Bernina 830 versus Janome MC15000

My conclusion, each of these machines has pros and cons. I COULD live with either one. But I am lucky that I can afford both. So I generally piece quilts on my Janome, MC1500, while I appliqué and free motion on my Bernina 830. I will use either machine during embellishing art quilts depending on what stitches or effects I want. I embroider much more on my Janome because of the ease of monitoring and changing thread (nice threader).

I have been a member of the The Quilt Show for several years. Recently we started a thread about machines and features. I felt compelled to write about my two favorite machines. Here is what I posted to the forum on the Quilt Show.

Since a few have posted about their Bernina 830 experience. I thought I would too. I did not get a lemon and I absolutely love my 830. It is a solid workhorse for me. It takes any thread I throw at it even metallic. And I love the huge hoops. I also have a Janome MC15000 and I like it too. However it doesn’t free motion as well. It straight stitches better. However the Janome has a tendency to have nesting thread on the beginning of a stitching line. The Bernina does not.

Here is my experience Bernina 830 vs Janome MC15000

Straight stitching: Janome wins with a beautiful straighter stitch but with the caveat to use a bit of scrap material to start other wise I get a rats nest on the bobbin thread at the beginning of a stitching line. Holding the top and bobbin works too, BUT who wants to do that if they have an automatic thread cutter. You can attain a very nice straight stitch on the Bernina if you use a single hole plate, and carefully match your thread to needle size. But still Janome’s is a prettier straight stitch.

Thread cutter: both machines will cut thread. I think cutting is faster on the Bernina than on the Janome (this is an impression, not measured with a stop watch). Bernina sews without nesting after using it’s cutter. Janome will form nests if you sew after the cutter. On the Janome you will need to use a bit of scrap or pull out and hold the thread tails when you start sewing again.

Freemotion: Bernina wins hands down, no contest

Needle threader: Janome’s is better and more consistently threads the needle. Both machine’s needle threaders work better than my lower end machines.

Heavy or lots of layers : It really depends. Heavy tight weave several layers like quilting on a denim from denim backed with batting, I use my Bernina. Thick tough fabrics like cordura 400 or 600, I use the Bernina. The Bernina doesn’t skip stitches like the Janome can in situations like this. “This” is comparing same thread, same needle, same fabric, same number of layers, and sewing at half speed machine, etc. I do like the dual feed on the Bernina, especially when piecing flimsy or wispy light weight chiffon or silk fabrics. BUT! I like the ease of adjusting the pressure for the dual feed on the Janoma. I think the dual feed on the Janome is better for normal quilting cotton and cotton batting. I go to my Janoma for doing straight stitch quilting in a modern quilt kind of look where you would quilt with lots of straight lines or expanding circles or spirals. Bernina actually recommends an extra walking foot for this kind of quilting.

Embroidery: Both work great. Both do a great job. But due to thread change on these single color machines, I prefer the Janome because of it’s more consistently working needle threader. (though I Think the thread path on the Bernina is easier to do). MC15000 has an extra pro: I like the fact this machine is wi-fi capable.. that I have an app on my iPad that I can ‘see’ where in the process the embroidery is, if thread broke, if the machine stopped, and if i need to change colors. I can run around my home and do chores while doing embroidery without having to check to see the status of my machine. I actually get more embroidery done because of this.

Knee lift: have to put two paragraphs one for each machine explain this one.

Pro for the Bernina is that the knee life is mechanical. This makes doing appliqués more fun on the Bernina instead of the Janome. I can barely raise or take the pressure off the fabric when turning curves or corners and still have some pressure from the foot helping me keep things lined up and it acts like an extra hands. On the Janome, the knee lift seems to actually be an electronic switch, when I use the knee lift, there is no infinite range of lifting the pressure foot, it is either up or down. I don’t like this. So I typically do appliqué on my 830. (I also prefer the double blanket stitch the Bernina has over the similar stitch on the Janome).

Pro for the MC15000 is the knee lift will set to control other things besides lifting the presser foot, you can use it to control stitch width. Yes, really! So for an art quilter, I can use it for neat effects. I also use it when couching lumpy irregular yarns and other items to art quilt while embellishing. It’s very fun once you learn how to control it.

Conclusion

My conclusion, each of these machines has pros and cons. I COULD live with either one. But I am lucky that I can afford both. So I generally piece quilts on my Janome, MC1500, while I appliqué and free motion on my Bernina 830. I will use either machine during embellishing art quilts depending on what stitches or effects I want. I embroider much more on my Janome because of the ease of monitoring and changing thread (nice threader).

I have demoted two of my free motion quilting tools.

Seriously, I found something last month, used it today and immediately bumped it to the top of my favorites list. The quilt halo. It is a hefty iron ring coating in a slightly tacky plastic. It really keeps the fabric from bunching up right under the needle. Keeps the fabric flat and at just the right tautness or flatness which helps with tension issues. I don’t have to wear those uncomfortable gloves any more. It makes me happy! Oh, it also seems to lessen the need for a free motion slider.. but with both in place.. it’s like quilting on an ice rink. Seriously, I like this tool. If I had to choose between the slider and the halo. I’d pick the halo. Before you ask, NO! I’m not getting paid to endorse. I just like this tool a lot. If you local quilt store doesn’t have it, you can buy it from the source.
http://purpledaisiesquilting.com/collections/top-10-products/products/quilt-halo-free-motion-quilting-tool

I Love this free motion quilting tool for holding fabric
Quilt Halo is amazing for free motion quilting. It holds the fabric flat and makes it super easy to move it around. It’s better than those uncomfortable gloves and way better.

Superior Threads Reference Guides

Ricky Tims and Alex Anderson posted a list on TheQuiltShow website about their favorite Superior Threads reference pages. They just happened to post my go-to pages! How about that?! Here is the link on The Quilt Show of that very helpful list.

Superior Threads Reference Guides.

PSST. The $42 bucks I spent on the full access star membership for thequiltshow.com is the best return on investment I’ve gotten on quilting education. And they didn’t pay me to say that. There is such a wide variety of topics and guests on the show, it’s amazing. I’ve had a lot of ah-ha moments watching the episodes.

Free Motion Troubleshooting Skipped Stitches

Frustration City! Skipped stitches can really make free motion not fun. And it really should be fun. I can’t recommend enough to always test your exact materials and design elements on a test sandwich first before you start on your quilt. Also, fresh needles can solve many problems

Skipped Stitches are caused by a lot of things. But usually the culprit is misthreading or a damaged or dull needle. You might have just put a new needle in the machine and that needle could still have a micro sized burr in a bad spot somewhere. Or maybe you are like me and think you can eke out the whole darn quilt including patchwork and quilting with one needle. Well, that needle is probably the problem. There is a reason that sewing machine makers make the needle so easy to replace.

The needle is easy to replace because we are supposed to do it pretty often.

  1. Are you sewing with your presser foot down? Often new free motion quilters will forget. If the presser foot isn’t down, then the tension discs can’t help form a stitch.
  2. Replace the Needle – needles are the cheapest part of your sewing expenses. Try just changing it out. You don’t have to use them, but I like titanium coated needles. I explain why in this post.
  3. Is your needle the correct size? You choose fabric and thread first, then match the needle to it. Here is more info on Thread Weights and Needle Sizes for Free Motion
  4. Take the thread out of your machine and clean your machine. Be sure to take the bobbin out for good measure too. Clean it, clean the bobbin area, if you can remove and clean the bobbin casing then do it. Take the presser foot plate off and clean under it. Clean lint off the needle holding metal bar thingy (very technical term there). Clean it all.
  5. Rethread the machine properly.
  6. Is your presser foot up before you thread? If you don’t bring up the presser foot, the thread can not get in-between the tension disks. This is a problem as stitches can’t form..
  7. Is your bobbin oriented the correct way (does it spin the right way once it is inserted in the machine)? If there aren’t arrows stamped in your machine, are you sure you’ve seen the manual to know. One friend actually sewed for years with the bobbin going the wrong way. It was okay for straight stitch, but when she finally wanted to learn free motion quilting, it didn’t work well at all and caused skipped stitches.
  8. You can look through my troubleshooting posts on this blog and hunt online for answer. These are collated from personal experience, other free-motion quilters, Superior Thread Company, Schmetz Needle Company, and a lot of other sources. This is all common knowledge stuff, no rocket science here or proprietary info. But I hope it helps you. I use my blog as a resource all the time. I love comments too. Please help if you know something else that should be added, or another solution.

I do have a chart in the works that I promise to post in the near future.

Yet Another Instruction Guide on Tube Cut Bias Binding

I was in a class last week and we were supposed to do tube cut bias binding. I find this the best way to make bias in the entire world. But I had a major brain fart! It was, to say the least, a bit embarrassing. At that moment, I couldn’t have even told you what make my car is. Luckily we planned for overflow time the following Tuesday evening.

I made some notes and turned the unfinished keynote address into a Quicktime video. I will probably come back and add a voice over at some point. But the keynote slide show is what I’ll be actually using as a classroom aid. It will play better live in person.

Here it is for those of you who want an early peek.

Free Motion References

Sites

Free Motion Quilting Project – This is probably the best site for learning free motion quilting that I can think of. Leah Day clearly explains what she is doing, how to do it yourself and she has Craftsy classes too. She has done tons of online examples. She recently started publishing her designs in books, so if you are a person who prefers to browse books for ideas, she is there for you too.

You also might want to follow along with Leah’s Building Blocks Quilt Along. You can find it on Facebook and her website that I linked to above.

Books

Free Motion Quilting by Kent Mick Book
You can get it on Amazon here Free Motion Quilting by Kent Mick Book
The book the store did not have in stock because they sold out. I highly recommend this for a beginner or never ever free motioned before person. It is a short book at only 32 pages. Don’t be fooled though. It gives you exactly what you need and nothing more. No silly same old filler pages like so many other quilting books have now days.

Free Motion Quilting On Your Home Sewing Machine by Kent Mick. You can get it on Amazon or at almost any large quilt shop. It should be $12.95 or under.

Books I passed around class:

Link to Amazon Free Motion Quilting From Feathers to Flames by Leah Day
Free Motion Quilting From Feathers to Flames by Leah Day
Free Motion Quilting From Feathers to Flames by Leah Day is available on kindle and as a regular book.. She has a DVD and other books available too. I call this Leah’s red book. It is a great portable spiral bound smaller sized book full of examples. Wonderful textures of feather and flame designs. I use this for inspiration often. She includes over 50 designs and instructions. She also shows how to transform a simple design into something more complicated looking by just changing it up a bit. I love this book.

Buy Diane's book on Amazon here.
Quilt Savvy: Gaudynski’s Machine Quilting Guidebook by Diane Gaudynsky
Quilt Savvy: Gaudynski’s Machine Quilting Guidebook by Diane Gaudynski has great examples photos. It is in a vertical format so easy to carry around to retreats or keep by your machine. This book as great trouble shooting tips. Want to know why you have little wads of thread at your points? She tells you. I think this book is very wordy if you think it’s just a reference guide. It isn’t. She gives lots of advice on many aspects to machine quilting (aka free motion).

Most Unlikely of all Sewing Aids is Sex Lube

I like a challenge. One of my friends told me that I spend too much money on “Sewing Stuff”. So I set out to find alternatives to things I can buy in a quilt shop. This is the first in a series I plan to write about those alternatives. I decided to start with something that would make her eyes pop.

I like to free motion quilt with metallic thread. My machine handles it really well if I use the correct needle, turn the tension down a bit, and lubricate the thread.

Bernina’s Thread Lubricator Guide is fantastic. The guide comes with a tiny vial of silicone lubricant. You put a single drop of silicone lube on the felt pad, stick your thread in the groove and thread your machine like normal. The wee itty bitty bit of lube really makes a huge difference. However… the Bernina and thus its included guide fall into the spending money category. I had to find an el cheapo alternative for ‘any’ machine. Someone suggested mineral oil.. but hey that stuff smells, I’m not sure I want that around my fabric.

Before I got the fancy schmancy thread guide for my Bernina, I would buy Sewer’s Aid thread lubricant and put a thin stripe on my spool of metallic thread. This stuff is between 6-9 bucks for a little half ounce bottle. And, it’s made of liquid silicone. I also know for a fact that the Bernina lube is silicone. So here is where does the “sex” comes in.

Well… I couldn’t find that little bottle of Sewer’s Aid and it was 8 bucks so I really didn’t want to buy more of it being that I was on the “Cheap Challenge”. What did I have around that was silicone and liquid and cheap?

Image of a sample size of ID Millennium Lube
This sample size hold .1 ounces of lube. Perfectly safe for no leak carrying and ready when you are (for lubricating your thread that is).
A funny elf put a cute little sample size of ID Millennium lube in my Christmas stocking. Millennium supposed is incredibly good for doing the deed in a hot tub because it is liquid silicone and doesn’t dilute or wash off in the water. I was really hoping I was getting a hot tub for Christmas. But, alas, that was not to be. Hoping to have a hot tub tryst at some point in the future, I kept that little packet in a drawer. Knowing it was liquid silicone, now was the time to pull it out. Honestly if I’m not going hot tubbing with the hubby, a little late night experimental quilt action fulfills some of my needs pretty well.

A teensy dab of ID Millennium lube on my spool of thread and wa-la! It works!

I also found out a couple of drops of ID Millennium silicone lube is a great substitute for a Supreme Slider. Two drops of sex lube on a piece of batting, rub it around on my sewing surface and wow… It lasted a long time too. It isn’t icky, slimy, smelly, or any of those things. I priced a 12 ml tube (just under half ounce) and it’s about two bucks. At the one or two drop at a time rate I’ll use it, it will last practically forever.

Now about that tryst… I’m still holding out for a hot tub.

Thread Weights and Needle Sizes for Free Motion

You may hear a lot of things about what is the best or the only weight thread to use for free motion or longarm quilting. Personally I don’t think there are any rules. As long as you choose your thread, evaluate your fabric and then choose the appropriate needle for thread-fabric combo AND are willing to tweak your tension settings, you can free motion with almost any thread. Your machine just has to accept it. Some machines can be finicky about weights of threads or even material the thread is made of. Often you can tweak or adjust your method to help use it.

Quick Guide to Thread/Needle Size
Thread Wt Needle
40 wt 90/14
50 wt 80/12
60 wt 70/10
100 wt 70/10
12-30wt 100/16
MonoPoly
(Invisible monofilament)
70/10

Normally I go to a 50 weight cotton or polyester trilobal thread. I really like threads by Superior Threads, though I am not married to their products. Using a 80/12 Topstitch needle works great with their King Tut, Manifico and Fantastico lines. I have found that as long as I use the same thread in top and bobbin of my machine, I do not have to adjust tension at all.

Note: Superior Threads note on their spools and cones which tell you which size needle is recommended for that particular thread.

If I want a thicker line of thread to show, I will use a 40 weight thread. There are free motion people out there who do not like this thread. But I believe that if the look you want requires a 40 weight go ahead and use it. A 90/14 needle works great.

Thick threads have smaller weight numbers, while bigger needles have bigger numbers. Thread and needle sizes run in opposite directions.

You can even free motion with a 30 weight thread if you want, however, put it in your bobbin of your machine. Thick threads do not work in the top of a domestic sewing machine and will shred or mess up your top tension discs. So in the bobbin it must go. This is often called “bobbin work”. The process is the same, you will just have to work from the back side of your quilt so the heavy thread in the bobbin shows up on the front. If you think your machine could handle a 30 weight thread,  you would probably use a 100/16 needle.

Thinner threads than 50 can look really neat. Using silk 100 weight thread for example can have a really nice look. Some of the top free motion people who win shows use silk almost exclusively. I would try a 70/10 needle for this.

Monofilament is also an interesting choice. Typically it is almost colorless. It will really “disappear” into the quilt so the texture is really evident and the thread is almost unnoticeable. There are two types, nylon and polyester. In years past, monofilament, which was made from nylon, got a bad rap because in the early days when it was invented it was very stretchy. So it was difficult to use. You would have to go very slow and have very low tension settings. Nylon also melts at lower temperatures than other fibers. Lower temperatures mean more stringent rules for care of the quilt, you can’t iron it, must wash on low, etc. Newer polyester fiber is in several brands of monofilament. My experience has been with Superior’s Monopoly. It requires a couple more ‘numbers’ lower on the top tension and I do tend to go slower with it. But it really has a nice look, washes on medium heat, and can be ironed. It’s great for trapunto too. Monopoly is slightly matte and that helps it disappear too. It comes in a light/clear and smokey clear for using on darker fabrics. I don’t hesitate to use the light monopoly on dark fabrics if I do not have the smoke available. It really is fun to use.

Complementary Improv Quilt named Earth, Wind, and Fire

My goal was to do a complementary colored quilt as an exercise in my exploration of the CMYK color wheel. I also challenged myself to pick the ugliest fabric I owned as a starting point.

I chose a ombre brown that looked like mud. I bought this on sale a couple of years ago and it never inspired me. I realized that I had a matching ombre blue that worked for a complementary color scheme. Initially I made about 30 blocks that were improvisational created by stacking two squares to five and cutting a curve through all them. I didn’t worry if the fabric shifted, I just used a rotary cutter to slice through all of it. Then I randomly shuffled the pieces and sewed them back together. It did not take long to realize how sleepy this soft brown and blue color scheme made me. It really needed something more. I pulled out Joen Wolfrom‘s color poster and realized that I had an orange that was actually the same color as the brown, just a different value. Wolfram is really changing how I think about color. It’s all about value. Thinking in value really simplifies things.

Bright orange is a very powerful color and in the case of this muted soft blue and brown scheme, it became very powerful indeed. Small doses were in order. I stacked up a few of the blue/brown blocks that had larger areas of contiguous fabric section and layered in an orange square and did my same improvisational curve cutting and piecing. I also sorted through my blocks and found several that were not large enough to allow me to easily square up all the blocks to maximize the sizes I could make. So I tacked some orange onto the edges of these smaller blocks to grow them. I am actually really pleased with these blocks. The fabric that I did not like, now looks like suede and the bits of orange really shape the path the eye travels over the quilt top. It reminds me of a kayaking trip with water, mud and flames.

I really need to put up a large design wall to layout all these blocks. It will have to wait for a retreat or something. I also have not decided if I will sash them like in the three row image or if I will just sew them edge to edge. I’m sure it will come to me at some point.

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Beginning Free Motion Class Supplies List November 25, 2014

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For those of you who are taking my class. Here is a link to the pdf which contains the list of supplies and pre-work that you will need to do in order to be ready for the class.

If you have several feet that might work (see pdf) and don’t know which one is best, bring them all. we can talk about them in class.

Download Supply List by Clicking Here