(A compare between Brother SE400, Janome HD3000, Juki TL 2010Q, from a garment sewer’s personal experience)
Although I love vintage sewing machines, I mainly sew on modern sewing machines – it just gets the job done without any fuss. The past year I’ve had the chance to sew with three modern sewing machines and I want to share some of my thoughts on them in case it helps another person with their shopping.
Brother SE400 ($299)
Brother-SE400 is an embroidery machine. Since I’ve gotten it as a present from Hubby back in 2014(???), I’ve used it quite non-stop. It is packed with functionalities that I really enjoyed.
- different button hole and eyelet maker is essential for my garment sewing
- The embroidery part is really great – there are some existing patterns, and you can also use free software out there to design your own (a bit time consuming but worth it if its a pattern you will use often)
- Thread cutter – you know when you do some sewing and stop, you have to pull the threads out, cut it, and them make sure the needle position is such that the thread wont escape the needle when you start sewing next? well, with this thread cutting feature – they do both for you automatically. This really saves me SO much frustrations and makes my experience so wonderful
- speed adjustment – This machine has speed adjustment so you can cap the speed of the sewing machine. Normally I would not care for this feature because I am good at adjusting the speed with the pedal, but when little K started sewing I use this to make sure it never goes too fast and stab her little hands. Its really quite essential for her!
- This might be associated with any kind of computerized sewing machines – but with computerized machines there are just more points of failure. My feeddog broke after a few years of usage – and its the computerized control to the feeddog that broke (I debug processor chips for a living and had a bit of fun trying to characterize this failure). Technically I should just buy a new machine to replace it (the price dropped from $500 to $300 in a few years), but I felt really emotionally attached to this one, and end up spending $130 and a few trips to my local brothers dealer to have it fixed. Its been working well for me since – but the few weeks when I didnt have a stable machine to sew on was quite painful – I broke down and bought my Janome HD-3000 eventually to tide me over).
- Also this will be an issue for many computerized sewing machines – everytime you turn off the machine, it will reset back to the default stitch. So if you are half way through the project you need to remember what length you were on before. Though there are ways to set a default you prefer.
Janome HD3000 $430
I bought this mechanical sewing machine after I didnt sew for a few weeks due to the broken Brother machine. Hubby did a lot of research and recommended this one, so did my local sewing friend B. The cheap part of me cried a little because if you take a look at the features, the equivalent brother or singer counter part cost much, much less.
However, I did have a old mechanical brother sewing machine when I first started sewing, and it broke on me after a year. I wanted something very high quality – Janome had really good reviews.
- Its form factor is really smartly designed. All the feets have housing area on top of the machine, there’s no separate box you need to keep around to keep all the feets – I really like that. The spool of threads also sit below the top lid – so there’s no spool poking out on the top during sewing or storage. This is important to me because my brother sewing machine’s thread spool thingy snapped when I accidentally put pressure on it when moving it about.
- Its feet is interchangeable with the brother sewing machine
- It does feel quite sturdy and I suspect this will last me quite a long time even with the extensive sewing I do.
- more unbalanced feeddog: usually when you are sewing, the bottom fabric gets pulled more than the top, because the feeddog is at the bottom. This is usually more noticeable when you sew a long seam, such as when quilting. To solve this people usually use a walking feet. I’ve noticed that this machine pulls the bottom fabric much more than the brother, maybe because its heavy weight. Its such that I can see the difference when doing apparel sewing – during which you cant always use a walking feet.
- its a little more noisy and a little unbalanced: its a heavy weight machine, but for the price I was expecting the engine to purr and not shake my table. Unfortunately it actually is a little noisier and more vibration than my brother SE400. Granted, the brother sewing machine is not considered a heavy weight machine.
- No advanced features such as thread cutter, and speed adjustment.
- Button hole making with a non-computerized machine is just not the same – you have to do it in 4 steps and it doesnt come out that well.
To be honest, for the price I was a little disappointed in the hardware, its a sturdy little machine but I thought the “feel” would be more highend. I was also working on my trench coat at that time and definitely was missing some of the eyelet and button hole features.
Juki TL-2010Q ($1000)
Now I would never really spent $1K on a machine. But a local sewing friend B scored this on craigslist for cheap and let me borrow it for a month. It was like sewing with butter.
- smooth and no vibration at all. It just makes sewing so joyous
- It has a thread cutter/trimmer which trims the thread very short and neat – I dont have to go back and trim the thread most of the time. Please the thread never escapes the needle
- It’s extremely heavy weight – the first thing I sewed is shortening some belts on there – about 3/4 of an inch of a material – I dropped the feeddog to cramp the fabic in but the machine sewed well!
- The feets are not interchangeable with my Brother or Janome machines
- threading is not very standard – I have to watch youtube videos/read manual to figure it out.
- It only has straight stitch – no zigzag even, and lets not even think about button holes or eyelets! It is really truly made for a quilter.
- it is heavy – I sometimes need help if I want to move it.
- it is quite a lot pricier than the other two options!
1k is above my price point, though it looks like they have a similar machine Juki TL-2000Q, ($667) minus the speed control on amazon. And its 2/3 the price. If I were to buy another machine new, I’d probably try that one first.
After trying all three machines, I end up really appreciating all the functionality and price point of my Brother Embroidery. If I were to choose again that machine would be the one I choose despite the possible breakage; not because its the cheapest one, but because some of the stitches are essential for garment sewing. When I have my Brother and Janome around, I tend to default to the Brother, and I only let little K sew on my Brother because of the speed control. Janome pretty much became my back up machine and the machine I go to if it happened to have the right colored thread. (or if I am doing color blocking and need multiple colored threads to sew).
However, when the Juki entered the room, I pretty much sew on Juki only until I need a different stitch or a different feet. It just feels so uplifting to sew on there.
So if I were to plan out my sewing machine purchases again, I’d get the Brother first – because its a need, and then a Juki as my straight stitcher & a reliable backup, as a want 🙂 Janome is a very nice machine with the best form factor, but I find it not as luxurious comparing to the Juki.
Lastly, for any beginners out there who just want to try out apparel sewing or hem stuff, a basic brothers computerized machine (this one, or this ) under $150 is what I always recommend to my friends. I am pretty sure I have “sold” about 5-6 of those to my friends!! I bought one of those after my very first Brother (a flea market find by my dad) broke, and it worked very well for years until I got the embroidery machine. I mailed it a very good friend and its still going strong!
Hopefully this post help someone out there with sewing machine decisions to make!!!
Note that I did use Amazon affiliate links above, so if you happen to want to buy one of the machines from Amazon because of my recommendations, using above link would enable me to start Amazon Affiliate program at no cost to you 🙂 Thank you!!!
4 thoughts on “The Tale of Three Machines”
Did you also experience troubles winding the bobbin thread with Janome? Because my friend always had issues and that drove me away from buying Janome. On the other side I’ve heard from another friend that she finds the straight stitch with my brother lackeng because the stitch is not totally straight but a little overlapping at the end. I don’t have problems with it, so I would not exchange my Brother Innov-Is for anything below 1500 Euros – that’s probably my next prize range. Or a Gritzner (they bought old Pfaff plans) which do have IDT (internal walking feet) and don’t cost an arm and a leg! But I’ll still need my Borther for buttonholes and such.
oooo thats good to know. I didnt have much trouble with bobbin thread with the Janome, though with the brother I sometimes have trouble because it would wind it below the bobbin – in fact i still have some threads stuck there!!
I find the straight stitch good enough – for garment sewing besides top stitching one tend to be not that picky on the overlap, so i havent been watching out for the straightness. i will now!
Ive never heard of IDT before!!! @_@ would love to try one!
I have a singer excelle for about 30 years bought new at the time but it is a basic model – and I bought a 1967 singer 328 as a back-up – both machines are good but I always found the grip on the fabric a bit tight (similar to your description of uneven feed) – its not a huge issue and I generally can work with it – I now use them mainly to teach sewing and use for workshops as they are so hard-wearing
I later got a Husqvarna topaz embroidery machine and this was big money (1300euro) but I needed an embroidery machine and had a budget (I was to sew an irish dance costume). I used this as my main machine too for a year and its lovely to use (but if I was doing fine tailoring it would not be a go to). I decided to start reserving it for embroidery only as I was doing some heavy duty sewing and on a whim I bought a pfaff 91 vintage sewing machine as I had used one similar some time back and adored the feel. This was not exactly the same, but a good machine and has a free arm. The feed on this is light but has worked fine for most sewing.
I have since bought an elna lotus and this one is brilliant. best feed and best stitch but as its a tiny machine it has its limits. if I was to buy a vintage machine again, I would consider an elna (and sell the pfaff). And then I ended up coming by a singer featherweight locally (and cheap) and bought that, fixed it and am currenly using that. Its has a lovely stitch and nice feed and incredibly quiet. I have also decided that 6 machines is enough so thats it! I am considering getting a walking foot to help with the feed on the singers.
for a beginner sew-er I generally recommend a pre 80s sewing machine as they are cheap, hard wearing and easy to fix. I know when I bought my Husqvarna I spent ages figuring what way to go re spending big on a sewing machine and I found talking it over with a good sewing machine dealer (who lives the other end of the Ireland but sells throughout as he has such a good reputation) helped figure my choices!
Ive always been curious about the singer featherweight. its something on my vintage machine want list 🙂 unfortunately its mostly very pricy ($400 at least) here. i do find most of my vintage machines not have enough power to dtab through thicker coating materials… but maybe i havent met the right one!! I love your collection of machines!!