Top critical review
Know your priorities for a new machine's features
December 26, 2014
As a quilter of nearly 20 years and seamstress of 40+ years, I purchased this machine primarily to work with larger pieces for quilting and free-motion quilting as well has heavier garment fabrics such as denim and duck. While the machine has many positive qualities, the negatives are significant enough that I'm considering returning it.
As noted by many in the questions and product reviews, the machine does have a beautiful stitch. The foot pedal is more than enough to control the machine's speed once you've gotten used to it. I quilt and sew in bare feet which I think helps. The weight of the machine holds it in place so that it doesn't hop across the table when you're pushing a larger piece through the harp. The harp has a generous amount of working space at approx. 9" X 6". The variable feed dog levels and presser foot pressure features are very nice and work well in tandem. The variable stitch length has a good range with stitches small enough for fine needle work and long enough for generous machine basting. While I have yet to use all of them, the many feet that come with this machine are nice and give you more sewing options, including the ability to put in an invisible zipper.
The upper threading seems a bit complicated at first but practice makes it much easier. Once you've done it a few times it's intuitive. The triple eye on the first thread guide gives you more thread tension control, but it is not necessary to use all three all the time. There are several thread guides that are slip throughs and make threading much easier but all of the eyes in the upper machine are closed and must be threaded by hand. The eyes are a good size so that is more of a nuisance than a problem. The actual tension spring is positioned a bit oddly in that it sits on the outside of the front of the tension mechanism. When I first saw it I thought it was broken but it seems that is the way it was built. Odd but workable.
The extension table that comes with the machine is generous in width but could be a bit deeper as it gives no additional support once the fabric has passed under the needle. I solved this with a custom ordered acrylic extension table at an additional cost of $103. That had to be ordered from a different company. Again, not a big problem but if you need a deeper table to start with it is something you will want to consider. The feet to level the table are easy to access and adjust. The knee lift is a nice feature but can't be used if your machine is on top of a table. The machine must be mounted into a table in order to use it.
Once you get to the needle this machine begins to be seriously problematic. First of all, everything is oriented from the left. If you are left-handed it might not be such a problem. As a right-handed person it's awkward.
The needle threads from the left. The automatic needle threader is absolutely useless. The documentation in the user's manual is poorly written and I could find no online videos or other assistance. I was spending 5-10 minutes trying to get it to work without luck. Threading a size 14 quilting needle by hand isn't a problem. Trying to thread a size 9, 10 or 12 universal needle is an entirely different story. I finally had to remove the needle, thread it by hand, then put it back into the machine in order to be able to sew. The needle itself is difficult to seat because the opening into which needle is placed seems smaller than most and is difficult to find. I have had to turn the machine on it's back several times in order to seat the needle. As someone who changes needles regularly this is a real problem. If an easy to use automatic needle threader is a feature that is important, this is not the machine for you. If you need to use a variety of style and sized needles and change needles frequently, this is probably not the best choice.
The bobbin mechanism is poorly engineered and counter intuitive to those of us who have sewn for years with machines that have the same type of basic race and bobbin case. While there is a flap in the extension table you lift to access the bobbin mechanism, it is deceptively small. There are a total of 3 flaps that need to be opened before the bobbin can be accessed. But, I still have had to remove extension table that came with the machine in order to get to the bobbin. Since the seating mechanism for the extension table is a two step process this is problematic. Even then, the bobbin is so far in from the left that it is very difficult to work with. Seating the bobbin case into the race is extremely awkward. The slot to seat the case is toward the front of the machine (on the right if you were looking at it straight on) and the lever you hold onto to secure the bobbin in the case while you are trying to seat it opens to the back of the machine (toward the left if you are looking straight on.) It is impossible to do with your right hand and requires you to twist your left hand unnaturally. Because the entire bobbin mechanism is so far under the machine there's no way to see what you're doing so it's hit or miss until you find the right position and the case snaps into place. This is about as poor a bit of engineering in a sewing machine as I've ever seen.
The upper thread cutter cuts the thread so short that the needle becomes unthreaded nearly every time. There has been some feedback that you shouldn't use certain brands of thread because of the manufacturer's tight wind, or that you should use certain auxilliary products in order to ease the thread's winding tension, or that you should keep your thread as far away from the machine as possible which would require an additional thread stand purchased separately. I thought I was purchasing a fully functional sewing machine, not one that required certain brands of thread, additional products, or alternate thread placement in order to work well. A machine at this level should be able to handle just about everything thrown at it, not the very least of which would be thread. I do not use this feature even though it was one of the selling points for me.
Overall, I have to say the machine produces good results, but the ease of use is very, very poor. As I said, at this point I am seriously considering returning it. I have had it for about 2 weeks now and have not been able to overcome the problems I am having. I will give it another week to see if it's simply a matter of becoming used to how things are done with this model but, if I can't overcome them I will have to seek a return and refund.
This is not a machine for a beginner. It is not a machine for someone visually impaired or who has less than slender hands with long fingers. It is not a machine that is easy to use if you are right handed. It is a good value for the price, but what's a good deal if the machine is so difficult to use?