What brand and model do you have?
Janome 4612 Travelmate. I don’t know why it’s called a “travelmate,” it’s not particularly light or compact or anything … it does have a hard plastic cover, which is nice.
How long have you had it?
Since Christmas 2001.
How much does that machine cost (approximately)?
Not really sure. It was a gift (see below) and it seems to be going for $250-$400 online. Here’s someone near Indianapolis selling one for $65 on Craigslist! Someone snatch that up!
What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)?
It has done all of the above. Most frequently, clothing, pillows, and quilts.
How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get?
Light to moderate. I wish it got more action!
Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name?
I like it. It’s very sturdy, reliable, has all the basics and no superfluous-to-me extras, and it’s cute (“boxy but good” — a feature I also like in cars). No name — it’s fun enough to say “Janome”!
What features does your machine have that work well for you?
All the basics. It’s very easy to use, and to take apart for cleaning/adjusting. Now would be a good time to mention that I use the HECK out of my various sewing machine feet — the walking foot and 1/4″ foot especially. I also have a darning foot for free-motion quilting and a teflon foot for sewing oilcloth. I highly recommend a walking foot — it can pretty much serve as your default foot and it will improve your sewing experience dramatically.
Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?
It doesn’t seem to accept 100% cotton thread. I’ve bought many different brands and qualities and experimented with the tension, but it tangles and breaks every time. What UP?!?
Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it!
My mother-in-law-to-be got it for me for Christmas in 2001. It was a total surprise. I had just mentioned in passing at some point that I’d like to sew, I wasn’t dropping hints or anything, I swear! But her gift has taken me down the path I’m on now. In fact, this website probably wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for her. So, again: a million thanks to Mary Kight!
Would you recommend the machine to others? Why?
I do think it’s a great beginner machine, but I don’t have any basis for comparison, so I’d hesitate to recommend it to anyone.
What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine?
I would like a needle up/down function, a presser foot up/down knee lever, and a longer neck for quilting. Automatic needle threading and thread cutting might be nice, but I’ve never had it and wonder if that’s just one extra thing that can screw up. Since I have a serger, I really only use my machine for the straight stitch and (non-automatic) buttonhole stitches. A fully automatic buttonhole feature might be worth it. But then, do I really sew that many buttonholes? I do not.
Do you have a dream machine?
Heather Ross turned me on to the Necchi Maximatic. See her interview with Cathy of California about vintage sewing machines. The Maximatic seems like an ideal combination of looks + function + affordability.
In my dreams I have a longarm quilting machine and frame setup in a dedicated studio. But until I can pay the rent on a behemoth like that I’d go for a Juki longarm, like the TL98Q or TL98QE, recommended here on the Purl Bee. The only thing about that is that I’d still need to keep another machine around for special stitches and the free arm.
For modern all-purpose machines, here are recommendations from Leslie Bonnell of Stitch Lab in Austin. She taught me to sew in 2002 and has worked with students on hundreds of different machines, so I trust her!
Please let me know in the comments if you have any insight into my cotton thread problems, have a recommendation for me based on my wish list, or want to point me to your own sewing machine interview …