The Free Motion Quilting Project: A New Machine

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A New Machine

Around 6 months ago, I posted my history of sewing machines going from a hand-me-down Singer when I was a kid to a 2 part system of a Juki for quilting and a Bernina for piecing and applique.

In that post, I shared with you all my personal opinions of what makes a good machine good, and especially what I look for when choosing a free motion quilting machine.

I also hope I impressed upon everyone the fact that I have no biases: I've stitched on almost every brand of machine and they ALL have strengths and weaknesses.

No machine is perfect, just as no computer or video game console is perfect.

Perfect stitches only come from taking the time to learn the nuances of your machine, adapting to them, and making them work for you rather than against you.

I really do believe that you can free motion quilt on any machine so long as you're willing to put in time playing and practicing in order to learn the basic skills of moving the quilt and controlling your speed at the same time.

I thought about proving this back in the spring when I ended up with a king sized bed by accident. What if I made a king sized quilt on a Featherweight? Would you all believe me then?! Ha!

Many quilters have had a hard time believing that I quilt all my quilts on a domestic machine. Jaws drop at lectures, and I usually have to answer the question more than once:

"Yes, a domestic machine."
"Yes, a machine set up on a table, not on rails"

"Yes, a SEWING machine!"

There is an overriding belief that you can't quilt anything big on a domestic, and even worse, that you can't quilt a show winning quilt on a domestic machine.

This is just plain silly because the type of machine does not determine the design, quilting skill, or execution - that's all up to the quilter!

But then again, if a quilter has convinced herself that she will never be able to quilt like this, there's not much I can say to dissuade her of the notion. Maybe I should just stop trying to convince everyone and buy a new machine...

Obviously from this rant, you know I'm building up to something big here....

Yep, I have indeed just purchased a new machine and yes, it is bigger than the average domestic. This is the Janome Horizon 7700.

While I know there's a whole crowd of people ready to scream "Hypocrite!" at me, please allow me to explain:

First off, as I explained in the post Quilting Machine Conundrum, I've been looking for a very specific machine for a very long time.

What I wanted seemed simple enough: 11" harp space (distance from the needle to the back of the machine), knee lifter, and an automatic needle down.

Over the last year or so I've also started wanting the ability to make zig zag stitches, a feature my lockstitch Juki did not have, and more decorative stitches for applique, features my Bernina did not have.

But finding this simple combination of features has seemed impossible.

If I found a machine that seemed to fit the bill, the problem would always inevitably be the bill. Everywhere I looked the jump from a 6.5 inch harp to anything beyond 10 inches was a difference of several thousand dollars.

Good machines are an investment, but some of the prices I've seen are just ridiculous. Should a quilting machine really ever be more expensive than a CAR?! I'm a professional quilter, but even I balk at spending more on a machine that on my Nissan Versa!

So I've been looking, talking, and sometimes begging several different longarm manufacturers, domestic machine dealers, and even repairmen to show me the light and either build or find my dream machine.

For more than a year, the only response I'd get was either laughter or a shaking head. It just seemed silly for me to keep asking and looking when the machine I wanted obviously didn't exist.

So when I traveled to Greensboro, NC way back in April and held a workshop at Ye Olde Forest Quilt Shoppe, I mentioned my dream machine to Kelley Jones, part owner and dealer of Janome sewing machines.

To my surprise, Kelley didn't laugh or shake his head at me. Instead he thought for a minute and said "You know, I think we'll be getting a machine just like that in a few months."

My heart skipped a beat, and I had to do a double take when he told me the price.

This new machines price was much, much lower than the new-car-expensive machines I'd been looking at. It wasn't cheap, mind you, but it was an investment I could consider, especially if I could sell my other machines to balance out the cost.

And really with the Horizon 7700, there is no reason to have any other machine.

Well, except maybe a smaller machine for traveling to workshops because this girl is HUGE! She's not exactly portable, but that's really not the point.

The point of the Horizon is space - 11" of it from the needle to the right side of the machine - exactly what I was looking for in a new machine.

Stretching a whooping 20 inches, this new girl will only fit in the new bigger Gidget 2 tables. I don't even need an insert for her because extension table the machine comes with fits perfectly over the gaps in the gidget table.

Of course, there were a few features I didn't exactly need. Needle threaders are a waste of space in my opinion and if I can unscrew and detach it without messing anything else up, believe me I will.

The machine also comes with about 50 million stitches - decorate, utility, and FINALLY Applique! I have literally hundreds of applique projects on the brain, just waiting for a machine with decent applique stitches to do the job.

While I know I probably won't use all the decorative stitches every day, I'd rather have them and not need them than need them and not have them.

Here's a long list of the many things I'm already learning to love about this machine:
  • Huge number of feet - Unlike every other machine I've ever purchased, this was the first time I didn't have to shell out another $300 in more feet.
  • Perfect open toe free motion foot - I didn't have to modify the free motion foot - it came with a perfect open toe foot that has already proved excellent at free motion quilting.
  • 2 bright lights - This has been big thing for me since every sewing machine I've ever had has only had a light to the left side of the needle. The horizon has another light to the right side to illuminate the entire quilting bed.
  • Compartments for everything - It's pretty annoying to have tons of accessories and no where to put them. This machine came with plenty of storage on the top and in the slide off case in the bottom.
I also feel like for the first time I really have found a machine that will do everything really well: piecing, applique, and free motion quilting.

While I've had a split setup for a long time now (one machine for quilting, one machine for everything else), it was starting to get annoying with how much space 2 sets of tables can take up.

So now that I have the Horizon, I'm planning to drop to just one machine setup downstairs in my main studio. Of course, this will take a lot of reorganizing in order to get everything in the right place and get rid of the machines, tables, and accessories I no longer need.

I definitely see some ebay auctions in my future when I get back from the Asheville Quilt Show!

Now I'm off to go quilt on my new Horizon!

Leah Day


  1. I'd be interested in reading your evaluation of the machine after you've had a chance to use it for a couple of projects. You are really good at sharing your opinions on equipment and it is much appreciated.

  2. Congratulations on your new machine!!! I bought a 1600P Janome this spring for my free motion quilting and I'm really impressed with the stitching. I still free motion on my Bernina to. Have you thought about keeping your old machine for backup. I've sewn professionally and it's nice to have a backup when your new machine needs serviced. Oh by the way I free motion quilted a queen size quilt on my 1630 Bernina--I agree with you that it's with the attitude of the quilter.

  3. This is great news for you.Your right, there is no perfect machine out there, because we all have different needs,but it sounds like your on to a winner!
    I had a giggle when you made your comment that people don't believe you quilt on a sewing machine, no frame etc...I have the same thing, when they see you have quilted a king size quilt they can't believe it.But it's like you say...practice. practice.Just get practicing, 10 minutes a day can make a huge difference.Happy playing with your new machine...I haven't seen that model here in N.Z...still we do even have the same fabrics as you can get.

  4. Getting a new machine is quite the experience. I know you will love your new journey!!

  5. Congrats on the new machine! We have the Horizon at the shop I work at, we are a Janome dealer.
    Hope she becomes your best friend. LOL

  6. Ooooh!
    Wishing you a lot of fun with this beauty!

  7. You go girl!! Enjoy your new friend.

  8. Congratulations! You may want to join the Yahoo Users Group for the Horizon; I know that the 6500/6600/Horizon user group has been very helpful for me. There is also a seperate one for Horizon only.

    Janet from The Woodlands, TX

  9. Janomes are the best! I'm partial though, I have 2. Not the new King of them all Horizon though... have fun learning and playing!

  10. Congratulations on your new "baby"! Please keep reporting on your impressions. I read the specs on this machine when it came out and felt that it looked like it had a really good balance of features for quilting, sewing and embroidery.

    I second the recommendation to keep a backup machine. I have a Janome 10000 that I've had for quite "a while" now (and doing free motion for it this year for the first time) and my old Elnita ($200; don't laugh!) is my backup.

    As you know, things can go wrong and the result is a visit to the repair shop and that's never an instant turnaround. And those accidents never happen at convenient times. There have been several times when I was working against a deadline that the Elnita saved my bacon.

    My Elnita (bought in 1993) also underscores your point about it's not the machine, it's the quilter. I have produced tons of art with its simple, sturdy stitches.

  11. One more comment about prices.

    When I looked at getting my (now outdated) Janome 10000 I couldn't believe the price!

    The only reason I have this machine is that I got a grant for its purchase from my university and, to make things even better, then got a 30% discount as it was a university purchase.

    I am glad to see machines like the Horizon that are expensive but not heart-stoppingly so.

  12. Hey this is great Leah, that is the machine I am thinking of buying. Can you give us some updates in a month or so once you have had some time on it? My quilting kit arrived safely here in Australia today too. Thanks for the blog. It is inspirational.

  13. Congrats on your new machine! I was just looking at the Janome 6600, but I loved the idea of an 11" throat on the Horizon. I'll be interested to hear more about your new machine, once you've quilted a few more quilts. I do a lot of machine applique so I love the extra stitches as well.

  14. I covet this machine with a fiery passion. I have test driven it a couple of times but need to wait a bit and save my pennies. Your post is killing me! K-I-L-L-I-N-G me! I want I want I want. It's bad.

  15. I'll be listening out to see how you get on with your Horizon. I picked mine up the day they went on sale in the UK back in May. I've been following 365 days and learned to FMQ by watching your videos - it got even easier when I used my new machine, really smooth, quiet and no hassles with thread or tension. Thanks for the wonderful project you've undertaken, it has been an inspiration to me.

  16. Awesome!! I love that you are not a brand-snob and will try anything. I learned how to quilt on my $85 Walmart Singer, and I remember you telling me it wasn't ideal but it was POSSIBLE, and that's probably all I needed to hear! It also made me appreciate my Bernina that much more once I got it. I can't even imagine a $2K machine! Congratulations on the acquisition!

  17. Congrats on your new addition! I "test drove" the Horizon last week -- I'm so torn. Right now its on an excellent sale, with in-store 6 mo financing same as cash. Sigh. I just can't justify it right now tho....
    And, I'm torn - part of me really wants a machine that does I don't know whether to go with the larger Horizon, or wait and find an embroidery machine I'd really like. So hard - sometimes being crafty is difficult! LoL.
    Anyway, again, congrats, and I look forward to hearing how you like the machine!

  18. I love my Janome, which is no where near as fancy as your Horizon. But it does what I need and even more.

    Phillipa Naylor, award winning quilter, still quilts on her original Bernina. This despite winning about 5 new ones over the years. Google her if you're not familiar with the name.

    I'll check out the Horizon in Houston when I'm there for Festival.

  19. Congratulations on your new machine, Leah! However you should consider keeping at least one other machine as backup or for when you have a machine set for a project 'just right' and don't want to change the machine settings to use it for 10 minutes for 'something else.' Personally I prefer having 3-4 machines set up due to huge time constraints on sewing! Having more than one machine maximizes the sewing time and minimizes the machine set up time!

    I love your blog and look forward to what you'll be doing on your new machine.

  20. I just got the 7700 myself. I like it alot more than the 6600. The convertible single stitch plate alone makes it worth it for me. I was always having problems with fabric getting crunched into the hole on the 6600. The Acufeed system is also very useful instead of a regular walking foot. I don't like the 1/4" Acufeed foot though because you have to have the needle at 5.5 to get the 1/4" correct.

  21. Congratulations! I've had mine since May and while not my favorite machine, I do enjoy it. I've had accurate piecing issues and I still hate Janome's 1/4 inch foot continous problems. Maybe they'll get it figured it out.

    Make sure you register your machine as they are giving out new plates. Some of the first machines had a spring loose and they are replacing them.

    Also check your dec stitches. Mine were off and needed a huge adjustment with the +/- silver dial.

    I'll have to look into the table you have. Mine sits on top of my old 6600 table.

    Regardless of my feelings, enjoy yours :)

  22. I don't quilt like you do Leah but I have one of these babies too and I love it. You're already sensational and I can only get better.

  23. I have this machine. It is absolutely the berries for free-motion - no eyelashes on the back. The accu-feed foot also does great straight-line quilting. It's the first foot that is as good as my Bernina walking foot - the gold standard for me.

    However - many people, including me, are having issues with accurate quarter-inch piecing. This is a big topic on the Yahoo group for the Horizon. For my part, I don't care because that's what the Bernina 1090 is for. It's my experience that all newer machines with wide feed dogs for the decorative stitches are not so hot for quarter-inch piecing. The fabric on a quarter-inch seam doesn't reach the right feed dog because the dog is necessarily farther away than on older machines like my Bernina. I don't see any fix for this problem, which is only a problem if the Horizon is your only machine.

    My opinion is, the right tool for the right job. The Bernina is for piecing and the Horizon is for quilting. They are both fantastic at what they do best.

  24. Congratulations! My husband got me the Horizon as a surprise birthday present a couple of weeks ago, and I absolutely love it. There is definitely a learning curve with the machine, but it sews so beautifully. I'm looking forward to seeing your quilting on it.

  25. I love my new Horizon 7700 too! It also had all those dream things that I wished for (including the needle threader for those of us with bifocals and arthritic fingers). This machine is wonderful for conserving strength with the thread clipper, needle up down, extension table, and the ability to sew without the need for the foot pedal (so one can prop their feet up while sewing) etc. I have made several projects on mine already, both garment and quilting and am working on an art quilt now. Glad you found your perfect machine as I found mine also!

  26. Congratulations!
    It is a greta feeling to find ir!

    I have found my dream machine but still working on the bill part :)

  27. Congratulations on finding your dream machine. Youve rely given it a lot of thought too!
    I want the new Bernina 830 so badly it hurts, but $12,999 on a sewing machine takes a LOT of justifying!

  28. I LOVE my horizon. I've only had it for a little bit over a week so I haven't quilted much on it yet though I've been piecing. I don't have the 1/4" issues others mentioned. with the O foot I move the needle to 4.0 for a perfect seam. yeah it would be nice if the foot covered the feed dogs but still works. the acufeed 1/4" works at 5.5 or 6.0 and covers everything nicely.

    can't wait to hear more of your thoughts on it

  29. Ooooh! I have one of these too and I love it to bits! It's so exciting when I see other people getting one and I can't wait to read more about how you're getting on with it!

  30. Leah, I wish you all good things with your new Horizon. I liked the quick change plate to a single needle opening.

    However, I just purchased (not yet received) the Juki TL98Q. Not just for the sturdiness and singular functions but the vertical bobbin as well.

    I have a Brother Innovis QC-1000 which is great for many things but not so much with free motion stitching. I have the genie washers, practiced and still issues. May be a service issue with the machine itself or user issues. Either way, I was not prepared to invest in another multitasking machine just now. The throat size on the Horizon is phenomenal.

    Enjoy and I look forward to hearing your reviews of the Horizon once you have used it for a while.

    Christina in Cleveland, OH

  31. Congratulations with your new Janome. I hope you will have a lot of pleasure with it.

  32. I just bought this machine as well. I'm not a big fan of the 1/4" foot with the metal guide. Do you use a different 1/4" foot? Honestly, I haven't had the time to go poking around for another solution. So far, I've been pleased with just about everything else I've used on the machine - for general sewing. I need to get to the actual quilting part soon and am hopeful that it will be just as good.

  33. I too went to a two machine D1 was my first really, really nice machine and it does everything so very well EXCEPT that 1/4" seam. My quilting teacher had a Bernina (Aurora line, maybe the 140??) and when I tried my piecing on that I was sold. The narrow feed dog Berninas are fab for piecing. I now keep the D1 set up for free motion, it also embroiders (I rarely use the embroidery, turns out plain hand stitching looks nicer, less goopy) and a Bernina Artista 170 for piecing. I did not consider Janome as my classmates with them all had trouble with needle placement to get that 1/4" seam. I hate moving the needle every time I sit to sew.

  34. I knew it was the 7700 when I caught a glimpse of it in a different photo. Would love to have one, for the free arm if nothing else! But my 6600 is just fine and I haven't had it that long, so . . . ., not for me, just a dream at this point. I see these comments were made last summer, hope you still love your Janome!

  35. Hi Leah,
    When I started to quilt I did search on internet about all what was available out there and also looked at the servicing piece. I end up buying Janome 6600P. She is such a good one to quilt. Then after doing a few quilts by hand decided to buy a quilting frame to use with my Janome. End up buying from the Grace Company: the GM Pro Quilting Frame. After a couple of years decided to invest in another machine because wanted to leave one on my frame all the time. While I was looking at another Janome 6600P, the Horizon came out and that the one I bought. I am enjoying both of them. One stays on my frame and the other one is always set up for me to piece some quilts. Hope you enjoy your new Horizon as much as I am enjoying mine. I am continuing to quilt away and enjoying myself.


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