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Buying an Embroidery Machine: The Ultimate Guide

Have you been thinking about buying an embroidery machine?

Perhaps you’ve worked your way through your sewing machine’s decorative stitches and you’re wondering what’s next.

Or maybe you’ve noticed other people’s cute embroidered designs and thought about creating your own.

For that, you’ll need an embroidery machine.

The problem is, there’s a huge variety of machines that can do different types of embroidery. Some also do regular sewing, but many do not.

On top of that, you’ll find a dizzying array of prices, technologies, and available features.

But don’t worry. If you know the basics, you’ll be able to figure out the best machine for you.

How is an Embroidery Machine Different?

A sewing machine stitches pieces of fabric together. An embroidery machine sews images, letters, and decorative stitches onto fabric.

Combination embroidery and sewing machines do both. But few do both at a professional level.

Are you buying an embroidery machine because you’re interested primarily in machine embroidery? Then you may have to buy a dedicated embroidery machine.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a sewing machine first, but with designs and lettering, you’ll find it. Although you may have to sacrifice the most advanced embroidery functions.

There is a machine out there for you, however. If you know what you want and know where to look (and how to look).

Different levels of embroidery machines

Numerous types of machines can do embroidery at a variety of levels.

Most computerized sewing machines, like the Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 can do both regular sewing stitches and decorative embroidery stitches.

You can do a lot with decorative stitches, from crafts to clothing and housewares — even crazy quilts. But you won’t be able to do images.

Some higher-end computerized sewing and embroidery machines, like the Brother SE600, can do regular sewing, decorative embroidery stitching and can also do lettering and images.

You may also be able to alter the size and orientation of built-in stitches, lettering, and designs.

Dedicated embroidery machines like the Janome Memory Craft 500E do only lettering and embroidery designs. You cannot do regular sewing with a dedicated embroidery machine.

However, you will be able to import your own embroidery designs, as well as designs you purchase elsewhere.

You may even be able to convert photos and sketches into embroidery patterns and send them to your machine from your phone.

Once the designs are on your machine, most higher-end embroidery machines will allow you to further edit your designs via a large color touchscreen.

Embroidery machines are computerized

Sewing machines come in mechanical and computerized varieties.

Mechanical sewing machines have a limited number of stitches. They also have manual controls, that is, knobs, dials, and sliders.

Embroidery machines are all computerized. Their memory allows them to store designs, lettering, and sometimes stitches.

More advanced machines also store information about color, size, stitch type, orientation, and so on. They can even store imported designs.

Advanced embroidery machines will allow you to edit your designs right on your machine as well.

They’re built differently

There are a few physical differences between embroidery machines and sewing machines.

Dedicated embroidery machines also come in a few different forms.

Sewing and embroidery machine

A sewing and embroidery machine is a regular sewing machine with some built-in embroidery functions.

Some models may come with a removable embroidery table and one or more machine embroidery hoops.

Sewing and embroidery machines may also have a longer throat space to give you more room to work.

A sewing and embroidery machine may or may not have a built-in method for design transfer.

Single needle embroidery machine

A single needle dedicated embroidery machine often has a larger work table to accommodate different sized hoops.

Many models have a touch screen that allows you to perform advanced editing functions such as:

  • Resizing
  • Rotating
  • Moving the image around the workspace
  • Adding or removing design elements
  • Programming different colors
  • Programming various stitch types
  • Combining designs

Almost all models will have a method for design transfer.

Multi-needle embroidery machine

A multi-needle embroidery machine like the Janome MB-7 is an investment. If you’re buying an embroidery machine to start a business, this is the type of machine you’ll need.

This type of embroidery machine works with several needles and several threads at the same time. This allows the user to create unique, complex designs with ultimate precision and at lightning speed.

A multi-needle embroidery machine will always have design transfer technology and will almost always have a touch screen.

Embroidery machines are connected

In addition to built-in designs, many embroidery machines have a way to import outside designs onto your machine.

You might buy designs from the manufacturer or a third party. You might also create them yourself using special apps or software.

Some design transfer technologies include:

  • Apps
  • USB
  • Wi-Fi
  • Embroidery cards

USB connectivity is the most common for mid-range machines. Higher-end embroidery machines often have apps, as well as USB and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Embroidery cards and card readers/writers aren’t used much anymore. Some older machines use them, however.

How Embroidery Machines Work

Machine embroidery involves four main functions: acquiring your design, transferring it to your machine, editing it, and embroidering it.

Acquiring your design

There are three types of embroidery machine designs: built-ins, pre-made designs, and designs you create yourself.

Built-ins, obviously, come programmed into your machine’s memory. Here’s how the other two methods work.

Buying embroidery machine designs

You can buy embroidery designs from third parties like Ibroidery and Smart Needle. Many machine manufacturers also have their own websites where you can buy designs.

Once you’ve downloaded your designs onto your computer, you can transfer them to your embroidery machine via an app, USB, Wi-Fi, or a card reader. The specific transfer technology will depend on your machine.

However, you must be careful. Embroidery designs come in a lot of different file types. Not all of them will work with all machines.

So before you press “buy,” always double-check that the file type will work with your embroidery machine.

Creating your own designs

If money is no object, some ultra-premium machines allow you to create embroidery patterns from photographs and sketches and transfer them wirelessly to your machine.

Check out this top-of-the-line Brother embroidery machine, for example.

Most of us, however, don’t have several months’ salary to spend on a crafting machine.

Fortunately, there are other ways to create your embroidery designs.

First, you can use special software to create designs and digitize them. That is, turn them into a file type that your embroidery machine can read.

One software suite that does this is Embrilliance.

Another option is an online service like PhotoEmbroidery.com. This service turns your uploaded photos into machine embroidery files.

There are also a number of freeware options. But quality can vary, so be careful.

Editing

Once you’ve purchased or created a design, you may want to edit it.

High-end dedicated embroidery machines will allow you to edit your designs extensively on the machine. However, mid-range sewing and embroidery machines will have limited editing functions.

You may be able to resize, reposition, and rotate the image, but probably not much more than that. You’ll need to do more advanced editing on your computer before transferring the design to your machine.

Design transfer

As we mentioned before, once you have your designs ready to go, you’ll need to move them to your machine. How you accomplish this will depend on your machine.

Your machine may have a USB connection or Wi-Fi connectivity. Alternatively, the manufacturer may offer a design transfer app. Some older machines may also have a slot for embroidery cards.

Embroidery

You’ve acquired your design, done any necessary editing, and transferred it to your machine. Now you’re ready to embroider.

The exact process will depend on your machine. If you have a combination machine, you may have to attach an embroidery unit. You might also have to set up an embroidery hoop.

And then it will be time to use your machine’s computer to position your design and do any last-minute alterations.

Buying an Embroidery Machine: A Guide

That’s a lot to keep in mind! But don’t worry. Here are the highlights. If you’re buying an embroidery machine, these are the main questions to consider.

How will you use this machine?

This is the most important question. On one hand, you don’t want to buy a machine that’s too limited for your needs.

On the other hand, you don’t want something that’s so complicated you’ll be afraid to use it.

Hobby level

If you’re a home sewist interested in dipping your toe into machine embroidery, then consider a combination sewing and embroidery machine.

A hybrid machine like the Brother SE625 or the Janome Horizon Memory Craft 9850 is a versatile, lower-cost option. Hybrid machines are regular sewing machines, but also have the following features:

  • A generous selection of built-in embroidery designs
  • Lettering fonts
  • Sometimes have the ability to import new designs
  • Limited editing such as rotating, resizing, and repositioning
  • Sometimes include machine embroidery hoops

Some combination machines are simple. Others, on the other hand, can be quite sophisticated and powerful. There’s also a wide range of prices with no upper limit.

Either way, a combination machine has plenty to keep a hobbyist happy for a long time. Plus, if you discover that machine embroidery isn’t for you after all, you’ll still have a high-quality regular sewing machine.

Buying an embroidery machine for business

If you’re starting a business, or if you’ve hit the limits of what you can do with your combination machine, then you need a dedicated embroidery machine.

You can’t do regular sewing with a dedicated embroidery machine. But if you’re serious about machine embroidery and want maximum creative control, this is what you need.

Some of our favorite models of ultra-high-end dedicated embroidery machines include the Brother Innov-Is Stellaire XJ1 and the Janome MB-7 commercial embroidery machine.

There’s a wide array of available features at this level. Not every machine will have all of them, though. Therefore, it’s important to think about which features are most important to you.

That said, some features you may find at this level include:

  • Advanced on-machine editing
  • Design creation, digitization, and transfer via app
  • Multiple needles
  • Large color touchscreen
  • High-speed stitching
  • Large embroidery area

What are your must-have features?

A closely related question is, what are your dealbreaker features?

Of course, when looking at complex options, it’s tempting to pick fast and hope for the best. But when you’re investing this much money, you want a machine that does what you need it to do.

Therefore, think about the following:

  • Do you want to create from scratch?
  • Would you rather start embroidering right out of the box?
  • How much control do you want over your designs?
  • What level of complexity are you comfortable with?
  • What transfer technology works best for you?
  • How much money do you have to spend on your machine?

Because there are so many available combinations of features, it can be very helpful to have a good picture of what you want to do, and what you’ll need to do it.

What is your technology comfort level?

This is a big one.

Some embroidery machines are complicated to use. Others practically run themselves.

The best embroidery machine is the one that you will use. So it’s important to be comfortable using it.

If you like a challenge, a more complicated machine can stretch your abilities and help you to grow in your craft.

On the other hand, if you don’t want to mess around with complicated equipment, and just want to start embroidering, you’d probably be happier with a model that’s easier to use.

So trust your gut.

How much do you have to spend?

Some embroidery combination machines cost about the same as a mid-range sewing machine. Others, however, can cost as much as a compact car.

It goes without saying that the more you spend, the more features your machine will have. But most of us don’t have an unlimited budget.

If you shop smart, you can often find a good combination of features for less than you might think.

But how much should you spend?

A bit of simple math can help.

First, ask yourself, realistically how many hours you’ll use this machine in any given month. If you’re a serious hobbyist, that may be around 20 hours.

Next, look at how much it costs to rent a similar machine in your area. At the time of this writing, sewing machine rentals range from $10 to $30 per hour. So let’s use an average of $20 per hour.

So, if you were to rent a machine for $20 per hour, and use it for 20 hours, that would be $400.

Therefore, you could look at it this way; you would be getting $400 of use out of your embroidery machine in the first month alone.

Does that mean you should only spend $400? Frankly, that wouldn’t get you very far in terms of an embroidery machine.

But if you thought about the amount of use you’d be getting in six months, well, that $2,400 could buy you a very decent machine indeed. And after six months, your usage will have justified the purchase.

Also, if you’re looking at pricier equipment, consider alternatives, such as:

  • Rent-to-own
  • Small business grants and loans
  • Company financing
  • Purchasing pre-owned or refurbished machines
  • Using makerspaces rather than purchasing

Buying an Embroidery Machine for Your Sewing Room

It’s always exciting to consider buying a new piece of equipment. Especially when you can use it to create beautiful and unique works of art.

At the same time, even inexpensive embroidery machines will cost you a healthy chunk of change. So it’s important to get the one that’s right for you.

First, know your needs as a crafter. How are you planning to use your machine? Which features are your dealbreakers? And how much money can you realistically justify spending?

Next, consider your crafting personality. Do you want a machine that will grow with you and stretch your abilities? Or do you just want to get started right out of the box, with no fuss?

Also, which is more important? Ease of use or ultimate creative control?

Do you have your lists? Great! Now it’s time to go shopping!

Do you have a favorite model? And do you have any advice for people buying an embroidery machine? We’d love to hear about it!

 

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How to Choose a Serger: Your Quick Guide to These Machines

Do you want to know how to choose a serger?

A serger, also called an overlocker, isn’t a replacement for your sewing machine.

Although there’s some overlap, they’re different tools for different types of sewing. They’re also quite distinct in appearance. And under the hood? There’s no comparison.

If you decide you need a serger, you need to know how to choose a serger that fits your needs, specifically.

So, how do you do that?

That’s what we’re here to find out.

How Is a Serger Different from a Sewing Machine?

There are several important differences between a serger and a sewing machine.

They both sew pieces of fabric together, true. However, a regular sewing machine connects the pieces with a single line of stitches.

A serger, on the other hand, sews one or more lines of stitches while simultaneously looping thread around the fabric edges to seal off the seam.

But the distinctions don’t end there.

Number of needles

Your regular sewing machine sews with one needle. Some machines can also use a twin needle to make parallel rows of stitching.

A serger, on the other hand, uses two, and sometimes three needles.

Many sergers use special serger needles. However, you can also find models that use regular sewing machine needles.

Thread

Your regular sewing machine uses a top thread on a spool and a bottom thread on a bobbin. 

By contrast, a serger uses between two and eight threads, depending on the machine and depending on the stitch. 

Furthermore, many serger owners prefer to use cone thread. You can, of course, use spool thread with a serger.

On the other hand, a serger uses so much thread that it’s often more cost-effective to buy it on massive cones.

Loopers

Instead of a bobbin, a serger has one or two loopers. Loopers cast loops of thread over the fabric edges, sealing them off.

Here’s how loopers work.

Differential feed

Sewing stretchy, knit, and ultra-lightweight fabrics is another job that a serger can handle with aplomb.

This comes down to the differential feed.

A regular sewing machine has one set of feed dogs. Feed dogs sit beneath the fabric and move it back through the machine. A serger, on the other hand, has two sets of feed dogs.

The differential feed mechanism allows you to set the speed of the feed dogs relative to one another. 

For many fabrics, it’s best if the feed dogs move at the same speed. However, there may be times when you want one set of feed dogs to move faster than the other.

Adjusting the differential feed can help you to avoid puckering while sewing stretch fabrics. You can also use it to create special effects like ruffles, gathers, pintucks, and lettuce edges.

Cutting knives 

A serger also has a cutting blade that trims the fabric edge while you sew. Some models have two blades that work together like scissors.

Do you still have questions? This quick intro can show you how all these parts fit together.

What Can You Do with a Serger?

A serger’s main job is overcasting. This means sewing one line of stitching, either straight stitching or sometimes a chain stitch, while simultaneously looping thread over the fabric edges to seal the seam.

The main function of overcast stitching is to create strong, flexible, professional-quality seams. But that’s not all you can do.

You can also use overcasting for:

  • Decorative edging
  • Special effects like ruffles and pintucks
  • Professional blind hems
  • Attaching elastic
  • And more

At the same time, a serger has some definite limitations. That is why we say it’s not a replacement for your sewing machine, but rather a companion.

Here are some things a serger cannot do:

  • Straight stitch
  • Zigzag stitch
  • Decorative stitching
  • Topstitching
  • Buttonholes
  • Attaching zippers
  • Sewing on a pocket
  • Monogramming and embroidery

Many people would also say that a serger isn’t the best choice for quilting, due to the bulky seams it creates.

However, some people do use their serger for piecing, and even for creative seam work. Check it out.

How to Choose a Serger

Now comes the important part: not just how to choose a serger, but how to choose a serger that ticks all of your boxes.

Price

Sergers don’t come cheaply.

A bargain basement model will run you about the same as a mid-range home sewing machine. And if you want a premium model, that could cost you a paycheck, or even more than one.

You might be tempted to go for the lowest priced serger you can find. There are, in fact, one or two budget models that consistently score highly with buyers.

But ultimately features are more important than the bottom line. And the available features can vary widely from machine to machine.

Even worse than spending more than you intended is spending that much and still not getting what you want.

So first and foremost, know what you need.

Number of threads

The most common type of home serger is a 2-3-4 serger. That is, a serger that can make two-thread, three-thread, and four-thread stitches.

Some sergers can do more than four threads. But a 2-3-4 serger can do the most common tasks that a home sewist requires.

Be careful, though. Some serging machines, particularly at the lower end of the price spectrum, only do three- and four-thread serging. Some may only do one of these.

This is fine if you’re going to be making primarily clothing and housewares. However, if you’re planning to work with lightweight fabrics or do decorative edgings, you’re going to want that delicate two-thread capability.

Ease of use

A serger is a complicated piece of equipment. It’s complicated to set up, and it’s complicated to operate.

As a result, manufacturers have come up with some workarounds that can make things easier.

Threading

Threading a serger can be the worst.

If you think the gauntlet of thread guides and tension disks in your regular sewing machine is a pain, wait until you see the inside of your serger.

Not only do you have to thread two (or sometimes more) needles. You also have those pesky loopers.

Sometimes it literally takes a magnifying glass and a pair of tweezers just to get started.

Fortunately, most sergers have a color-coded threading diagram that makes threading a little easier. Some manufacturers make helpful videos, as well.

What’s really cool, though, is a self-threading serger.

Self-threading sergers use air pressure and highly targeted tubes to thread your loopers with a press of a button.

Unfortunately, at this time, you’ll only find this feature on high-end premium models.

But if you can afford it, a self-threading serger can save you a lot of aggravation.

Check out one model of self-threading serger in action.

Stitch width adjustment

A regular sewing machine allows you to adjust the stitch length and width by hand.

If you have a mechanical sewing machine, you’ll use knobs and dials to make these adjustments. A computerized sewing machine has pre-set functions that you access with a touch screen or the push of a button.

A serger typically has a stitch length knob like a sewing machine. However, on a serger, two things determine the width of your stitches: the stitch finger and the cutting blade.

Some sergers come with several stitch fingers. To adjust the stitch width, you change out the stitch finger or remove it altogether. This is another crawl-into-your-machine-with-a-screwdriver job.

Other sergers have a selection dial or lever that moves the stitch finger into different positions.

Likewise the cutting blade. With some models, you may have to remove the cutting blade for certain kinds of work, for example, to make a rolled hem.

Other models have a knob that simply lifts the blade out of the way.

If you want to simply sew and not monkey around inside your machine, these are two features that should be on your list.

Differential feed range

As we said, the differential feed mechanism adjusts the speed of the feed dogs with relation to one another.

The difference between the speed of each of the sets of feed dogs may be smaller or it may be greater.

You can also think of this difference in terms of stretch and compression. The more difference there is between the speed of each set of feed dogs, the more the machine will stretch the fabric during sewing.

Likewise, less difference means the machine will compress the fabric during sewing.

Most home sergers have a differential feed range of between 0.7 and 2.0 (where 1.0 is neutral). Some may have a greater range, however. For example, the range may be from 0.5 to 2.25.

A greater differential feed range means more possible degrees of stretch and compression. And this can mean more control over stitching and special effects.

Free arm

Many regular sewing machines come with a free arm. That is, you can slide off part of the base of the machine to reveal a smaller, circular working surface.

This is essential for working small, circular pieces of a project. For example, shirt cuffs, collars, waistbands, and trouser legs.

Some sergers also come with a free arm.

Although a lot of the work that you’ll do with a serger involves long, straight rows of stitching, there may be circumstances when you might want to do free arm work.

These may include:

  • Decorative edging on sleeves
  • Attaching collars
  • Blind trouser hems
  • And more

If you’re going to be using your serger for garment construction, then a free arm might well be an important feature to consider.

Trim trap

A serger trims fabric edges while it sews. This can create quite a bit of waste.

A trim trap catches that waste and keeps it out of your way.

Some sergers have a built-in trim trap. With others, you have the option to buy it separately. Be careful, though. That little bit of plastic can come with a surprisingly hefty price tag.

Alternately, you can make your own waste catcher. In fact, this is a lot of people’s first project with their serger!

Accessories

Sergers often come with accessories packs filled with tools and notions. Some are more useful than others, however.

Here are a few that you need.

Serger tweezers

Unless you have a self-threading serger you’ll need to thread your loopers by hand. Some of the thread guides can be very difficult to get to.

A long pair of tweezers can make easy work of this task, however.

You don’t need special tweezers, of course. Your bathroom tweezers will work fine.

Still, it’s a nice touch when a manufacturer includes this essential tool.

Serger needles

It’s very handy if your serger can borrow needles from your regular sewing machine. But this isn’t the case with all models.

If your serger requires special needles, hopefully, the manufacturer will include a few extras with purchase.

Hex wrench and/or screwdriver

If you need to remove cutting blades or switch out stitch fingers, then you will probably need either a hex wrench or a screwdriver to do this.

Make sure that your serger’s accessories pack comes with the tools you need to adjust your machine.

Cone adapters

The hole of a thread spool is smaller than the hole of a thread cone. This means that a thread cone can rattle around on your spool pin. And this can affect your stitching.

Cone adapters slip over the thread spool and hold your thread cones steady.

Cone adapters are cheap and easy to come by. But it’s nice if you don’t have to go out and buy them.

Do You Know How to Choose a Serger?

It’s not enough to know how to choose a serger. You have to know how to choose a serger that will do the best job for you.

What are your dealbreaker features? And how do you think you’ll use your serger?

Do you have a favorite serger model? Or perhaps you have some advice for readers looking to buy their first serger.

We’d love to hear about it!

 

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Janome 2212: Is This Your New Sewing Machine?

The Janome 2212 is neither fancy nor impressive looking. In fact, it’s a basic and straightforward mechanical sewing machine. But bells and whistles can be overrated.

For some sewists, a straightforward experience is exactly the right thing. So, is the Janome 2212 the no-frills sewing machine you need?

About the Janome 2212

The Janome Sewing Machine Company has been a leader in sewing machine innovation for a little over 100 years.

The company name means “snake eye” in Japanese. And the round, snake eye-shaped bobbin was just the first of many innovations.

Today, Janome makes a wide range of sewing machines for industrial and home use. From top-of-the-range, features-packed computerized models to simple workhorses, their machines show quality and durability.

The Janome 2212 is on the simpler end of the scale. It’s a mechanical model, which means:

  • Small selection of utility stitches
  • Knobs and dials control stitch parameters
  • Simple, intuitive interface

On the one hand, some sewists may find the lack of decorative stitches and advanced functions limiting.

On the other hand, it’s hard to beat the mechanical sewing machine’s ease of use. If you want to start sewing right out of the box, a simple mechanical machine can help you to do that.

Who Is the Market for the Janome 2212?

There are two types of sewists for whom this type of sewing machine is ideal:

  • Beginners
  • General-purpose home sewists

If you’re starting in sewing, ease is paramount. A more complicated machine can be intimidating. The truth is, if you’re afraid to touch it, you might never learn how to use all the functions.

With that in mind, look at the interface of the Janome 2212.

There are two knobs and a reverse lever. The labels are clear, and it’s easy to tell what each one does just by looking.

And while it’s true that there are only a handful of stitch designs, they’re all the ones that sewists use most.

The Janome 2212 also gives you a few stitches that you don’t typically find on an entry-level mechanical sewing machine. But we’ll talk about that in a bit.

This type of sewing machine is also well suited to someone who does occasional home sewing projects, like housewares and clothing alterations.

Also, mechanical sewing machines tend to be less expensive than more complicated computerized models.

Importantly, because this one is a Janome, it’s sure to have a durable build with quality components.

How to Choose a Mechanical Sewing Machine

Not all mechanical sewing machines are equal in quality and performance. In fact, if you look carefully, you’ll find quite a bit of variation in features even among machines that look quite similar at first glance.

Stitch designs

One of the defining features of the mechanical sewing machine is a small number of stitch designs.

Computerized sewing machines have built-in memory that can store hundreds of designs. The Singer Quantum Stylist 9960, for example, has 600!

By contrast, many mechanical machines have just a handful. The Singer Start has only six. The Brother XR3774 has 37, which is unusual for a mechanical machine because most have fewer than a dozen.

The Janome 2212 has a respectable 12, which include all of the stitches you probably need, plus a few pleasant surprises.

First, you get:

  • Straight stitch
  • Zigzag stitch
  • Blind hem stitch

These are pretty standard, but you also get a few stitch designs that you won’t find on a lot of mechanical machines, including:

  • Overcasting stitch
  • Knit stitch
  • Straight stretch stitch
  • Smocking stitch

It’s not a lot, but it is pretty neat. And for most home sewing projects, you can do quite a bit with just these essentials.

Buttonhole designs

For clothing and household crafts, you will most likely need to make buttonholes. Sewing machines have two different types: a one-step buttonhole and a four-step buttonhole.

A one-step buttonhole is pretty standard on computerized machines. But while some mechanical sewing machines (like the Singer 4452 ) have a one-stepper, others have a four-step process.

What’s the difference?

Well, a four-step buttonhole requires a lot of stopping, starting, and adjusting. Plus, if you’re making more than one buttonhole, it can be difficult to get consistent results. Check this out.

On the other hand, a one-step buttonhole does the entire thing in one go. And if you use an automatic buttonhole foot, you can customize the buttonhole to the exact size of the button you’re using.

The Janome 2212 has a four-step buttonhole. And depending on your sewing needs, this may or may not make a difference for you.

Free arm

With many sewing machines, you can slide off part of the base in order to reveal a smaller work space. This smaller space is called the free arm.

Why might you want less space to work?

Actually, if you’re working with smaller, circular projects – think collars, cuffs, and trouser hems – it’s essential.

And even though a free arm is an inexpensive, low-tech feature that’s easy to include, there are quite a few mechanical sewing machines that don’t have them.

Fortunately, the Janome 2212 does have a free arm. So if you’re looking for a sewing machine for mending and garment making, this could be a good one.

Needle threader

Have you ever tried to jam a fuzzy thread-end through the teeny, tiny eye of a sewing machine needle? It can be frustrating, not to mention headache-inducing.

Fortunately, as they say, there’s an app for that. Well, there’s at least a feature that makes it easier.

A needle threader is another low-tech, inexpensive feature that comes standard with most sewing machines. And if you spend a lot of time squinting at stitches, it can be an eye-saver.

Unfortunately, for some reason, Janome decided not to include this simple convenience with the 2212.

For some people, it might not make a difference. In fact, you can purchase inexpensive sewing machine needle threaders to solve this problem.

But seriously, in our opinion, you shouldn’t have to.

Heavy duty metal frame

At one time, all sewing machines had a metal frame and components. Bit by bit, though, many manufacturers replaced the metal parts with plastic ones.

Of course plastic makes a sewing machine lighter and more portable. And if you’re not using it often or for heavy work, then plastic construction may not be an issue.

However, a heavy duty metal frame does make a sewing machine more stable. In addition, metal-framed sewing machines are better able to handle heavy work, such as thick fabrics and multiple layers.

Janome does make mechanical sewing machines with heavy duty metal frames. The Janome HD3000 is one example. The Janome 2212, on the other hand, is not.

Extra high presser foot lift

The presser foot holds the fabric steady while the feed dogs move it through the sewing machine. You can move the presser foot up and down with a lever on the right side of the needle.

Most sewing machines only allow you to lift the presser foot so far. And for the majority of projects, this is fine.

However, for some types of projects, like quilts, applique, and other work that involves multiple layers, that standard height may not be high enough.

Some sewing machines, and many Janome machines, come with an extra-high presser foot lift. This feature makes it easier to work with thick and layered fabrics.

The Janome 2212 has this handy feature.

Included accessories

If you’ve looked at a lot of Janome machines, you’ll notice that their accessories packs tend to be, well, minimal.

It might look a bit disappointing compared to some of the elaborate arrays of accessories that other manufacturers include.

On the other hand, packages of fun-looking trinkets that no one actually ends up using are a great way to bulk up the price without offering anything substantial in return.

As far as accessories go, here are some that you will very likely end up using:

  • Sewing machine needles
  • Presser feet
  • Screwdriver
  • Dust brush
  • Bobbins

The Janome 2212 comes with three presser feet and some bobbins. The presser feet include:

  • Blind hem foot
  • Zigzag foot
  • Sliding buttonhole foot

Again, it’s not a lot. But you will almost certainly end up using all of these, particularly the sliding buttonhole foot.

Hard case or dust cover

A hard case can protect your sewing machine from bumps, dents, and scratches, whether during transport or storage.

A soft dust cover keeps the dust from gathering on and inside your machine.

Many sewing machines come with one or the other. The Janome 2212 does not.

You can buy dust covers and hard cases separately, but the hard cases are seldom cheap. It’s a shame that Janome didn’t think to include one of these with the 2212.

Weight

Do you want a portable sewing machine? That depends on your needs.

If you’re a beginning sewist, you may want to take your machine to classes. You might also want to take it to meetups.

The Janome 2212 weighs 13 pounds. That’s about the same as a miniature Dachshund. So if you’re looking for a portable machine, you’ve found one in the 2212.

Janome 2212 Review: Pros and Cons

To sum it up, there’s a lot to like about the Janome 2212. At the same time, it has a few faults that we can’t ignore.

Pros

  • Impressive array of useful stitches
  • Easy to use right out of the box
  • Extra high presser foot lift
  • Free arm
  • Lightweight and portable

Cons

  • Four-step buttonhole
  • No automatic needle threader
  • No included case or cover
  • Stingy accessories pack

Competitors to the Janome 2212

The field of entry-level mechanical sewing machines is a crowded one. As a result, the Janome 2212 has some stiff competition.

Janome HD3000

The Janome HD3000 is a bit more expensive than the 2212. However, it offers quite a few of the features that the 2212 lacks, including:

  • One-step buttonhole
  • Heavy duty metal frame
  • Built-in needle threader

It also has a few more stitch designs, a hard cover, and a few more included presser feet.

If you’re wondering what Janome machine is comparable to the Janome 2212 machine, this might be it. And if you want a few more conveniences, then the Janome HD3000 might be a good choice for you.

Singer 4423

The Singer 4423 is part of Singer’s 44-series of heavy-duty mechanical sewing machines. Singer has a reputation for making affordable, reliable machines that are good value for the money. The 4423 is no exception.

With the Singer 4423, you get:

  • A heavy duty metal frame
  • 1,100 stitches per minute sewing speed (well above the 2212’s 860 stitches per minute)
  • 60 percent stronger motor compared to similar machines
  • Automatic needle threader
  • Dust cover
  • A truly impressive package of useful accessories

If features are what you’re after, the Singer 4423 is the whole package.

Brother XR3774

You might know Brother for their office machines, particularly their printers and printer cartridges. But Brother started out as a sewing machine manufacturer. And today they make some of the best-rated home sewing machines on the market.

One of the niches that Brother fills so well is budget sewing machines with features one usually doesn’t find in the budget price range. The Brother XR3774 falls into this category.

This mechanical sewing machine has an unbelievable 37 stitch designs, with an impressive array of decorative stitches among them. You also get:

  • A one-step buttonhole
  • An automatic needle threader
  • Free arm
  • Eight presser feet

Also, the XR3774 comes with a removable extension table.

Granted, you probably won’t use this unless you’re a quilter. All the same, this is an insane number of features for basically the same price as the Janome 2212.

Should You Buy the Janome 2212?

The Janome 2212 is a straightforward, easy-to-use mechanical sewing machine. Janome’s reputation for quality construction and durability is unparalleled. So, if you’re wondering how to order a Janome 2212 sewing machine online, you won’t have trouble finding it.

At the same time, although the 2212 isn’t a bad machine, it is a bit stingy on features. That’s especially true when you consider what else is on the market.

If you have your heart set on a Janome, and you’re on a budget, this could be a good option.

But if you’re looking to maximize value for money, then the Janome 2212 falls short.