It is amazing to think, the first sewing machine dates back to 1790! That is 228 years ago! Of course things move on and things get better (well usually), and that is the case with sewing machines. We have moved from mechanical hand/treadle power into electric power. We have gone from 1 stitch to hundreds of stitches and manufacturers are taking advantage of computerisation and technology. But a sewing machine is just a sewing machine….isn’t it?
Does it really matter what complex computer control systems it has? Does it matter to have 200+ different stitches? Well as it was the 50th Anniversary for Janome here in the UK, I got my hands on one of their more expensive models and I want to share with you my thoughts. I mentioned brand loyalty a while back and for me, Janome is my brand of choice for sewing machines. Don’t get me wrong, other manufacturers produce good machines but I have always found their machines to be well built, well designed and easy to use. The knobs, buttons and controls are always in the right place for use (well for me anyway) which makes sewing a pleasure.
The Janome Memory Craft 6700P is the beast in question and beast is an accurate description! It is a 200 stitch, long arm, flatbed, computerised machine with masses of features. The first thing that you’ll notice is the size! It’s a big machine coming in at 516mm x 300mm x 220mm (or 20″ x 12″ x 9″) and it’s heavy at nearly 12kg (25lb). This is due to the large amount of metal. The machine is almost entirely metal, including the bed. It’s certainly not a machine you will be carrying to sewing classes! But then if you’ve bought a machine like this I doubt you will be a sewing novice. Here it is compared to their popular 525S machine.
You can clearly see this is a serious machine. However lets be honest, the MC6700P retail price is 5.5x more than the 525S at £1599.00 but can it do 5.5x more?
OK perhaps that is an unfair comparison but you see where I’m going?
Before we delve into the features of this machine, lets look at the basic components. I bet you will say at some point, “Hmm thats a good idea”.
So along the right hand side top you’ll find all the basic, quick entry, controls.
There are individual buttons for twin needle sewing, bobbin winding, satin stitch elongation and mirror image; plus buttons for accessing the memory features. Then you will see two large knobs to adjust stitch width and length: These I love! They work so well and make selecting width/length so easy. While we are talking about it, the needle position can be set from 0mm (fully left) to 9mm in 0.1mm increments! Thats an impressive range and makes it very easy to position the needle exactly. The stitch length is adjustable from 0mm to 5mm, again in 0.1mm increments. There is a lock button that, well locks the machine! Below is the numerical keypad for selecting the various stitches.
The RH end you find the hand wheel, power socket and on/off switch. There is a dual feed adjuster (more on that later) and feed dog drop lever (nice to see its in a easy access location, rather than hidden away). There are two small sockets for the foot control (definitely more about that later) and thread cutting control (sold separately). The metal arm (folded) is a high thread guide.
Round the back you find 2 vertical thread spool pins (useful) and a bracket to hold the stitch reference chart.
The top features a standard ‘how to thread’ diagram and bobbin winder (with thread cutter). This is controlled separately from the main machine meaning you can wind a fresh bobbin and keep sewing! No more stopping and waiting for a bobbin to wind.
And finally the business end. A foot pressure knob right on top and a useful dial showing the pressure selected. A very good automatic needle threader and I do mean very good! It works every time without fail. There is a good, large, tension regulator right above the needle. A start/stop button for people who don’t use foot control and a machine speed slider. Then 4 buttons for reverse, auto lock stitch, needle up/down and thread cutter. Oh there’s still an old school thread cutter round the front.
The central screen is clear and easy to understand. It displays the quick select stitches (1 to 10), current needle position and stitch length. The correct foot to use, suggested thread tension, foot pressure and whether to have feed dogs up/down.
So I’ve mentioned the needle position and bobbin winding. Threading is simplicity itself and the bobbin is quick set so you don’t have to pick up the bobbin thread before you start to sew. Everything is well laid out and easy to use but its not until you start playing do you fully understand the power of the machine.
Practically everything is customisable! You can save your preferred stitches for the quick selection, you can set your preferred needle position and stitch length and the list goes on: Bobbin winder speed, needle up down position, auto thread cutting, adjustable start up speed and a real favourite of mine, the resume setting. With this on, it remembers your last settings when you turn on the machine again. Oh talking about turning on/off you can set the machine to auto turn off after a set time but it actually flicks off the switch! How does it do that?
OK if you have read this far you will now understand this is a serious machine and to be honest I’ve just scratched the surface. The machine comes with not 1 but 3 needle plates! All with very clear markings in metric and imperial.
A normal, straight stitch and HP professional plate. Why? Well it makes sense. You ever had your fabric disappear into the hole in the needle plate, especially in fine fabrics? Well pop in the straight stitch plate and you now have 3 small holes (Left, centre and right) and no more disappearing fabric. Want to sew at 1200 stitches per min? Easy pop in the HP plate and put on the pro foot. Swapping the plates is a simple button press (no screws involved) and of course the machine knows what plate is being used and only lets you choose the correct stitch for the plate. No broken needles by trying to zigzag while using a straight stitch plate!
Now this is often something that I do get annoyed with. You buy a new sewing machine and it comes with a few feet, unpicker, screwdriver and a few bobbins (oh and that little cleaning brush). So you have to pay for more feet, or other accessories. Of course this machine is not cheap so you’d expect to get a few accessories?
Well yes you do! There are various thread spool adaptors allowing you to put every type of thread on the machine, including large cones. 2x thread nets, 5 bobbins and no less than 17 feet! It even comes with a walking foot! Remember the dual feed switch mentioned earlier? Its for adjusting the walking foot, to get the perfect feed.
And everything comes in a lovely little box.
There is an extension table, which really does make life easier and knee-lift bar (that will be discussed in another post soon).
And of course a big foot control pedal.
But why wasn’t it made of metal? The pedal does the job well but it just feels cheap. Everything about this machine feels solid and well made, except the plastic pedal. I have a Janome DC4100 (SMD4000, JLX2000) that has a lovely solid metal pedal (ok smaller but so much nicer to use).
Not only is it metal it has a lot lower profile. Why are sewing machine pedals so angled? If you sew for any length of time it makes your ankle ache. See the comparison!
This machine is brilliant and I mean it. Ive had it for a couple of months now and still learning some of the features. The stitches it produces are beautiful and consistent. OK it’s not cheap but it’s not overly expensive (when you consider its capabilities) and it is verging on industrial machine capabilities without the price tag. It is labelled ‘Professional’ and it is certainly capable of hard daily use. The thing you don’t appreciate until you start using it, is how much time you save compared to using other machines. There are so many in-built features that save you time and of course that means more time actually making things.
It is the little things: Being able to remove the stitch plate by pressing a button to clean it; the way the machine won’t let you sew if the presser foot is raised; the thread being cut automatically; easy threading and no bobbin take up needed. The list goes on.
Some might be put off, by it being a flatbed machine (no free arm) but practically everything can still be done, you just might need to do it a bit differently.
If you are a serious sewer, this is certainly a machine to consider.
Until next time……Happy Sewing!