Sewing Machine Meme

Welcome Homie, Janome!

This is my sewing machine self-interview for Sew, Mama, Sew!’s Sewing Machine Month. Great idea, ladies!

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 weekend sewing

photo from Heather Ross’ Weekend Sewing

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 …


  1. Mandy says:

    Holy cow… with your list of requirements you need to check out the Janome 6600P. It’s quilting machine, but when you’re sewing bags or things with multiple layers that are very thick (I have done 6 layers of denim), this machine can handle it, and there’s a fantastic 6600 yahoo group, although it tends to center on quilting since the machine has a built-in walking foot that can be engaged or not, as neessary. It’s pretty close to an industrial machine, and it require the ability for you to be able to manage tensions on your own (no self adjusting here!), but I love it since it gives me total control over my project. Not affiliated, just in love! There’s a trick to threading Janome machines, by the way: put your finger on the thread on the top of the machine and hold it firmly while you snug it up in the tension discs (bring the thread up and to the right, past 12 o’clock on the discs). This *may* fix your thread-shred issue.

  2. Kathleen says:

    I sew on an old Viking and I have the same problems with cotton thread! I feel like I’ve tried everything. Some people are afraid to sew through lots of heavy layers with their machines. Mine is such a tank I embrace that situation with abandon. My fear is approaching delicate things.

  3. Lizzy says:

    wow. I have almost the exact same machine, exept its a pink limited edition. I love it too, but I’ve never tried 100% cotton thread in it. what do you use 100% cotton thread for?

  4. nehmah says:

    I have your Janome Travelmate 4612′s twin. I also received it as a gift. I was altering trousers for a friend’s husband, when the timing on my Kenmore went south. She loaned me the 4612, and when I tried to return it she said, and I quote, “Honey, I don’t want it, I don’t need it, consider it as your’s.” “I said “Thank you, very much.” and left rejoicing. It’s a good machine but it will heat up after two or three hours of steady sewing. Janome is, to my mind, very poor about publishing information about older models. Cordially, Nehmah

  5. I OWN my dream machine – it’s the Juki TL-98Q! Plus I have a bernina 1530…I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’d like to say these 2 are my machines for life!

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  7. Lori says:

    Has anyone used a Bernina 1530 for their sewing needs and if so, what do they think of it? I am considering purchasing one and would like to know if this a a good model for Bernina.
    Thank you