Bernina or Janome? That is the question.

I'm struggling over here in a big way.  Over the last year, I have had tension issues with my Necchi 525FA.  My mom bought this machine in the 1980's, and I inherited the machine in 2009.  It sat in my closet for a year until Owen was born.  It was not until 2011 that I started experiencing headaches every time I sat down to sew.   A 20 minute project would turn into two hours as I dealt with threading issues, tension problems, and frequent thread breaks.  Let's not mention the countless hours unpicking ugly seams either.  As much as I dislike my Necchi, which could possibly be remedied with a tuneup (again), I cannot give it up.  It was my mother's, and I would feel like I am dishonoring her by trashing her machine.  It's all I have left of her.  She passed away when I was 15.  Okay, enough rant and sob story. 

The other day my husband did something really sweet.  He sold his road bike without me knowing and gave me a nice sum of money to put towards my sewing machine fund!  I was really excited, but I also felt bad taking the money.  I didn't earn it, but he insisted on me taking it.

All of this sparked my interest in test driving a few machines. OH MY WORD.  What have I been doing these last two years???  I feel like I have been sewing under a rock.  These new machines sew like a dream, and they do everything for you.  Did you know that some machines can CUT thread for you and do a lock stitch???  For real???  Look how giddy i am over just those two small things.  I worked on a machine that stitched out my name.  Say whaaat?  I know some of you are probably just giggling over this saying "Poor Nancy.  She really has been sewing under a rock."  I have never stepped into a sewing machine shop.  EVER. 

Well, this means a lot of money because of the amount of bells and whistles.  I understand that a sewing machine is a piece of equipment, a tool.  My husband works with expensive tools in electrical engineering, but he has to in order to perform a job well done. 

At times, I can be stingy with money.  I am the annoying girl who patiently waits for the cashier to open a new roll of pennies because I want my two cents back in change.  I am literally the girl who picks up any coins off the parking lot grounds or sidewalks.  I am the girl who will ditch out going to full priced movie theater with girlfriends because it costs $9 ticket.  I am the girl who will turn down a dinner date with my husband only because I didn't want to pay for a babysitter while my baby sleeps.  At the same time, I do like to buy nice things, and I like quality.  Who doesn't?  But this is where I am hung up.

Though I may be able to afford an expensive machine doesn't necessarily mean I want to spend money on an expensive machine.  After testing Viking, Brother, Janome, and Bernina, I have narrowed it down to these below.  There are other brands that some people have recommended that I have not tried out yet like Pfaff, Elna, and Baby Lock, and I am open to suggestions.

Bernina 550  $$$$
Janome Horizon 7700  $$$
Berina 330  $$

The Bernina 550 is as high as I am willing to go.  It's such a big investment.  All that money can stretch a long way.  Think of all the fabric I could buy!!  Or I could even buy a beloved Genevieve Gorder rug for my living room!  Or more realistically, that could pay off 5 mortgage payments or feed my family for 9 months.

I know that, ultimately, I need to choose a machine that will best fit ME and MY needs.  It will also need to accommodate my future needs.  I need to sew home decor, quilts, clothing, and crafts.  I need good quality stitches, and I need a workhorse.  There are things that I absolutely love on the Janome that I cannot get on the Bernina models I am looking at.  Lock stitch, automatic thread cutter,  top loading bobbin, and an 11" harp size.   Bernina offers the amazing Bernina Stitch Regulator (for FMQ), has a great reputation, and has metal parts.  It's just so dang expensive!  I can get more features in Janome for a lower price, but does that make the Janome cheap???  And if Anna Maria Horner sews on a Janome, does that mean it is okay? (because I love AMH and if she said smoking crack while sewing produces betters quilts, I would do it)

But in all seriousness, I don't understand why I am freaking out about this as much as I am other than it is a commitment and a large amount of cash is involved.  I am confused, anxious to sew, and want to be satisfied rather quickly.  I know I need to wait this out, and I will eventually have a new machine.  Used or new in box, but no matter what, new to me.

So ultimately it comes down to this.  Bernina or Janome?   I desperately need YOUR help.  I need input.  I need advice.  Here are some questions I am asking.
  • What machine do you sew on?  
  • How long have you own your machine?
  • What types of sewing do you do on your machine?  (Quilting, Home Decor, Clothing, Crafts?)
  • How often do you use your decorative stitches?  Are they really handy to have?
  • Is customer service or your dealer great with help when you have questions or need help resolving issues with your machine?
  • What features do you like or dislike?
  • Would you buy this machine again?
  • What are your thoughts on mechanical versus computerized machines?
  • Would you buy on Ebay or Craigslist?
  • Do you know the best time to purchase a sewing machine?
  • Do you know if sales can go lower than demo prices (used machines for testing in dealer stores)?
  • Is there anything else I should be asking or missed?

Thanks for stopping in today!

xx nancy

My quilting book released Sept. 24, 2015 and is on Amazon.  Check it out!


  1. What machine do you sew on? currently and Elna 9000
    How long have you own your machine? since 1989 hand me down also.
    What types of sewing do you do on your machine? (Quilting, Home Decor, Clothing, Crafts?)I sew all of the above.
    How often do you use your decorative stitches? Are they really handy to have? I thought I would use them, but for me, hand embroidery far surpasses machine. The one thing I wish I had was the Monogram feature!
    Is customer service or your dealer great with help when you have questions or need help resolving issues with your machine? Yes they were, I use to sell the machines!
    What features do you like or dislike? Really, if you don't plan on doing a lot of machine embroidery stay away from those type of machines. The more computer parts in the machine the more easily it will break down!
    Would you buy this machine again? YES!
    What are your thoughts on mechanical versus computerized machines? Like I said above computer machines do not last as long as mechanical.
    Would you buy on Ebay or Craigslist? NO!!!
    Do you know the best time to purchase a sewing machine? If you have time and know what you want, wait for the sale!
    Do you know if sales can go lower than demo prices (used machines for testing in dealer stores)? Sometimes, but watch out sometimes those demo machines have been used in the classroom for a few years! They don't have an odometer like a car so be careful.
    Is there anything else I should be asking or missed? You need to look at what kind of sewing you really do, if it is mostly straight stitch then go with a basic machine. If you sew clothes, maybe you need to invest in a serger. They are very handy when it comes to finishing seams!

    Good Luck!

  2. Anonymous8/13/2012

    I just bought a basic Janome to replace a worn-out Kenmore that I loved. The Janome seems to be a good workhorse - I think I'll be very happy with it. My Kenmore had lots of fancy stitches that I next to never used. Straight, zigzag, mending, and blind hem are pretty much all you need. I found a good deal on Amazon.

  3. I recently purchased a Babylock Elizabeth - it's probably a little less fancy than what you've been looking at. I was sewing under a rock for years, then my mom bought me a Singer quilting machine at JoAnn which was wonderful for like 3 months then I struggled with it for years. So spending the extra money is well worth it. I would say I almost never use the decorative stitches. The overlock stitch is nice since I don't have a serger. As far as when to get a good deal - there was recently a sewing expo in Pittsburgh and the dealer who provided machines for the classes has great deals on the machines that were lightly used for a couple of days. So that's a great time to get a deal! I kind of wish I had waited!

  4. I sew on a Janome 9000 (not made anymore) which is a hand me down from my MIL. Best hand me down ever! I've probably had it over 10 years and she used it for years before that. It has lots of fancy stitches which I seldom use. I mostly do piecing with it. The features I really love are the knee lift and the needle down -- so handy when you're doing machine applique or stitching curves. I get it cleaned and serviced about once a year. I once had an issue that I think was the timing and once had a problem with the light bulb. Both fairly inexpensive repairs.
    One thing unrelated to sewing machines....I love your posts and the way your blog looks, but I have a hard time reading some of the text. I use Chrome as my browser and the combination of the font and the pale grey color kind of washes out on the white background. The black text and the blue-green text are easier to read. I don't know if it's just me or not, but thought you would want to know. Maybe if others are having this problem they will speak up as well.

  5. Can't help you here darling!! My sewing knowledge & skills are as basic as can be! Just me and my trusty Singer stitching along! Just had to comment though on how sweet your husband is! He obviously sees your talent (as do the rest of us!) and wants to invest in your future. Go ahead and spend that money on the machine you fall in love with! I'm sure whatever you end up doing, you will see a return on your investment. Happy shopping:)

  6. I bought my Bernina 350 from a LQS last year, it was a class machine used in a local quilt show, so I got it on good discount. My experience tracking these basic Bernina machines is that you won't find a better deal than a shop approved used one or a demo machine. Berninas rarely go on sale.

    I'm happy with the machine, quite. It's easy to use and very sturdy. But I do wish I had looked at Janomes as well, because it seems like you can get more features for the money with a Janome. That being said, I LOVE the LQS where I bought my bernina, so that was a big sell for me - the people I'd be working with for years over this machine and others, if I bought more or traded up.

    I personally would stay away from Ebay or Craigslist for my primary machine. I think dealing with a knowledgeable local dealer/servicer is invaluable in terms of peace of mind.

    I use my decoratives stitches about 10% of the time, but when I do use them, they are SO wonderful. Definitely worth a little extra money if you're thinking to use them at all. Having text stitches is also pretty cool for specialized projects.

  7. I sew on a Bernina 1230 which is about 25 years old. It was expensive when I bought it but look at how many years I've had and used it? My recommendation is that you spend the time to take some "new owner" classes if the store where you buy your new machine offers them. I know EVERYTHING about my machine because I did this. I see other Bernina owners who never use the automatic threader or knee lift or don't know about the needle down feature. I couldn't live without these things and that is because the woman who taught me to use the machine MADE me take advantage of these things that weren't on my old machine so that I would learn about them. I agree with almost everyone else in saying that I've almost never used the decorative stitches. Good luck! Linda (www.ifinallyhavetime.com)

  8. I can't answer all your questions, but I can share some things with you. I have a Janome which I bought in 2007 and I like it. My mom who also sews a lot has the same machine. I don't know the models you mentioned, but I know I would like my Janome a ton more if it had a built in walking foot for quilting...Maybe the Horizon 7700 has this. I will say I hardly ever use the fancy or letter stitches, and I'd probably buy from a local dealer in case of troubles. You could always research prices online and ask them to match it if you found something cheaper...

  9. I don't have an answer for you but I'm very interested in reading the comments and hearing what you decide since I'm wondering the same. I still working on an inexpensive mechanical machine with no features that I got about 15 years ago and I really need to upgrade!

  10. Anonymous8/14/2012

    I have a Bernina 1630 which I bought used from the dealer back in 1996 and have loved it all these years. The original dealer is no longer around by my machine still is (now I get it serviced at the current Bernina dealer) The question to ask yourself is how much quilting will you do on your machine? In my opinion, Berninas are simply the best for FMQ!! Forget about the lock stitch and auto thread cutter - they are a pain to deal with in FMQ. I used to teach FMQ classes and the lock stitch and auto cutter were a pain to deal with for students. You want to have control over starting and stopping your stitches at all times for FMQ. Its super easy to take off all the feet you will use for quilting - piecing foot, free-motion foot, walking foot. You want to be able to snap feet on and off with no problems, and quickly. Also, you want to be able to switch threads easily too. My Bernina works wonderfully for that.

  11. What machine do you sew on? New Home/ Janome Memory Craft 4000
    How long have you own your machine? Since 1993
    What types of sewing do you do on your machine? (Quilting, Home Decor, Clothing, Crafts?) All of the above but mostly quilting and home decor now, occasional PJ pants :)
    How often do you use your decorative stitches? 10-15% Are they really handy to have? Yes they are handy but I don't think I need all that I have, I could probaby use 20-5 vs 100-150
    Is customer service or your dealer great with help when you have questions or need help resolving issues with your machine? Yes, same shop I bought it from--very important to have someone who knows what they are doing and does not send machine out somewhere else to be repaired.
    What features do you like or dislike? Love the snap on feet, the quiet whirrr, no tension issues - probably what I love best!
    Would you buy this machine again? yes
    What are your thoughts on mechanical versus computerized machines? I have not had any problems but makes sense that mechanical would have less opportunity for problems
    Would you buy on Ebay or Craigslist? Not sure, I have considered it cautiously given the prices of new machines. And there are many people who do buy and then don't use them, really no where else for them to sell except newspaper classified.
    Do you know the best time to purchase a sewing machine? I agree with others a demo from a class or at a show seems to be a great time or when the latest, greatest machine is released and there are trade ins, many times that is a great deal because of the price and the shop goes over it and gives a guarantee (at least my shop does)
    Do you know if sales can go lower than demo prices (used machines for testing in dealer stores)? My LQS will do really good pricing on trade in/up machines. checks them over, and then guarantees them.
    Is there anything else I should be asking or missed? Harp space for FMQ. Every little bit helps. Plus I would like the bobbin winder where I don't have to undo and rethread my machine each time but in reality that is a convienence like the thread cutter and others... A new machine is a personal decision, I know I looked in the last yr at the Bernina's 400 series and test drove 380. Very nice, but expensinve $3000-$4500 depending upon 300 vs 400 series and BSR. I test drove the Janome 7700 very nice and less price, really do not think that makes it cheap at approx $3000 MSRP although you can get them for less. Still not convinced I "need" to buy one -- my main goal is FMQ and therfore the harp space and stitching. What a wonderful gift from your hubby! Totally understand your decision, many of the things you mentioned I do too!! Good luck and let us know what you decide on!

  12. Anonymous12/31/2012

    I have a bernina 930 that is 28 yrs old and has never been serviced. I keep it clean and oiled. I crank out at least one quilt a month and sometimes three. It was $1000 when i bought it 28 yrs ago. I am currently saving for the 550qe. It will b on sale in june at my local sewing machine center. They have a great rep, give lessons and service the machine. I'm a bernina gal all the way.

    1. I went with the 550qe. I'm still learning the ins and outs of it, but it sews well!

  13. Anonymous1/01/2013

    Have you purchased your machine yet? I use to work for a Bernina Corporate store, not a independent dealer. I have sewn on all the machine and I can tell you first had
    they are terrific. Our store closed and I still teach sewing in my home and also
    teach software classes for the embroidery Version 6. I own a 630 with the module for
    embroidery. If you are going to do embroidery, think about one the will take the module. I believe the 550 will. If just sewing, and not embroidery, find a 440QE.
    This machine is excellent for sewing and quilting. It will also do embroidery but must be hooked up to the computer. The module can be purchase seperately so you do not have to buy at this time. You will get a better deal if purchased when buying your machine though. Good luck with your search

    1. Could you send me a personal email? I would love to ask you a question. Thanks!

  14. Nancy ,which machine did you finally buy.I want to buy an embroidery machine and how I would want to buy a Bernina but the $$$$$ to spend means I will have to justify that I will be using that much.So....

  15. Nancy, how much did you end up getting your Bernina 550QE for? Do you love it? I'm currently having the Janome or Bernina debate at the moment as well!!!!!

    1. I paid $4k for mine. I do love it, but I also have mixed feelings about it. I really need to write a review! It does sew well though.

  16. Why did you pass up the Baby Lock?

  17. OMG I am having the debate right now too after I just bought a Bernina 750Q. Met up with some other who sew a lot like I do and they sweat by their Janomes. O what to do?

  18. i just bought the janome memory craft 15000. I very seriously debated the berninas but once I got this home I was pleased with my decision. I love sewing on this machine!! I like to use all the bells and whistls and this machine has them in triplicate. it's got such a heavy, grounded feel when youj sew and so far, popping off feet to use different things is very easy. I haven't had anything to complain about yet.

    good luck1

    1. I'm debating between the Janome Memory Craft 15000 & the Viking Designer Diamond Royal. How much did you pay for the Janome.

  19. I have been looking at the same machines and have been leaning towards the 550. I saw that you had mixed feelings? about it. Do you mind sharing your experience? Thanks!


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