to use it, no service, no goodies, no one to cry to when things go wrong.
    3. Good brands with "bang for your buck": Viking, Pfaff, Janome, and Brother.

    Don't worry if it doesn't have a built in walking foot. It's a nice feature, but you can buy an attachable one and use it when you need it.
    That's my 2 cents! Good luck!

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    1. I agree with Julie. I used a Kenmore for years and finally upgraded to a Bernina 440 QE as well. I paid it off over the course of a year and I have never regretted it. I do not have the embroidery software, I wouldn't use it. But I do love the walking foot and the Bernina Stitch Regulator that came with it. It is totally worth it just for that feature. Test drive any machine you are considering seriously. Take your time. For me, this is the last machine I will ever buy.

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  5. I sew with a Viking from the early 1970's, so they are quite durable! When I can afford to upgrade, I will stick with the brand. Luckily, there is a dealer nearby.

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  6. I Love This! I'm currently looking into getting a new machine also... I got my current Janome about 6 yrs ago for $200 and it has served me well in getting started with more indepth quilting the past year or so, but does have a few difficency lately with some quilting (kind of like the stitching you showed in your picture) ...and I really -really- need that needle down option! Mine always seems to stop up :)

    My price range was about the same as yours when I first started look about a month ago, but I might have to go a little lower that that even...but still an upgrade from my current machine.

    I'll be looking into the suggestions you get too!

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  7. I bought a Brother PQ1500s a little less than a year ago, and I LOVE it. It only has a straight stitch, and it's great for quilting and piecing. It also has a pin feed system that helps feed delicate fabrics through without damaging them. I use that in place of a walking foot and it has been wonderful! I bought mine on Amazon for $599, I believe.

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    1. I've been wondering about buying that machine!! Great to know!

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  8. I have two Babylocks; a serger (the Lauren model) and a 3/4 size machine called the Xscape that I purchased back in October of 2007 when pregnant with my second child; it's an older version of the Audrey A-line machine I think, based on the body and portability and some updated features. My first sewing machine was a Babylock and I loved that thing to death.. I am actually one of the few folks that will recommend a Babylock! I don't have any experience with the models you mentioned, but they do have excellent price points I think.

    One of the biggest points of importance when considering a sewing machine is the cost of additional accessories. Babylock's additional feet that I've had to purchase are actually affordable! I've bought two feet and they were both less than $20 each. I'm sorry but I can't justify shelling out thousands for a machine, and then realizing I need another foot and then shelling out another $200 for it.

    If I were in the market to buy a new machine, and had to make a choice on the two you linked, I would go with the symphony, solely based on the feet that are compatible; http://www.babylock.com/accessories/feet/?at=3&Product_ID=BLG-SCF and http://www.babylock.com/accessories/feet/?at=3&Product_ID=BL-CSA. The first one is especially good if you don't have a serger, and want better edges, and the second one.. well it looks AWESOME. Even if you do have a serger, it'll still be handy to have the foot so you don't have to drag it out and set it up.

    My thing when people say "OMGZ I haz to have the most expensive machine on earth!!!" my response is, "Seriously? COME ON PEOPLE. It's not the price of the machine that makes you a good quilter, is how you use it." You can have the most expensive machine you can buy, but if you don't know how to sew then it's not going to magically make you sew up an award winning quilt.

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    1. Hm... thanks for pointing out to check the accessories!

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  9. I ended up getting a Juki HZL-F300 a few years ago and I LOVE IT! It sews through anything and everything without giving me trouble. It has lots of work space and my favorite part is the automatic thread cutter (either push a button on the front of the machine or press down on with your heel on the foot control!) There's three different machines in the series... I went with the least expensive and it was around $800. Here's a link showing the features: http://www.sewingmachinesplus.com/media/products/juki/juki_hzl.pdf

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    1. Thanks, Deb. Those are some good features. On Juki's site I don't see a way to locate a dealer. Do you have to buy these machines from Amazon? What about servicing?

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  10. I'm so glad you are asking these questions! I, too, have a $300 Janome and I'm experiencing the same things you are. I even looked at the $1500 Janomes on Amazon, but hesitated because of the cost and because you can't take the table apart to fit a sleeve on the machine. Still, I'm confining my looking to Amazon because I have credit there. Eager to hear what you find.

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  11. Back in July I replaced my cheap and unpleasant Singer (for which I couldn't find walking or 1/4" feet either) with the Janome DC 2011 [amazon link] (2011's was pink, this year's model is, I believe, the 2012 in green). I'm not sure what you mean by a built-in walking foot, but it came with a walking foot and a 1/4" quilting foot and a couple of other specialty feet. I bought a darning/embroidery foot separately for about $12 or so for FMQ.

    I'm by no means a sewing or quilting expert, but I've been happy with my machine. The feed dogs can lower, something my cheapie Singer couldn't do, and the feed has been even. I've done some quilting on 2 small baby/toddler quilts with the walking foot, and sewn a few Kindle cases with the walking foot and I've been very happy with how it behaves.

    It doesn't have extra space under the arm, just a regular machine, and it's $599 on Amazon. So, for a more basic model, it's pretty good. One day, when finances ease up, I'll shop around for a more elaborate/expensive model :) Other recommendations here will help me I'm sure.

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    1. Oh, and it does actually have a button that lowers the needle, which I like. If I put it down when I start to sew, it usually finishes in the down position also.

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    2. My bad, it's $499, not $599.

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    3. Yup, I had an old Singer that couldn't be repaired (a limited run model, no replacement parts to be found), and upgraded to a Janome DC2010 (aqua that year!). I piece, straight line and FM quilt, no real issues--the hinky bit was that I bought spare bobbins that do fine with plain old sewing but seem to go all wonky tension-wise when FMQ--just that batch of bobbins, so weird. It's got 50 stitches, needle down option (love that), and you can drop the feed dogs. It's also super easy to clean. If ever I upgrade, the only thing this machine doesn't have that I'll be looking for is a bigger throat--that said, I've quilted large twin-size quilts on this without a problem, and figure if I ever finish a queen-size quilt, I have no floor space big enough to baste it, so it'll go to a LAQ anyway! Good luck finding a machine you love, Rachel!

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    4. Also, I have a walking foot, not built in, that I use for straight line quilting, but I use my 1/4" foot for all of my piecing, and have NEVER had any issue with it--I prefer it to piecing with a walking foot, tbh.

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    5. I have a Janome DC2011 and have been really pleased with it. Marieke - It does have a free arm feature (space under the machine). To convert from regular to free arm, slide the storage box off to the left. :-)

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  12. I have the babylock symphony and she is a dream. I actually have three babylocks, and I am really pleased with all of them!

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    1. How much space does she have under the arm. And, pricing?

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    2. 8inches from needle to arm, and 5 in height. But the pivoting capabilities make things very nice for piecing and appliques. It also has a lateral stitch. And I have used it and was happy with it!

      Price..I think it was $1900, but came with a TON of feet, extension table, knee lift, and a special kit that included bobbin work!

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    3. I am so jealous. I want the babylock! and I love the knee lift! right now I have a husqavarna/viking emerald and it's nothing to complain about but if I were out shopping for a machine I would definitely go with the baby lock!

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  13. I shopped for a new machine recently, and I'd like to steer you away from the Pfaff Ambition line. Unfortunately. I bought one, the 1.0 model, and really really wanted to love it but in the end I returned it. The IDT did not work for me for quilting layers. I really thought I must be doing something wrong, so I made the trek back to my dealer where she and I worked together on it for a long time, to no avail. It would NOT evenly feed layers and inevitably there would be a big bunch up of fabric wherever seams intersected. Not pretty. I described in in this post: http://craftingdotdotdot.blogspot.com/2012/01/placemat-for-max-and-some-very-sad-news.html

    So anyways, I ended up exchanging it for a Baby Lock Elizabeth, which I REALLY love! I'm back to a traditional walking foot, which now I don't mind because it actually works well, and I did have to sacrifice the additional throat space, but to me it was worth it to have a machine that I am super happy with and does everything I need it to do. The Baby Lock has a throat space of about 7.5" which is probably about standard, but something about the shape of the opening still makes me feel like I have more room in there than I had on my old machine. I'd really recommend the Elizabeth.

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    1. Thanks for that link. Did you try on a different Ambition to see if it was just a bum machine? And, where you using high loft bating?

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    2. I was using a regular thin cotton batting, like warm & natural. I had my piece well basted. I worked and worked at it at home, adjusting anything I could possibly think of - using different sewing machine needles, changing the presser foot pressure everywhere from the absolute highest pressure to the absolute lowest pressure and everywhere in between, changing stitch length, etc., and it just did not make any difference. This is when I went back to the shop with the machine. We first tried it out on my machine, then on their floor model of the same machine, and on the floor model of the 1.5 model, ALL with the same results. Major puckering at seam intersections. This was all with the IDT engaged on the machines. Then just to see, we tried it on the Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.0 which is a higher end machine, but also with the same IDT, and it worked like a dream!!! So obviously this is just one person's experience, but one worth considering I think as the Ambition did not, unfortunately, live up to its claims in my case. I'm not saying you shouldn't try the machine, but if you do try it, make sure to take quilt sandwiches with you and try what I did, having intersecting seams. My saleslady said that it is really the only mid-range machine, as far as price, that has the larger throat space which is what pulled me in to begin with. That part of it sure was nice!!! Well that, and the fact that it was pink!

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  14. Happy owner of a pre-owned Bernina sewing machine & serger, both bought at my local dealer. You might want to see what they have from someone that traded up. I'd hesitate to buy one on craig's list, although it might be cheaper, mine both came with free lessons, first year service & a warranty for peace of mind.

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  15. I will never quilt with anything but a Pfaff - they are work horses. The dealer you spoke with is honest, dependable and a total professional - he is an Angel for those of us quilters in this area with Pfaffs - as opposed to another machine dealership in our area - 'nuff said there.

    Only other machine I would ever consider is the straight stitch juki because I do quilt my king size quilts.

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    1. Thanks, Barbara! Do you free motion or straight line quilt? Does the dual feed work for you?

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  16. For your price range I would recommend an old machine. The all metal parts create a heavy machine that won't move on your table the speed control is exceptional and the simplicity is great for children. The harp space is larger then contemporary machines as well. you will need to adjust to not having a needle down, no electronics....but no electronics means less to go wrong and cheaper repair bills. Be sure to find something that allows you to drop your feed dogs for your fmq exploring. I have a singer 401 slant needle and a singer industrial(1930's) which has oodles of room and is a speed monster, these are my primary piecing and quilting machines. I also own a mid range Bernina which has been a great machine but it was $1500 when I bought it 10yrs ago. Find a reputable dealer on e-bay and get yourself an old machine.

    I wish you the best on your quest

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  17. Hi Rachel,

    My first machine (and now my backup machine) was a tough little Kenmore too. Then about a year ago I got a new machine, called the Viking Megaquilter. I don't think you can get it new anymore from Viking, but I got mine used 2 years old for a great deal. Alternatively, this is the same machine here brand new, just branded by Janome, and it runs for $999:

    http://www.amazon.com/Janome-1600p-qc-Sewing-Quilting-Machine/dp/B006K5TGY0/

    It doesn't have the built in walking foot, but you can buy the walking foot attachment, which works fine. You also can get a frame with a stitch regulator later if you want to get more into FMQ. It doesn't have any fancy stitches at all - only straight stitch, but it does it really well, and really fast. It's technically a semi-industrial machine, and was optimized to do one thing, and one thing well - quilt! She's a bit of a beast, but I love her, and I can barely stand going back to my Kenmore after her when I need to. :)

    You might want to check with your dealers and see if they have any used machines as well - some dealers will take other peoples machines as a trade in when they're buying a new one, and then just want to get rid of them, so you can get a good deal, and a quality machine should have a long life. I got my 2 year old Viking, frame, and stitch regulator all for $1000, which is the cost of just the machine new. It's of course always nice to have a brand new machine, but sometimes it can give you a leg up into a class of machine you couldn't afford otherwise.

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    1. Also should have noted, that it does have the bells and whistles that really matter: needle up/down button, speed control, thread cutter.

      One thing to consider though is that it uses special feet - you won't be able to re-use feet from another model, or vice versa. And feet can be pricey. I think it cost me $100 for the walking foot. >< (Though that was the only one I needed to buy.)

      It does seem like I'm listing a lot of caveats - but at the end of the day, it sews so smoothly and excellently for me, I wouldn't trade it in for anything but a long arm. :)

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    2. Did I not mention the 9" throat space? *facesmack* Yes, it also has 9" from needle to arm. :)

      The feed dogs don't lower, it has a plate to cover them (I've also heard lots of people like masking tape to cover feed dogs.) My dealer said that when you have lowerable feed dogs, that causes you have to make other sacrifices that affect the quality of your machine. They really tried to optimize to only have the features that are really important and otehrwise focus on stitch quality.

      Also, the machine is very solid and heavy - not great for moving it, but great for keeping steady on your table while you are trying to sew. It's not going to be bucking around while you are trying to sew like of of the lighter machines do.

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  18. Rachel I have 2 Pfaffs, one I've used for more than 25 years, it has travelled all over the world with me and I've never had a problem with it. I believe Viking is the same or very similar to Pfaff. I would recommend the same as a previous comment- maybe a used machine but most importantly try it before you buy it.

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  19. I love my Janome 6600. I have no problems with FMQ. My sister bought a Pfaff and it's terrible for FMQ. She just bought it a year ago so it's a newer model.

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    1. I also have a 6600 and, although I know a lot of other people who love theirs, I really don't like mine. It stops working a lot for no apparent reason (and then two weeks later will magically be fine again), and the FMQ looks sloppy. To be fair, I've only done a few FMQ quilts, but lots of test pieces, and I find the HV MegaQuilter does a much better job (I bought it used). The downside of that machine is that it only does a straight stitch, so it's not as versatile as many other machines.

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  20. The best 100 dollars I ever spent was on an antique singer in a cabinet. I got it at a local thrift shop and it is just a solid machine that sews like a dream. Nothing seems to phase the machine. This might not be what you are looking for but it's a low cost solution for a very solid durable machine. I have a Janome for my other machine and switching between the two makes me feel like the Janome is a toy even though it is all metal parts.

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  21. I own a janome
    although I have been sewing intermittently for many years. I have cut way back on my professional life and sew a lot more.

    I did own a series of vikings all in the $400 price range, the last was a huskystar which was always getting repaired.

    3 years ago I bought a janome MC6500 on ebay for $500. I had to keep looking for it but after about 4 weeks I found mine so, reasonably priced.
    It was slightly used. I LOVE IT. It did need a repair of a gear about 1 year into ownership but, it is a work horse with a large plate and many beautiful stitches that I occasionally use.

    I will sew on this machine for at least 10 more years.

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  22. I've got a viking (husqvarna) sappire 835, I love love love it.

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  23. I'd go for Bernina.
    I know you said it was a price issue, but you can get GREAT deals on used ones, especially if you buy it from a dealer. You can also finance Berninas w/o interest most of the time (I've done that twice now.) But if you really don't want to go there, I had a Viking that I loved and is now being used by my mother-in-law. I also have a Babylock, but it is not great for FMQ. I think that has to do with the fact that it has an embroidery unit also.
    That said, no matter what you choose, go sew on everything that you can before you make up your mind. What feels good to someone else, may not work for you and vice versa.
    Good luck!

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    1. You all are convincing me that I really have to go sew at some dealers. Now to figure out how to arrange that...

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  24. Oh - also, it has a 10" throat (AWESOME!) and was right around $1000. I can't remember if it was $999 or $1099.

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  25. I have an Elna 7300 - sister to a Janome 6600. I bought it for the larger arm space/harp(?) and the Accufeed

    It does not have a free arm (like, you might use for a sleeve), which is a bummer. But otherwise great. I got a show special machine from Brubakers - not local to me but they are a great dealer! http://www.brubakerssewing.com/index.php?page=6600-professional Just call and see if they have any classroom/lightly used or show special machines.

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  26. You probably already tried a new needle (90/14 topstitch or jeans needle?). I sometimes have the skipping stitches problems and a new needle has always solved it.
    I have a Janome MC6600 for 4 years now and it works like a charm. Maybe you could look for a used model (of any machine). Trying out the several machines at a sewing machine store is highly recommended. I took some small sandwiches (the fabric ones) with me to experiment.

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  27. I bought the best Pfaff I could afford which is the Pfaff select 3.0 I wanted it for two reasons, Pfaff's are workhorses they are built to last and last and last. Our fashion academy uses only Pfaff's and so do most people around here that are serious about sewing. The reason being that even if abused by herds of student the machine still performs. I take good care of my machine but knowing it can take a beating makes me rest assured!
    The other reason I bought it, and the one I think you will be most interested in, is the built in dual feed - in other words built in walking foot. It is heaven! It runs so smooth over any texture of fabric through all layers, it does what it is supposed to do. And if you for some reason do not want to use the walking foot you just click it off - simple as that! As far as threads go I always use Gutermann thread and it agrees with my machine.
    You can FMQ with it, but honestly I haven't tried it much as I am still scared of FMQ.
    It has plenty of functional and decorative stitches which apart from zig zag you will probably never use, but no blanket stitch.
    I love that it is not computerized as some of the more fancy machines are. If something breaks it is always going to be mechanical and not in the computer system which I believe makes it easier to repair and less costly.
    I sound like I have an endorsement deal or something which I don't but I truly love my Pfaff!

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    1. Thanks, Leila! It's good to know that the Select is not computerized. I'm not into the computerized idea.

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  28. Oh, definitely look into a Juki!!!!
    I have a Juki TL-98Q that I bought about a year ago and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.
    I held off for a long time because I couldn't find a local dealer. But then I found a place that will service Juki's, so I was satisfied, and ordered mine online. I use my old Elna for zig-zag and decorative stitches, but my Juki for everything else. It is a DREAM to FMQ on. And it sews through anything! It is so simple to use (no computerized parts that could break, or confuse me). I was sewing on it within an hour of opening the box (and that includes having read the short manual).
    Good luck!

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  29. I know that the Vikings are very reliable machines but I have a Juki industrial machine. It only has one stitch but stitches through everything (really!) and contrary to what people believe you can freemotion with it (which is nice because it has a lot of harp space). I imagine that the machine you linked to is built like that, too.
    Good luck finding your sewing machine!

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  30. I've always used an older Singer and had no problems, but decided to upgrade a year ago and went with a Bernina 330, which was 900.00 and brand new! It's pretty, and works very well. I'm so happy with it. For your needs it would require a separate walking foot. The dealer also had some really nice used Berninas for around 850. Good luck with your search.

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    1. I just priced the 330 locally and it retails in Australia for $1499!! I'm so bummed that everything costs us so much more!!

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  31. Others have left their responses on machines, but I'm thinking mainly about sewing microsuede--really hard to do, actually. Maybe try a sharp needle (not a ballpoint, or "universal" needle) but one with a point that will pierce that stuff?

    BTW, I took your advice and had a great time going through your scrap Flikr pool this morning (another morning well spent gathering ideas). Thanks for suggesting we visit over there!

    Elizabeth E.
    opquilt.com

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    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. My first thought was that the microsuede was the problem, but I tested it in several other areas and saw that the uneven surface was the problem.

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  32. I found my Pfaff on Craigslist for $300 - and am SO glad I did! Great machine, no regrets! It is a bit older machine, the lady just upgraded to a newer fancier machine, so sold the Pfaff. So glad she did! Check Craigslist - you might be surprised!

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  33. So I was in a similar place, except my budget was maxed @ $600 .... I actually ended up not going w/a machine from a dealer. I know this goes against custom wisdom, but I found everything I could want (except a large throat) from my brother machine that I bought off Amazon - and it was UNDER my budget. For $400 I got the Brother PC-420. It came w/a TON of accessories, a machine that sews like a dream!!! It is smooth, fast, and QUIET! It has drop feed system, thread cutter (if you don't have one, you should get one, it is the most amazing button on my machine!!!). There is speed control, needle down, 250 stitches (I like using cute decorative stitches as top stitching), knee lifter (I don't use this). You can also sew w/o the peddle - I choose to not do this, but some people like it. I'm sure there are higher end brother's that have a larger throat for quilting, but I decided to forgo that. I have sewn a 80"x80" quilt under my Brother and while it isn't as fun as a much bigger machine would have been, it was totally doable. So I guess I'm saying, my particular machine may not be your best bet, b/c it doesn't have a built in walking foot or a large throat for quilting, but the machine itself is WONDERFUL!! and I would expect the same quality on a higher end brother. It may be worth considering a different machine from Amazon ... you can get a lot of features that a higher end machine from a dealer has at half the price if you buy it online. You won't have the support, but @ 70 miles away, I'm wondering how often you would visit the dealer anyway. But of course, you have to do what make sense for you, your budget, and your sewing needs. But if you do spend less than your budget, you can justify spending the extra money on FABRIC!!!! =) =)

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  34. Stay AWAY from Pfaff. One of my local dealers really recommends against buying them and he sells them. Although he is going away from them. He mostly sells Janome.

    It's not the machine. Pfaff used to be a great name, but times change, metal parts are now plastic, they are made in china, the work is shoddy, etc, etc. Singer has gone down that road too.

    I had an old old old Janome. Probably 23 years old and that thing was a work horse. Like you I always used the walking foot because it had issues feeding the fabric. I also had issue with motor power. It just wouldn't sew through multiple layers.

    I know Bernina is expensive, but honestly, IMO it's the best out there. I got myself a nina because I wanted to FMQ as well and I liked the feature of the BSR. I LOVE that thing. This machine is amazing. YOu can get some good financing deals through Bernina USA. I used my tax return to buy mine. With all the sewing I do, it's a worthwhile investment.

    I suggest you really research how and where the machines are manufactured. Warantees and ask long and hard questions about returns for repairs. Those are the big questions I always ask my dealer. How many people bring them in for repairs in the first year, the first 5 years, etc. With my first Janome, the answer was very very few. When I was asking about the Pfaff, he said he sold a very expensive high end machine to a woman and it had issues from day one and she kept having to bring it in.

    Heather

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  35. LOVE MY JUKI......

    Just remember it is straight stitch only and heavy ( kind of hard to take to classes or sew-ins )

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  36. When you get ready to travel to sew at a dealer, bring sewing samples of what you want to do. Prepare some bulky seams, etc so that you can replicate the type of sewing that you want to do on a regular basis. That way you won't be surprised when you get home.

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  37. If you decide you do want a new "secondary"/budget machine, I have a Brother PC-210 Project Runway edition and I love it. It's about $300 on Amazon. It doesn't like FMQ, but it's pretty great for everything else so far.
    http://www.amazon.com/Brother-PC-210-Limited-Project-Machine/dp/B000XDZ180/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1330020260&sr=8-3

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  38. Almost 20 yrs ago, I purchased a "show room model" Bernina for a reduced price. What a work horse it has been... I recently (think: January) had the gears replaced b/c I wore those puppies out. The machine is running like new and I plan to get another 20 yrs out of it.

    Because some folks are so attached to the quality of Berninas and trade up, I would look for a good used one... even if it was older. There is a Yahoo Group for Bernina Something-30s (mine is a 1230) and I've seen them on Ebay as well. If a pre-owned machine needs repair, it's worth it. Other than having my Bernina serviced periodically (when I thought about it), the gears are the first thing that has gone "wrong" with it. Not bad for 20 yrs of heavy sewing.

    I second what others have said about test-driving machines at dealers... definitely take your own fabrics... stuff you sew, esp the heavy duty fabrics like for curtains, denim, corduroy, etc.

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  39. So I have a Pfaff and I LOVE it. My mom got it for me from a dealer and it was a floor model. They got a great price for it since it had been stitched on a couple times. I would DEFINITELY recommend going the floor model route, same quality, great price. My mom has a Bernina and she loves it. I find it incredibly complicated. The Pfaff is just so well equipped and easy to master. Hope that helps!

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    1. Also, my Pfaff is the 2025 model. It has the built in walking foot and you can drop the feed dogs to do FMQ if you want.

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    2. I have to chime in with a Pfaff recommendation, too. My mom bought me a new one 14 years ago as a college grad gift (best gift ever!). It's a tipmatic 6152, not computerized (fine with me), and super easy to use. Lower the feed dogs with a click, and the built-in walking foot is a huge bonus. The only thing I wish it had would be needle-down...which you could probably get on a higher model. I have had zero problems with it. Though my quilting is limited, I have tried FMQ with little difficulty (from a machine standpoint, anyway!) As multiple people have suggested--maybe you should consider finding a good used one? I don't know when they switched over to making them in China (mine was made in Germany). Good luck weighing all your options!

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  40. I swear by my Husqvarna Viking! I love her so much. I got her about 10 years ago and she was about $1000 then. I am not %100 sure which one, but she is of the Lily line. Never had an issue...sews through some very thick stuff. I have a friend using her mother's viking from the 70's and loves it. She has had to repair it occasionly, but nothing outrageous (not bad for a 40 year old machine). Not sure any of this helps, since my info is not current, but I wanted to raise the Viking flag. I would buy another one in a heartbeat. Good luck picking a new machine!

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  41. I have a few Janome machines....an MC 5700 (two of them actually) and an MC9000. I LOVE them. I've had the 5700 for about six years and the 9000 for about five. All were purchased used. Two of them (one of the 5700's and the 9000 were bought on ebay and cost me about $400 a piece. Ebay is great because if it's not exactly as they describe you have recourse. I immediately take the used machine to my trusted repair shop and have them throroughly serviced and checked out.) I am saving to buy an MC6500 (I took a fmq class at the Long Beach International Quilt show on one and i fell in LOVE. AND I use one in a quilting class I take and it's my favorite machine ever.) Having said that.....I will never again buy an embroidery/sewing machine combo. I have found often that they are good sewing machines but not so good embroidery machines and all the extra "stuff" just get's in my way.

    I am a HUGE propnent of looking for a quality used machine because of the amount of money you save! Neither of the machines have a built in walking foot, but I have the attachement and I FMQ everything on those machines. I have done up to a queen size quilt (and am about to attempt my first ever bigger-than-a-king 120x130 quilt).

    Good luck!

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    1. Thanks, Kenna. You all have convinced me that I really should consider ebay.

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  42. I bought a new to me 1 year old viking symphony last year and I love it. love,love,love it. It was $900, just in your range. Huge throat space, all the little luxuries that you'd want like up down needle stop and fixing the thread to begin sewing and the free motion quilting is amazing...easy easy. But the huge thing is I have a dealer right down the street who services it every 6 months (without fail - this is how you avoid problems with a $900 investment) If I were you I'd buy with that in mind - to have a service person near by and maybe that dealer deals in slightly used...that way you can get something that is in the $$ range with what you are looking for.
    Good luck! It will be worth all the trouble in the end! I sew much faster with my new machine and I can do more than ever before!

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  43. I am in the same boat as you. The Kenmore I've had for 8 yrs (only really been used for 2/3yrs) is not enough for me anymore. I could totally justify spending $800. Closest dealer is more than an hour away (which is a lot when you don't drive!). My little heart has been set on the Janome 6600, but spending $1500...my god, I am trying to talk myself (hubs would be next!) into it but it's hard! With all of the reviews I've read, people hating the exact machine others love...my head is swimming!
    I think the best advise is to bring samples & take the time to sit down with the machines & sew. I am trying to make plans to do that soon, so I can at least know what I want, even if I have to walk away from it that day. Um, unless my best friend drives me over. That girl can somehow talk me into buying almost anything! :P

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    1. Ok, I think we're in the exact same position. I hesitated to even ask this question because everyone has different experiences. And then what do you do? I need to make a trip to Charlotte... ugh. Now, if only Brandon and I can make a date of it and go to Ikea too...

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  44. I have a fairly expensive Bernina that I use as my main machine and I love it. However, I also have a Pfaff that I've had about 8 years that has the dual feed, and I love that machine as well. I've not had any problems with it at all, and it sews just as well as my expensive Bernina and was about 1/3 of the price.

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  45. Hi!
    I have a Brother Innovis 600, is one number bigger than the 450 (http://www.brother-usa.com/homesewing/ModelDetail.aspx?ProductID=NX450Q#.T0aGnZjs5ko). I love my machine! It never let me "stay in the rain", sews through thick layers and is very silent! It was worth any penny!
    Good luck!

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  46. Have you looked into the Babylock Jane?
    I have a Brother SQ-9000 that I got from Wal-Mart for about $200, and I love it for piecing. However, like your new machine, it doesn't handle layers very well, though it does do FMQ fine. All of that is to say that I have a machine that pieces great, so what I need is not something fancy, but a reliable workhorse quilting machine with a big throat and big motor and that will do straight lines and FMQ. The Babylock Jane is where I am leaning right now. It is a straight-stitch machine only (not even a zig-zag), it's semi-industrial, it has an extension table, a knee lift, and a big throat (it could be put on a quilting frame if you wanted). Apparently there is also a Brother model that is pretty much identical, not sure of its model number. I haven't had a chance to try either out in the store yet, but I want to ASAP, and I hear good things about it. Can't wait to see what you buy!

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    1. Oh, and the Babylock Jane is well under $1000. Maybe $700ish, depending on sales?

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  47. Hmm, well I'm afraid the machine I'm experienced with doesn't seem to be an option - I have a Brother NX-2000, and absolutely love it (sorry, can't help you with price as I'm in GBP, and you guys always get electronics cheaper). It has a large throat (about 8 1/2") and has a ridiculous number of very easy to use bells and whistles, not to mention a large number of feet that come with it, including a walking foot. I've never yet had a problem with it, and nor did I have any problems with baby Brother I upgraded from (I upgraded for the larger throat space, and also the auto tension as baby Brother occasionally grumbled at multiple layers of different fabrics, like elastic). I was lucky that when I upgraded I was at a quilt show and was able to sit down and test a range of machines - I ended up plumping for the Brother as it meant that I wouldn't have to switch up all my accessories, bobbins etc in the upgrade. The dealer was fab too, but I don't think he supplies outside the UK ;o)

    Good luck with your research!

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  48. I would try looking on ebay for a used Bernina 930. I used my friend's the other day and was in HEAVEN!!!

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  49. i love my janome, it's a memory craft, and it's been really good, a few quirks (for example, the backstitch button is in such a weird location) but it's been awesome. I only use a walking foot on it for quilting, sometimes bag making. it was $900 i think, and my uncle services janomes, and he highly recommended it.

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  50. oh and did you try re-insterting the bobbin and did you have a new needle? Sometimes just throwing the bobbin back in helps.

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    1. It was a brand new machine, brand new needle and it sewed fine in other parts of the fabric, so I'm sure it was the terrain.

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  51. I'm convinced the best sewing machine in the world is the original Bernina 830 Record. I have my mom's, which she got new in the early '70s. She has a new Bernina QE 440 and she still misses the 830. I've never had a problem with it. Feet and other parts are easy to find. I get it serviced once a year and my local Bernina guy always says it's is favorite machine because "it hums like those new ones don't." I use it daily, mostly for quilting. It's got a great walking foot and the feed dogs drop for free-motion quilting. I've never even had tension problems. I know some are pretty pricey on eBay, but I've seen them for sale at my local shop for $400 or so.

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    1. This is the same machine I have and I absolutely love it for quilting! But it really does depend on your own preferences. I prefer old machines that have all metal parts and can sew through just about anything...and while I have been tempted with some of the new machines, I know I just don't need all the bells and whistles. But that is my personal preference. :) I agree with others that actually going to the dealers and sitting down at the machine is probably going to be your biggest help in choosing, what feels right to you. Good luck, friend!!

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  52. I would check out the used Berninas. I have an old 1230 which still sews like a dream and is still worth what I paid for it 20 years (and many many miles) ago! It is heavy though so I recently bought a Bernina 350 to take to workshops. - It sew as well as the 1230 and went through 16 layers of twill and interfacing without any problem.

    I am a Bernina fan but I've never had any problem with either of these machines - I just keep them cleaned and oiled!

    Good luck in your search!

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  53. Have enjoyed my Viking for 12 years now, at $800 new it was the lowest end of the Vikings but has been a workhorse. It's been banged around moving to and from quilting classes and retreats, no problems. Both Viking and Bernina machines, which are pricey, can be bought used from reputable dealers with warranties, so I second all the other commenters who suggest used (with a dealer nearby who will stand by the machine). It makes excellent machines so much more affordable. This is your work and the machine is your investment. I preferred Viking when I bought mine because the bobbin is easier to use (have never broken one even tho they are plastic) and it makes less of a metallic clanking sound as it sews, but I use the high end Berninas at class at the local quilting store and enjoy them too. Walking feet and quilting feet options are relatively inexpensive additions if you purchase something that doesn't include them. It was worth buying the lucite extended sewing surface too. I've only had problems with the Viking when using cheap cotton over poly thread. Specialty threads are no problem. Can't you get a company to loan or gift you one, given your deserved success and visibility and all the charity quilting you do?

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  54. I have a Brother, always sewed on a brother and this is the one that I want next - it's actually cheaper than the Brother Project Runway 420 that I use every day right now -

    http://www.allbrands.com/products/abp01065-0646.html

    Or this one - not necessarily bought from this company, but it's the first one that came up on google.

    http://www.allbrands.com/products/abp15289-0646.html

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  55. I have a new Janome Horizon with builting walking foot. Seriously fantastic sewing machine!!!!!!!!! This weekend I did some itty bitty quilting/free motion stippling and it was amazing. Great control, even stitching. I cannot say enough ggod things and huge arm for quilting big quilts. SO worth the money. (and I had a mid range Janome before and before that a fairly inexpensive 20 year old Kenomore)

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  56. I also have the horizon and I love it....I haven't needed to purchase anything to go with it because it has everything!
    the machine before it...the 7600 I think, is really affordable now that the horizon has come out and I think the horizon is just a step up so I would look to see if a 7600 would be something in your price range--dealers generally sell off demo machines every three years--I'd check that too...good luck

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  57. I have a 10 year old Pfaff that I bought used last summer. I bought it as a back-up to a 5 year old Janome off-brand but I prefer it. It never gives me trouble. My husband's grandmother has two Berninas and she says they're both very finicky. She can only use one brand of thread in the newer machine.

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  58. Hi Rachel! I wouldn't buy anything online unless you have someone locally that 1. Has replacement parts. 2. Knows how to repair that particular brand. My mom has used Elna for years and I was certainly spoiled to learn on such a nice piece of equipment. When it came time to purchase my own, Elna was out of my price range. Our local discount fabric warehouse sold Babylock machines, which I knew nothing about. After talking with the dealer and doing my own research about the machine, I started considering the brand as they were available locally, had wonderful warranties, parts available, and in-house repair. One day I noticed the floor models were on sale and I headed down there and picked up a $1300 Babylock Decorators Choice for $500. It was in perfect condition and they were just getting ready to bring in the newer models. I was still offered the warranty and the machine offered everything a quilter would need...and more! I have had it for over a year. I have absolutely no complaints or issues to report. It's also great for FMQ and came with a walking foot. Call around and visit local shops that might have floor models for sale. I bet you'll be able to find something that has all you need and it's easier to wheel and deal in person. It's just like buying a car...be patient and don't forget to negotiate! Best of luck...

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    1. Hi, I have a BabyLock Decorators Choice as well (similar deal: list was $1200 and I paid about half that), because it's what I could get at a local dealer with service and parts available. I LOVE this machine! I do all kinds of sewing on it: piecing, straight-line and FMQ, garment sewing, invisible zippers, knitwear (with the zigzag stitch),... NEVER a problem, it handles anything, sews like a dream. I've had mine for 3 years and have put a zillion miles on it.

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    2. Yay! I feel the same way about mine. Seriously in love!

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  59. I'd go with viking/husqvarna. That's the machine they use at schools back home (lucky us have sewing as one of the subjects at elementary/junior high!) and nothing breaks them! Consider that the school sewing machines get used 4-6 hours a day normally.

    I have a singer myself, just because it was the nearest dealer when I got my machine. Nothing wrong with the machine, apart from the price...has a load of fancy stitches no one ever uses, plus is a bit too computerised (I'm learning fast to hate the automated buttonhole option).

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  60. i doubt i'm going to say anything the previous 86 people haven't said, but here's my opinion. don't get a husqvarna. they are really great machines and i love mine, but it drives me crazy that i can't order parts or feet online. they have an actual company rule against online sales. so you have to go to your local dealer, which isn't always a bad thing, but in my case, my local dealership is a group of sour old women who won't even look at me when i go in the store.

    also, i'm pretty sure you can't buy generic feet like you can with most other brands.

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  61. Hi Rachel,

    Depending on what fancy stitches you want on your machine, have you considered getting a machine that just does a straight stitch? I bought this machine: http://www.janome.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=17:memory-craft-1600p&catid=1:sewing-machines&Itemid=25 (sorry for the uk website) last year and love it! I've quilted several quilts with it using straight stitch and FMR and it is fantastic. I don't use a walking foot for it, although I think there is one available. The machine has a really solid metal base (as in weighs as much as my 2yo) so it doesn't jump about. It also has heaps of space under the arm.

    Anyway, that's my 2 cents worth! Looks like you have lots of recommendations.

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  62. Hi Rachel,
    Everyone has given really great advice - a sewing machine is such a personal thing. I'm sorry about how your Janome acted up - I own a Janome 3160 QDC that we bought 1 year ago. I absolutely love it! I paid $700 Canadian (it was on sale) and it came with a walking foot, darning foot, 1/4 foot, and many others. It also came with a little table and a hard cover. My machine is supposed to sew through up to 10 layers of denim. I haven't had problems sewing through multiple layers. My machine has its limitations with throat space and I think eventually I may outgrow it if I continue to do queen/king quilts, but it is a great basic machine. I really would buy one from a dealer in case you have any problems. And service your machine! When you use it so often, it needs tune ups to make sure things like the machine's timing is good. I figure the little extra money you pay at a dealer is worth it for all the pay backs in service and knowing that you can get help if you have problems. I second the idea of looking at a floor model or used machine to get something that you love, but that is in your budget. Good luck - I hope to see a happier sewing machine post soon.

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    1. Ooh, and I forgot - my machine has an automatic thread cutter! Amazing!!

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    2. I'm so happy you say you love this machine. I just bought it Saturday (but can't pick it up until next Saturday) & the only reviews I found online were not too good. Feeling excited rather than nervous now. :-)

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  63. That's my Juki you're looking at and I love it. No bells and whistles about the Juki - straight stitch only, but I kept my little Husqvarna for the special stitches. For piecing, the Juki is a dream. It's tough - really industrial quality - and sews through just about anything I throw at it.

    I'm just starting out with FMQ and so far, love this too. With a walking foot, life is beautiful. The big throat space is wonderful to have. I love the cut function - saves on thread.

    All in all, a great, basic machine that won't let you down.

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  64. I started out on a Kenmore machine as well, and I love my new Janome machine a lot more! I purchased a new Janome 5100 from a local shop last February. I love my Janome 5100. I paid $700 for it, but I see that it is selling on Amazon for $600. http://www.amazon.com/Janome-DC5100-Computerized-Sewing-Machine/dp/B004HX8FMQ
    I have not experienced any of the uneven stitches that you experienced. My machine also sews through many layers very easily. I could not be more pleased with the Janome 5100.

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  65. This is a great discussion! I had a £100 Janome for a couple of year - I bought it because I wasn't sure I would like machine work (ha ha ha ) I used t and used it and used it but eventually found it was limiting me. I despearately wanted to FMQ etc. My LQS is a Husqvarna dealer and I got to try the machines at a few classes. In the end I bought a Husqvarna Viking Sapphire for about £1000 and I love it. I have so far (touch wood) had no issues. It seems to take different threads without an issue, has automatic pressure something on the foot (i.e. you don't need a walking foot), needle down position, FMQ settings, you can access the bobbin and the accessories without dismantling the whole thing. I love it! Although the Saphire may be a bit pricy, the model below (I think it's an Emerald) has a very similar spec but without the automatic pressure thingy. Also, there is a button that cuts the thread neatly so not so much thread wast (small things). Good luck in finding your new machine!

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  66. I got a Pfaff Ambition 1.0 at the very end of December but I ended up with a defective one. I didn't know it at the time and just thought I was to stupid to make it work right.. :) Anyway I finally took it back and upgraded to the Ambition 1.5 a week ago and I LOVE it. I've used several different threads in it and it seems to not be to picky about it.

    When I took the Ambition 1.0 back the lady was fooling with it and she determined that it had probably been dropped really hard in the shipping process somewhere. I'm sure if it hadn't been dropped I'd have loved it as much as I'm loving it's big sister.

    Before the Pfaff I had a cheap little Brother that I used for 8 years without ever getting her serviced and she still sews like a champ, her brain is going a little bit at a time though and she is starting to glitch a bit, but she's still my backup machine.

    I'm loving the more roomy throat of the Pfaff, way more room for quilting. It doesn't come with a free motion foot and I think I spent an extra $35 for that.

    The place where I got mine guarantees that if you "trade up" within a year of purchase they will credit the full amount you paid for your trade in. I figure this is an awesome deal since this Pfaff was $999 (It almost KILLED me to spend that much but my husband pretty much insisted since I never get anything for myself), so I have $1000 plus whatever I can save up in the next year toward an upgraded machine. On my way to that $10,000.00 Brother I've always wanted! (Just thinking of sewing machines that cost $10,000.00 makes me cringe... but you know, it's a nice dream!)

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  67. looks like you received plenty of suggestions, but I feel like I should still throw mine onto the pile. I have had my Viking Platinum 715 now for about 4 years, and I love it. It has a separate walking foot, but I've sewn over thick and rugged fabric many times and have never had any problems with uneven sticthes or tension problems. My husband bought it as a xmas present, but I believe it was under $800.
    Good luck on your shopping and can't wait to hear what you end up buying. :)

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  68. You guys, I just checked ebay and WOW there are some great deals on fab machines like Janome 6600, Janome Horizon, Pfaff Ambition, Pffaf Expressions, etc. Since my dealer is 2 hours away (the local dealers probably aren't an option), maybe I should get one of these "new" machines through ebay and just plan to pay for any needed repairs. Seems like it could be a worthwhile gamble.

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  69. Hi! I have two Babylocks. The best machine for the money. I always wait until they have a 50% off sale at my local dealer. I have a Symphony....Love it! It will sew through anything and I almost NEVER use a walking foot. Come with EVERYTHING you can think of for quilting and does free motion like a dream! I also have an essante (Also an embroidery as well as sewing machine make by Babylock)...It is great too! I have no complaints about Babylock and would buy another!

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  70. Just going to throw this out there-check out any vacumn/industrial cleaning places, they sometimes sell sewing machines too. Our local one A-1 Vacumn sells Babylocks, but they have all kinds of trade ins for sale too. Plus this guy services almost every machine made. For my 2 cents worth, I sew on a Kenmore 385, advertised as a quilter's machine. It has the usual throat space and I had to buy the walking foot separately (can't remember price, but know it wasn't that much). I love it. I do have a Singer Featherweight too. And my real workhorse which I bought from Spiegel back in the 80's-not branded, but I think it is a White. That one is all metal & I can tear it down & service it myself-but no walking foot. It is currently living with my Mom in Oregon. Just try them all out-you are going to have to bite the bullet & just take a day or two to just do it.

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  71. Thats terrible Rachel! I had a small problem with my machine recently and went into panic! Sat in the corner rocking type stuff! Figured out though that my machine likes a new needle every now and then! Ha Ha! My machine is a Janome MW3018,(I think it was around the $500 mark, no children at that stage!) its about 12 years old and it sews through thick material like heavy denim (been making bags!) like butter as long as I change that needle! I haven't tried quilting anything yet, saving up for a walking foot but I don't see a problem as it handles everything else really well. Good luck, fun to try a new machine but AHH trying to decide which one???

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  72. I could not be happier with my Babylock! I received a Quilter's Choice 7 years ago (it seems to be equivalent to today's Melody), and I haven't had a single thing go wrong with it yet. It sews through anything (the only problem I had was when I tried to make it sew through 6 layers of denim -- oops!). I love the automatic thread cutter and the ability to stop with the needle down, which really helps on curves. It came with all the feet I needed, and the knee lift is a nice perk when I need 2 hands on my fabric. I really can't say enough about this underestimated gem of a machine!

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    1. I have the babylock quilter's choice also. I love, love, love it! It has been problem free for the three years I've owned it. In addition to the above mentioned features, it also has a needle threader which is great once you start to need readers. I got a good sale price on it as well. My local dealer sells babylock and bernina and told me that you get way more machine for your money with a bablylock. I am very pleased with it.

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  73. I have a Janome MC5200 that I got last year for about $700 (online, with a 1/4" and walking foot thrown in for free). I sew with the regular foot or the 1/4" inch foot for the most part, only bringing out the walking foot for big quilts. I FMQ on it -- and I've quilted a full/queen bed quilt without any issues. I wouldn't mind a wider throat but I can work with it. It drops the feed dogs, but I've found that it works best just to tape a piece of paper over the feed dogs -- which is what I did on my el cheapo machine so maybe I just like that better. Anyhow, I highly recommend the mid-tier Janomes.

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  74. I'll add my two cents - I just got a Baby Lock Melody on a end of year sale. I think it's almost the same machine as the BL Elizabeth an earlier poster wrote about. It came with the quilting extension table, walking foot, FMQ/darning foot and about 10 more feet. I'm set for the foreseeable future. I've finished four quilts and LOVE it so far. They had me at the needle up/down, automatic thread cutter and speed setting. I sit with my two year old or four year old on my lap and they can 'sew'. I unplug the foot pedal and they work the start/stop button. So far they've 'helped' on bags and their own pillowcases. I had a Viking and had the same service as someone else posted, no parts and the local dealer was less than helpful. Can't wait to hear what you get!

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  75. Hmmm... I have a Janome DC2007LE that has faithfully sewed through ALL SORTS of different materials, including upholstery fabrics, so my first instinct is to suggest that possibly you just got a bad machine? Although recent acquisition by a new company could have changed some things, I guess.

    Anyway, the one suggestion I was going to make is, before buying a machine online, at least check with your local dealers if they have any floor models on sale. In Nov 2007 I bought my $600 retail machine at a Janome dealer for better than half-price ($278 + tax, or thereabouts) and got the best of both worlds: As the floor model it was used, clearly, but it was also murderously cheap and since they were the dealer, they'd already serviced it at no charge to me. And I got the plus of a great relationship with the dealer, who I do use for accessories like bobbins and specialty feet.

    I've also bought a machine for a friend off Craigslist; Where I live it's not too hard to find someone who bought a machine thinking to learn to sew, used it twice, and it's been sitting in the box in their garage ever since. YMMV, but in that case I got to try it out first, and although it took some shopping, I paid something like $80 for a $240 machine.

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  76. I'd vote for the Juki. I have a similiar one and it's easy to use, sews fast and through anything, altho no zig zag. I've had mine for more than a year with no issues. Just dust and oil it and use good thread like Aurifil. the only down side is you have to use a screwdriver to change the feet, but that's because it stitches so fast. It has a bigger throat or harp space, and it's a good price for what you're getting. I think not having a local dealer wouldn't be a problem because it doesn't have computerized parts to be an issue. and you'll be surprised at how easy it is to fmq. good luck!

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  77. I have a Bernina QE 440 - bought second hand for less than half the price of new. I would highly recommend this route if you can't afford a new one. I have loved it from the start. Love the stitch regulator for FMQ. Love the reliability of it. Just make sure it has a warranty with it. My dealer gave a year long warranty despite it being 18 months old so I had the security knowing that if something went wrong I was covered. My Singer has lived on the top shelf in the garage ever since.

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    1. Unfortunately, NONE of the dealers sell used models at all. Bummer!

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  78. I have the Janome 7700 and love it! Mine will be two years old in May... It was worth the bucks.

    I would go to the local shop you like. Ask if they fix their machines locally. That will help with the "time away" issues. Some shops fix machines on-site, some don't. Dealer support is so key, regardless of brand.

    Sit down and play with the machines. I was lucky, I didn't play with my Janome until I got mine. And luckily it works really well for me. I love the dual feed system!

    I'm not going to say any brand is better over the other. It's all a balance of budget, features, dealer support, and other personal matters.

    I have both Singers and Janomes (several of which I bought at a big box store)and I dearly love them all. And yes, I also have two ancient White machines as well.

    Good luck in looking. Let us know what you decide.

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  79. I didn't have time to read all the comments but I have two friends with Jukis and they LOVE them. They both have straight stitch machines with a larger arm area. If I could have two machines a Juki would be the second one. As it is, I only have one ancient Kenmore which has given me excellent service.

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  80. Audrey Hepburn used to say that "Cheap is expensive and expensive is cheap" meaning that if you always go the cheaper route, you'll end up spending more in the long run because it won't last as long (she said that referring to clothes, but I think that it refers to almost everything!)

    Personally I say bite the bullet & buy a Bernina on sale. I have had my Bernina since 2002 (it was my graduation/birthday/Christmas/wedding gift from my mom) and I take it in to get serviced about every 18 months. I've used it regularly over the past decade...and it still runs as though it were manufactured yesterday.

    Good luck with your decision! Having a poor machine can really take the fun out of sewing, thats for sure.

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  81. I inherrited a Bernina 830 old and I love it. There is a wonderful Yahoo group at will answer any of your questions. It fremotion quilts beutifully and I never use my walking foot although I plan to try it in the curves class. I think they run about $500 not really sure. I love mine! I sew everyday for a fewhours... I should probablyserviceitsoon but will besad not to have it. So I will wait until I go on vacation.

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  82. I've had my Janome New Home for 21 years. I really don't want to jinx myself but I've never had a . . .stitch of trouble. I just bought a walking foot last year and it works like a dream. If I had $1500 burning a hole in my pocket I'd be shopping for a machine that would make machine quilting a total breeze, but I don't, so I won't. Don't let cheap become expensive so I say return your lemon Janome. Find a dealer if even it's a hefty drive - that is so worth it.

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  83. I have a Husqvarna Designer 1 for fancy sewing and 6 months ago I bought a Brothers Nouvelle 1500S for straight stitching and free motion - is industrial strength and it's just fine. You can get the latter online for about $600. Good luck!

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  84. I have read here that some don't live the Pfaff but I have had mine for 27 years and (now I am whispering here so it won't here me) I have never had a problem with it. As a matter of fact, I just made my daughters wedding dress and the wedding parties dresses on it in September. It cost $1500.00 27 years ago. I love it. I sometimes want a new one when I see all that the new ones do but I would rather not have problems. Good luck!

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  85. Oh Rachel I feel your frustration! I bought my Huskavarna Viking Sapphire 855 brand new on Ebay for $850.00 about a year and a half ago and absolutely LOVE it! No problems at all (knock on wood) and I quilt up a storm on it because it has the extra deep base just for quilting! I also use my walking foot lots and also sew over rough terrain with no problems! Good luck finding your machine! Can't wait to see what you get!

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  86. I know just how frustrating machine issues can be. I was so so discouraged when I first learned to quilt on my Mom's old Singer. My sweet hubby finally felt so sorry for me we went out and bought a Bernina. Wonderful!!!! I've never looked back and still sew with it all these many years later. Have you considered buying a refurbished older Bernina? Maybe you could get a good deal. They don't even make my model anymore.

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  87. Maybe you could look for a used Bernina on e-bay. I have had my Bernina for over 20 years and it still sews like a charm. I know my friend's son just bought a used Bernina on e-bay for his wife and is really pleased with it.

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  88. Oh, Viking is also a very good machine. I bought a mini Janome for my granddaughter and didn't even finish one seam on it. It was awful. We put it away and she sews on my Bernina.

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  89. my first response is to stay far away from Babylock or Singer!

    Singer have just gone so far downhill. they're riding on the name recognition, but the machines themselves are such low quality.

    Babylock and Brother are the same company, and Brother are crap too. i got a free machine from Brother several years ago as part of a promotion, and i still won't recommend them! i've had a few of them, and they've all been constant irritation. if all you're doing is quilting, you might like them, but i sew other stuff too, and i want a machine that'll sew bags and clothes as well. apparently Brother has been having $$$ problems in recent years, and that's why they haven't done any upgrading of their software, and why they've been focusing so much on the promotions with other brands, like their partnership with Disney. and all of their machines now have plastic interiors, even the super expensive ones.

    i LOVE my Elnas and Janomes (same company). i have an Elna serger and an Elna embroidery machine, and a fairly basic but quite sturdy Janome sewing machine. when i bought the Janome i was determined to NOT buy an electronic machine, because i was so tired of fighting with them. i just wanted to sew, i didn't want to fight with the computer! i actually bought a model that they'd been making for 15 years and that they sell to schools. i figured if it could handle 8th graders, it could handle whatever i put it through!

    i would really urge you to go to the Janome dealer and see what they can do. they have sales all the time, but more importantly, people upgrade! talk to them about a second hand machines.

    and think about what you actually want and need. everyone i've talked to about their electronic machines doesn't actually use all the fancy stuff that motivated them to buy it!

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  90. I bought my Pfaff 2030 almost 14 years ago and I still love it. It was a floor model and I got it half price. The built in even feed is the way to go for FMQ, and it does a beautiful job on sheers and other hard to sew fabrics. If you want a good example of FMQ with a Pfaff check out Patsy Thompson's website. That's what she uses.

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  91. I have a 20 year old Kenmore that i use for quilting and piecing along with a Janome I got 2 years ago for under $500 CDN. Surprised your Kenmore doesn't have a plate to put over the feed dogs if you can't drop them so you can do free motion.

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  92. This probably isn't going to help much more but... I just bought my first new machine- had an old clunker of a Kenmore too. Just couldn't stand it's inability to hold tension for longer than 27 seconds anymore around Christmas and kinda rushed my purchase. I bought a new Janome at the shop around the corner. It should be terrific but it isn't really... it has all the things I was looking for; quilting feet like the darning foot, the 1/4 inch foot and the walking foot; a good basic number of stitches, and some features i don't care about like the threader. It's computerized, which i didn't really want but the owner wasn't really into showing me anything used (maybe she didn't have anything in stock?) and i figured it didn't matter much either way. So I spent $550 (Canadian) and go the QDS 2030 (or 3020?). And it is doing the thing that you described- feed dogs just seem to get choked up at anything more than 2 layers of cotton and batting. It is sooo much better than my old one that I hate to complain (and I get to FMQ- wheeeeeeeeeeee!!) and I've been thinking it's me, not the machine...Anyway, advice, rather than my story...spend as much as you can, definitely consider used (they're tried and true and better made!), and Janome's not the be all and end all! Oh and I got the free classes and they're next to useless - v.e.r.y. basic and not much more than the manual + what I learned buying the machine. The only other thing with buying at a shop is there is someone to call and visit when things don't quite go right- not sure that's true if you buy online??

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  93. I had a Husqvarna Sapphire and honestly, I don't think I'd ever buy another Husqvarna. I had a really inexpensive Kenmore prior to that and it made a great 1/4" seam. I've given both of these machines to my daughters. They both love their machines and my daughter that has the Husqvarna loves it. She doesn't quilt but I think for regular sewing it is great. But was terrible for quilting. I splurged and bought a Bernina. I would definitely look for a used Bernina without some of the extras. I have some of the optional accessories but fould I FMQ better without the stitch regulator. I find it hard to master. I have heard wonderful things about the Juki. If I ever buy another sewing machine, I would give it serious consideration. I hear the consistency of their straight stitch is fabulous.

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  94. I would check out your local dealers for used machines, especially classroom models. I got a Babylock Quilter's Choice that was used classroom machine. It's amazing and I paid something like $900, which was significantly less than a new machine. I actually took a class that used the machine so I had about 4-6 hours of time with it before I bought it. It came with many feet including the walking foot, an extension table, and knee lift. It also has a really great variable speed control that limits the maximum speed from the pedal. If you set it on the lowest setting, even if you floor the pedel, it will slowly stitch away. The Quilters Choice can even sew sideways to do some of the fancier stitching. It's a pretty neat machine. I got two free classes on how to use it at the dealer that I can take as many times as I want and as another commenter mentioned, the feet are really reasonable.

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  95. I've had my Pfaff for almost 20 years and it is still going strong. Love it. Might be good to ask people who have newer machine in case they have gone downhill.

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  96. I have a Babylock Quest Plus that I purchased second hand (about a year old) for approximately 700.00 that came with the extension table, quilting feet and knee lift. It has the built in walking foot, some bells and whistles and sews very well. I've just started FMQ with it and I'm very pleased. It's a heavy, metal machine and is very sturdy. I tried out the Janome 6500p, 6600, the Vikings and all the new Berninas. It basically came down to price and how they sewed. If money wasn't an object I would get a Bernina 440QE. It sews like a dream!

    I know that a lot of people in blogland like the Juki as a straight stitch machine and if you can use your old Kenmore as your standby machine a straight stitch only may be the way to go. Good luck and looking forward to seeing what you get! :-)

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  97. I have a very basic Brother model so not needed for consideration but my mother has a Bernina she purchased over 45 years ago when my oldest brother was just a baby - she uses it nearly every week still. Sometimes the investment is daunting but the long term reward is worth it.

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  98. I've got 2 Pfaff sewing machines that I both got second hand - a 1467 bought in 2006 and a 2058, bought in 2011 . I LOVE them. The only thing I had problems with was the bobbin holder on the 2058 I asked the sewing machine repairman at my local dealer to replace the plastic piece with a metal one (which cost me $25) and since then it's been all good. Both machines stitch through layer upon layer of fabrics without problems - up to 8 layers of denim , they have a built it even feed that you can disengage in seconds , automatic needle down and came with foot galore including a darning foot that I use for FMQ.
    Both also have a bunch of decorative stitches, button hole programs etc
    The only thing I wish I had is a drop-in bobbin but I can live without it
    The first one cost me $300 and the second one $950 - a new machine with equivalent features would have cost me around $3000. Once a year i get them serviced (not at the same time) because old ladies should be taken care of and they both still have a lot of miles in them ... so consider a good quality second hand :)

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  99. I can't speak to their recent machines, but my Pfaff Hobbymatic 927 is awesome! I've been "borrowing" it from my mother-in-law for two years. She's never had it serviced and neither have I and it works like a charm. I've used a lot of different threads and it's never complained (but again, this is a really old model, I don't know about their new machines).

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  100. there are some good flickr group discussions on this topic, too.

    http://www.flickr.com/groups/ohfransson/discuss/72157629417872341/

    http://www.flickr.com/groups/freshmodernquilts/discuss/72157625945466503/

    http://www.flickr.com/groups/freshmodernquilts/discuss/72157627886525427/

    I decided to buy a Janome Horizon from a local (50 mins.) dealer. I haven't been for classes yet (but I could). My husband is big into paying cash for a significant discount and it worked for us. We (I say that b/c he got it for me for a big birthday...) got the floor model that was about to be replaced for a newer one. I LOVE LOVE LOVE it. The harp space is amazing and it hasn't been picky with thread. Free motion is great - I'm working on straight line quilting - it seems I am not so patient here to let the feed dogs do the work. Good luck!

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  101. I've come to the conclusion, after going through 3 Janomes in two years that I may be allergic to Janome. I just bought the 6600 from them last October and have yet to get it to sew well for over three days at a time.
    If you send me your email, I will share a good research article I read and saved online. This lady flat did her research work before deciding. I'm KarenP3720@aol.com

    I don't know if you have accessibility to a business that lets sewing machine owners trade up or not, but I think you can get some really good deals. Some folks trade every time a new model comes out or every couple of years, just like some guys do with cars!! LOL

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  102. Hi, Rachel! I have a Juki TL98-Q (the precursor to the machine you referenced) and absolutely love it! It's completely mechanical, so no digital stuff to go wrong. I've used it really hard for over a year now (over 100 quilts) and no serious problems - the one annoyance I had turned out to be a simple $1 fix! It's easy to clean, I can do most of the maintenance my self (especially since I found the complete service manual online!) and never fails me! I highly recommend this machine!!

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  103. rachel, i think this juki looks awesome:

    http://www.allbrands.com/products/abp31964.html?ovchn=SPRI&ovcpn=Froogle&ovcrn=Froogle&ovtac=CMP

    i have a juki serger and i LOVE it. good luck! xo

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  104. Have you ever considered buying a used machine? I have a 25 year old Bernina (non-computerized) that does everything I need it for including FMQ. Sometimes the dealers have them from people who have upgraded & they completely overhaul them to sell. My dealer had one like mine for $450. My DIL (in another state) bought one from Craigs List for $600 and took it in for servicing (it barely needed it!) I always have cleaned & oiled mine and I've only had it serviced 3 times in the 25 years I've had it.
    Anyway-just a thought!

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  105. I've had my old Kenmore for more than 30 years and it is still going strong. I couldn't tell you how many quilts it has sewn, plus all the clothing for four daughters and myself!

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  106. I feel your pain. My old White finally locked up after almost 15 years of use. I ended up buying a Sapphire 875 about a week ago. I've only been using it a few days (the first few days I was afraid to take it out of the box). I'm pretty impressed so far. It was expensive but I know I will use it every day and I love the longer throat for quilting. The Sapphire 835 is right around $1000. I'm worried that I'll miss my straight stitch, mechanical machine though. Good luck finding a machine you love!

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  107. My sewing instructor in college recommended an Elna. She was a costume designer in New York for most of her career so I held her opinion high. I was a broke college student so I bought an introductory Elna model. It has been over 10 years ago. I've never had it serviced and it's NEVER had one single problem. I now have an expensive Bernina that I bought because of all the extra bells and whistles that my introductory Elna didn't have. When comparing the Elna that cost a couple hundred bucks with the Bernina that cost many more dollars, the Elna can hold it's own. Good luck!

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    1. I forgot to mention that I am a Family and Consumer Science teacher and after teaching 600 kids a year how to sew, I can say with complete certainty that I can't stand Janome. I literally grew great hairs just trying to keep the machines running well enough to allow the kids to complete their projects. I would spend hours after school working on broken down machines. I also taught on Kenmores for a couple years. They weren't too bad, but I had to send them out for service frequently.

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  108. mine old mechanical bernina 830 - real workhorses. you can get them on ebay, very easy to use! mine has been going for ~40 years (my grandmother's). of course, it doesn't have all the fancy stitches you might need. i would suggest it more for if you are looking for two machines....

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  109. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my Babylock. I bought it locally at a place that carries everything, and I spent two days test-driving everything in my price-range. The Bernina was my absolute favorite, but the Babylock was a close second, and with way more features for the same price (around $700). I love the thread-cutting button, and am so glad that I didn't give that up to get a Bernina! What really sealed the deal for me was that the guy in the repair shop said that he hardly ever sees Babylocks because they hardly ever break down, and that most of his repair time goes into fixing Pfaffs. I FMQ with it all the time, and it works great. I tried the Juki, too - it is a seriously powerful machine - it quilts incredibly fast, and smoothly and beautifully, but I wouldn't want my kids to get their hands anywhere near it.

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  110. I have 2 Janomes, a Horizon 7700 and a smaller Janome 1860. Have had them both less than 1 1/2 yrs and love them both. There is so much info here that I'm confused so am not adding any more info for you to ponder regarding the machines. :) I will say, don't walk....run to your local sewing centers and try the different machines!! If you decide to buy locally you will at least have a guarantee and local service. If you decide to purchase by mail then you will know what you are buying before it arrives in your home.

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  111. I purchased a used Bernina Virtuosa 150 QE on eBay 7 years ago and still love it. :) I paid $712, including shipping. It came with several feet, including the walking foot; quarter-inch foot (most used); open toe free-motioning foot and a button hole foot (need to recalibrate the machine).

    The only extras I bought for the machine was an acrylic extension table ($82, eBay again) and extra bobbins. It's been about $75-90 to get it serviced. And don't soak your bobbin case in vinegar and bleach thinking it'll help thread flow better... that was $75 of stupid. :P

    I did have one problem with my Bernina - but several months later I figured out it was my fault. I would get really loopy thread on the back, fiddle with the tension like crazy, open up my machine and mess everything up. I finally figured out it was the THREAD that was causing the problem. I was using Connecting Thread's stuff and it was 2 or 3 years old. It was seemingly random (thread would behave... then it wouldn't) so it took me a while to realize it was the thread and not the sewing machine.

    Now I'm a little more picky about the thread, because I don't like the headache of trying to figure out what's wrong. I'm using MasterPiece for piecing and King Tut for free-motioning. Never any problems with them.

    ****************

    Ohh, something else I forgot about. My mom bought a Bernina for herself 2 years ago (Patchwork 230) and bought another one for me as a Mother's day gift! A year later we moved into a 700 SF home and there is simply NO room for an extra sewing machine to be set up. Before, I was using the 230 to piece and the 150 to FMQ.

    After checking with my mom, we agreed to give the 230 to my baby sister as a Christmas gift. It's still in the family, and if I have room/she isn't using it, it'll probably come back to live with me.

    My baby sister spent a semester in college working for the costuming theater. Well... she likes to say she sold her soul for 12 cents an hour there. ;) But the most popular sewing machines were the two Berninas. My sister didn't want to wait in line to use it, so she would just use the untouched German sewing machine. I don't know what brand it was, but it could do 6,000 stitches a minute. Most people were very afraid of the machine. :)

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  112. I have that exact Janome (DC1050) and use it all the time! I got it when they first came out with the model. I just recently finished a project that had 6 layers of fabric, 2 of interfacing and 1 batting...I love it! Never had anything close to what you had happen to you. It's a real workhorse. That is too bad you had a rough time. Maybe that machine is just defective?! My last machine was a Brother that only seemed to get outstanding reviews...not mine! It apparently had timing problems that were unable to be fixed. Sometimes it is only the individual machine. Anyway, whatever you choose, good luck! I hope your next machine cooperates better for you!

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  113. I definitely should have opened this post in the morning...LOL...so I could read what had been said and see if I could add to it or my opinions had already been stated. So here is what I will tell you.I own or have very close access to a Babylock Espire(4+ years old), A Juki TL98QE and A Grace (Brother? Babylock?)and a Brother 1500 (not sure if I am remembering the model number correctly, but it is the equivalent of the Juki)). I am VERY happy with all of them. If you want any additional info on them, please email me :-) I will try to remember to come back and read all of the discussion tomorrow :-)My one piece of advice would be to start a spread sheet...and every letter in the model number matters....LOL

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  114. Ok you've already got a million comments on this post. So I'll try to keep this short.

    I bought a similar model Juki from a guild friend last month. It's about 8-10 yrs old and was barely used. Let me tell you that the extra inches under the arm and the 1500 stitches per minute have me SOLD FOREVER. I've been sewing for years on low grade singer machines... there is no comparison. I free motion quilted a king size quilt in less than 3 hours on this machine. Perfection. Go for the Juki. I'm beyond impressed with mine. :)

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    1. PS the Juki i have has a knee lift lever for the presser foot. Who knew it'd be so absolutely useful!? I love it!

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  115. I have a Pfaff Tipmatic that I've used for about 6 years now. Sewn EVERYTHING. Everything. Quilts, sheers, I even sewed a painter's canvas tent with welted seams. I was pretty damn impressed. Mine doesn't have a knee bar if that's something that's important to you though. Also, I don't know much about free motion quilting so I can't say how good it is for that, although there is a foot for it. I also think that my reach is a little small for that (whatever the depth between the needle and the motor case is called).
    Long story short: My Pfaff is reliable as he... all get out and I love her. It may be that your current machine may need to have the bobbin tuned better as that was a problem I had for a little bit with mine. Once I got the bobbin tension fixed, I never had the problem again. I think they renamed the Tipmatic line (they might be purple or teal now) but it's worth a look for a sturdy simple machine.

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  116. I love my Pfaff! and at school we used "Brother"

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  117. I know you've had a tonne of advice and maybe someone has already pointed you here - but I found this really interesting reading recently when Amy asked a similar question - just because I'm not about to go buy a machine (unless mine breaks!) doesn't mean I don't want to keep up with the market!

    http://www.diaryofaquilter.com/2012/02/help-wanted-sewing-machine-advice.html

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  118. Juki! I've had one for about 4 years and love it! It is a straight stitch only, sews like a dream! Bought it on-line. Have done a lot of free motion on it.

    Good luck in your decisions!

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  119. I have a few machines but LOVE my Bernina 440QE with the bsr, I bought it off ebay from a lady that was upgrading to a Bernina 830 (lucky girl) and she kept it in pristine condition. I paid around $1,100 including shipping. It sews through anything. This past weekend I was finishing my friend's Darth Vader Cape and the Bernina sewed through two layers of pleather, satin and felted wool like it was nothing. The walking foot is not attached but I like that and I also like that it has 2 guide bars ( one left and one right) with the walking foot for easier quilting. I hope you are able to go drive some at a dealership to see what is right for you :o)

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  120. Rachel, I have a Pfaff Expressions 4.0. The only problems I have had with this machine are user errors! It has been a wonderful machine. My husband got it for about $1000. It was a display model at a quilt show. Only used a couple of times.

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  121. Hmm. I just got the Janome QDC 4030 for Christmas this year, and I love it. And, the prices start at $400 (this I know is pricy but..) so far it's been GREAT and AND it came with every foot imaginable, extra needles, 5 bobbins, etc. The extra feet - walker, 1/4 inch, open toe and like, 5 others won me over.
    It's a great little machine and I came to it after using a Brother I bought at Walmart 12 years ago. Which still was working, just making seams that looked like your pic.
    Anyway. That's my two cents, good luck in your search!
    Bestest to ya!

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  122. I have the Juki in the link. I have had it a year and LOVE it! It has a walking foot and a 1/4 inch and a FMQ foot included... I got mine at sewingmachinesplus.com where you get a bonus package of bobbins and a gift certificate... mine was $100 but look slike it is $50 now.

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  123. I have a Bernina Activa 230 PE. I love it. I got it a local Bernina store and the person had just taken it out of the box and then allowed me to try it and gave it to me for a discount "floor model price"

    You have to buy a walking foot (I think it was like a 100 bucks or so) but I love my bernina and highly recommend it.

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  124. I have had a Pfaff for going on 10 years now and have absolutely LOVED it. My only serious complaint is that it really does not have enough throat room for quilting larger quilts (certainly not for FMQ). No thread issues, no maintenance issues at all.

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  125. I have a Janome DC2010. I have a had a few problems, but it's been a very good machine. I hope you find the right one for you! I know I'll eventually take a step up, but for now, I'll live vicariously through you!

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  126. I had a Singer sewing machine for about 20 years and I loved it. I wish I had had an odometer on it to measure how much I used it! It was a sturdy machine made in Poland. But I see now that most of them are plastic and don't look as durable. Three years ago, my husband bought me a Pfaff Expression 2038 and I love it. It sews over any thickness of fabrics and seams and is consistant in the stitches. The only drawback with this model is the small throat space that limits the size of project for FMQ. But, I would highly recommend a Pfaff machine. I have used a few of the Janome machines at work (in a quilt shop), but my Pfaff feels more solid, if you know what I mean.

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  127. I have this one: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000XE3FGO/ref=oh_o02_s00_i00_details

    It's the Brother Project Runway edition. I paid more than that for it in early 2010... boo. But anyway, I really like it. It has a lot of features, but I think I will use them all. It does NOT have a built-in walking foot, but does come with one that is easy to take on and off, and you could easily leave it on all the time. It also comes with like 10 other common feet, most of which don't even involve unscrewing the foot to install.

    There are 7.5 inches from the center of the foot under the arm. I haven't done much free motion quilting on it, but I'm planning to remedy that soon.

    The only thing about it that bugs me is that for some reason every time it turns on, it starts the needle all the way to the left. Easily fixed by pressing one button. Still kind of annoying.

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  128. I bought a Juki 2010 last summer after reading all the quilting blogs. It was $1200 Can$ so if you are in the US you would probably pay less. It is a terrific machine. I love the knee lift for the presser foot, and the fact that I can cut the thread with the foot pedal. You can also adjust the pressure on the presser foot --- that would solve the poblem you have of sewing through thicker fabrics.

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  129. I am looking for a new machine too and have just about decided on a Juki. I had never heard of them before but after checking them out I really like its capabilities and price. I was a little worried about not knowing the name but the price of some of the others are unreal. Good luck with your choices :) By the way you can buy that machine on HSN and make payments, that way it doesnt hurt so much!!

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  130. I just finished looking at machines and it was a totally confusing and overwhelming process. So many choices and options. I ended up with a Husqvarna Sapphire and I am pretty happy with it however I have had a few issues. I tested out just about everything except a Juki because I couldn't find a dealer anywhere near me. I liked the Pfaff Expression a lot and the stitch quality seemed very good. The Ambitions I used (I tried them 3 times) were disappointing in my opinion...I found the stitch quality very poor and the tension was not good no matter what I tried. Machines are so personal though...other people love the Ambitions and are very happy with them. I was impressed with BabyLock too, I tried a few models and they all did a really nice job. You really don't know until you try them out and get a feel for them. I found sewing.patternreview.com helpful in my research though because a lot of people review their machines there.

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  131. Ok, I know you already have lots of responses, but here is one more opinion. I have a Juki TL98 and I LOVE it. I also have a Pfaff (expensive even 15 years ago) and a Bernina 185 (more expensive but I won it). Both the Pfaff and the Bernina sew beautifully. But when it comes to doing everything I really need to do I use the Juki most of the time. Ive sewn curtains, jeans hems, vinyl boat cushions, velcro to heavy belt webbing, AND piecing quilts and FMQ on many quilts. I love it for the price. I think mine was around $900. 4 years ago. My best friend ended up getting one too and loves it too. The knee lifter is great when piecing or doing curved piecing. And the thread cutter is in the foot pedal which is sooo convenient and saves thread. The only drawback with it is it is only straight stitch, so not good for any zig zag or buttonholes. But for everything else and the price I think the Juki is wonderful.

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  132. Sewing machines are an investment. You need to shop around and go to a store that will let you try them out. Take something you have had trouble with before and try the machine out on that. Also ask a lot of people you know that sew what they have and could you come sew on their machine to try it out.

    Good luck. I love my Berninas and I bought both of them used.

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  133. I am lucky enough to have to machines - one the Juki TL-98Q (predecessor to the one you're looking at), and a Bernina B350 Patchwork Edition.
    I LOVE my Juki for straight stitch and free-motion quilting. It does NOT do any other stitches - no zig zag. Only straight stitch. The extra wide neck makes moving fabric around easy for free-motion quilting and the walking foot is awesome. HOWEVER, if you are doing apparel, this is not the machine of choice. The table is too wide to get sleeves, cuffs, necks and legs around to finish them. Might check for another model with a free arm if you are looking to do apparel.

    I love my Bernina. I bought it at our local Sewing Expo last spring on SALE (the local quilt shop also carries them and had Expo pricing). I spent about 1000 - 1100 with tax and it's a dream. The walking foot is extra, but worth the purchase. The quick change feet are wonderful and it's like driving a mercedes - it purrs. Free motion is available on this, and it came with a snap on table. But the free-arm is small enough to make kid clothing easy to do.

    Another brand I really liked at the Expo was Elna. Seems to be a smaller brand, part of the Janome family now, but Swiss-made and they had a little more for the money there.

    If you have a sewing/craft show locally, get the kids a sitter and go for a day - try out as many as you can, revisit the ones you liked (I had to take notes to keep them all straight), and choose the one that ticks all the boxes for you.

    Good luck! Its a big purchase, but a fun one!

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  134. Back in the mid 1980's I bought the top of the range, second year on the market Janome Memorycraft and I am still using it today. Last year I bought the Janome Horizon for the extra throat room to quilt my quilts and love it too. I am a Janome girl, but many love Bernina's, but then many don't. My advice is to test sew different brands and your heart will tell you.
    Also. I believe if you spend more on an upper model it will repay you in the long term and mine has done, let alone the pleasure of sewing on a beautiful machine. Good Luck!!!

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  135. After testing quite a few machines, I went all in and purchased the Janome Horizon 7700. I had to save for longer to get it, but I think it was well worth it.

    It was the only machine that when I sat down and tried to do FMQ it just did what I was thinking when I moved my hands and had great tension. I had never FMQ'd prior to searching for a new machine (my old machine wasn't the right machine to try it on--$99 brother machine from Walmart). That's what sold me and I don't regret it.

    On my machine, I've sewn leather, 3 layers of 1/8" wool felt, I've been able to start FMQing and used the decorative stitches like crazy it straight line quilting. I piece with it all the time, and am really thankful for the built in walking foot (which is removable). And am considering the 1/4" quilting walking foot. I'm super excited that foot exists because I think it's going to be the solution to a really nice machine binding!

    One thing I've learned from the yahoo group I'm a part of for my machine, some machines that have had the issues like you describe above needed some minor adjustments to the feed dogs to solve the issue. Sometimes the calibration gets out of whack during shipping? Anyway, by leveling out the feed dogs and adjusting the pressure, the problem machines have become dream machines.

    Good luck in your search! But I highly recommend going to a dealer and trying the machines in person.

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  136. Awe I feel for you. Get a machine barely used privately that has warranty at a local dealer. I love my Janomes... the feet are all interchangeable with Kenmore. Sewing is your life - so don't feel guilty spending more. Test drive EVERYTHING before you buy. I'm thinking it's the suede there - need a special needle for that. Or the presser foot pressure isn't set right? Any new machine will present a huge learning curve (unfortunately).

    Thinking of you!!
    ~Monika
    loves her horizon...

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  137. Great post. I love hearing advice on sewing machines. I bought a used Janome MyExcel 18W off a friend for A$150, I don't even know how old it is but not more than 10yrs. She had kindly lent it to me when Mum's 30yr old Singer died and then decided she didn't need it back, so I knew it worked before I bought it. I know they are A$600 new. It's pretty basic, I bought extra feet for it - free-motion embroidery, quarter inch and walking foot. I feel like my sewing has advanced and I would love to upgrade to a better machine with more bells and whistles but this one works fine so I'll just put that dream aside for a while.

    I would get another Janome or even consider a used Bernina. I know what you say about Bernina being costly though, accessories are more expensive and I imagine parts and service too.

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  138. Hi Rachel! Obviously, I like Brother. That Juki looks great, but did you see the comparable brother that is $200 less?
    http://www.amazon.com/Brother-PQ1500S-Quilting-Sewing-Machine/dp/B003C29EL4/ref=pd_sim_sbs_ac_1
    You have the most amazing readers! I'm looking for a machine, too, so I'll be looking through the comments.
    Too bad you don't live in WA. We are having the Sew Expo this weekend and it is full of machine dealers with lots of amazing deals!

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  139. I have a Bernina 1008 and it's fantastic ... goes through multiple layers like butter ... however I don't machine quilt, I hand quilt all my quilts and use the machine for piecing, and other projects.

    The Bernina is a good solid basic machine.

    margie

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  140. i got my babylock grace in november last year. and i love it. i went to the dealers around town. honestly we didn't have many either. and i sat down and tried all the machines in my price range. it's perfect for what i wanted. and i have already got a few different feet for it. all of them under $20. A walking foot, a fmq/darning foot and a 1/4 inch foot. i also have the option of upgrading my machine if i want to.
    my recommendation is to go to all of the dealers and look at all the machines in your price range and have a play with the machines to see what you like.some dealers will offer good financing if it's a much more expensive machine or even give you some of the feet you need.
    best of luck.

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  141. I have the Juki and love it. I also have the Janome Memory Craft 6600 and also love it. They are both good for FMQ.

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  142. Our sewing machines broke one after another (the youngest was a 1972 Singer), so we took many test drives at the Husq. dealer. Like one of your comment posters above, we took a variety of fabrics and sandwiches of our own. Also, I didn't just watch the demonstrator sew - I made sure both me and my mother tried some of the needed features so we could see if it "felt comfortable". The dealer didn't have the model we wanted in stock. Later, my mother went back and purchased a much less expensive model with quarter inch foot and loves it. Separate walking foot will push the price up considerably, perhaps as much as $100. Good luck. Wish my oldie Singer could have been fixed but the one part that wasn't metal would cost more than the machine was worth/cost originally.

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  143. I LOVE LOVE LOVE my Juki TL 2010Q. It only does straight stitches, but it does them beautifully. It's got a lot of throat space, a thread cutter and a knee lift, and it can sew through lots of thick layers. I didn't have a dealer nearby, so I bought it from one in AZ, who came highly recommended. Their web site's not much to look at, but they're super helpful over the phone, and answered all of my questions: http://www.raichert.com/TL2010Q/tl2010.html Good luck!

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  144. I've had a few machines but I seriously love my Brother PC-420. (Mine isn't the Project Runway edition but I think they may be the same machine -- it just doesn't have the Project Runway logo on it.) I've had it for over a year now and have yet to have a problem with it. Sews like a dream. Even did my first FMQ quilt on it a couple of months ago. (My other machines pretty much forced me to always do straight lines.)

    I know HSN sells it for about $500 here: http://www.hsn.com/crafts-sewing/brother-294-stitch-computerized-sewing-machine_p-5694090_xp.aspx. Worth taking a peek...

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  145. I started on a Kenmore as well. When mine went belly up a few months ago, I looked around, did my research and went with the Husqvarna Sapphire 870. I got in on Ebay for $1050 shipped with insurance and when I took it in to be serviced they said it barely needed anything done to it. I LOVE this machine. I would take to to bed with me if I could!

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  146. I love my Babylock Quilters Choice. It has served me very well for 5 years now. Has many feet attachments, including a walking foot that I use often. It has lots of work room and an extension table. I love the options that it has without being too over the top. You can often get a used model that has only been used for classroom use at local dealers. It makes the price more affordable. The updated model is now called "Melody". Good luck in your search!

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  147. I spent about a grand on my Viking. I have an Iris that I bought years ago and I have never taken it in to be serviced and it works fine for me. The walking foot was extra (about $100) but I had a coupon and got it from inside a Jo Anns. However, I did sew on my friend Emily's MemoryCraft one night and now I want it (WAY too much for me to spend when my machine works just fine).

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  148. For what it's worth, I'm pretty happy with my BabyLock Audrey. The only issues I've had were user error. If/when I decide to upgrade I'll definitely be checking out other BabyLocks - when I was searching for a good starter machine I noticed that all of their machines seem to have loads more features/ capabilities for the $ than other brands.

    Good luck finding the best option!

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  149. I know that you said Bernina's are mostly out of your price range, and they do have a smaller throat/harp than you are looking for, but I cannot sing the praises of my Bernina enough! I have a 440QE, which was discontinued last year, but many dealers still have some for sale (and some are used!)

    I have quilted up to a twin sized quilt on it without a problem. The FMQ Stitch Regulator and separate walking foor (which is not loud) come with it standard, as do the buttonhole foot, zipper foot, etc (that I rarely use.) My dealer threw in the Embroidery Module for free, although I haven't taken it out of the box, yet.

    I would say that the main reason to buy this machine is the stitches, though. I think of all the machines I tried, the Bernina's have the prettiest stitches. They are beautiful, even when FMQ. I never have had tension issues with it. It has a knee lift that I use sometimes that is quite convenient and it has a 'knot' function that leaves a very pretty start/stop without a backstitch.

    I have not encountered anything my Bernina cannot sew through, including one fun trial where I put a leather bottom on a pair of slippers. My Bernina handled it like a dream, despite my trepidation! My ONLY complaint with the machine is there isn't a bobbin sensor. Seriously?

    Anyway, thought I would share my thoughts with you :) Hope you are having a great week!
    Amanda aka acraftyfox

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  150. Can somebody please tell me why my Bernina 1008 wouldn't work with Top Stitching thread (in bobbin as well) using a Top Stitching needle? That's what I tried to do on a pair of denim jeans last night, spent ages on trying to get it to work but eventually gave up on it.

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