Saturday Porch Musings on Machines

Here I sit on my porch, grabbing a few minutes to write between customers of our small neighborhood yard sale. I wouldn't have had enough stuff to bother with if it weren't for our neighbor's set up next door. In our snug cottage, clutter doesn't stick around too long, if it's not sewing related anyway.

I'm stewing over a rabbit trail I ran down last night while cruising Pinterest.

There I was, checking out the quilty goodness, when I see what looks like my old Janome 6600 but painted with tacky gold highlights and labelled a Singer! What?! Upon further inspection, I find it is a clone of the Janome 6500, called the S18. Then I found another clone, this time it's a Singer labelled version of the straight-stitch only Janome 1600, called the S16.

From all indications, these are machines made by Janome for Singer and they're priced much lower than their Janome counterparts, which are wonderful machines. Both have 9 inches of space to the right of the needle and are great for free motion quilting. Assuming similar quality to the Janome's they are based on.

Why am I stewing? Remember I work at a Janome dealership. I know my dealer didn't know about these machines and I bet any Janome dealer would be pretty dismayed. Why not drop the dealer price on the Janome models if they want to sell to a lower price point? My dealer can't come anywhere near the current sale price on the S16, though he's pretty close on the S18. Ah, the collective bargaining power of the big box stores....

What's the value of an independent dealer? Someone who can walk you through the features and needs of your new machine? Walmart isn't quite known for its customer service. These are heavy machines--- who pays to ship them to the factory for service? Can you find a local dealer to work on these machines? My dealer will work on any machine as long as he can get needed parts, but I hear that a dealer like that's not all that common anymore. Will someone at Walmart or Amazon tell you whether you can use a ruler foot on either machine? (You can. But don't go looking for a Singer version---you'll still have to buy Janome accessories for these clones.)

It's always been pretty easy for me to turn away from the machines sold at the big box stores before. I know they're not well made. Newbies get overwhelmed without some guidance, I see them in the shop each time I work, Experienced sewers can sometimes coax the best out of these bargain machines for a time. But what if they're made like my beloved Janomes?

I want quilters to be able to enjoy a quality machine with more space for free motion quilting larger projects without having to spend too much, so therein lies my dilemma.

What are your thoughts, dear readers?

I'm linking to the machines on Amazon below. Maybe they'll suit your needs, or maybe you'll just want to check them out better. These are affiliate links so I get a tiny commission if you buy just about anything on Amazon after clicking through. Doesn't cost you anything and gives me a little pocket change.

Also Craftsy is having a wonderful sale site wide for Mother's Day!



  1. Stay away from big box stores. They carry machines that look like high end machines but they are not. If you cannot find a local shop to fix it, they will cost a lot of money to send it to where ever. The parts and quality control are not in them and usually they are not manufactured in the same country and the high end machines. I would rather put out more money in the beginning and have an excellent machine with a shop that stands behind it then get a cheaper machine that will end up as a door stop in a few years.

  2. Different product models cost different prices to manufacture. For a manufacturer to make a machine to sell at a vastly lower price, something has got to go. Just because the "outer shell" looks the same, the quality, construction and inclusion of the components or substitutes can differ greatly..

  3. It has been my experience that even though a product LOOKS the same, when it is sold so much cheaper at Walmart, there is a reason. They are NOT the same product internally. I will not buy appliances of any kind at walmart. Target seems to keep the quality, but I like Bed, Bath and Beyond for appliances, especially with the 20% off coupons. For sewing machines, I will stick to my Janome dealer. I bought a used one from him and I am very happy. The savings here was going used, not poor quality. Just my humble opinion.

  4. El Cheapo machines at big box stores (like you know WhereMart) are designed to be tossed in 1 to 3 years. For the same money one can buy a vintage machine in good to excellent condition, parts are readily available, and they can still be repaired. I do FMQ on them all the time. Just my 2 cents.

  5. This has been an issue for many years. Maybe over 100 years. During and after the wars the Singer Co. had factories and other companies like Montgomery Wards, Sears, New Home all used the same factories. Each had their own interior parts, but the shells were the same. I sold sewing machines for years and felt the brand I sold were the best also. Many times the factories have to support their employees so they take on another contract to make sure they stay solvent. Several years ago Pfaff, Viking and Singer merged. They did this to make production cheaper for their companies. Babylock and Janome are made in the same factory also. Buy the best you can afford is my motto. Chris

  6. Thank you, Amy. As I read through the comments I was ready to cheer for the well-educated and discriminating readers you have. One thing not mentioned is that a new sewer who buys one of these cheap machines is often so frustrated with trying to get a good stitch s/he is put off sewing forever. What they think is a lack of skill on their part is actually the fault of a machine that can't sew worth a darn.
    Personally, I can't see spending more on a regular sewing machine than I would on a car, but then I grew up using what are now vintage metal sewing machines that have already lasted several lifetimes of their former owners. They can't be beat for ease of use, wonderful stitches and durability. Many are surprised to learn that I can even zigzag, embroider, monogram, sew button holes, make ruffles, and do many things other than straight stitches on my machines with a multitude of attachments.

    1. Bette, Your skills are really great. Many sewers do not learn to do all those thins on a vintage or straight stitch machine. I have a straight stitch Montgomery Ward machine that makes a perfect stitch and I can make easy repairs myself on it. As I said Buy the Best you can afford. Chris