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Dan & Marty's Sewing Machine Review for 2023

Analyzing the Best Sewing, Quilting, Embroidery, Long-arm Machines, and Sergers

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The first sewing machine review we did was back in 2017, and I didn't realize how popular it would be. I literally still get emails and phone calls every day in reference to the 2017 review and am happy that so many sewers were helped by our review. Now the emails and phone calls are to ask when I will update the sewing machine reviews. So here it finally is. I will be updating my list as models change or new models get introduced.

 

THE QUESTION MOST ASKED
One of the most common questions I get asked is, "Dan, what is your favorite machine?" Before I tell you what my favorite machines are for 2023,  I should clarify that the machines we sell range from $200 to over $15,000, so I will give you my favorites in various budget ranges. It’s important to remember that we have the ability to carry any make or machine model available, and we choose not to do so. I have carried a few brands in the past that I don’t carry now.  I am not going to comment on the machines that I don’t carry. Just know that if I don’t handle a particular line or model of machine, it is because I believe there is something a little or a lot better at that price point.

WHY TAKE MY ADVICE?
My father, Ramon, was a Chief Mechanical Design Engineer in the pump industry. Born in Argentina, he also was the “Hefe” (Boss) of a factory in Buenos Aires Argentina called Madex, licensed by Husqvarna AB Sweden, early in his career. The factory made sewing machines and components for the South American market.  Here is a cool video of this factory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKWcRo7VuhY&t=3s
Ramon was a super technical and analytical guy.  Not a day went by without him pointing out to his five kids products that were beautifully designed and manufactured with high-quality materials. He also never hesitated to express his displeasure with cheap and poorly designed products. Following in his footsteps, I majored in Engineering and now find myself analyzing products both good and bad on a daily basis. With 34 years in the sewing machine business, having sold roughly 20,000 sewing machines and servicing another 45,000 machines as a technician, I think I have the experience and expertise to offer some guidance.

THE ONLINE REVIEW BIAS
My biggest motivation for doing this review is that I often see poor quality machines getting excellent reviews.  I think there is an erroneous positive bias towards machines sold online, despite the fact that many of the  best machines are not available online.  I often see 4-5 star reviews on machines that I can objectively show you are very poor quality. In contrast, often the very best machines in the world have very few reviews or get little press coverage because consumer reviews are a direct bi-product of the online purchase experience.  How many times have you been prompted after an online purchase to give a review? The most serious specialty shops rarely call the customer immediately after a purchase and ask them to go online and tell the world how satisfied they are.

My brother, Tomas,  recently sent me a  review from the New York Times’ popular consumer review publication, Wirecutter, which recommended one of my least favorite machine lines for multiple reasons. In addition, the second machine they liked, lacks a metal alloy housing which is a must in my opinion.  Here is a link to the review: https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-sewing-machine/..

Why is a metal housing important? Keep reading.

ONLINE MACHINES VS IN-STORE ONLY MODELS
Over the years, more and more machines are being allowed to be sold on-line by the manufacturers and distributors.  However, not all sewing machines are sold on-line. In fact, many premium models and top-line models are only available from your local authorized retailer. This does not mean you cannot get a very high-quality sewing machine via on-line retailers including ourselves. You absolutely can. The problem I see over and over again is shoppers choosing poor quality models. In fact, the most popular online models, especially in the entry-level category are certain Brother and Singer branded machines. A lot of these models are designed to be more like a toy than a tool and I mean this literally.  Click here to see my video on Toy vs. Tool: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c53AHosgWYU&t=9s

 


PRICING & THE CONCEPT OF MAP (MINIMUM ADVERTISED PRICE)
MAP stands for Minimum Advertised Price. Many sewing machine manufacturers and distributors designate MAP to each individual machine, and dealerships like us are not allowed to publish a price below MAP. For example, Machine-X has a designated MAP of $500. Even though Dealership-Y sells Machine-X in their store for $400, they are not allowed to publish their $400 price online. If they want to publish a price for Machine-X, the $500 MAP is the lowest they can advertise.

This sound policy is two fold in my opinion:
(1) To make sure profit margins are healthy enough to foster and grow a high quality customer service oriented dealer network that in turn grows the sewing industry as a whole.
(2) To protect smaller dealers from larger operations with resources to undercut prices (think Amazon etc…)

These small family owned specialty shops provide an extremely valuable service to their local sewing community especially in rural and small markets.  It’s important to remember that MAP pricing is simply the minimum  price that one can advertise at.  Dealers can choose to sell the machine for whatever price they want. Otherwise this would be price fixing which I believe is still against the law.

I would encourage you again to contact the dealer you would like to support via phone or email prior to purchasing to get a price quote.  Find out if they are having a sale,  in-store special, or additional discounts that may be more attractive to the prices you are seeing online. Personally, I know we often have specials, especially on the machines I really like and purchase in large quantities.

On the other hand, it is often a good idea to pay a little more for a machine if you value the additional support or convenience that a local dealer you trust can provide.  No discounted price is worth it if you cannot use it due to lack of education or a malfunctioning machine.

BRANDS WE ARE CURRENTLY REPRESENTING
Our reputation for customer service, technical know-how, and longevity within our industry allows us the ability to represent any sewing machine line of our choosing. There are  brands that we do not carry that range from poor to good. I would like to carry machines that are very good to exceptional. I have chosen the following brands based on Quality, Innovation, Value, and Reliability. In addition, the following companies support us in a way necessary to take care of our customers after the sale is made.

BerninaThis Swiss company is the only family-owned sewing machine manufacturing company left in our industry. They still produce a limited number of machines in Switzerland (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sgPIL3Rq95I) but most of their machines are now manufactured in their solely owned and operated factories in Thailand. What is important to remember is that their machines are very unique compared to all other manufacturers in that their machines still use an all-steel front loading bobbin system. Two distinct front-loading designs (B9 Rotary Motion and CB Oscillating Motion) give the Bernina owner a very unique sewing experience and feel. The machines are very sturdy with an almost industrial/commercial experience. They combine this traditional old-world feel with incredible innovation- such as their Bernina Stitch Regulator (BSR) for free motion quilting, Built-In dual feed, oversized “Jumbo” bobbins, and more. Bernina owners are among the most loyal and I can see why but Bernina machines are not for everyone.

Japanese Companies: Virtually all other quality household machines without the Bernina nameplate are top-loading drop-in bobbin machines, also referred to as horizontal axis rotary hook machines.  Good quality machines with this design are easy to use, easy to maintain, reliable, and very smooth and quiet. The question is who manufactures the best horizontal axis rotary hook machines. I believe the two best manufacturers are Japanese companies; Janome and Brother.

Janome: Janome is a Japanese company with a long and rich history. For many years their machines were branded New Home in the U.S. market. You will also find Janome built machines branded under the Necchi, Elna, and Juki nameplates. Janome also makes specific models for Baby Lock, and Bernette.  We are now stocking and recommending some Necchi and Elna models in select categories. Simply put, they make the most trouble-free sewing machines in the world. Their electronics, including circuit boards, display panels, etc. are the most reliable. Some might say this is my opinion, but I say it is a fact-based on 27 years as a chief technician.

Brother: Brother makes almost all of Baby Lock’s premium sewing machines. Generally speaking, whenever you see a Baby Lock sewing or embroidery machine, it was made by Brother and Brother has an equivalent machine built on the same platform that is nearly identical machine (differences are cosmetic). However, Brother does not make Baby Lock’s serger line.

Baby Lock: Most Baby Lock sergers are manufactured by Suzuki Machinery Co. in Yamagata Japan. The Baby Lock sergers we carry are all made in this factory and, in my opinion, are the best sergers in the world. Here is a great video of the Suzuki factory making Baby Lock sergers by hand: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S90qhNyQjqM&t=4s
Notice how many women work on the line. I also saw this in Janome’s Thailand factory when I visited. The machines were meticulously assembled by hand almost entirely by women.

Juki: I have known Juki machines all of my professional life as we started exclusively as an industrial sewing machine company.  Juki excels in producing high speed sergers and rotary hook machines.  They are relatively new to the household sewing machine market here in the U.S.  Having brought in their top loading horizontal axis hook home sewing machines, I still think that Janome and the Brother factories are producing a more refined and quality product than Juki’s product. Having said this, I am a huge fan of Juki’s TL series of semi industrial straight stitch machines as well as their 18” longarm TL-350QVP.  This series allows Juki to showcase their heritage and experience making the finest high speed industrial sewing machines and sergers.  We currently stock and highly recommend three TL series machines, a couple of  sergers, and their one Janome built drop-in bobbin machine model.  We also carry and highly recommend many Juki industrial sewing machines for the professional.

Definition of Platforms as it Pertains to Sewing Machines 

A  platform is a shared set of common design features, engineering, and production efforts, as well as major components shared among distinct models in order to reduce production costs

I think this concept is important to understand because like automobiles, sewing machine manufacturers produce many different models with the same platform. It is not uncommon for five different models to share ninety percent of the same components.  I will be using this word multiple times below.

Before We Look at my 2023 Picks...
Please realize that no machine is any good if you do not have a dealer that you can trust. Make sure that they value your business and have the technical know-how to support the machine you just purchased. Do they include classes? Do they do their repairs themselves on-site? Will they be around next year when you need them? Have they invested in factory training from the manufacturer? I do not recommend that you buy your machine on-line unless:
1- You have no local dealer within reasonable driving range
2- They have proven themselves untrustworthy.
3- They simply do not carry the machine you really want.

If you have to purchase on-line, I recommend doing so from a reputable, experienced, and customer service based operation.  You must also remember that not all machines worth owning  are available on-line and many excellent dealers may not have an e-commerce presence.  Don’t be afraid to make a phone call to a shop.  I always get a valuable sense of attitude, professionalism, and above all, expertise when having a human to human conversation.  We are  always available via phone or email to offer assistance whether you want to purchase  from us or not.
dan@sewingmachineshop.com or 925-937-7575

My 2023 Picks...
I will be posting MAP prices where applicable; if you see MAP price, that means you can purchase the machine online from us.
I will organize my picks by price point and sort by price low to high. For example, I will show you my favorite machines under $500, favorite machine between $1000-2000, favorite machines between $2000-2500, etc.

Again, I encourage you to call or email your preferred dealer prior to making an on-line purchase.

I will also link you to our pre-owned machines at this price range. Buying pre-owned is great way to get the most bang for your buck, because you can get a higher end machine at a lower price. All pre-owned machines have been given a full tuneup and service by our repair department. They come with 1st year parts and labor warranty and support from our staff.

Why Buy From Us?

Every machine we sell comes with a special "getting started" care package exclusive for customers of The Sewing Machine Shop.

Our Getting Started care package includes the following items:

(1) Free Shipping

(2) Bobbins, needles, and a spool of thread-- everything you need to sit down and sew the day your machine arrives.

(3) Free "getting started" class with a member of our staff-- in person if you live close to our store, or on Skype/Facetime if you live far away.

BEST ENTRY LEVEL SEWING MACHINES <$550

joy product image

Baby Lock Joy

joy product image

Juki HZL-LB5020

Brother NS80E

I now have a large sample size and history with this platform, having sold hundreds of units.   Both machines are Janome built and are identical except for graphics.  The model will not dazzle you, but you will get a very reliable quiet and smooth running basic mechanical machine with 16 stitches. I have been to the Thailand factory myself and watched this model being hand built one by one. If $249 takes you over the top, as of this writing, you can get the Janome MyStyle 100 for about $200 which is built on the same platform. The MyStyle 100 will not have a needle threader and does not have variable zig zag for stitches other than zig zag.
Juki HZL-LB5020 - $399 | Juki HZL5100 - $499 | Janome 2030DC -$499 | Bernette 37 -$499

Not coincidentally, all of the above models are Janome built and on the same platform. This time in their Taiwan factory.  The least expensive at the moment is the Juki HZL-LB5020 with 20 stitches that includes a  fully automatic 1 step buttonhole system.  In addition, you now get one of the most important features in sewing (Needle up/ down stop which allows the user to choose where the needle stops once their foot is let off the foot control.  If you want more stitches and possibly a few more included accessories jump up to the 100 stitch HZL-LB5100. If you want to support your local Janome or Bernina dealer, you will get virtually the same machine under the Janome or Bernette name.  Again, I have a huge sample size with this platform having sold hundreds including supplying a large reputable nationwide kids summer camp with 200 plus   units annually.

Brother NS80E - $550 | Baby Lock Jubilant - $599
In my last several  reviews, I had a Janome product in this slot, but Janome discontinued the platform I had been touting as the best $500 machine in the world for the past 20 years.  Because of this, I began to search for the current  best $500 machine in the world. The pandemic and inflation has pushed it over $500 but this Brother platform  is exceptional. The 2 models are identical outside of graphics to the best of my knowledge.  Both are 80 stitch machines. Brother’s auto needle threader is outstanding. The machine has proved  reliable, quiet, and smooth.  Navigation is easy and intuitive.  Brother/Baby Lock takes the crown from Janome in this ever popular  price point.

BEST MACHINES FOR SEWING & QUILTING <$1,000

Brother PS500 PS500

Brother PS500

Brother PS500 PS500
baby lock brilliant

Baby Lock Brilliant

baby lock brilliant

Janome 4120

Brother PS500 - $799 | Baby Lock Presto - $799
Baby Lock Brilliant - $999 | Brother PS700
As I said earlier, Brother manufactures many of the Baby Lock sewing machines and all 4 of these are built on the same platform. This platform increases the throat space by approx. 2 inches over a standard sewing machine. In addition to the needle up/down feature, another key feature added to this platform is automatic thread trimming.  Bobbin and top thread are now cut with a push of a button.  On the two higher end versions, PS700 and Brilliant, hands free presser foot lifting is added as well as a larger display.  Hands free presser foot lifting is a major feature allowing the sewer to keep both hands in contact with the garment or quilt at all times.  Please look over the specs and included accessories on these models.  I really find the PS700 a great value as it includes the most accessories including an expensive extension table.  I believe it is worth the extra money.

 

Janome 3160QDC - $699 | Janome 4120QDC - $799 | Janome 5300QDC

These three machines are all built on the same platform and offer great value in terms of quality, accessories, and features. All three come with an extension table and walking foot, as well as the needle up/down feature, start/stop button, and automatic thread trimming. The 5300 is designed with the best needle threader out of the three, plus a beefed up needle bar (same size as the Skyline series in the next section) for the ability have greater overall success sewing thicker materials. The 3160 is the most simple out of three, with about 60 stitches total. The 4120 has the double the stitches as the 3160, plus a more detailed screen and the ability to monogram.

PREMIUM SEWING & QUILTING MACHINES $1,000-$2,000

Skyline S5 SIDE

Skyline S5

Skyline S5 SIDE
Bernina 435 sewing machine - buy now

Bernina 435

Bernina 435 sewing machine - buy now

Brother BQ1350

Janome Skyline S5 - $1499 Skyline S6 (in-store model)

This is the price category where Janome starts upgrading their components to a premium level.   The Skyline platform is exceptional and value packed, especially the Skyline S6 which also introduces Janome’s dual feed system called Accufeed Flex, which feeds fabric from both above and below synchronously. Janome puts the Acufeed Flex System on their $15,000+ top of the line machine, and they also put it on the S6, making the S6 the definition of a cost-effective machine.

Here is a short video: Acufeed Flex Introduction

Other components that are upgraded are the upper shaft bushings which become sealed ball bearing, a best in class needle plate system for quick change to straight stitch plate, additional led lighting, larger throat to over 8”, hands free knee lift, trimmers, 9mm zig zag, larger step motors, thicker needle bar, and more.  Also consider the Skyline S7 which until fairly recently I was able to put into the under $2000 category which introduces another key feature which is presser foot pivot and/or hover. This feature adds a step motor that raises and lowers the presser foot automatically when the needle is down for pivoting and raises it automatically after an auto thread trim. Owners who get this feature love it and wonder how they did without it all those years. It comes loaded with accessories and has a nice intuitive touch screen.

Brother BQ1350 | Baby Lock Soprano (in-store models)

 

These 2 models are virtually identical and I really like the value. These are the lowest priced models that have  5 of the 6 most important everyday features used every time one sews.  Needle up/down, auto thread trimming, larger throat space, hover/pivot, and increased built in led lighting. The sixth which these models do not have is integrated dual feed also referred to built in walking foot system.  The Skyline S7 checks all 6 boxes for a little more money.

For Sale: Pre-Owned Baby Lock Soprano

 

Bernina 435   (Relaunch expected Q1 2023)

I didn’t want to go much longer without including one of my favorite and most unique sewing machine brands so I decided to list the Bernina 435 even though it is currently not available. It will be back in 2023 and I will also list the 475 and 480 in my next category.  At about this price point, Bernina starts to get exciting. The 4 series features Bernina’s very unique and innovative B9 hook system (video link to B9 hook).  What Bernina claims and what I believe they deliver is a hook system with the stitch quality of their legendary oscillating CB hook (still on the 3 series 325,335) but the innovation of a large hook and large bobbin capacity (Jumbo) rotary hook that has the ability to add auto thread trimming (not possible with CB hook) higher sewing speeds for quilting and embroidery, and 9mm zig zag capability (5.5mm max for CB hook)  The bottom line is Bernina machines are expensive, but the 4 series starts bringing Bernina back in line value wise with it’s Japanese competitors without sacrificing innovation and features

BEST SEWING & QUILTING MACHINES $2,000-$3,000

Skyline S7

Janome 6700P

Bernina 480

Janome Skyline S7
Until fairly recently I was able to put the S7 into the under $2000 category which introduces another key feature which is presser foot pivot and/or hover. This feature adds a step motor that raises and lowers the presser foot automatically when the needle is down for pivoting and raises it automatically after an auto thread trim. Owners who get this feature love it and wonder how they did without it all those years. It comes loaded with accessories and has a nice intuitive touch screen.

Janome 6700P Professional

This is a very unique and popular machine. It is a flat bed machine with an all alloy external metal housing.  It is rated at over 1000 spm, has dual feed and is loaded with accessories. The flat bed design allows the engineers plenty of space to put the lower half components in optimum locations for performance  instead of having to compromise when the free arm limits their options.  This machine does not have presser foot pivot/hover but does have a hands free knee lifting system.  Janome quality and premium components are evident throughout.  The powder coated exterior housing is a unique thing of beauty that to me highlights the pride of Janome as a serious machine builder

Bernina 475 | Bernina 480
These two machines are built on the same platform. The main difference between the two is that the B475 has 5.5 MM stitch width and the B480 has 9 MM stitch width. You might see the 475 labeled as "quilter's edition" but this does not mean it is a better quilting machine than the 480-- "quilter's edition" is purely used for marketing purposes; it comes with a quarter inch foot, but that's it.

The 4 series features Bernina’s very unique and innovative B9 hook system (video link to B9 hook).  What Bernina claims and what I believe they deliver is a hook system with the stitch quality of their legendary oscillating CB hook (still on the 3 series 325,335) but the innovation of a large hook and large bobbin capacity (Jumbo) rotary hook that has the ability to add auto thread trimming (not possible with CB hook) higher sewing speeds for quilting and embroidery, and 9mm zig zag capability (5.5mm max for CB hook)  The bottom line is Bernina machines are expensive, but the 4 series starts bringing Bernina back in line value wise with it’s Japanese competitors without sacrificing innovation and features

Best Sewing and Quilting Machines Under $5,000 (listed from least to most expensive)

I am going to speak more in general terms and not get into all of the details of each model I list before. Machines in this price range generally have the following features in addition to the models I listed in the previous under $2000 category:

- Very large throat areas (11+ inches to right of needle)

- Superior LED lighting (located in multiple locations and angles)

- Very large intuitive and easy to navigate color touch screens

- Massive selection of stitches in the hundreds plus the ability to create your own personal stitches

- Large compliment of included accessories and presser feet

- Possible upgrade to embroidery unit (Bernina)

- Built in dual feed systems or ability to add (Baby Lock/Brother)

- Automatic presser foot lifting (Pivot/Hover)

janome mc9480

Janome 9480

janome mc9480
BERNINA 570

Bernina 570

BERNINA 570

Brother BQ3100

BERNINA 735

Bernina 735

BERNINA 735

Janome Memory Craft 9450

This is Janome’s top end machine with a free arm and without embroidery. It has all of Janome’s premium components and unique innovations.  Other manufacturers are challenged to build a more complete machine than this for less money. Refinement at a great price.

Baby Lock Ballad
Brother BQ3100 | Baby Lock Chorus

These 4 aesthetically beautiful machines are all built on the same platform. They are known for their large and easy to use color touch screens and world class fully automatic “never miss” needle threaders. When you start getting the layers of capabilities that top of line machines offer the sewer, intuitive navigation via the large central touch screen becomes  important and nobody does it like Brother software engineers. Simple is always better in our opinion and many of our customers agree.

Bernina 570
This Bernina 5-series machine offers incredible value in my opinion and is a very popular machine. Relatively large throat space at 8.5 inches, built-in dual feed (walking foot), B9 hook system with jumbo bobbins, and a beautiful screen. It comes with a Bernina Stitch Regulator in the box, which costs $1,000 by itself if you were to purchase it a la carte. It also has embroidery capability if you decide later on down the road that you want to start embroidery. Essentially, the B570 is a miniature B770+, which you will see in the next section.

 

Bernina 735

Bernina’s 7 series are my favorite Bernina platform and the 735 is its newest member.  I will call this a machine designed for the purist.  Bernina keeps the price down by including fewer accessories and allowing the owner to purchase only what they need “a la carte”  Bernina decides to limit  the stitch width to its traditional “old school” 5.5mm stitch width. While this diminishes the larger bold look for decorative stitching, it allows the feed dogs and presser feet to remain narrow which makes the machine very nimble and maneuverable.  Garment sewers and Quilters who have owned Bernina machines in the past are flocking to this model to get the large throat space, modern conveniences of trimmers, lighting, pivot etc… while maintaining the precision and feel of Bernina machines of the past.  This machine does not have Bernina’s dual feed system. One would have to consider the 770QE or smaller 570QE to get this feature. It does however have the ability to  accept Bernina’s new SDT embroidery module and Bernina’s Stitch Regulator (BSR) for free motion sewing.

Best Sewing/Quilting Machine in the World Winner 2023

There are 2 choices for this honor in 2023.  The Bernina can be upgraded to embroidery for $2000 additional. I am proud to recommend both and they could not be more different.

Janome M7

B770 buy it online

Bernina 770QE

B770 buy it online

Janome Continental M7

The Janome M7 is a thing of beauty, winning both  the IF and Red Dot Design awards in 2020 so we now have a great history with this platform (link to info re: these awards).  It is a huge, rock solid flat bed sewing machine.  18” seamless all metal powder coated external flatbed with 13.5 inches to the right of the needle.  The M7 is the first home sewing machine to feature a brushless servo motor which up until now was only found on more powerful industrial sewing machines.  It is by far the best and most powerful sewing motor in the industry.  The needle plate system of which many are included is also the best system available.  The pro plate and foot turns this 1300 spm machine into a versatile high speed powerhouse with an industrial feel .  The flat bed design allows the engineers ample space to optimally locate each and every component in the lower half of the machine exactly where it needs to be. An additional step motor lowers the feed dogs every single time the presser foot is raised allowing the fabric to be slid out smoothly without snagging.  The machine comes loaded with almost every accessory available.  The only thing missing from this model is stitch regulation which we expect to be introduced by late 2023 early 2024. I do not believe this will be an add on. It most likely will be on a subsequent model built on the same platform.  This machine embodies everything Janome has learned over its 100 years of existence. This machine says “we are an engineering driven company, not a company driven by the finance and marketing dept.

 

Bernina 770QE Plus

The 770QE Plus is the upgraded version of the earlier 770QE. The Plus upgrade has a much larger and more capable display.  The 770QE Plus has everything a serious sewer or quilter  should want in their dream machine.  Large throat space, fantastic lighting, the best presser feet in the industry, elegant and compact built in dual feed, commercial quality and feel, BSR (bernina stitch regulation) included as standard, large bobbin capacity, and most importantly, legendary Bernina stitch quality.  In addition, this model can become a 770QEE Plus with Bernina’s high performance SDT Embroidery module as an option down the road. I haven't been so excited about a Bernina since the late 80s early 90s when the model 1130,1230,1090, series came about.  Everything about Bernina is unique and proprietary.  You should not get this machine unless you have a relationship with a competent Bernina dealer. Not anyone can work on these machines.  Unique parts, tools and training are required to support these machines.  My analogy is that you can often take a Toyota or Ford to a good general car mechanic but you wouldn't want to take a Porsche to anyone other than a factory trained Porsche mechanic.

Best Combo Sewing plus Embroidery Top-of-line Flagship Machines in the World

I have two favorites in this prestigious category:

Janome M17

Brother Luminaire XP3

Janome Continental M17

From a build and materials standpoint, it would be hard to argue a better machine on the planet for the serious sewist.  Janome used its extensive experience manufacturing assembly robots to produce an ultrafast and accurate embroidery machine .  The quality is evident right away.  The innovations on the sewing/quilting  side are amazing. The largest throat area in the industry, the only brushless servo sewing motor in the industry,  and ASR which is Janome’s stitch regulation system for free motion quilting (better than Bernina’s BSR in my opinion).

On the embroidery end is the largest embroidery field (11.3 by 18.2”) in the industry and the highest quality embroidery module I have ever seen.  The machine uses wireless technology and phone apps to allow the user to harness the M17’s full capabilities.  If Sewing and/or Quilting is your main hobby and embroidery is secondary, I would lean to this choice.  If Embroidery is mostly what you are interested in with Sewing and Quilting less so, you might want to consider my next choice.

 

Brother Luminaire XP3 | BabyLock Solaris Vision BLSA3

The machine that has won this category in my review for years just keeps getting better. These two brands and models, built on the same platform are Brother’s 3rd version, with each version adding additional capabilities through firmware upgrades.  The two very cool technologies that set this machine apart from any other  is the high definition built in camera and the projection system.  These technologies allow one  to place the  embroidery design precisely and also view in full color  how it is going to look on your garment or quilt prior to sewing a single stitch.  No machine delivers more unique useful technology in a simple intuitive manner than Brother/Baby Lock.  For the embroidery especially, this is the most intuitive, easy to use machine there is.  Quality components and technology that the owner will use every day make this the co-winner of best combo machine in the world.

Single Needle Embroidery Machines

brother_NQ1700E

Brother NQ1700e

brother_NQ1700E

Babylock Aerial

Babylock Vesta

Brother_XE1_Stellaire_

Brother Stellaire XE1

Brother_XE1_Stellaire_

Bernina Modules

A general rule when searching for a new embroidery machine: a larger embroidery machine gives you a larger embroidery field, meaning you can create larger designs. There are other features to consider as well. Having a larger screen will make it easier to see how the design will look prior to embroidering it. Having more on-screen tools to manipulate the design will ultimately allow you to do more as well. In addition, the higher up you go, the more built-in embroidery designs and fonts.

Brother NQ1700e | Baby Lock Flare - $1,999
Stand alone embroidery machine with a 6.25" x 10.25" Embroidery Field which gives you ability to do large designs that cover a t-shirt, sweatshirt, towel, etc. Incredibly cost effective for less than $2,000, this is a great machine for those looking to do upgrade their embroidery, or even start a business.

Brother NQ3700D | Baby Lock Vesta
Sewing-embroidery combination machine. These two guys are essentially the Flare/NQ1700e with sewing capability.

Baby Lock Aerial - $6,499
Sewing-Embroidery Combination Machine
8"x12" Embroidery field
Beautiful LCD color touchscreen is 7" across diagnally

Brother Stellaire XE1 | Brother Stellaire XJ1
The XE1 and XJ1 are built on the same platform. The XE1 is embroidery-only, whereas the XJ1 is a sewing-embroidery combination machine.
Massive 9.5"x14" embroidery field.
Beautiful 10" LCD Color Screen
Over 700 built-in embroidery designs and fonts, including Disney designs

Bernina Embroidery Units
Bernina offers a handful of different machines that have embroidery capability, but you don't have to buy the embroidery unity at the same time you buy the machine. It's a beautiful system. You can always tack on the embroidery unit later on when you decide you want to start your embroidery journey.
A few of our favorite machines that have embroidery capability: B570, B735, B770+

Best Sergers, Coverhem, and Combo

Baby Lock Celebrate Serger Side Angle

Babylock Celebrate

Baby Lock Celebrate Serger Side Angle
Baby Lock Victory Serger - easy to use serger

Babylock Victory

Baby Lock Victory Serger - easy to use serger
Baby Lock Acclaim Serger Side Angle

Babylock Acclaim

Baby Lock Acclaim Serger Side Angle

Babylock Triumph

This is a pretty easy category for me to recommend because the Baby Lock machines coming out of the Suzuki factory in Yamagata, Japan are, in my mind, are clearly the best sergers in the world. You can see these machines being made by hand here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S90qhNyQjqM&t=4s.
These sergers are not cheap and you won’t be able to get a new one under $1000 but if you decide to go for it, you won’t be sorry.   If your budget is under $1000,  I highly recommend Juki. Their background in high speed industrial overlockers give them the edge over other manufacturers in entry level and mid-priced sergers.

The Baby Lock machines I really like have both Automatic Threading and even more importantly ATD (Automatic Thread Delivery). Don’t get these two confused.  These two important technologies address the two biggest hurdles with sergers.  The complexity of threading and adjusting tensions on up to 5 different spools of thread.  Baby Lock addresses both of these problems with utter perfection. With a lever or dial the upper and lower loopers and with some models the needles are threaded automatically with one of 2 air systems.  ATD is a beautiful mechanical system (no electronics!) that measures the amount of thread needed to make a perfect stitch.  Tension dials are eliminated and any brand or type of thread can be used without adjustments.

Here is a list of Baby Lock sergers that I sell with some  important details:

Baby Lock Celebrate - $999 (jet air threading for loopers, conventional tensions)

Baby Lock Victory - $1,999 (jet air threading for loopers with ATD)

Baby Lock Acclaim (extrordinaire threading for both loopers and needles with ATD)

Baby Lock Accolade - $3,999 (combo serger/coverhem w/extrordinaire threading for loopers w/ATD)

Baby Lock Triumph (combo serger/coverhem w/ extraordinaire threading for both loopers and needles with ATD)

Baby Lock Euphoria - $1999 (Coverhem only w/extrordinair and ATD)

If you want an excellent serger in the entry level and midline category, JUKI makes the best sergers and coverhem machines.  They also make a very good serger over $1000 with air threading and now a new model with air threading and thread delivery.  We carry several different models so call or email to inquire or get advice.

Semi Industrial (Portable) Straight Stitch Only Machines

Juki TL18QVP

Janome HD9

You can’t go wrong with Juki.  I carry their TL series which is their semi industrial portable drop feed, straight stitch only machines.  They have a large throat for quilting but they are equally good for garment sewing and heavier work such as canvas tote bags, slip covers, and light weight leather and vinyl.  Models I like to stock are the Juki TL-2010Q and the Juki TL-18QVP.  I also really love the new Janome HD9

Longarm Quilting Machines

Juki Miyabe J-350 QVP

Bernina Q20

Currently I am selling The Juki Miyabe J-350QVP in both the sit-down and frame version. This 18 inch longarm, made in Japan, is a great value. Featuring dual laser stitch regulation in both the sit down and frame version.  Some of the external electronics are from Grace (handlebars, display, control box) which are not quite the quality that the rest of the machine is but on balance I see no other machine that competes with this model on total value ( = quality plus price).

Bernina Q20 Sit Down

One of the few Bernina's made in its Swiss Factory, this is one beautiful machine. It's significantly more expensive than the Juki but it does take long arm engineering to another level.  This is my favorite longarm in the world.

Industrial Sewing Machines

Anything Juki.  Whether you are sewing garments or doing heavy upholstery work, Juki has a model that should fit your budget and quality standards. I am happy to consult with anyone on their professional machine needs.

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