My New Best Frenemy

I got a new machine, y’all!

You may remember that I was having trouble with my Brother CP6500, not once but twice within a few months. I was able to borrow a friend’s machine, but I really wanted a new machine of my own.

I had just a few non-negotiable must-haves on my list: 1. Adjustable presser foot pressure (an absolute necessity for sewing knits as I am NOT a fan of the walking foot). 2. A decent backstitch button (I HATE backstitches that are slow). 3. Freakin’ reliability for Pete’s sake.

After shopping around for a few months (yes, I took my time. Go me.) I finally settled on getting a Janome. I’d read and heard great things about the brand and felt confident investing in a low- to middle-grade Janome machine. I found my machine on Ebay and since it seemed like a really good deal (free two day shipping and some bonus goodies thrown in) I went ahead and bought it.


I was super excited when it arrived and immediately set it up and starting playing around with the stitches. It quickly became clear that sewing with this machine was a whole different experience than using my super user-friendly, super cheap Brother. If I’m being completely honest, I have to admit that I was disappointed that first day.

I think that it’s something like adjusting your diet. You decide to switch out all your candy and eat fruit instead. At first, the fruit doesn’t taste nearly as yummy as the candy. But, after a while, when you start to see the positive effects of eating more fruits and you stop craving all the processed sugar, you realize that the fruit is pretty awesome after all.

Now that I’ve had it for about a week and have sewn my very first Archer with it, I can tell you that the disappointment is gone and my new Janome and I are beginning to understand each other a little better.

First, some details: it is a Janome Sewist 500. It has adjustable presser foot pressure, a decent backstitch switch, and seems to be very sturdy. And powerful. Granted, I haven’t tested with multiple layers of denim or twill–not yet, anyway. It doesn’t have very many stitches–the most notable absent stitch is a narrow zig-zag. But, it does have a stretch stitch (a whole array of stretch stitches actually, most of which I will never use) that will work just fine. I can also play with the regular zig-zag, adjusting the width and length to see if I can get close to a narrow zig-zag. (Update: after playing around with it, the narrow zig-zag is entirely possible. And so fast!)

Janome Stitches

I have been missing two features from my computerized machine days: speed control and the automatic needle down function. I find that I am having a hard time learning to start gently. It seems that there’s a very fine line between not moving at all and doing a thousand stitches per second. So, I’m having to retrain my foot. I miss being able to set my speed and just mash on the pedal to my heart’s content.

I’m not missing the needle down function (this is the one that will cause your needle to always end in the down position–great for pivoting and lifting the presser foot without causing unwanted shifting) quite as much as I was initially because I have discovered a little trick to help me not overshoot my mark even when I don’t end in the down position. All I do is roll my stitch length dial to zero, sink my foot with the hand wheel, and then roll the dial back to wherever I was (usually between 2 and 3). The process takes about three seconds and has almost become second nature.


Customizing my stitches is actually quicker than with a computer. I don’t have to beep-beep-beep-beep little buttons to get where I want to be. I do have to remember to check my width and length every time I switch to a new stitch because it doesn’t automatically change to a standard length/width like a computerized machine would.

I’m not a huge fan of the one buttonhole that the machine will sew. I discovered that I could fiddle with the stitch length and width and adjust the look a little bit. But I have to stay alert and stop sewing when the buttonhole finishes because the machine will not stop itself. Also, I have to remember to reset the stitch after each buttonhole. Sometimes I forget and the needle just wants to zig-zag all over the place. Not great. I have been thinking that eventually I’ll get my Brother fixed and use it solely for buttonholes (it had more choices) and fancy stitches. With less use, it should last longer. At least, I would hope so. . .

Metal parts! No cheap, flimsy plastic for this girl!

Metal parts! No cheap, flimsy plastic for this girl!

All-in-all, this machine requires that I be more engaged in the sewing process–if that makes any sense. And I’m actually enjoying it! So, yes, it was a little disappointing to lose some of my favorite features, but I traded them for durability and I think that will pay off more in the long run.


11 thoughts on “My New Best Frenemy

  1. Congratulations on your new machine! It looks very similar to the machine I bought recently -mine is called the SMD2000, but that is because it was a Sewing Machines Direct exclusive and from the look of your pics that was simply a re-brand of this one. If it is the same, mine does have a variable speed dial on the front (opposite end to the hand wheel), which I didn’t find for a while – but I don’t know if that is what you are missing when you say speed control…? Also, I did manage to sew through 14 layers at once recently (it was only a couple of stitches where a lot of bound seams, collars, facings etc briefly came together) and she went through it like a boss, so no worries about thicker fabrics! Hope your relationship continues to develop and thrive πŸ™‚

    • Haha–yes, that probably is what I mean. Sometimes, I don’t know the words πŸ™‚ I did check the side just in case I’d missed something, but there was no magical dial there. That’s okay–I’m getting much better at starting without getting out of control. That is good to know that it handles layers like a champ. It also does amazingly well with knits, which makes me VERY happy!

  2. Oooh, yay! How exciting! So glad you guys are getting along swimmingly! I used this machine in a sewing class that I took and I loved it! It felt gobs more powerful and amazing than the crummy Brother I was using at the time. Glad it’s working out so well for you!

  3. Hey thanks for the review of your new machine! Sounds like you are warming up to each other nicely! I am in process of buying a new machine as well and will be going to a sewing expo this weekend and hope to buy it then! I’ll be looking at all the Janomes in my price range including this one. Although speed control is something I really crave.

    • I hear ya! I’m still training my toes to eeeeease the pedal into stitching. Apparently there is a machine very similar to mine that has a variable speed dial–I imagine it’s a step up from mine. But the more I use my Janome, the more I adore it! I highly recommend!

  4. Hey this machine looks like a great basic machine….all you need for sewing. Unless you want added features like needle down, LCD screen, etc. Here is a tip. You can use your buttonhole zigzagging for narrow zigzags. On your manual, page 24, are the instructions for buttonhole stitching. For narrow zigzag stitching (continuously), you pull down the buttonhole lever to start your forward zigzag stitching, and try not to touch that lever. If you do accidentally touch it and it springs back, the machine will start the backward zigzag stitching as for buttonholes. So, as long as you keep that lever down and steady, you can narrow zigzag to your heart’s content! Try it! πŸ˜€

I'm done. Now, YOU can talk :)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s