Choosing a sewing machine

I mentioned that I was in the market for a new, better sewing machine.

I was thinking about a Juki 600, but Alli put me off, suggesting I “keep looking”.

Mrs Mole suggested I had a look at as they have a lot of sewing machine reviews on there. I also read and posted my own question (and got lots of helpful replies). Mrs M proposed that I try the Elna 720 and I found a shop near my mother’s home that purportedly stocked them, at £1099.

So on a very wet Saturday we visited the Hobkirk Sewing Machines Ltd shop in Blackburn, Lancashire, where we were given tea and coffee and an appointment with Mr Marcus Gannon, the Manager.

Hobkirks Sewing Machines, Blackburn
Hobkirks Sewing Machines, Blackburn

It is an amazing shop, with an overwhelming number of machines to try.

Even more exciting is that they have a sewing machine museum with some wonderful old machines – well worth a look if you are in the area.

Unfortunately they didn’t have the Elna 720 in stock so I was unable to have a go on Mrs Mole’s favourite machine. Marcus suggested two other machines for me, in my price range (of approximately £1000). I was comparing these two machines with the Juki which I had already tried previously.

The Janome Memory Craft 6600 Professional at £1199 was a good machine. I liked the walking foot, but when we changed to a button-hole foot it was quite a palaver. I liked the “handy short cuts” although all three machines have these – the ability to stop, cut, back-stitch, automatic threading, knee lift etc. These might seem like small details, and inessential, but I think those seconds saved, or the ability to use your hands more easily would make a difference.

After the messing around with the foot change, Marcus suggested I tried the Pfaff Performance 5.0. This was on special offer at £1299 and I think it was probably well worth the extra £100. The “IDT” walking foot arrangement was much better than the Janome which seemed a bit “cheap” by comparison. I liked the Pfaff and was soon using it with confidence. There were some nice features with the computer screen showing you graphically what you are doing and allowing customisation. I think this is a good machine at a great price.

But, maybe my mind is playing tricks on me, but I think I still prefered the Juki. Judith (on Artisans Square) kindly commented:

I have the Juki Exceed F600. Juki is mostly an industrial machine maker. Their domestic machines are exceptionally well made. Their customer service is not so good – perhaps because their experience is not with a consumer base. On the other hand, the machine is of sufficient quality that customer service isn’t an issue, except of course for the manual and for extra help in using the various features. For that, there’s Facebook and Yahoo. I don’t use the decorative stitches much, so can’t say much. The few times I’ve used one, I’ve been happy. And the button holes are very good. I have used it a lot for knits, and like that I can adjust the pressure of the presser foot.  One perhaps silly point: This machine sounds the way I think a sewing machine should sound. Hard to explain that. I’ve had my F600 about 5 years and I would buy it again.

Ambimom also had some sage advice:

I don’t envy you.  This is the decision we all anguish over isn’t it!  I have a mechanical Juki (27Z) which I really like because of the stitch quality — which is the best.  You’re definitely right about the customer service from Juki; it doesn’t exist, but I did explore the F600 myself, except I had just invested in a Janome 6600P and could not justify the switch.  These are both good machines.  In the end, you just bite the bullet.  Given that you’ve got two good choices, if it were me, I’d pick based on price.  But then there’s always something, isn’t there?  Good luck!

I really wanted to buy a machine from Hobkirks – and I still might. I think the four options

  • Janome 6600P
  • Juki F600
  • Elna 720
  • Pfaff performance 5.0

all have followers and it is probably just as difficult as choosing a car – so much comes down to personal choice.

1960s bubble car
Cute car


10 Responses

  1. Lynn

    I own the Pfaff you are considering. I adore it! Top two things I love about it? The IDT is wonderful. I have even used my Pfaff to quilt with no sluppage or bunching of layers. Slick silk, is also not a problem with the IDT system.. I also really, really like the buttonhole system on my Pfaff. I have used it on everything from voile to denim and made perfect, identical buttonholes.

    The other thing Pfaff doesn’t crow about enough is the power of the motor; you can easily sew through 6 layers of denim without a hitch or skipped stitch.

    I am on my third Pfaff machine. I admit to being partial to them. I have never owned the other brands you are considering.

    If you have any questions about my experiences with the machine, feel free to contact me.

  2. Galina

    What an interesting shop! Did they give you a tour of their museum too? Such an interesting collection of old sewing machines.
    Good luck finding the ‘one’ sewing machine and never looking back.

  3. mrsmole

    What a treat to visit such a place!!! WOW! Weighing up your style of sewing and your needs with a new machine options is tough…one thing I found is that for me buying a machine designed for quilting with a large inner harp/tunnel allows me to stuff all that netting and fluff from wedding gowns more easily through to the back. Speed was not an issue as I don’t race like quilters and strip piecing. While the Janome 6600 is so much like the Elna 720, I liked the feel and sound of the Elna and so many of the feet from my Janome 11000 are interchangeable. I find servicing my machines once a year is all the dealer back-up I need and I run my machines everyday not like a hobby but a business. Picking out a machine is when I bring my own slippery and chiffony, nasty fabric to the shop to test them out instead of the stiff sample fabrics they use to show off the decorative stitches. Making buttonholes on your own fabrics will help with the selection too…Good Luck but take your time, Kate!

  4. Summerflies

    Mrs Mole has great advice . What a great shop. Elna and Janome are made in the same factory now. I am tempted by a Pfaff here at the moment (and there is one I like that’s not as expensive but I’ve read some bad reviews so I’m put off) but I’ve never seen a Juki here. I will look with interest at what you get in the end and how you rate it.

  5. Jennifer

    Oh, I love the shop, too. “& Fabric Store” looks to be added on – I find that rather charming. Good luck on your machine selection. We seem to develop such firm connections to them, don’t we.

  6. QPlourde

    Good luck in your search! I’m in the market for a serger and I have no idea what I looking for! Well need to save up some money while I decide.

  7. Alli

    I think that if you still like the Juki best after trying all of those out, it would be fine if you went for it! But it’s great that you’re taking your time and trying out lots of different machines. 🙂

  8. Alex

    I love the pfaff, though mine is definitely much cheaper than your price range. I really think the IDT is worth the money alone, that is the reason I would never change from Pfaff. I keep hearing great things about Juki, but in the end, it’s what you are happy with. With such a large investment, you want it to be the right one.

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