Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mega Quilter or Grand Quilter or Janome or Juki?

This is my sewing machine - Janome MyExcel 23L. A few years ago when I first started quilting my lovely mother in law, Cyndy, lent it to me (and I just never gave it back!) I think its about 20 years old but its been great. I've done all of my piecing and quilting on this little worker (even free motion quilting with no extension table). I bought a darning foot for free motion quilting and a walking foot, but that's about all I've spent on it. I have no designated sewing area. Most evenings when the kids have gone to bed I get her out and pop her on the freshly wiped kitchen table, and then a few hours later I pack her away again. Before I became obsessed with quilting I used to think that it was such a hastle to get out the sewing machine, but its so easy, it literally takes 30 seconds.

Up until now I haven't needed or desired another machine, but recently on bigger quilts she seems to be labouring a little, and dragging the fabric a little. I'm finding it hard to get a really even quilting stitch, particularly on heavier weight linen/cotton fabrics. I think I may be outgrowing her :)

So the other day I popped into my local quilting/sewing machine shop - All About Sewing - and tried out the Husqvarna Viking Mega Quilter. I was completely blown away! It was an absolute dream to sew on. It quilted so fast and so evenly, just like cutting through butter. It is a semi industrial machine with a larger harp (almost 9") so its easier to quilt bigger quilts. It only sews a straight line, so although it can do free motion quilting there's no zigzag. There's no fancy embroidery stitches, but really, I'm never going to use that anyway (I'll need to hold onto my old machine for the few times I want to do a zigzag or button hole). It also comes with a big extension table making free motion quilting so much easier, instant needle up or down setting, threader, thread cutter (what a luxury) and a knee lift so you don't have to take your hands off your quilt. In a nutshell, this is a quilting work horse, it does one stitch but it does it really really well.

I don't part with large sums of money easily, so I've done a lot a research on this baby, and here's what I've worked out:
  • The Husqvarna Viking Mega Quilter, the Janome 1600P QC and the Pfaff Grand Quilter are all made in the same factory (Janome) and are exactly the same machine, just with a few cosmetic differences
  • The Janome 1600P QC has an extra light
  • The Juki TL-98P is essentially the same machine as well, but comes with more feet attachments and a thread cutter on the foot pedal as well as the machine, however the extention table isn't quite as big (12" x 23" instead of 16" x 24" on the others). It also seems that the Juki weighs less at 11.5kg, whereas the others weigh about 16kg. The Juki has no speed adjustment on the machine, whereas the others have a fast/slow slidey thing. All pretty minor differences really.
  • It seems like none of them come with a quilting bar/guide, which is a pity because that can really come in handy for straight line quilting. None (except the Juki) come with a walking foot, but I think you only need a walking foot if using delicate or very thick fabric. The Mega Quilter quilted my sample beautifully with the normal foot that comes with it.
  • At the moment in Australia the Mega Quilter (normally $1699) and the the Janome 1600P QC (normally $1999) are both on special for $1499. The Janome also comes with a bonus pair of scissors and a toy sewing machine.
So anyone have experience or thoughts on any of these machines? I'm leaning towards the Janome. Please feel free to correct me if any of my info is wrong.

By the way, I had a fantastic time at Quilt Market with Becky, Saffron and Toni and I'll post pictures soon, as well as the tutorial for those blocks in the previous post.

One more thing. I try to respond to comments and questions as much as I can, but if you comment and don't hear back from me you're probably set to 'no reply'. Toni, from make it perfect, had just posted a quick 'how to' with pictures on her blog HERE.


  1. Interesting that they are all built in the same factory. I don't have much experience of any of them. but I do have a Pfaff which has IDF which is just like a walking foot (but isn't one) and I can't imagine piecing quilts without it.Have fun choosing, new machines are always exciting.

  2. The extra light on the Janome would be good and the feet you bought for your current machine will probably fit it (although I am not a sales rep. so don't take my word for it). Very exciting times for you at the moment!

  3. I'm using a Janome MC 5200 since two years. It has a speed adjustment & 4 level foot pressure adjustment with lever on the machine which I really adore.

  4. An extension table and larger harp would be wonderful for quilting! I have a Pfaff so can't give any feedback on those models - it was surprising they are all built in the same factory. Good luck in finding the perfect machine.

  5. Thank you for sharing all of that, very interesting! A larger harp sure would be handy. For whatever it's worth, I've got an entry level Husqvarna Viking - an Emerald 116 - and I really do love it. I've pieced and quilted 10 quilts this year on it, ranging from baby size to full size, and it's still ticking. I have a few Husqvarna feet and a few Janome feet, both of which fit my machine really nice, so it makes sense that they are made in the same factory. Good luck choosing, can't wait to see what you pick! :)

  6. Hi Kate,
    I have the Janome MC 6600 - which I thought was the same machine as the Viking Mega Quilter??? I have owned both Viking and Janome and love them both. My 6600 is a quilting machine so it has all the perks for quilting. I love the needle threader and the thread cutter...being able to keep the needle either in the up or down position...the knee lift....I could go on. I do know our Art College students use Juki's in their workshops - so they are known to be powerful machines. It is a difficult choice but I am happy you are going to have a new machine...that is fun! Good luck in choosing!

  7. Yep, you really have done your research Kate!! Very exciting to be getting a new machine, unfortunately I have no light to shed on the situation but I'm sure you'll make a great choice.
    I had a great time at Quilt Market with you guys too.

  8. Great research! And congratulations and any of the great new machines you choose! I took the plunge last year and upgraded from my mom's old machine to a new BabyLock Ellegante (great deal, as it was "gently used") and have never looked back. It's a total dream...even if just for the thread cutter button :)

    Good luck!

  9. I've also been using an old, sturdy, mechanical machine, that I've been thinking about upgrading. So I'm no help to you, actually, your post is a help to me: a good, sturdy, no fancy stitches machine is what I've been thinking about, so now I've got a place to start.

    Happy sewing, whichever you choose!

  10. I love my Juki. It is the 2nd one I bought. The first was to go with a Grace quilting frame...sold all that to buy a longarm and then bought a Juki again to piece and do light quilting. It is amazing...it also has a 1/4" foot so you get a perfect seam every time (when piecing). No speed adjustment....I oil the bobbin race with each change. Very smooth...and affordably--I think I paid about $700ish for mine in the US? I don't use the thread cutter at all...love the walking foot--very nice. Anyhow, good luck with your purchase! I'm sure you'll love whatever you get....

  11. I have the Viking Mega Quilter that I bought a little over a year ago. I LOVE it! I LOVE it so much that I don't think I'll ever get another machine and if I do, it will be the exact same one.

    At my lqs they carried the Viking Mega Quilter and the Pfaff version of the same machine. They said it was exactly the same maching just one was Pfaff and one was Viking. I went home and did a little research as well. And came to find out all the others you mentioned were the same machine. I ended up hosing the Viking for 2 reasons, 1, that was what was available locally for me. and 2, I chose the Viking over the Pfaff because my hubby loves Husqvarna, and stands by the brand and their tools. But I did find out that Janome makes them all, so that is still fine b/c my other small machine is a Janome and I like that as well.

    I have found that I like the speed control. Sometimes I turn the speed down and sometimes have it full throttle. I like how the machine comes with a seam guide that you can attach. It's great when pieing and when you are sewing at the high speed. I did have to buy the walking foot but that was worth it anyway b/c I need it. It's a must for attaching bindings and straight line quilting. I honestly have no complaints about the Mega Quilter. So I think if you go with any of those machines that are local to you that you can try b/4 you buy and a place to get it serviced when needed, go with that. I've had absolutely no problems with my machine as of yet.

    Oh and here in the States I paid $1000 for the machine and around $60-$70 for the walking foot. Hope that helps and good luck. You will not be disappointed with any one of the machines you mentioned above!

  12. You've done your research! I would be surprised if the Pfaff Grand Quilter didn't come with the Pfaff IDT (built in walking foot) and I would think you'd want that since you are buying a machine to specifically quilt. A walking foot is important! The only complaint I've ever heard about it is that is sews too fast, but you have lots of experience and I'm sure would manage just fine, especially with the speed adjustment thingy. Good luck with your decision!

  13. When I was researching this, I found the same thing that you did--they are all essentially the same machine. The HV Mega Quilter, Janome, Pfaff Grand Quilter, Juki TL-98Q, and there's even a Brother that is almost identical to these. While I do not own this machine, I'll say that when I can afford to do so, the Juki is the one I'm going to buy. It just seemed as if I would be getting more for the money. And I no longer trust the HV/Pfaff/Singer folks anyway; their machines are no longer good quality, and they are NOT faithful to follow thru on their warranties.

  14. I have a Pfaff GrandQuilter and absolutely love it!! I sew commercially using a very heavy fabric, sometimes 8 layers at a time and using heavy weight thread. Then when I'm sewing quilts, again it doesn't hiccup. There are never any tension problems, or problems of any kind. The cutter has cut probably 10K times and still cuts perfectly. The leg lift is so super. You can reverse with your elbow - a feature I thought was silly in the showroom. I. Love. My. Machine!!!!

  15. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the Mega Quilter and GrandQuilter fit on the Inspira Quilt frame. I bought mine secondhand in March for $800 and have quilted a LOT of quilts since. With both sewing machines you can quilt a 5" row each pass. I've designed many patterns and couldn't be happier with my setup. (If anyone has an Inspira and needs patterns, I'd be happy to share)

    1. Can you send me instructions on how to roll quilt on the inspira frame @ hatsumomo360@gmail.com

  16. go for the one that's prettiest!!

  17. I have the janome and it's fabulous - when I use it I don't get any wrinkles, etc. in my quilting.

  18. I have no feedback, but I'll be interested to see what you select. For me, it'll be welcome information.

  19. Hi Kate. We have a Janome 1600P on a quilting frame. After many hours of frustration I found that I need to stick with a particular thread and needle combination. If I go outside of this I suffer constant thread breakages. In the end I think that almost any machine will have it's sweet points, hopefully finding them is easy. Good luck with your puchase. I am hoping I can upgrade my piecing machine next year...

  20. i would personally stay away from Janome machines given my recent experiences... after being a loyal janome user for many years, i've decided i can never buy another one of their machines... i would urge every person i know to stay away from janome now as well

  21. the quality of janome machines has been dropping significantly and their customer service is the worst i have ever encountered... they will do ANYTHING to blame the user before acknowledging there is a problem with their machine... regardless of how obvious and enormous the problem might be... and it doesn't matter how many years you have been sewing for... if you don't have formal qualifications in sewing, then they believe your knowledge and skill level is 0.

  22. I'm looking at getting a juki for christmas and have been quoted $1599 here in oz. Kind if wish I lived in the states where you can get them under $1k!

    can't wait to hear what you buy!!!

    quilt market is fun! I couldn't go this year as had a new bub but will be there next year!


  23. I have the Pfaff Grand Quilter version and I LOVE this machine!!!! I use the speed control all the time, and I purchased the additional walking foot, which, if you are going to do straight line quilting you will want! It's awesome!
    Have fun, it's a wonderful machine and I couldn't quilt without mine!
    I bout it in 06' and have used it constantly all this time with never one problem. The only thing I've ever noticed is that it does not love sewing with YLI variegated cotton quilting threads. It loves King Tut cotton variegated.

  24. I am curious about where you get the juki from. I only know of one place in Australia that it can be purchased. I went on the same journey about a year ago and researched sewing machines .. i had a list of machines that I wanted and the juki was on my list. I ended up with a Husqvarna Sapphire and it has the harp space and does a couple of the fancy stitches as well ( on my research list I had that it had to do blanket stitch as well because I do applique) It is good but it doesnt have a knee lever. I got it on special from my local shop which means i get support and lessons. I think you have to factor that into your search as well.
    Also i found a group on Yahoo of sapphire users which has been very useful. I bought the sewing machine about 3 months ago and so far so good. I cannot tell you how easy it was to sew my first queen size quilt on!No wrestling with a mountain of fabric and batting,it stitched like butter. My old brother would have been clunking and groaning all over the table

  25. Have had enormous problems with Janome personnel in France. Don't touch with a bargepole. Am going to get aJuki when I can recover from the theft of 800euros, for a repair that repaired nothing and a total refusal to refund money.


Thanks so much for leaving a comment! I try to respond but life sometimes gets in the way. If you have any questions please email me at kateeconklin(at)gmail(dot)com