I then posted an update a few weeks later sharing my immediate thoughts, and received another hundred emails asking for another update! I've never received such an overwhelming response to one of my posts!
Mostly everyone has been wanting more specific information on how to use the machine and exactly why I liked it and how I use it. Also, I've gotten more emails than I can count asking why I'm not quilting on this machine in all my videos!
So here's the deal:
I LOVE THE JANOME HORIZON!
I literally quilt or piece on my machine every single day and I wonder how I ever loved another machine before this. It just simply does everything so well!
I've finally made a video showing how I piece and quilt on this machine, what settings I use, and my opinions about some of the add-ons.
Keep in mind that this is my OPINION and I am a very opinionated person, particularly when it comes to my machines! I'm not being paid by Janome and I'm not in any way a spokesperson for the company.
So this is a video of how I personally use the machine, not necessarily the official, "right" way to use it so you'll need to use your own judgment about whether you'd like to try my way or not. Essentially I'm saying if you break your machine using the information in my video, I'm not responsible!
This is one of my longest videos, so you may have to hit "play" then "pause" and wait for the video to fully load (the red bar will fill up completely) so the video will play all the way through:
One important thing - if you live around NC and you're looking to buy a Janome Horizon, I must insist you go see Kelly and Joanne Jones at Ye Olde Forest Quilt Shop in Greensboro, NC. I purchased my machine from them and they really are the best dealers around!
Now on to Piecing!
Back when I posted the update, I complained a bit about the "O" piecing foot this machine came with. I did receive an "O2" foot, but to be perfectly honest, I prefer the clear plastic piecing foot. You should be able to get this foot from your dealer.
For me, it wasn't an issue with the bottom of the O and O2 feet - it was the right side. They softened the side of this foot so the metal curves from the top down the right side (the piecing side), which means that light hits this curve and makes it almost impossible to see if your fabric is coming out from underneath the foot.
A good piecing foot should be as square and boxy as possible with few curving bits that will catch the light. Sorry Janome, but Bernina still produces the best 1/4" piecing foot! The clear plastic foot I'm using is better because it's much more square and easier to see that right side.
To sum up the piecing section - I use the D1 stitch on the machine, which pops up the single needle plate, and I turn my stitch length down to 1.3.
When I purchased this machine, I never thought I'd use the D1 stitch since I'd never used my single needle plates on other machines because it required unscrewing the plate, switching it with the other one, screwing it back on, etc. Now that it's automatic, I use it all the time!
The single needle plate simply ensures needle is going straight up and straight down and I find it to be more accurate when piecing and free motion quilting.
Now let's talk about free motion quilting!
The settings I use are as follows: turn on the D1 stitch and lower your stitch length to 0.00.
The feed dogs will move up and down, but they will not feed forward. I simply cover them with a Supreme Slider, or a Queen Sized Supreme Slider because it fits better and covers more surface of the machine, and start stitching.
I DO NOT USE the "free motion setting."
I DO NOT USE blue bobbins or bobbin cases.
My tension is set at "auto" and I use Isacord Polyester Thread in both the top and bobbin of the machine. I did have to buy the spool holder attachment and screw it to the back of the machine to hold my Isacord cones, but that's the only modification I've made to the machine so far.
Using the settings and materials mentioned above I literally don't ever have to touch my tension. Ever.
The headaches I used to have with my Juki TL-98QE are over. That machine would have a different tension every day of the week, and a different tension with every bobbin and it got SO annoying having to adjust and readjust to suit that finicky machine.
So I love the tension and stitch quality on the Janome! I also love the QBH free motion quilting foot. It's big and clunky, but the tension spring is right there on the foot and allows me to adjust the height of the foot over the surface of my quilt. So if my quilt is particularly puffy, I can raise the foot by a small amount, and if the quilt is very flat, I can adjust it again so the foot is lower to the quilt.
This is SO important for free motion quilting!
I truly believe there are only 2 reasons why quilters find it so hard to get a good looking stitch on their machine in free motion:
1) Badly designed feet that squish the quilt, making it impossible to move the quilt smoothly and evenly in free motion.
2) Dropping feed dogs often causes more problems with tension and stitch quality than it solves.
It should come as no surprise - if you can't move the quilt and if the tension has just flown out the window, what comes next is not going to be pretty!
A few last details about the Horizon:
There is a bar to adjust the speed of the machine and I mentioned twice that I don't adjust that bar. I believe in using the machine with the full range of speed it was built with.
Why? Well, the biggest problem most quilters have is they only seem to understand two speeds on their machine: slow and fast.
But a sewing machine is just like a car, there are many more speeds in that foot pedal that you have to find, and slowing the machine down, essentially eliminating its ability to stitch fast, is not going to help you learn how to free motion quilt.
Another cool thing I didn't mention in the video is the table I have my Horizon in. Yes, that's the Gidget 2 table, but the best thing is the acrylic extension table the Horizon came with is being used as my insert.
Right now I know of no other machine that comes with an extension table that works like this! It's such a big extension table, and it hooks to the back of your machine, so it works perfectly to fill the gaps between the machine and the edges of the table opening.
Now a few things I don't like about the Horizon.
First, keep in mind that none of these things are deal breakers for me. I would buy this machine again in a heartbeat if I needed another one. It's just that awesome.
But not everything is perfect. Personally I find the computerized start up to be annoying. Basically the machine needs to reset itself after being turned on and I totally understand why it needs to do this.
I still find it annoying though that I have to either be a good stopping place, or I have to break my thread whenever I turn the machine on. I've gotten around this a bit as I showed in the video, but this is not a machine you can turn off in the middle of a project and expect to turn back on again and just stitch like crazy from that point.
And now for a soapbox...
The other thing I don't like is the price - generally this machine costs around $3000. Personally, I think this is a good value, but I wish it was lower so more quilters could afford it.
Three years ago I would never have even considered buying such an expensive machine. I also could never have excused the expense before I started this blog and my business.
It would have been a choice between the paying the bills and feeding my family or buying a new machine, which do you think had higher priority?
I just feel like the general trend of machines is bigger and more expensive. Bigger I can sort of understand. More expensive? I balk at that.
Why? Because quilting has always been a free hobby of friends sharing. It hasn't been a hobby of elite, expensive machines or tools. It didn't start out as a craft of "haves" and "have-nots." All you needed was a needle, a thimble, and a desire to learn.
But when I open up any quilt magazine these days, what are the biggest, most prevalent products taking up huge, full page ads full of pretty pictures of gorgeous quilts? Longarm machines and the higher end domestic machines like the Bernina 830, which cost thousands of dollars.
What is this saying to beginning quilters? What is this saying to teenagers or kids who want to learn how to do this? What is this saying to older quilters who aren't really comfortable with computerized machines? What does this say to everyone still stitching on their grandmother's machine?
It's saying: You CAN'T Do This without Money.
And I can't stand that message.
So I love the Horizon for the features and the stitch quality it has, and I do feel that $3000 is a fair price to pay for this machine, but I don't like the message it sends that beautiful stitches can only be had for the quilters who can afford it.
I hope you can understand in this soapbox that you don't need to spend $3000 or $15,000 in order to free motion quilt! You can learn on the machine you're using right now!
I didn't learn how to quilt on an expensive machine. I learned how to quilt on an OLD Bernina 830 and a Viking Prelude 340. Both were mechanical machines and can still be found for under $1000.
It is not the MACHINE that makes you a good quilter; it's the time you take to learn how to USE the machine, and the skill with which you wield it.
So for this reason, I just purchased a much, much cheaper Janome and will be sharing tutorials on how to use it in the coming weeks. The machine I choose retails for under $500, is mechanical, and I hope it will be a solid workhorse and the perfect machine for beginners to get started with.
Why am I bothering with this? Because for me it's important to do more than just TELL you that you can quilt on an inexpensive machine, I need to SHOW you as well.
I certainly don't need this new machine, but I received an email from a quilter with a very specific request - help her find a good machine for under $500.
At first, I didn't really know what to say. How am I supposed to even know and be able to compare all the different machines in the world that cost under $500 right now? Does a list of all the machines from every major brand currently in production even exist?
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this really does need to be done. While I don't have the capability to stitch on every machine that exists within this price range, I could pick just one from Janome and give it a whirl.
If I liked it, if I could produce decent stitches from it, then I know, with a bit of practice and patience, you can too.
I made sure to select a machine that is new and probably won't be discontinued for a while at least. I didn't want to pick an older machine, like the Viking I mentioned above, which could be difficult to find these days.
I'm also not going to tell you the make and model number until I actually get my hands on it. I know it's easy to get excited and you might run off and buy it before I have a chance to see how well this thing runs. If it's a dog, I certainly don't want you to have wasted your money.
And if ya'll like this sewing machine program a lot and share it enough, I may pick another machine from another brand and play with it as well.
Whenever I do a post like this, I usually hear from many quilters who think I should go to Janome and ask for a sponsorship. A year ago, this would have been very tempting. It would be so nice to be paid for all the machines I sell simply by my stitching on it in my videos, no doubt about it!
But lately I've realized just how important it is to have the freedom to share my honest opinion. There have been a few times over 2010 where I couldn't talk about a project because it was going to be published in a magazine, or I couldn't share a design because it was stuck in a year long, no re-publishing contracted somewhere else, or I couldn't honestly say how tired and pissed off I was at a show because, well, I was vending the show.
While I did make money from these ventures, mostly I just felt strangled by them. I simply don't like being told what I can and can't say or write because this quickly becomes the same as what I can and can't think.
No, I doubt any of those companies would be that cut and dry about it in their contract, but when you're paid for a sponsorship, you're essentially being paid to LIKE the products, not being paid to share your honest opinion on it.
So the more I think about it, the more I absolutely don't want anything to do with any major sewing machine brand or specific products. I don't want anyone to have the ability to buy my love, my word, or my truth, because if it's not true, if I put my name to something and say it's great when it really sucks, it's going to be you that gets hurt by it most.
The more I think on it, the more I want to be like the BBC Top Gear. The guys get these awesome cars: Ferrari, Lamborghini, BMWs, and they test them out in bizarre ways and share their gut wrenching, honest opinion about them. Performance issues, price, and reliability are all shared honestly on the show and whether a car is really good or really bad, you know it.
So whatcha think? Are you interested in seeing video reviews of sewing machines under $500? I think it will be loads of fun, but I'd like to know your opinion too!
So I'll close this excessively long post with one of the most common questions I get via email or comments:
Why are the project videos still being published showing the Juki TL-98QE or my Bernina Activa 210? Why don't I quilt on the Janome Horizon on video?
In order to answer this question, I have to reveal two tidbits of information I've been keeping quiet about for a long time.
The first is this - all 365 designs are done.
The truth is, I stitch ahead of myself. It's virtually impossible to stitch a design, upload it, edit it, upload to YouTube, and write a post on it all in one day or even in the same week.
And since I've had my Janome since August 2010, you can tell that I stitch WAY ahead of myself. The project has actually been finished (all 365 designs stitched) since December 2010.
Why have I only been publishing 2 designs per week when I could be publishing them every day?
I really don't want to burn out! I can keep amazingly busy just writing blog posts each day, taking care of James, and keeping both sites updated. I created this project to ebb and flow with my own mood and ability, and sometimes my focus is on making new designs, and sometimes it's on making a new quilt, and sometimes it's on making clay faces or something equally random.
And I know this project is a better place for all the occasional random stuff I post. The free motion designs give it a center and a focus, but it's by all means not the only thing I do.
So this brings me to my second big reveal - this project is not going to end at 365!
I've already decided to continue stitching past 365, mostly because the designs keep coming and it seems silly to stop. So the next goal will be 500 designs.
Unless the designs stop popping in my head, I'm not going to stop quilting them and sharing them! I do plan to start sharing more designs each week, and I have some ideas for a new video series showing you exactly how to quilt the designs into real quilts.
I'm still working out some logistics on that simply because I have to keep the projects reasonable within the time I have to work on them.
I hope you've enjoyed this post about the Janome Horizon, some new machine reviews coming in the future, and my plans for the free motion quilting project. Please share this post with your friends!
Let's go quilt!