I bought my primary sewing machine — a Janome HT2008 — at a sewing expo in March 2008. I’d been sewing on an inexpensive, no-frills Brother machine I’d purchased at a big discount store. The extent of my research into the HT2008 was scanning the reviews on PatternReview.com (thumbs up) and a quick Google search to see if the expo price was much of a bargain (it was).
Fast forward to 2015, where the research leading to the purchase of my new sewing machine took about three years.
Why the difference?
I’m often asked for sewing machine recommendations because of my job. Teaching and working at a quilt shop, plus writing sewing books puts me in contact with a lot of people who want to sew or already sew. My discussion about what machine to buy nearly always starts with the question: “What do you want to sew?”
In 2008, I had an inkling that I wanted to write a book and I knew I wanted a sewing machine that would allow me to continue to make bags and clothes. What I did not realize at the time was that the type of sewing I do would change, as would the amount of time I spent sewing.
I came to realize I needed a sewing machine that could handle the volume of work that I do, but also had some key features that weren’t available on my little Janome. The two big features I really wanted were an auto thread cutter and more harp space.
The thread cutter is just one of those things that seems so trivial but playing around with the feature on my friends’ machines made me realize how useful it really could be, especially for someone who tends to forget to trim her threads. Ahem.
Harp space — the room from the right of the needle to the body of the sewing machine — really makes a big difference when you sew oversized things. While I do make the occasional quilt, I’m just as likely to sew a historical costume with yards and yards of fabric. Both of these types of project would benefit from a much larger harp than that of my HT2008.
Initially, I looked at machines — specifically Janome — that had all the features of my existing machine as well as the ones I decided were a priority. And I quickly found that the cost of those machines was really a bit more than I was certain I wanted to pay.
I absolutely believe in investing in the best tools for the job you do and this is no exception. But many of the machines I found were really more machine than I needed. I don’t need a built-in alphabet: I have an embroidery machine. I don’t need 1,000 stitch varieties: I need the three I regularly use (straight, zig-zag, buttonhole).
The more I researched, the more information I found that led me to a simple conclusion: I needed two machines.
That might sound a little crazy but there’s a method to my madness. In a commercial clothing manufacturing facility, each piece of equipment does exactly one thing. My late mother worked for the Arrow shirt company as a band creaser. Her job was to crease the neck band of men’s shirts. That’s all she did and that’s all her equipment did. I have already applied this philosophy to other tools in my sewing room: I have a serger and a separate coverstitch, rather than a combo machine, plus an embroidery-only machine, as well.
And thus the decision was made to invest in a straight-stitch only machine with a separate garment-sewing machine for my other needs. I quickly narrowed down my search to two machines: the Janome 1600P-QC and the Juki TL2010-Q. Reviews led me to realize that either would work well for what I needed, so it really just came down to price.
That’s how I found myself sitting in front of a 2010 at the most recent sewing expo, putting it through its paces with a stack of fabric samples I’d brought from home. Soft n Stable sandwiched between fabric.Timtex sandwiched between fabric. Red satin coutil. I chatted with Karen Pharr, Juki’s sewing educator (really, Juki ambassador) about what I do and what I was looking for.
I came, I sewed, I bought.