I know I've kept you all waiting, but I really wanted to take a little time with the machine and get to know her before posting something that made me seem like the ultimate authority on this machine (which I'm not, by the way!)
I still haven't tried out all the many features of the machine, but I have put her through a good selection of piecing, applique, and free motion projects so here's the skinny on this machine:
- Stitch quality and tension - I'm not a big fan of "auto" tension on most machines simply because it rarely takes into account different types of thread (metallic, invisible nylon, etc).
But the Horizon is definitely helping to change my opinion! It combines an auto tension setting with a dial you can adjust when you change to a really weird thread. For the most part I've pieced, appliqued, and quilted on the Auto setting with my Isacord thread and produced gorgeous stitches every time.
When I satin stitched the tree roots onto the surface of My Cup Runneth Over, I was using Yenmet Metallic threads and I did have some breaking issues until I took it off Auto tension and switched to a very low 1-2 setting. I also changed to a bigger needle and never broke thread a second time with metallic!
- Applique Stitches - Really this machine is an applique quilter's dream come true. I've done more machine applique in the last 2 weeks than I have in the last 2 years!
Why the sudden love for machine applique? Quite simply this machine just handles it better that any I've owned before. Using the clear plastic F foot, it doesn't squish the fabric, but evenly feeds on any setting, which is why I think it satin stitches so beautifully.
With the built in stitches, I have had to make some adjustments to lower the stitch length because I'm a control freak and I like to have a very tight satin stitch. Even with a tighter stitch length, I still really didn't need to stabilize the backs of these heart flowers:
The other times I've satin stitched on my Bernina Activa, the fabric has gotten extremely lumpy and bumpy unless I used thick stabilizer on the back.
Maybe that was just an issue of the presser foot having too much pressure applied to the top? I'm not sure, but in comparing the Horizon to the four Bernina's I've owned, I'd have to say the Horizon really knocks them out of the water when it comes to machine applique.
- Free Motion Quilting - This is probably the info ya'll been waiting for and I have to say, this machine doesn't disappoint!
The Horizon comes with a very nice free motion quilting foot. It's big on the top because it has a pressure adjustment right on the foot itself. The base can be switched out to have an open toe or a full circle as well.I love the different options and I really like that they come with the machine so I didn't have to shell out more money just to get an open toe foot.
Now when actually free motion quilting, I didn't know there was "free motion" setting on this machine (I haven't read the manual yet), so I haven't been using it. Several quilters asked me about that at the Asheville Quilt Show and mentioned that their stitches didn't look as good on this setting.
This is probably because this setting drops your feed dogs. As stated numerous times on this project, I never drop my feed dogs because it often turns a wonderful machine into a tension monster.
So when I want to free motion on the Horizon, I simply lay my Supreme Slider over the top and dial my stitch length to 0. I also like using the straight stitch that pops the single needle plate up on the machine since I'm only going to be stitching up and down.
I don't use the magical "free motion" setting, I don't drop my feed dogs, and so far my free motion stitches are some of the most gorgeous I've ever stitched. Here is the back of my banner stitched with Swirling Feathers:
Using Isacord again for free motion, I haven't had to adjust off the "auto" tension setting which is really nice in comparison to my Juki, which I have to adjust every time I change a bobbin!
- Lights - I have to mention the lights because they are so darn awesome on this machine. There are two sets of lights, one to the right side of the needle and one to the left. For once I don't feel like I need to have all the lights in my studio on in order to see what I'm stitching!
- Size - I stand by my opinion that you can quilt any quilt (even king sized) on a domestic machine with a tiny harp space (distance from the needle to the side of the machine).
I can't see a huge difference in having 11 inches verses 9 inches, so honestly if you're thinking of investing in a Janome, you should also test drive the Janome 6600, which basically has the same features of the Horizon, but a 9 inch throat space.
Of course, I just went from 9 inches to 11 inches of space. I'm sure if I'd come from a 6.5" harp to 11 inches I'd feel really differently about that!
- Extension table - Why in the world would I list this extension table as a "pro" when I put my machine down in a flat bed table?
Here's the beauty of this extension table:
I've placed my Horizon into a Gidget 2 sewing table and taken the legs off the extension table. With a little adjustment the extension table top can go over the machine perfectly, filling all the gaps without me having to purchase a separate acrylic insert cut for the machine!
This is one nice little bonus that saved me about $60 for another cut insert and it's a good reason why spending a little extra on a machine can end up saving money on all the little items that can add up like extra feet and table inserts.
- Piecing - Yep, the quilters who commented about piecing were right. While it produces a wonderful stitch, getting an accurate 1/4" seam allowance isn't easy on this machine.
However, the fault is not the machine. This is entirely a foot problem.
You see this is the foot that comes with the machine designed for piecing. I can tell you right off the bad that it's going to have problems because the entire right edge is rounded and then covered with this annoying fabric guide.
Visibility is key with piecing so the first thing I did was rip the fabric guide off so I could actually see what I was doing. I did manage to piece a fairly accurate seam then, but the foot still isn't perfect.
For some reason it's not lined up to make 1/4" with the needle in center position (which would make the most sense and allow quilters to use the single needle plate!)
Instead you have to move your needle over in order to get the perfect setting. Even then because of the rounded nature of the foot, it's very tricky to keep your fabric lined up evenly.
Many quilters have queried about the width of the feed dogs and if this could have something to do with the inaccurate piecing. I personally don't think so. This is entirely down to a badly designed foot.
Of course there is a piecing foot designed to work with the even feed mechanism, but I'm personally not going to even try it. First off the foot is huge, clunky and impedes visibility almost entirely.
The second reason is this: I don't piece with a walking foot on any other machine, so why in the world would I want to piece with essentially the same thing on this machine? Even though it's built in and right there doesn't mean it will work any better.
So what is a quilter to do? Personally I feel inspired by this problem rather than turned off my it. My goal is to find another foot that will piece accurately and with clear visibility.
Just this morning I got onto several sites and found a few generic piecing feet that could definitely work. Now it's just a matter of ordering them and trying it out to see which one works the best.
While it is annoying that the piecing foot isn't better designed, this is not unusual. I usually count on needing to buy at least 2-3 new feet with every machine. So far I'm only needing to buy 1, so I'm not too bent out of shape about it!
UPDATE - I just received an email from Janome and a new piecing foot is on its way! All you have to do is register your Janome under warranty online and around September they will start shipping out a new foot, specially designed to stitch accurate 1/4" seams. Read more about this right here.
- Bobbins - Really my only other complaint for this machine is a complaint I have for ALL machines and that is NOT ENOUGH BOBBINS!
The Horizon came with 5, which is pretty typical. When I control the world (Ha!), all machines will come packaged with a minimum of 25 bobbins.
The bobbin issue, just like the piecing foot issue, is easily remedied by purchasing a few new packs of bobbins when I'm back in Greensboro and can get back to Ye Olde Forest Quilt Shoppe.
I've invested in machines in the past and immediately felt a sinking feeling of let down when I got them home and really started putting them through their paces.
I haven't felt even remotely let down by this machine. In fact, for the perfect stitches, ease of use, and size of this machine, I think the current market price is an absolute steal.
So that's it for this update on the Janome Horizon! I'm still having a little trouble finding a good angle to film this machine at, but once I get it all figured out then there will be many more videos on free motion quilting filmed on the Horizon.
Let's go quilt!