Thursday 23 June 2011

test driving

eta (27 June): This post has been linked to from Amy's Creative Side in which we were asked to name a goal and say how we went! Mine was "to test drive as many sewing machines as I could" and I achieved that last Wednesday. I would have got mine today if it hadn't been for the birth of Grandbubby The Second (yesterday) and the subsequent babysitting of Grandson #1 for a few days! Some things in life are more important even than sewing machines!! LOL

 warning: a long post about the hunt for a sewing machine

Yesterday, a good friend (D.), who is an experienced quilter, and I arrived at the Craft and Quilt Fair at exactly 10am. The next time I thought about it, it was 2pm. I had spent four hours test-driving, talking and walking! My head was overloaded with information and I needed my lunch.

Aurora 440 QE
When we arrived at the Show, we went first to the Bernina stand. They have a machine specifically designed for quilting but the throat is the standard size and really, I know that if I buy that machine I will regret it.

The one thing that Bernina has over all the other machines is a stitch regulator that regulates "the length of your stitches so you can create consistent, free motion stitching" (from the Bernina advertising brochure). If Bernina had a machine with a wide throat in my price range, there would have been no contest!

From Bernina we went to Janome. Would you believe that they didn't have the machine I wanted to test drive? I wanted to look at the 1600P-QC. The only dedicated quilting machine they had at the show was the Memory Craft 6600. And then they gave me the brochure for the Memory Craft 6500 instead! So I still haven't driven the machine that was at the top of my list!

On to the next company, where my poor friend was devastated to learn that Janome is not made in Japan and  Elna is not made in Sweden - they both come out of the same factory in China! And that Singer, Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff are not really independent brands; they come from the same parent company manufacturing in, you guessed it, China!

The Pfaff machines are the ones I remember the least! I looked at the Expressions 2.0 and the Expressions 4.0 but was only given a quote for the cheaper one. Looking at the pictures and brochure doesn't help. I think it just felt much the same as the Janome I had driven a few minutes earlier.
Elna 7300

On to Janome's sister company - Elna. This time I did get to look at the machine which was number 2 on my list. Unfortunately, the demonstrator actually works for Janome so didn't appear to be super confident on the Elna machine.

I have been using mechanical machines all my sewing life - about 36 years; first a Singer Capri (bought in 1974) and most recently DD's Brother PS-53. I have also used very old Bernina machines. Sewing on these computer driven machines was like moving from an old 1960s car to a new car with power steering and ABS - no comparison! They all sewed beautifully and seemed much of a muchness to me!

Sapphire 875

Brain weary, we pushed on - this time to Husqvarna Viking. We looked at two machines - the Sapphire 875 and the Sapphire 885. D. gasped and her eyes opened wide. Her comment: "This machine was designed by someone who sews!" She was so impressed that I made up my mind right there and then that I would buy one of these two machines (although one was outside my budget).

One of the features of the Husqvarna machine that we both really liked (apart from its uncluttered looks) was that the computer screen showed the stitch I would get in real size! This is the only one of the six brands I tested that did that! The computer screen also "spoke"  in English words - not symbols and numbers! However, I did feel that the Sapphire didn't drive as smoothly as the Janome, Elna or Pfaff. Apparently I felt that because it is actually a little noisier than the other machines.

Finally we went to Singer. Here we had the best demonstration of a machine we had had all day. I had to remind myself several times that I should concentrate on the features of the machine and not the ability of the demonstrator (who owned the same machine we were looking at). The Singer threaded up in much the same way my old Capri did (some things never change) but after that the similarities ended. I was impressed with the Singer machine  - but no more so than many of the others.

After lunch D. and I looked at the quilt exhibition and then wandered back to some of the stands selling quilting and related goodies. D. bought some buttons and joined a "block of the month" club. I talked to my sewing teacher, Elizabeth, from Aussie Patches and she though all the machines I was considering were good choices.

We then went to HobbySew to talk to the machine salesperson there. Because HobbySew sells all of the brands I had tried (except Singer), there is no particular bias towards one company. In the end, I left feeling more confused than ever! If only Bernina made a machine with a wide throat I wouldn't have to make a decision! I'd know what I wanted to buy!

I am going back to the Show on Saturday to work on the Knitters' Guild stand in the morning so I think I'll be revisiting the sewing machines in the afternoon!

Thanks D. for taking the time to come to the Fair with me and to help me ask the "right" questions while we were there!


  1. Thank you for sharing your machine test driving with us! It was like coming along to try out a bunch of different brands with you. I'm with you - a quilter needs a larger throat area! I look forward to hearing all about your new machine when you take the plunge.

  2. Keep will have this machine for a long time so it needs to be one you won't regret! Hope they will have some more models out on Saturday for you to peruse!

  3. Sounds slightly overwhelming but definitely worth it. I'm sure you'll pick the one right for you! And I second what Chrissy said about the throat area.

  4. Hi Lynne, its great to have such choice at a fair even if it does overload the brain. I went to one recently here in Ireland and they had only one sewing machime stand 'Pfaff' with just two overpriced machines. I too hope to buy a sewing machine soon so keep us posted on your purchase, siobhan :)

  5. This is a really interesting post Lynne. Thanks for posting your test driving experiences.

    I'm not a quilter, but I would really like to sew my own clothes. I didn't do enough test driving before buying my machine and now I regret not researching a bit more. You live and you learn!

  6. Ooh, this makes me excited to one day test drive a bunch of sewing machines (when I feel like I've earned it by sewing for a few more years on the one I have). I'm glad you had so much fun trying them all out!

  7. Gosh, you sure had a hard time ;-)) When I started to look for a new machine (because my Pfaff Quiltexpression 4.0 was giving me nightmares ...) I did about the same thing. In the end, I was lucky: the company I wanted to buy from (Janome) launched a machine that combined what I wanted and needed: the HORIZON / 7700. AND I found a dealer who gave me a good deal for my Pfaff. So, I'm a happy sewer (again), and I keep my fingers crossed for you for a similar outcome! And congrats for your new grandchild ;-))

  8. It is a hard decision, eh? I bought a Bernina 440 QE and I have to say that I LOVE it. Love, love, love it! I don't find the throat space that big of an issue, but the throat space on my last machine wasn't any bigger. Good luck!

  9. Honey, I'm still sewing on an old Kenmore so I'm sure sewing on those for me would be like something from another galaxy! thanks for all the information. When I'm able to drop a mint, I'll have better information on which way to head!

  10. Wow! What a good post. You know you are doing what you love when you zone out of reality for 4 hours! I was looking forward to you achieving your goal when I read it at Amy's last week, and wondered how you were going to test that many machines in a week. Now I see. Thank you for such an honest post.

  11. I had to go look at the more recent posts this week, to see what you decided. I LOVE your choice - I have two Janomes and would love to add that one to my collection. Congrats on the new addition to the family as well :)


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