I must admit it was shocking to realize how much research, time, energy, disappointment, confusion, and sticker shock my quest would generate. I've come to the conclusion that machines these days are expected (perhaps by the designers??) to do it all.....and maybe that's the problem.....they can't execute or supply every little feature perfectly.
To recap.....I returned the Pfaff - Expression 4.2 for a full refund and kudos to the dealer who accepted the machine back. One of my biggest priorities was the dual feed feature....only 3 companies provide that....Pfaff's being the least bulky. So, then I was down to two. As I mentioned, I did A LOT of online research and very much appreciated the generosity of those who shared their opinions about the models I was looking at. As human beings....perhaps there is a tendency to go online to complain, rather than taking the time to do so when a compliment is in order. I found both examples and tried to weigh the reviews appropriately.
Now the decision was narrowed down to Bernina, which I knew a lot about or Janome which I knew practically nothing about. Both had good websites with tutorials, and plenty of details such as the physical measurements of the machine, what accessories came with the machine, warranty coverage etc. Our location limits our shopping quite a bit. No dealer actually had all the models available for me to test stitch, and the machines I did sew on were poorly displayed and set up....probably unfairly turning me off to two of the models.
Being tenacious....I found a dealer about 75 miles away who had a model I was leaning toward, yet wanted to sew on it. Judy's Sew & Vac in Taylor, SC is a gem. They are knowledgeable, helpful, friendly and are the kind of folks that appreciate your business and are there to support you. Okay..enough already...you have probably scrolled down by now to see the photos and know I purchased a Janome 8900.
Yes, cost was a partial factor....Bernina's are fine machines, but the cost of all the extras required was more than my budget could be squeezed. And.....after a couple of days, I'm all thumbs up with my new best friend. Naturally there is a lot to learn....even after sewing for over 30 years.....but the dealer spent quite a bit of time taking me through the features she thought might be new to me.Because my room is long and narrow, without good light, we installed this bank of 13 lights (which probably cost a fortune to operate!). Unfortunately, no matter how they are adjusted....I still experience shadowy areas.
Therefore, my work pod needed to be beneath the lights. None of the models I considered would fit in my 25+ year old Horn cabinets without enlarging the cut out.....and that was problematic. The dealer had a well designed and very sturdy table at a great price when purchasing the machine. That too came home with me.
Despite moving EVERYTHING, thinking I could rearrange my pod....it ended up looking nearly the same as when I began. And this is the tidiest it will ever be.
So...here are some of the things I love about the machine. It has a specific patchwork setting.....the needle moves to the right and the stitch length decreases from the default 2.5 to 1.8. I prefer a slightly longer stitch and it's easily changed to 2.0. The 1/4" foot which COMES WITH the machine has a metal guide on the right side which I LOVE. (Click on photo to enlarge.) AND it makes a perfect 1/4" seam!!
The dual feed feature that I sought isn't integrated in the machine like the Pfaff's is.....it's called Accufeed and is activated when either the large or narrow feet are attached. I thought they'd be too bulky and get in the way, but so far I'm not finding that to be a problem. The machine comes with the large foot and the dealer threw in the narrow one. Did I say this dealer is a gem?? The funny thing is....the stitching on this machine is so accurate for patchwork, I haven't had to use these special feet for that purpose.More surprises....it comes WITH this very sturdy extension table.
And a semi-hard cover.
And a knee lift. I've never been able to use one, even when provided on my previous machines due to the front cabinet plate on my Horn cabinets. I'm delighted with this feature!
Of course I haven't done a great deal of sewing so far....but what I have done is assuring me there will be no buyers remorse. As I learn more, if I feel it's of interest here and can be helpful, I'll pass it on.
Oh and....yes, the Packers are now 5 - 0 !!!!!! Cheesehead land is happy....