The Free Motion Quilting Project: Quilting Machine Conundrum

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Quilting Machine Conundrum

I decided to take a quick break today from a new design to share with you my very long, very expensive sewing machine history.

Since I get emailed on a daily basis about what machines I've used and what is needed for free motion quilting, I figure this info would help a lot of quilters figure out what to buy, or at least what NOT to buy if you're machine shopping this Christmas.

In the last 5 years I've purchased 6 different sewing machines and plan to buy a 7th just as soon as my wretched kitchen remodel is done.

No, I don't have them all still! I usually sell one to buy another, and have had, at most, 2 machines setting around the house at any given time.

This sounds really bad (and makes me feel a little sheepish at the expense), but in my defense, every time I bought a new machine I thought that that was it. That it would be THE ONE.

I've pretty much decided now that there will never be THE ONE. A perfect machine for piecing, applique, and quilting simply does not exist.

I feel this way because of the different needs quilting has verses piecing and applique. I can piece or applique easily on a $200 machine and my stitches won't look dramatically different from the stitches of a $1000 machine.

But quilting, especially free motion quilting, is a little different. The speed and tension of a machine can really make a difference, particularly when you're stitching at slightly higher speeds in free motion quilting.

This doesn't mean that you can't free motion on a domestic machine, nor does it mean that you MUST spend $1000 in order to be good at free motion.

I've simply found from personal experience that it works best to own 2 machines: one for free motion quilting and one to sew, piece, and applique.

I've also found from personal experience that beginner quilters are very hesitant to spend over $300 on a machine. I understand, I've been there myself.

It's hard to spend more on a machine when you're just getting started, especially if you're not sure if you're going to still be quilting in 5 years.

I look at it this way: chances are if you DON'T buy the machine you want, you WON'T be quilting in 5 years because you'll have given up!

Machine frustration is a very serious issue. It causes perfectly good quilters to quit because a person can only take so much of bad stitches and horrible tension problems before they start to go insane.

If you contemplate murder every time you sit down at your machine, it might be time to consider trying something new. But take your time with your consideration!

There's no use jumping into a new love affair with Mr. Right unless you're absolutely sure he's going to live up to your expectations.

It's so easy to walk into a dealership and be seduced by computerized wizardry. "It zigs! It zags! It quilts your quilts FOR you!" - I absolutely HATE that line.

The fact is, computerized machines don't often make good free motion machines. They make great embroidery machines with beautiful stitches, but can't usually handle free motion.

They're also like buying a multifunction Swiss army knife with 40 different blades and attachments when all you really want is a box cutter. It's a little too much bang for way too much buck.

Of course, it's good to keep in mind that this is all MY OPINION. My opinion is of course going to be biased to a machine that is:

  • Affordable - I've never spent more than $1800 on a machine and I never will. I firmly believe that the best machines for free motion range from $650 - $1000, which is very affordable in comparison to the several thousand dollar longarms.

  • Fast - No, free motion isn't pedal to the metal all the time, but in general, most people do stitch faster while free motion quilting.

  • Simple - I don't need to zigzag, attach a button hole, or set a zipper with a machine designed for free motion. All I need is for the needle to go up and down perfectly - that's it!
I also won't buy a machine without the following features:
  • Decent Throat Plate - This is the distance between your needle and the back of your machine. I won't buy a machine with less than a 8.5" throat. Yes, you can quilt big quilts in less space, but it's not easy and won't make you a very happy quilter.

  • Knee Lifter - Absolutely essential! This is a bar that sits next to your knee and allows to you lift the presser foot without taking your hands off the quilt.

  • Needle Control - When the machine stops, I like the needle to end in the down position. I don't want to have to hit a button or turn the handwheel. I honestly couldn't quilt as well as I do without this function.
The following features are nice extras, but not essentials:
  • Feet included - You're going to need a walking foot and a free motion darning foot. It's real nice if these are included with the machine, but sometimes they're not. You can always purchase a generic foot to fit the shank of your machine, which usually works just as well.

  • Bright Light - I can live without this because I always use a bright stand light next to my machine to increase the light directly on the machine bed.

  • Spool pin and guide - This enables the machine to easily feed large spools of thread. I really like to have it, but can live without it too.

Amazingly enough, when looking for machines I usually have trouble finding all of this info on the specs for the machines! It's like the manufacturers don't think we care about things like throat plate and the feet that are included with the machine!

So if you're searching for a machine and you can't find all of the info about it, call or email until you have all of the information you need. Don't buy a machine because the picture looks like it's big enough!

Of course, if you found a machine with all of these specs, chances are that machine will not be a domestic. It would probably be a semi-professional / semi-industrial mid arm.

Don't let this intimidate you! Mid arms are only slightly bigger and faster than domestic machines. They're also wonderfully affordable and fit perfectly into my $650 - $1000 range.

So why do I feel this way? What is the source for all this high flying opinion?

Well, we only know as much as we have experienced and my opinions are based entirely off of the machines I've used so far.

So let's start at the beginning of my sewing machine history:

My very first sewing machine was a Vintage Singer Stylist 774 that arrived in my home around the age of 8.

A friend of the family decided to "loan" this monstrosity to us, complete with its own sewing cabinet, making this one of the largest pieces of furniture in my parent's house.

I can't say that I immediately fell in love with this machine, or that it was responsible for my dedication and love of quilting and fiber arts.

In fact, I largely blame my lack of machine abilities as a child on this machine. I sewed like crazy through grade school, but almost entirely by hand because this machine was so awful.

With no manual to read and learn from, and no knowledge or understanding of the different feet and attachments that might have been made for it, this sewing machine was mostly just a dumping ground for clutter until I hit high school.

It was my senior year that I finally dusted off this old Singer and put it to good use sewing my prom dress. By this time I had learned a little more about sewing machines and even played with a few at Walmart. I had learned that different feet made certain jobs, like setting in a zipper, easier.

I had talked a lot about buying a new machine, but kept making excuses. I always wanted to get something really nice, but just never seemed to have enough money. I instead decided to max out this Singer with all the bells and whistles I could find in my home town.

To make the machine more portable, I had my dad take it out of the horrible sewing machine cabinet. To this day I never keep any machines in permanent cabinets. I don't like the idea of being able to close the lid and hide my machine away.

After completing my prom dress, I began sewing more often. I even took the Singer to college with me. I was soon sewing more often than I was studying or going to class. It was comforting and the more I played with the machine, the better I got.

But the Singer was beginning to be a limitation. I was now getting into garment sewing more heavily and still could not find a button hole foot for the machine. I also still had no idea how to even execute a button hole because I still didn't have a manual. Buying a new machine was looking better and better.

It wasn't until the fall of 2004 when my fiance and I were planning our wedding that I decided to take the plunge. I had just dropped out of college and wanted to start my own business as a seamstress (talk about delusional!). I figured that a seamstress needed a good machine with lots of different stitches and functions.

So this was the first hard lesson I learned about sewing machines: if it's a choice between durability and gizmos, take durability.

I ended up buying a Brother CS 8072, which was a bottom of the line computerized machine that had a number of fancy stitches, automatic needle up or down, and other nice gizmos and widgets.

But it mostly had a nice price tag. I believe I purchased this machine for around $250.00, which was the absolute most I could spend on the machine.

Going from a mechanical Singer with virtually no functions, feet, or stitches to this Brother was like drinking a margarita on a hot day. It was wonderful! I could do all kinds of things that I had never done before.

So I started sewing very heavily and began to really use my new machine. One of the first projects it was employed to make was my wedding dress. It turned out beautifully and I couldn't have been happier.

You know the part of a story when the clouds roll in and you know bad things are going to happen? It's about that time now.

After my wedding, I began working for a clothing manufacturer and for the first time in my life I was sewing every single day. This had been my dream goal before, but now I was faced with the very real realization that this was going to be very, very hard work.

Unfortunately my Brother machine also sensed the coming storm and gave out on me less than 2 months after I started sewing full time. I can't explain what happened except that the motherboard on that machine must have fried itself to a crisp. No stitches worked, the needle jammed, fabric didn't feed, you name it, it did it (or didn't do it).

To be fair, I still think that Brother machine was a good machine, just like the Singer was a good machine. Both of these machines would probably have worked wonderfully for the average, normal sewing hobbyist.

And I was anything but normal or a hobbyist at this point. I was now sewing 60+ hours a week and chugging out 40 - 60 garments as fast as I possibly could. I needed a machine that could take this work, so I decided to take a look at the mechanical machines offered in my area.

It ended up being a choice between the Bernina 1008 and Viking Prelude 340 and I ended up going with the Viking. This was another terrific little machine that was very affordable at around $300 and it really did pull its weight for awhile. With just 12 basic stitches, it's not going to monogram your dishtowels, but it will sew straight and even for 6 hours without stopping.

Unfortunately my relentless obsession with this seamstress job was leading me to push my machines harder and faster than ever. The Viking did break down after 5 months of heavy use. I took it in and a part was found to have broken. It was fixed and serviced with no problem.

But what was I going to do while the Viking was in the shop? I couldn't just sit around waiting for it to get fixed! I needed a backup machine!!!

So after calling around, I luckily found my local Bernina dealer had a Bernina 830 with little wear, lots of feet, and an excellent price at around $450. This was a very nice price considering all the extras this machine came with. I was also just starting to get into quilting and was able to purchase the piecing foot and walking foot for this machine as well.

The Bernina 830 started as my backup machine that I would use for quilting and sewing when the Viking was in the shop. Eventually it took over my sewing space and became my primary machine and the Viking became the backup.

The 830 had many features that most machines just aren't built with these days: almost all metal parts, large bobbins, easily removable plates for cleaning the inside of the machine, high speed, and extremely simple controls.

Even though this machine was more than 30 years old when I bought it, it was still a solid workhorse. I continued to sew more than 60 hours a week for 8 months on this machine until I finally decided I'd had enough and quit that terrible seamstress job.

For the record, I wish I had quit the week I had started. Some experiences are just meant to happen and I did learn a lot during that time, but it was also one of the most stressful times of my life.

So now I had two sewing machines, and two sergers (Simplicity Serge Pro and Juki MO-654DE) and no longer needed to sew like a mad woman. I was also pregnant with my son and had no desire to be speed sewing anything.

At this point my sewing machine obsession calmed down a bit. I knew I needed to do something with all the extra machines, but I wasn't in a big hurry to do anything at the moment. Quilting was now taking the #1 place in my life and I now viewed garment sewing with extreme distaste.

Eventually I sold the Simplicity Serger online. The experience was so positive that I knew I could sell the other machines as well.

It wasn't until Christmas 2007 that I really started thinking about a new machine.

The Bernina 830 was sewing just as beautifully as ever, but I was pining for the computerized functions the old Brother had had. Specifically a needle up / down function, which is so helpful when stitching on binding or free motion quilting.

I also realized that prices on Bernina machines were going to increase on Jan 1, 2008, so if I was going to buy, it had better be now! In a split second decision, I decided to buy a new Bernina and sell the 830 and Viking on Ebay.

I ended up buying the Bernina Activa 240, a computerized sewing machine with more than 250 stitches and 3 alphabets. I could finally monogram my hand towels! At $1800, this was the most expensive machine I had yet purchased and I ended up using store financing and paid off the machine over the next 10 months.

I really thought when I bought the new Bernina that I would use all the fancy stitches. I really planned on monogramming my hand towels. In the end, however, I never used any of those stitches after the day I brought the machine home.

Fancy stitches are nice, but will you really use them? I've spoken to many quilters who say the same thing - they buy a machine because it comes with so many options, but when they get it home, they never use those extra stitches!

This is definitely a case of too much bang for too much buck. I'd rather spend money on things I will really USE on a daily basis.

The Activa 240 had many features that I really loved. I really loved the extremely bright CFL light and knee lifter. The Bernina 830 had had a knee lifter, but it was prone to falling out of the machine, which was annoying.

I also loved the amazing array of feet and accessories this machine could get. I didn't like the price tags, but could often find good deals on ebay for certain feet I wanted.

But this machine fit me like the glass slipper fit the evil step sisters of Cinderella. I didn't realize it immediately. In fact I think I was in denial about it for a very long time just because the machine was so expensive.

The throat plate on the Activa series was so small, you can barely fit a crib sized quilt under it. I've managed to make it work by bunching the quilt, but my wrist was starting to hurt from all the pulling and tugging.

I was also starting to notice some small problems with the stitching. When free motion stitching, sometimes the thread would skip and not complete the whole stitch. This could have been because I was using very thin Bottom Line thread in the top and bobbin. I decided to get it serviced just to make sure.

After servicing, the machine was back to it's perfect self, but it still wasn't holding up to snuff with free motion. It's pretty sad that a machine can beautifully execute more than 250 stitches, but fail to stitch as nicely when the feed dogs are covered.

I realize now that I was expecting more from the Activa than it could ever give me. It was a great little machine and pieced and appliqued beautifully, but it simply wasn't designed to quilt the way I was wanting to.

While this trouble with the Activa is going on, I was undergoing a metamorphosis within my quilting studio. I had just found two amazing quilters: Karen McTavish and Sharon Schamber.

The influence of these two amazing quilters cannot be described. I was finally able to "see" the quilt top and not be limited by the colors or shapes of the piecing, but to look beyond those barriers and find where the quilting design and texture should go.

This also began my love affair with trapunto and fillers. I started quilting The Duchess, which was my very first show quilt, but the Activa just wasn't cutting it.

The thread snapped every 5 minutes, the bobbin tension was out of whack, and I spent more time screaming and tearing my hair out than quilting. I needed another machine.

I began searching for a simplier, faster, heavy duty machine.

In my searching I found a breed of machines that only straight stitch. They're called "Lockstitch" machines. By taking away the ability to move the needle in any direction but up and down, these machines are far more precise and hold their tension perfectly.

I ended up buying the Juki TL-98 QE for $650 and sold the Bernina Activa on ebay.

So if you're counting, from 2005 when this sewing machine fiasco began, we're on the 5th machine.

When I got the Juki, again, I thought it was going to be the answer to all of my quilting needs. Again, I was disappointed.

The Juki was faster and could definitely handle free motion quilting, but the feet it came with were terrible. It was like a 2 year old designed the feet in honor of his giant lego blocks!

They were big, clunky, and impared my vision almost completely. I ended up modifying the free motion foot, and you can read more about this here.

The 1/4" piecing foot, however, was a different story. It came with this huge guide on the side that I couldn't rip off without damaging the foot (yes, I tried!) I couldn't piece with it!

While I love wholecloth, but I certainly wasn't planning on only doing wholecloth quilts for the rest of my life. The Juki was obviously perfect for quilting, but wouldn't fulfill my needs for piecing or applique.

Isn't it funny the way that fate works? Here I'd had the perfect machine for piecing - the Bernina Activa 240 - and I'd sold it to buy the Juki, which was the perfect machine for quilting, but now I needed another machine for piecing!

I was also starting to realize at this time that I really needed to split my sewing/piecing setup from my quilting setup. Quilting really requires a different table setup that you don't need for piecing, so it makes sense to have 2 machines: 1 for quilting and 1 for everything else.

So a few months after selling the Activa 240, I bought another one.

This time I learned from my earlier mistake and bought the lesser model with less stitches, bells, and whistles. The Bernina Activa 210 remains my piecing, sewing, and applique machine.

Of course I'm still quilting with the Juki TL 98 QE, but I admit that I only "like" this machine. I don't love it.

Semi-industrial machines like the Juki give us the capability to stitch fast and with wonderful precision. In return, they demand from us better thread and care than most machines.

When I first got the machine I struggled with skipped stitches and poor thread tension and qualty. I had to stop mismatching thread, using any ole' needle, and start taking more care with the materials I used on this machine.

Now I quilt only with Isacord Polyester thread in both the top and bobbin and Schmetz 80/12 needles.

So that makes for 6 different machines since 2005. Now, what about the 7th that I'm pining for right now?

Recently I was doing some searching on ebay for a bigger machine. I like the Juki, don't get me wrong, but the 8.5" throat plate does get annoying when I know this machine could easily have been built bigger.

So while searching around, I stumbled across another Juki, the DDL 8700.

This machine has an 11" throat plate (*sigh*), knee lifter, and best of all, will still take the same feet as the TL98QE, so I can continue to use my modified foot or a generic high shank foot if I wanted.

I like this machine most because it seems like the very best mix of speed, industrial heavy dutyness, and convenience (it comes with a table!) The price is also wonderful at around $750.

But what are the limitations?

Well, this machine comes with a table, so it's meant to be used like a domestic sewing machine. The DDL is not something you can put on a frame without serious modification.

It's also not something you're going to be able to pick up and throw in your car for a workshop. This machine isn't exactly portable!

This doesn't bother me because I don't ever plan to quilt on a frame. I like sitting down to quilt. I like quilting the way I learned on a domestic - moving the quilt, not the machine.

This machine will also require different needles and continue to require high quality thread. But I think these allowances are worth it for 11 inches of quilting space!

Another huge downside with this machine is the lack of an automatic needle up/needle down feature.

I just recently found out about this and unfortunately, it's enough of a problem that I'm really wavering in my decision to try this machine. WHY can't we have a machine built with the size and features that we need???

So the jury is out on the DDL. I might stick with the Juki TL98QE and just keep searching or I may try it just to see how it works.

So that's it! You've now read my complete sewing machine history and I think you can understand why I feel the way I do about machines.

In truth, I'd love to be able to sit down at one machine and be able to piece, applique, and quilt without having to go to another machine.

Maybe my dream machine will be built one day, but for now I'm satisfied using the two I have and continually searching for the quilting machine of my dreams. I'll let you know what it's like when I find it!

Let's Go Quilt!

Leah Day


OPPS! I forgot one more machine. I also purchased a Universal something or another at a yard sale for $40 in 2009.

The jury is still out as to whether this machine is worth it or not, but I plan to overhaul it soon and will blog about the process. It's so fun turning junk into treasure!

65 comments:

  1. Interesting article! I had an elna for 20 years then bought a Pfaff in 1995 (after divorce) and loved that machine then for my 50 birthday bought a Bernina 250 E with stitch regulator (which I love) (although haven't used embroidery much) and then bought a Fusion by HQ this summer (which I love). I also have the Juki (like don't love it) but have loaned it out to daughter-in-law. It does have thread and tension issues. It's always interesting to hear about other people stories about why they chose the machine they did.
    Laura T

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  2. Thanks for the info. I am using a regular DSM and am wanting something bigger, maybe a Juki 98Q or Janome 1600 DBX someday. I too ran across the Juki DDL and wondered how it would work as a FMQ machine. If you every have the chance to try it out, please let us know how you like it.

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  3. Very interesting. I agree with you that one machine will never fill all the needs.

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  4. Hi, Leah. I haven't owned machines that were nearly as nice as yours, but did upgrade a couple years ago to a 25 year old Bernina 930 that quilts wonderfully and has all the power, bed space and tension control I could want. And, I have a Pfaff 7570 that does a wonderful job of piecing and applique. I have two different setups and only have to move my piecing machine out of the way to have a huge surface for quilting large quilts. My recommendation to new quilters is buy the best used machine you can afford. If you learn to love quilting as much as I do, you can always upgrade again later. I've been quilting for about 10 years but only realized that I needed to upgrade my machine 2 years ago. It made all the difference and allowed me to free motion, which I couldn't do on my old Singer. Now, I have a featherweight for classes and portability and a treadle for the fun of it (and I can sew if the lights go out???) I'm loving your blog! Lane

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  5. Leah - I LOVED reading your saga - I rarely read through such long articles but I really wanted to see how things turned out!!

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  6. I started sewing as a little girl of 5, on my mom's Kenmore machine. It worked fine for 15+ years, then Mom bought a Singer that she still has.

    When I got married, I took the Kenmore with me - it did a quarter-inch seam allowance beautifully. But apparently I quilt a lot and I killed the machine about 4 months after getting married.

    So crying, at 11pm at night, my poor husband took me to Walmart and we bought a $200 Singer to hold me together until I could get THE machine, whatever that was.

    Another 4 months later, I was the owner of a Bernina 150 QE from eBay. That machine was SO nice after putting up with the Singer (which I returned to Walmart and got all my money back).

    The biggest issues I run into with the Bernina is with my free-motioning tension. It's a wonderful piecer, but it's just not always able to hold up to my free-motioning demands. I've own that machine for almost 5 years now. It has a couple decorative stitches, but I'm practical enough to know I'll never do embroidery.

    But I'd sure love a better free-motioning set up. Since I live in an apartment, I realize that having room for a long arm machine is several years away. So do I invest in something like the Juki TL-98, or save for something bigger like the APQS George? 20 inches of throat space would be a dream after my 7.75"! And yes, I've done queen sized quilts in that space.

    Until I do decided what machine can meet my needs for the next 10+ years for quilting, I won't be buying anything. Yeah, I'm one of those people who want to invest in long term only. Hence my 6 year old computer, 10 year old car, 12 year old Bernina, 9 year old sewing chair... it drives my husband insane how many years I can get out of stuff! :)

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  7. Hi-I don't think the newer Bernina's (although I haven't tried the newest latest and greatest) that are made out of plastic sew as well as the 1000 series. I have a 1090, bought new, and an 1130 (I bought on eBay). I can use them both for free motion and piecing with good results. I occasionally use some of the decorative stitches, but mostly use the blanket stitch for applique. The feed dogs are close enough together that it makes a really good stitch. Add a single hole (straight stitch) throat plate, and you really have a nice machine. It doesn't meet your larger throat space wishes, but I really like them, especially if you drop them into a table so you have a large flat surface, and the quilt doesn't catch on the edges of the machine or it's extension plate, By the way, I did give up trying to quilt on my DSM, and bought a long-arm, stand-up machine. It does spoil you, but wonderful quilts are quilted with DSMs. Good luck on your search.

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  8. Thank you for the excellent ideas and opinions on all of these machines! Right now I'm trying to determine what my first purchase will be...a machine so that I can free-motion, or a better piecing machine...

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  9. You have me thinking that I may have overspent on my sewing machine purchase. So far, I love it, though. The only problem I have with it is the throatplate size. Well, an auto thread cutter would be nice, too, but not an essential. I had been thinking that I needed the new (very expensive) Bernina 830. That comes with a stitch regulator, too, and I really like that. Hmm. Something to think about.

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  10. Very interesting, as well as coincidental! I have been fm'ing more and thought I might get a Juki. I have also been trying to get some reviews on differnt machines and you gave me the best I have found! I currently quilt and piece on my Viking Sapphire 830. It has a 10" throat, the reason I traded in my original Viking (an entry-level machine). I am quite happy with my Viking. I do not have to oil it, but I have serviced every year. My sewing machine serviceman knows me and how I use the machine. He has 30 years experience has said the Sapphire is one of the best machines with the least problems of any he has worked on. I agree no single machine can fill every need, I am just very glad I have stuck to my guns when in a shop and they try to upsell an embroidery machine. Yes, they make beautiful pictures, but I am a quilter!

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  11. I'm reading your blog with GREAT interest because my DH is shopping for a machine. I have a Husqvarna #1+ that he bought for me 10 years ago. I have loved that machine, although I really haven't used the embroidery and fancy stitch functions much. But I do love it for FMQ,because I haven't had any problems with tension. I have adjustable speed, which I like, and needle control. Now, he wants a machine for himself that does the fancy stitches (I'm not sure what he's planning on doing with them). He's looking at a used Designer 1 that is about 5 years old. It was built in Sweden, not China as I think newer ones are. I was in a LQS and I tried the Bernina 830 with the BSR attachment that is very fancy. I didn't find that my stitches were any better with the attachment that when I moved the fabric on my own. I'm looking at all the newer machines with the larger throat but I am not convinced they are built as well. So that's MY dilemma. A good machine with smaller throat or the unknown quantity of the newer "quilter" models with the bigger throat. Sorry for the long response, but it's a good topic.

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  12. My MIL bought a Bernina (not sure which model) with a stitch regulator and she had soooo many problems with it. Mainly it didn’t regulate the stitches. I think she may have gotten a lemon, lol.

    I have one machine a Brother CS-6000i that I use for piecing and quilting. I’ve owned it a few years and it works fine. Never had one problem with it. The next machine I purchase will be used primarily for quilting and I’ll keep the Brother for piecing. My two requirements are more throat space and automatic needle down feature.

    I do have a dedicated studio and think that the AQS George would be awesome to own but I’m still in the research phase.

    Thanks for writing this. Anyway, I enjoyed the read.

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  13. Thank you so much for the information. I just discovered your blog yesterday, and I'm blown away by the amount of information that you have offered. I will be waiting to hear your comments when you do purchase the new Juki. I have an Artista 180 at the moment and I've been waffling for the past couple of years about a new machine. I really want more throat space and don't think I could be happy without the needle
    up/down and the knee lift, but the new Bernina 820 and 830 are much more machine than I really think I need (and way more money than I want to spend). I do use the machine embroidery, but since I've focused on quilting in the past couple of years, I'm using it less. I'm really starting to think that more than one machine is the way to go! Then I just have to re-design my sewing space to figure out where to put multiple machines......

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  14. great post! Last December I bought a top of the line Pfaff, after years of insisting I didn't need an embroidery machine, spur of the moment I purchased it. That brings my count up to 3 - a HV Lily, a HV Mega Quilter, & the Pfaff (+ a serger and 2 old machines that are on loan to friends). The Pfaff does get used for embroidery (I make custom dance dresses), but I really dislike it for piecing. The Mega Quilter is heavy to move around, lovely and fast, but due to space constraints, does not often get pulled out. That leaves me using the Lily for most of my piecing and free motion. I've gotten quite used to it, and with practise - and using your samples and videos - am getting a much more even consistent stitch. Ideal? no, the throat is much smaller than the Mega Quilter, much slower, and because it is a multifunctional machine not as good as a "specific" machine would be. As my husband likes to say "multi-functional things try to hard too do too much and end up being inferior."
    Thanks again for a very interesting article!

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  15. I thought I was the only one who was searching for the "perfect" machine and also realized that no such beast exists! I wish we quilters could pick and choose the features that we really wanted(and that worked beautifully)in a sewing machine, just like you can choose the type and color floors, counter tops, etc. when you have a house built. I have 4 machines. I mostly use my Brother Nouvelle 1500S (similar to your Juki)for quilting and piecing. I also have a Brother Innovis 80 computer machine that was afforable without too many bells and whistles. I have my old Bernina 830 and an old Singer 301A. I use the later two mostly for taking to classes and retreats. If you ever find the one perfect machine that does it all please let us know!

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  16. Have you gone to the Juki yahoo groups? There's a few on there that have a 'stretched' juki.

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  17. Very interesting story! I have a Bernina 180 that I love for piecing, but needed more throat space for quilting. So I bought a Juki TL98Q and love the extra throat space, and speed, but I'm having trouble getting the tension "just right".
    There also seems to be some variation between machines, because (like the woman who had to add a block of wood to her quilting foot to keep the foot from mashing the quilt) when I lower my quilting foot, there is no clearance for the quilt to glide underneath it. It touches the throat plate even with the feed dogs lowered and clamps against the quilt. I can only move the quilt while it's hopping in the "up" position. I currently use Sharon Schamber's stippling foot, but it is also very close to the throat plate so it won't clear bulky spots where seam allowances build up. I'm planning on modifying my Juki quilting foot like you did, but I'll have to add the spacer to give some clearance for the quilt. I don't know why some machines have some clearance, and others don't - but there seems to be a discrepency. I'd be very interested to know how you make out with the new Juki DDL 8700! Please keep us posted!

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  18. Thanks for such an informative post! I'm onto my 2nd machine, and it was only the other day that I realised that it wasn't the last machine I would own, At least when I eventually convince my Hubby That I need a new one I will know what To look for! Last time All I knew that I needed, was to be able to lower the feed dogs and change the stitch length!

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  19. Thanks for such a thorough description of many machines. I've been pining for the Juki thinking it would be my best option for FM quilting, but maybe not. I love my Pfaff 7550 for piecing but it's free motion/darning foot doesn't give good visibility for quilting in my opinion. I sure hope you check out a Janome at some point cause I've been wondering about them.

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  20. Leah - What a great post. A dilemma that all quilters have - the perfect machine.

    I have a Bernina 1230, one of the last with all metal parts, but computerised too, so has the needle down thing, plus some fancy stiches. LOVE my machine, but the arm is just not big enough. I am coveting a Juki, I could have got a DDL 2nd hand for $800NZD a few weeks ago, but need to prove that making quilts can make money first.

    I do have a Bernina 117, which is inset in a table, from 1957, that has a much bigger arm (9 inches I think), and sews beautifully, but I can't get a darning foot for it :-(

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  21. hai..
    i want to ask question..
    is it the last industrial machine Juki can do the free motion?
    I have one but i don't know how to use it for the free motion technique..
    is it i have to buy the foot?
    available the free motion foot?
    or just using the normal foot?
    or what? can u tell me the way..
    thank you in advanced..

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  22. Greetings from Albany, Western Australia. Loved the article; I read it all the way through. I sewed for 5 kids, curtains for two houses and many weddings and balls on my old Elna Lotus, which I still have, now 37 years old!! A couple of years ago when I starting quilting I bought a Janome machine specifically for quilting and it is great. Bernina is very, very expensive in Australia - about double the prices you are quoting. My Janome was about half the price of the comparable Bernina and is great for piecing etc. I think I need to get better at free motion quilting (as a technique) before I can comment on how the Janome goes.
    Sam

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  23. I had to laugh at your machine history...sort of made me think of me LOL

    I have owned several machines over the years,including a JukiTL9Q before the one I have now ...I just purchased a Baiely17...it has a 17 neck... no it does not have a knee lift... it can be used as a sit down free motion which is how I am using it, it has a foot pedal where some long necks do not and the only way you can use them is on a frame... The Bailey can be used sit down or on a frame...They are not even close in $$ to other long necks! Much more reasonable.

    My DH built it into a table for me... they also have a 13" & 15" neck available as well ...its a heavy duty work horse type machine...Metal bodied not coputereized ...its a no bells and whistles machine that any good machine person could work on should you ever need that... that is what I was looking for...it should last for years and years...its not computerized or digital in anyway...I just got it and so far I am very pleased with it.

    I have used even the inexpensive Essetial Thread from Connecting Thread on it and it just buzzes right a long...so far any thread I have put on it, has been a go with no problems...

    When I had my Juki on a frame I could only use Poly embroidery threads on it and not have thread breakage issues... I think it was the tork of being on the frame that was putting extra stress on the thread... it did good with those type threads but cottons were a no go...frame quilting is not the same as sit at free motion quilting...it for sure adds other issues...I found for myself I enjoyed sit down free motion better :O)... but I wanted a longer neck!

    There is a Yahoo group for Bailey machines if you want to read others opinions.. I can't even tell you what its like to go from a Juki8.5" to a 17" inch neck!

    Just google Baiely quilting machine and you will find their site...you may already be up on them :O) ...just thought I would toss them out there after reading your post...

    I piece on a inexpensive brother :O) ...

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  24. Awesome post! I have a new Janome 11000SE which has a horizontal bobbin and is fantastic for embroidery and barely ok for piecing and FM. I really thought it was me until I pulled out my old Bernina 830 I purchased in 1984. So it FMs great by comparison. I am very disappointed in my Janome atm and plan to go back to the dealer in hopes that they can help me adjust something to make it better. I bought the special bobbin holder and feet for FM so we well see if it can be fixed.

    I had read somewhere that a vertical bobbin is better

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  25. I have been machine quilting since 1984---Have tried numerous machines on the market. The best so far is the Brother QC 1000 It just does EVERYThING so well.Had the Janome 6600 beore, it doesn't compare-- I now have a gammill, but use my QC for everything I can. Love it, love it,
    Pat

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  26. Leah, great post! I have a Janome 1600P-DBX that is much like the Juki you have. It is semi industrial, 9 X 5 throat space and as the model number implies it stitches 1600 spm. Free motion and some piecing is all I use it for. It is a straight stitch machine.

    I look forward to your emails and learn a new style of FMQ each week. Keep up the good work.
    Zimmy

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  27. I have three sewing machines. When asked once by my uncle why I had so many I answered that each one did certain tasks better than the other. I compared it to him having a dozen different saws in his workshop--they all just cut wood don't they?--but in different ways.

    I free motion quilt on my Singer 15-91 from 1949. I can't tell you how much I love it. It's one of those thirty pound black machines. I bought it for $25 at a thrift store and fixed it up myself. I'm in such a habit of grabbing the handwheel and twisting it forward to bring the needle down when I stop it doesn't bother me. I would hate to have to pick out a new sewing machine.

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  28. Leah,

    I can't thank you enough for always sharing such wonderful information! I posted a link to your site on my own website today.

    Regards,
    Audra at auraquilts.com

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  29. I too agree that you need more than one machine. My favorite to piece on is the featherweight. I have three of these but we also have a home in NC...and there is a story behind having 3 of them.

    I grew up with a Singer stretch and sew and I think it is a 620. It pieces beautiful also. I purchased an older Elna Jubilee(25th anniversary machine) to take to classes before I got the Featherweights The Elna also pieces wonderful. I got the idea when my granddaughter was born that I had to have an embroidery machine. I was rarely sewing at that point. She is 4 and I have aquired 6 other machines along the way. I bought the Bernina 200, had it upgraded to the 730. I don't like it for piecing because of the 9mm feed dogs. It is hard for me to manage a good 1/4 inch seam. However, I think it is just me because others don't seem to struggle. It is wonderful for embroidery and other sewing. Once you sew on a Bernina it is like no other machine. About a year later, I decided I wanted another Bernina so I could piece and embroider at the same time. This is before the Featherweights. I found a Bernina 150QE on Craig's list with the cabinet and over 500 yards of quilt store fabric. yep, I scarfed it up too. I love pieceing on it and doing the freemotion on it. I have the BSR on my 200, but I still can freemotion better on the 150. Yes, I do have a husband who cannot understand why I need all these machines even though I do take one or two with me when we travel to NC. I have promised my hubby to sell one of the featherweights...but I have to find someone who will oil, clean and grease "Viola" and love her as much as I do. You do tend to get attached to these ole girls. As far as a beginner sewer, I would highly recommend finding a older all metal machine for $200-300 rather than buying the newer Singer, Kenmore, etc that you see at Walmart and other retail stores. With my daughter and my niece, we found so many issues with broken threads, tension, skipped stitches, etc. Now they both have used Berninas and they are both know the value of a well made machine. Until I came across Leah's blog, I have never been successful doing freemotion even after I took classes. Several weeks before I found Leah, I bought a previously loved Tin Lizzie, but it is not set up yet...soon I hope. I feel any practice with Leah will only enhance my skills on the Lizzie. My hat is off to you Leah for sharing your enthusiasm and knowledge so freely. I know at least 10 to 12 quilters that are following you and learning so much. Thanks again for all you do.

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  30. Hi Leah and thanks for sharing your expertise and quilting experiences. It is a great blog. I have been thinking about getting a Juki TL-98Q for FMQ since I have heard good thigs about it from other quilters. My question is. Where can you buy one for $650.00-$750.00? Here in So. California, I have to pay $900.00, best price. And that is before sales tax of 8.75%. If you have a good source, please let me know. Thanks, Berit

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  31. Sew Many Stitches - I'd be a great candidate for a Featherweight adoption program!

    I've never owned one before, but I know many quilters drool at the very mention of those classic singers.

    Berit - I actually purchased my Juki online at sewvacdirect.com

    Give them a call and see if they will cut you a deal. They knocked $50 off my machine just for calling and asking nicely.

    So long as the online store you buy from is not located in CA, you won't have to pay state sales tax. I'm sure they will change that law one of these days, but for now you're golden.

    Let's go quilt!

    Leah

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  32. Leah,
    I'm new to your site and blog, but after getting your FABULOUS "kit" with the slider and gloves, I took the leap I've been pondering for a year and purchased a Juki DDL 8300N last week.

    I love this machine and live in fear of it at the same time. It's so fast and so powerful that I literally anticipate sewing myself into it at any given moment. Seriously. SO....my question to you and other Juki industrial users is:

    If you have discovered any "secret" ways to modify/change/control the speed on yours, PLEASE, for the love of all that is holy...SHARE your secrets? AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

    So far, I've lowered the pedal to "almost" parallel before the motor engages and then put some firm wood pieces underneath it in an attempt to restrict my foot's ability to press it further down while allowing it to run at a good, controllable, less insane speed. Anyone? Bueller?

    LeAnn
    P.S. The 11 inches of throat space alone is worth every emergency room visit that lurks in my future!

    P.S.S.-Are there any free motion filler patterns that would be best to "practice" on than others? That would build "hand-eye-movement" skills faster or better?

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  33. Quin - Nice! Do you like the machine other than the high speed?

    Yeah, I'm starting to think that 5,000 stitches per minute might be a touch excessive...

    Have you tried lifting your foot? I sit with my heel on top of a phone book so that the ball of my foot sits more firmly over the top of the foot pedal.

    You should balance your body by putting a phone book under the other foot as well. It will feel weird, but your body will be more in balance that way.

    As for practicing the speed/movement ratio, I'd say Wobbly cosmos, jagged cosmos, matrix, and shadow waves would all be great to start.

    Just make up several fat quarter sandwiches and practice stitching long straight lines, then a wobbly line, then echo, then travel.

    Do that over and over until you and the machine are keeping up with one another and your stitches are consistently formed.

    Keep in touch with how your machine quilting progresses with this machine!

    Leah Day

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  34. Hi Leah
    As someone may have pointed out in the 33 comments so thus far; the Brother machine you have a pic of is the PC2800 (which incidentally is the only machine I have). I bring it up because 1. It's the machine I have and 2. it did cost a bit more but is far and away an awesome machine for both the home 'ready to wear' sewer as well as a great quilting machine. I have had this machine since 2003 or 4 and for the most part have loved every inch of it. I realize you aren't asking for endorsements but I wanted to clarify that. My machine has been 'on' pretty much all that time sewing one thing or another sewing thru all kinds of stuff & made some award winning quilts! And for the most part has handled all jobs with ease and adaptablility. Like you, I am now in search of a machine that I won't 'outsew' when it comes to free motion now that my skills have required better than an 'intermediate' machine for such a purpose. Your advice is sound & I will be seeking the simplest machine I can find for that. Thank you!

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  35. Stacy - Actually the picture is the Juki TL 98QE.

    Here's something really interesting I've learned lately: companies will take the same machine body and change only a little color here or there and brand it differently.

    For example, I was searching around for some more info about the Bernina Industrial 950 and it turns out this is not made by Bernina at all, but Tacsew.

    I think they do this pretty often with the semi-industrial and industrial machines. We just need to find one that has pretty much the same features as my Juki and your Brother, but with bigger throat space.

    Then again, throat space is really just a convenience thing. In all honesty, I'm really pretty satisfied with the Juki, but it never hurts to keep your eyes open!

    Let's go Quilt!

    Leah

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  36. Leah,

    Well, the results are in!

    After taking my DDL 8300N in to have a servo motor put on it instead of the clutch motor-I can finally report that I absolutely LOVE my "new" machine! The difference in motors is staggering.

    First, the servo motor does not hum...at all....zero sound until you start sewing and even then, very little sound. My dealer recommended not turning the lamp off independently-so if the light is on, the machine is on. Safety issue for sure since it's so quiet.

    Second, the motor has a "speed dial" on it underneath, and it has 4 different settings. Each setting has a slow/low speed and a topped out speed, so it's not like it will only go in 4 different speeds. You can accelerate within each speed setting a little.

    Third, the foot pedal is way smoother and easier to press without the clutch. In fact, it's so smooth I actually find myself making "stitches" without realizing that I've engaged the needle. Learning curve.

    Fourth, after an entire day of "playing" with it and practicing different movements and designs and speeds-I have yet to break a thread even ONCE. Before, with the speed bursts, I was snapping threads every 60 seconds and was ready to kill myself.

    So now I can actually see myself free motion quilting up a storm and having a blast doing it. I cannot even imagine trying to home quilt with this machine with the original clutch motor in it....ever. And I don't care HOW good of a quilter anyone is...it would be just completely impossible, not to mention dangerous!

    Just wanted to let you know what we went through to get it to where I can use it and love it and create with it and I look forward to it purring along for decades. It's a phenomenal machine and I snuck away from my family several times today (Christmas day) to play with it some more!

    Happy Holidays and thanks for all you do! I'll be ordering again soon-need some GOOD thread and another slider!I love the one I ordered so much I now want one for my "other" machine so I'm not moving it back and forth and the gloves....how did anyone every do this before they were invented?

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  37. I just came across your blog. Thank you so much for this article. You said almost word for word several things I have said or thought. I started out on my mom's 1960's Kenmore. From there I bought a machine at Aldi for $75. Turns out it was a Janome in off brand clothes. It gave up after about 3 years of moderate sewing. At which time I discovered the joys of quilting. I tend to use more uncoventional quilting materials (recycled items) more than cotton. This required a heavy duty machine, which I found in the form of a Kenmore cast iron from the 1970's. While I drool over the other quilters' Pfaff's, Vikings & Bernina's, that is just not in the budget right now. Often I say, until I become a world famous quilter and they "give" me machines, I may have to settle for things under $100. ;) Meanwhile, this article has given me a lot to think about and research for when I do eventually afford something more. Good to know I'm not the only one searching for "The ONE".

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  38. My goodness, what a great article. I know your research and testing took some time as well as this wonderful review. I'm so glad I took the time to read it because I was getting ready to buy the Bernina Activa 240 to replace my Janome 6500! The Janome has a 9 inch space for my quilt and the knee lift, plus a whole lot more. NOW, I'm keeping it. I bought it new several years ago and I do love it, just thought I needed to upgrade. I think it's from watching Alex & Ricky with their really fancy Bernina. After reading your awesome article, however, I am now perfectly content with my Janome 6500 and my Viking Designer SE. Thanks for the time you took to do this and to share it with all of us. Your blog is MY FAVORITE! You go girl!

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  39. Leah I totally LOVE your blog and videos. However as a vintage sewing machine collector and restorer (I've taken formal repair classes) there seems to be a bit of confusion over the meaning of 'throat plate.' The blog lists several times that this area is the part of the machine between the needle and the right side but this space is formally known as the 'harp.' The 'throat plate" is actually the metal plate beneath a sewing machine's needle and presser foot. It has an opening for the needle and feed dogs. The plate next to it, that opens to access the bobbin, is the 'slide' or 'bobbin' plate.

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  40. Hi Herabird - Opps! I guess I'll really have to remember to say "harp" from now on.

    The weird thing is, most sewing machines have that space illustrated with "11 inch throat" so I always assumed that's what it was called.

    I'm planning to buy a new machine soon so I'll update this post and actually use the right terms this time!

    Let's go quilt,

    Leah Day

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  41. Very interesting article. I bought my first machine 22 years ago - Bernina 1015 - nothing fancy but handles free motion quilting really well - downside the throat plate is too small. Recently updated to Husqvarna 870 quilter with many decorative stitches and bigger throat plate but it's hopeless at free motion quilting! A textile artist I spoke with praised highly her Husqvarna straight stitch machine with semi- industrial motor. So I may be selling one of my machines...

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  42. I SO needed to hear this! No one ever acknowledges the necessity for more than one machine. All we ever hear is the one "perfect" machine.

    Now I don't feel so guilty about owning 4 machines that each do something I need beautifully. I would still rather own just one, but ya know..it just doesn't work that way.

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  43. I also needed that post...Thanx so much! I have the Pfaff Quilt Expression, but I do feel that I need something that is used only for quilting. I was checking the Grand quilter, but I'll go through the lock stitch models first... Thanx again!

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  44. Great topic. I too, am searching for the ultimate and inexpensive free motion quilting machine. Have wondered if anyone is using the industrial Juki DDL 8300 machine and see that Quinn has made the leap.
    Can you tell me if you free motion quilt on it and what modifications you made in order to do so.... ie: settings, feet, dropping feed dogs.
    Quinn, if you're out there and away from your
    machine : ) any info would be great. Nice to know someone else out there is searching for the same thing.
    Thanks again!

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  45. I just ran across your blog,very interesting. I have been looking at buying the Brother NX2000 (Laura Ashley). I loved the way it sewed when I tried it out but of course that was only on a sample. I loved the scissors that cuts your threads but I just realized after checking it only has an 8-inch throat. What are your recommendations now for a machines? Did you go ahead and purchase a new machine as I noticed you said in about June I think? Anyway just wondering as I think maybe this is not going to be as good an idea as I originally thought. I would love some feedback.

    Joyce N

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  46. Wow, look at all these long comments. You really hit a nerve with this post!
    I have the Juki 98Q and I love it. It doesn't do fancy stitches etc, but it is fast and powerful and does a great job for me. It's exactly what I wanted. I bought it online (no tax, no shipping fee) about 5 years ago for $800. The throat size is good, but the bigger the better. Thanks for this post.

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  47. Hi: I'm contemplating a Juki TL98Q, so I'm interested in what you have to say with it. I agree that some machines are great for piecing and others for free motion. My old Elna SP can sew through anything, but it is terrible at any sort of quilting, no matter what I try. I had better success with free motion on my test drive of the Juki than all my years at the Elna. where is the link to modifying the Juki foot?

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  48. Interesting reading of the saga of sewing machines! I had a Stylist as well - bought it to do draperies and it was a good machine for heavy duty. I started with a Featherweight given to me as a wedding present (1968) and I sewed kids clothes and curtains with no problem and I loved it. After my divorce in 1993m I treated myself to a Viking215 and have used it for piecing but no heavy duty. I now have a Viking Sapphire for quilting and so far so good; haven't used it much so can't report on it's ability.
    Glad to hear that quilting is doable with a regular machine and the Juki sounds intriguing. I would think an industrial machine would be the ticket with a large throat plate. Thanks for such an interesting blog!
    Sandi

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  49. Ha! Like everyone else, I have multiple machines. Right now I have a Bernina 440 which I love but don't really care for the stitch regulator. For quilting I use a HandiQuilter 16 sit down. Love it! Study and easy to use. It has a table specially built for it. I'm fortunate enough to have recently claimed two rooms! One for sewing and one for quilting because they really are very different activities and require different set ups! Have a Janome for traveling because its lighter. These machines absolutely do everything I might need to do, but the problem is my susceptibility to advertisements and love of gadgets. I see the adds and think I could do even better with a bigger long arm, stitch regulator, etc, when what I know I really need is practice, practice, practice. Have done about 20 quilts on my HQ now and can see such a difference between first and last quilts. I don't think a stitch regulator is necessary at all and they probably cause more problems than they are worth.

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  50. I have a Juki-DDL8700 and you have inspired me to order a high shank FM foot. I'll let you know how it goes! I see someone posted a video on you tube showing them using their juki ddl-8700 to free motion. I've been frustrated with my Featherweight (the only machine I've quilted on thus far).

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  51. I tried Free Motion on my juki DDL 8700 tonight! At first it was horrible... but a few minutes later the stitches were more even and nice. I was doing loops and it's going to take some practice. The worst part was that the thread kept breaking! But I will get some better thread in there and try again. If I can resolve that this will be a nice machine to work on!

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    Replies
    1. Hey, I'm considering investing in a ddl 8700 and I'm wondering how it will cope with regular, non free motion quilting? Could I fit a walking foot or similar? Any help would be great, I am too poor to make an ill thought out purchase! :-)

      Rowan

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  52. I have the Bernina Record 830. I am burning holes in my floor with the foot pedal. It just gets blazing hot after FMQ for only 30 mins. I have had the pedal and machine serviced by my local Bernina Dealer. The capacitor was removed from the foot pedal.
    I purchased an after market pedal that was supposed to work with my machine but it did not work even though it plugged in just fine & dandy.
    Please respond with HELP!

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  53. JeanAnn - I also had a similar problem with a Bernina Record 830. Yes, a compatible pedal can be found that works. You'll need to order it from a Bernina dealer and yes, it will be expensive ($200 - $400).

    Good luck!

    Leah

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  54. Leah, thank you, so much for this article and your video about the under $500 machine, the Janome HD1000. Now I know which machine to ask my husband to get me for Christmas!!!

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  55. Leah, thank you so much for the article and video for the best machine to buy/use for free motion quilting that's under $500! Now I know what to tell my husband to get me for Christmas!! Was looking at the computerized kind with all the extra stitches, and saw how you recommended that it wasn't such a good idea because all that sewing/quilting will eventually burn up the circuit boards. You just possible saved me a bunch of money! Thanks!

    Theresa M

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  56. thanks for the scoop leah! I'm considering the juki 8700, just not sure if I want to make the commitment to it. I'm also looking at the juki 2000 semi industrial. Have you purchased an 8700 yet? I'd love to hear your thoughts. :)

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  57. Well, that was a lengthy post and definitely a heads up and just what I needed to know with y secret wonderings about my quilting conundrum! I have a lovely baby lock machine and I love quilting when I making little things but a baby quilt is a big thing on this machine and I was having a horrible time!! My daughter asked if I liked quilting why was I cursing so much! LOL. Not bad cursing, I'm not a sailor! : D

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  58. Leah, please help! I'm loving the look of the ddl 8700, and it's within reach for me price wise, just! I need it to do double duty though, free motion and also normal straight line or in the ditch quilting, not with a free motion foot. (I presume it will be able to piece as well, but if it can't I have back ups that I'm happy with)
    Is it capable of this? Is it possible to fit it with a walking foot?
    I really want a machine which is basic but gives me the maximum amount of space possible!

    Thanks.
    Rowan :-)

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  59. Rowan - I'm sorry, but I honestly don't know. I was considering that machine at the time, but never ended up investing in it due to lack of information. I'd continue researching and maybe call Juki to find a dealer in your area you can talk to.

    Cheers,

    Leah

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  60. Thank you very informative. Thank for your tutorials as well, you tube is my friend for all of those. My machine that I love is Pfaff 7550. Love it totally. Throat area could be larger, but I guess there is not any perfect machines out there, unless one orders one to their specs.. Now there may be an idea. Thanks!! Nancy

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  61. Leah - I know this post is old, but it sounds like you would love the Juki DDL8700-7 - it has a servo motor and has programmable needle up/ down, back tacking, auto-thread cutter etc. It also still fits within your price range :-)

    This is what I am considering, but was having a hard time finding out if it would take a darning foot (which is how I ended up stumbling across this post).

    Just throwing it out there :-)

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  62. Hi Leah,
    I read your review about the Horizon and was wondering, is that a machine you'd recommend for piecing AND fmq? This post said you wouldn't spend more than $1800 on a machine but I can't seem to find a price for the horizon anywhere online. I think it might be in the $4000 range but I don't know. I have a Janome 6600 that's about 8 years old and has been skipping stitches. I had it serviced twice this year but it still skips periodically so it's time to get a new machine. Would you go with a Juki or Horizon? I kind of think my biggest consideration should be how much harp space I can get for the money. 11 inches sounds good. Thanks,
    Jamie

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    Replies
    1. Hi Jamie - It's interesting how time changes perspective! In 2009, I couldn't possibly spend $1800 on a sewing machine. Now in 2014 my limit is around $6000. So in the time since I quilted on 2 Horizons (7700 and 8900) and then switched back to Juki with the TL2010Q. I found over time that the horizon machines are nice, but the extra space does not make a big difference when the machine itself is so bulky you can barely see around the front of it. I found myself really craning my neck and back around to see, which over time created a lot of neck and back issues.

      So these days, I would advise to go as big as you can afford, even if that means moving to a table mounted midarm like the HQ Sixteen or Babylock Tiara. It's not so much the space as the VISIBILITY these machines allow all around the needle and good lighting to see what you're doing.

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  63. So comprehensive & so enlightening. Thank you

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