Know Thy Machine

Hi – I’m thrilled to be a part of this blog hop about sewing machines – where would most of us as quilters be without them? Thanks, Shruti, for organizing this.

Be sure to follow the sewing machine link to her blog at ,answer a question about my post tomorrow, and be in on some great prizes.

1. What machines do you have – brand and model?

I grew up sewing, and have used and owned many machines, but right now I have a Janome Memory Craft 4900 and a Bailey 13″ Home Quilter.

2. When and where did you buy them? What were the reasons for selecting these particular models? What was the approximate cost?

When two friends – one a seamstress, told me that I HAD to get a new machine – that the old 1967 Singer wasn’t cutting the mustard any more, I scouted out all the nearby dealers in and around Grande Prairie, Alberta, where I lived. After trying out about a dozen, I narrowed the choice to either this Janome or a very similar Kenmore, also made by Janome. The Janome won because of the extras it came with – all the quilting feet and a huge extension table. I think it was about $1500 – it was a brand new model, replacing the 4800.

I bought a table-top quilting frame to use my machine on, and, frustrated with the narrow quilting area available in the 6″ harp, I scoured the internet for recommendations on a larger machine. The Bailey seemed to have a lot of very happy owners, so when we were home in Calgary one summer and a local member of a Yahoo quilting group advertised one, I jumped at the chance. It was $800.00, and light enough that I could take it home to Kuwait in my suitcase. Because the Bailey is similar to the Janome, it was easy to get used to.

3. What do you like about your machines? Have you names them? Have you made covers for them?

Both of my machine have been solid workhorses…….. dependable and simple enough that nothing major has gone wrong with them. My Janome has remained nameless, but the Bailey Home quilter was christened “Betty”, after a guild member in Cochrane, Alberta, who led a mystery quilt project and taught me a lot with her detailed instructions. I have made a cover for Betty Bailey, but not for my Janome. She has a hard slip-over case that I use when she’s off duty for a while.

4. Do your machines give you any problems? Could you tell us a few?

When I first got the Janome, I had problems with it seizing up and refusing to reset itself when shut off. It was very fussy about small bits of thread getting into the bobbin area. After our get-aquainted period, however, we have been working harmoniously together, with only the occasional hissy fit from my trusted companion. (I try not to throw hissy fits – and my machine will never tell if I do).

Betty Bailey has been a gem and a great teacher. I have learned a great deal about tension with her, as she is a bit fussy about changes in thread weight. She has no speed control, so I have learned to be steady and precise. To better carry her 29 pounds, I traded up to a Bernina quilting frame which I bought from Sew Much More in Austin, Texas, and had shipped to Kuwait. I would love to have a needle-up setting on her, but we manage. I still have a lot to learn before I need to move up to a larger machine.

5. What do you sew on them mainly? Quilts, clothes, bags, etc? How much time do you spend sewing on them? What are the features of these machines that help you to improve your work?

I sew mainly quilts – paper piecing, piecing, machine applique, and quilting. Under protest, I do a bit of mending as well. I quilt small items on the Janome, but do all other work on the Bailey. I can spend anywhere from one hour to 20 or more a week sewing – depending on circumstances. Lately it seems that I have been doing far too much sorting and organizing, and far too little sewing. I love the 1/4″ foot on the Janome, and the new interchangeable quilting feet. The wide range of other feet available for precision work is a bonus as well. And I love the freedom of quilting on a frame instead of a sit-down machine. It’s like writing your name by moving the pen instead of the paper.

6. What advice would you give others when deciding about which machine to buy?

Try them all out. Make a list of what you can’t live without, and then carry sandwiches and applique bits around and try every machine that fits your requirements. You will soon find that some great machines just don’t feel right for you, and some feel like you’ve had them all your life.

The other thing is to make sure you get a machine that comes with easy access to good service – and lessons to get you started.

7. Will you share with us a particular memory associated with your machines?

Because my machines are from North America, in Europe and the Middle East, I have had to use a step-down transformer to change the power from 220 to 110. When I first arrived a in Kuwait, I didn’t realize that, and Zap! Janome was toast. I was horrified. It was like murdering your best friend!

I somehow found a sewing machine repairman in downtown Kuwait City who understood the problem, and several days later I had my machine back – and the directions to a shop where I could buy a heavy-duty transformer. Heavy being the operative word, I now travel with my “portable” sewing machine in a bag on wheels. It is actually a picnic bag from Kuwait, but fits my needs exactly. I can even carry my extension table on the handle.

8. If you had unlimited resources in the world, which machine would you choose to buy and why?

I don’t think I wouldn’t trade my Janome in right now. She is doing everything I want, and we are very comfortable together. If I had the money, I would probably invest in a larger, more sophisticated quilting machine, though.

As my mother does not sew any more, I am hoping to get her Singer Featherweight machine – the one I first learned to sew on. It must be the most versatile machine ever made, even if it does only do a straight stitch. It really is a portable machine, and comes with the widest range of strange attachments I’ve ever seen.

I’m all sorted out in the sewing room, and have a mystery quilt just dying to be put together. Thanks for dropping by my blog – and don’t forget to check in with Shruti tomorrow to win great prizes, and find out what another quilter is sewing on.

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31 Responses to Know Thy Machine

  1. Becky Peacock says:

    Lovely to hear the story behind your sewing machines, Kathi. I agree that there is absolutely no reason to upgrade when you haven’t even learned all about the current machine or when you enjoy the relationship you have with that machine. Makes me want so much to get at my machine again & start sewing. Eventually….

  2. Dee Johson says:

    I never heard of Bailey before – very interesting read. Thank you for joining this discussion.

  3. Beris Lyons says:

    I’ve alwlays enjoyed hearing your stories .. whether it be in relation to a sewing machine, a trip you’ve had or the weather .. it allows us all to know what you are up to and where you have been. It also shortens the distance between us all especially when we are scattered all over the world. Keep up the good work Kathi.

  4. Sally says:

    Thanks for sharing! I’ve been loving reading about everyone else’s sewing machines. I don’t plan to upgrade my machine for a very, very, long time but it’s nice to read about all of the different features that everyone loves!

  5. Debbe says:

    I am a Bailey sales rep and we have talked when you joined my forum groups. Someone brought your comments to my attention and I feel I must correct something you’ve mentioned. The Bailey machines are NOT a stretched Janome machine. A stretched machine is made with a smaller harp which is then cut, material added to make the harp longer and rewelded. The Baileys, in all 3 sizes, the 13″, 15″ and 17″ are manufactured the size that they are and not altered.
    Thank you for mentioning these wonderful machines. They are great machines for the price.


    • Sandra Wallace says:

      Hi Debbe,

      Are there any sales reps in Canada?

    • Debbie I visited the Bailey store/factory and saw the machines being manufactured. They take a domestic Janome, cut it in half and weld/fabricate extensions to make it larger. This is why the Bailey’s use ‘domestic’ size 15 bobbins, and why it does not go as fast as a standard longarm, why it is only available from one place, and why there are many rivet joints in the machine’s rear and front sides (these are the connection points). Chuck Baily finally agreed with us that it is by definition a ‘stretched’ machine..

  6. Sherry says:

    Hello, I am so glad I found your Blog ! I also have a Janome and a Bailey 15 ” machine. I live in Saskatoon, Sask. I have only had my Bailey for less than a year and need lots of practice. I mainly do quilting and love to sew Purses and Bags.

    • Hi Sherry. We are from Saskatchewan. Love to keep in contact and maybe meet up in August when we are home for holidays. I need lots of practice on my Bailey too. It seems to be spending lots of time in sea containers lately.

    • Sandra Wallace says:

      Hi Sherry,
      Just reading about the Baily machine. Have you found it challenging to quilt with it? Did you get to try it before you bought it ? I live in Manitoba and wonder where you can see one in Canada. I have a Juki TL98E which I have had many years but it is giving me grief with poor tension recently. Have had it serviced several times the past year but it won’t keep good tension with any amount of sewing. Wondering what to do.
      Thanks for any ideas you have.

      • Hi Sandra – this is Kathi, not Sherry. I had just read about the Bailey before i bought it – it was second hand and in a place where I could pick it up – and light enough to carry overseas with me in my suitcase. I bought the frame separately. I have not had any major problems with it. As far as tension is concerned, I find that I get the best results when I set the bottom tension so that the bobbin just stands up in my hand when I pull up on the thread, and then balance the top to match it. I don’t have the speed regulator so I have had to learn to adjust my movements – I tend to quilt at a fairly low speed so I have more control.

    • Sandra Wallace says:

      Hi Sherry,
      Is there any way we can get in touch directly?
      Thank you,

  7. Sandra – unfortunately, unless Sherry were to check this post again, I doubt that ther is a way to find her email. You could join the BaileyHomeQuilter yahoo group, however, and see if there is someone who lives close to you so that you could maybe see their machine and talk to them personally.

  8. Hello there! This article couldn’t be written much better! Looking through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept preaching about this. I most certainly will send this information to him. Pretty sure he’ll have a good read.
    Thank you for sharing!

  9. smoke star says:

    Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Many thanks, However I am encountering difficulties with your RSS.

    I don’t understand the reason why I can’t subscribe to it.

    Is there anybody else getting the same RSS problems?
    Anyone that knows the solution will you kindly respond?

    • Thanks for dropping by my website, and for letting me know of the problems. I’m not close to a computer right now and have limited web access, but will check this out as soon as I can.

  10. Hello, Neat post. There’s an issue together with your website in internet explorer, could check this? IE still is the market chief and a huge part of people will miss your wonderful writing due to this problem.

  11. Major says:

    Hello there! Quick question that’s entirely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My web site looks weird when browsing from my apple iphone. I’m trying to find a template or plugin that might be
    able to correct this problem. If you have any suggestions, please share.

    • Major, there is an iPad ap for WordPress. That might help. It’s not as easy to post as on a computer, but really good for keeping up with comments and reading other blogs you are following.

  12. I tend not to drop a comment, but I browsed some remarks on this
    page Know Thy Machine | wanderingquilter.
    I actually do have some questions for you if you do not mind.
    Could it be only me or do a few of these responses
    look as if they are coming from brain dead people? :
    -P And, if you are posting at other places, I would like
    to follow everything new you have to post. Could you post a list
    of all of all your public pages like your Facebook page, twitter feed,
    or linkedin profile?

  13. claude21zcca says:

    It’s impressive that you are getting thoughts from this article as well as from our dialogue made at this time.

  14. Advice for rats nests of thread on my Bailey 17 Home Quilting Machine?

  15. Debbe S. says:

    Generally, only a couple things will cause rats nests. !. the presser foot is not in the down position. 2. You have not pulled the bobbin thread to the top of the quilt before you start quilting. Hopefully, it is one of those easy to fix ideas.

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