No need for any suspense. I'll start with the point of the post.
I bought the Brother Laura Ashley Innov-is NX2000. I did not imagine for one second that I would buy a Brother sewing machine. Myabe I'm a snob but I didn't think they were quality machine. That's why you have to go into machine buying with a totally open mind and test everything using your thread and sewing the things that you sew. The biggest downside to this machine is the name Laura Ashley. I've never been a Laura Ashley fan and I'm really not a fan of branded products but I had to look past all of that.
Here's how my testing went and how I came to this decision. I'll start with the worst and work my way to the best.
Until Saturday I have been a completely loyal Pfaff owner. My first serious machine was a Pfaff 1471 that Chris bought for me instead of an engagement ring in 1987. I made my wedding dress on it. After about 18 years I upgraded to a used 7550. That's the machine I have now that's starting to have some serious problems but I still love it.
I tested the performance 5.0 and I can say that my $300 Janome Jem Gold sews better. Just look at that stitch. When I showed the sample (using her thread) to the rep she said "I wonder why that happened?" That's it! She didn't offer to look at the machine or anything. I tried sewing through multiple layers and it really struggled. I didn't do much testing beyond that. If you can't get a good straight stitch you can imagine that the other stitches aren't very good either. Later in the day Estelle tried doing some free-motion quilting and she reported that it was a total bust. She never could get the tension to work right.
Additionally, someone decided that it was a good idea to make the front of these machines curved. While that might be good for your wrists ergonomically, it causes the fabric to feed unevenly and there's no way to get a flat surface for FMQ. Even the extension table has a curved front.
I spoke to someone who took a class with these machines and she reported that there were so many issues with the machines that they could barely get through the class.
These machines are "engineered in Germany but manufactured in China because Europeans take July and August off so factories are closed and they couldn't meet production needs for Christmas." That's a direct quote from the rep! LOLOLOL
It makes me very sad to see what has become of this once-great brand.
Because I am so married to the Pfaff integrated walking foot one thing I tested was sewing two long strips together to see if they came out even. On every machine they did! The integrated walking foo just isn't necessary anymore.
The next machine is the Janome MemoryCraft 6600P. I think this machine was about $1300. I did not test the Horizon because it was over $3000 and way out of my price point. I know there are some other models but this was the only other non-embroidery machine that they had at the show.
This machine sews well. It went through lots of layers although it was a bit noisy doing so. The straight stitch looked good and it edged the postcards really well although it required a lot of tension adjustment to make it work right. One thing I tested was whether the front tip of fabric would be jammed into the bobbin area when starting piecing. You know how this happens especially on HST piecing. This one was no different than mine. The fabric jams right down in the bobbin area so that requires leader and ender pieces.
Here's a close up of the postcard edges. This is a nice little machine but changing feet requires a screwdriver for some of the feet. I change feet often enough that this would be a total PITA. The needle threader is kind of clunky too.
We liked this one. We didn't love it. I suspect that I'd love the Horizon but there's the money issue again.
Next is the Juki Exceed F600. This is a sweet machine and I believe it was priced around $1000. It sewed on all types of fabric, sewed through lots of layers (although noisily), had a pretty straight stitch, sewed well on thin fabric and sewed my specialty threads with no problem. For the money it's a bargain.
This was actually the first machine I tried and Mom and I almost plunked the money down right there but decided to finish testing first. I think that this is their high end quilting/sewing machine. They are best known for their TL series of straight stitch machines. I have one of the original in the series, a TL-98E and it is an amazing machine.
The two downside points of this machine are the clunky sounds as it sews through thick layers and it will jam fabrics into the bobbin area when you start sewing. Otherwise it was great.
It surprised me that there's really no way to compare models from brand to brand. They really are all very different in features/price and there's not real equivalent across brands.
So it's hard to compare the Brother Laura Ashley NX-2000 with the others because it's more expensive. The show price was $2000. I think the retail price is $3000. But is sews like a DREAM!
It has a beautiful straight stitch, did a nice postcard edge even with my crappy thread and it sewed through multiple layers like nothing. It's a really quiet machine and didn't fret at all with the thick seams. It has something called AHA (Automatic Height Adjuster) for that and it reall works.
Here's what sealed the deal. Those little triangles are only 1 layer and they fed through the machine like paper. Mom and I looked like 3 year olds opening presents when we saw that! Not once did the fabric get pushed down into the bobbin area. See the stitched triangle and square? That's a feature of this machine. I was able to stitch those without turning the piece. The machine sews straight stitch and zig zag in 8 directions.
The postcard edges look nice too. I have another sample where I got the stitches neater using a better thread. I took this particular thread on purpose because it's a total PITA to sew with. The blue card is on a layer of timtex and felt and it sewed through it fine. I needed to use a different foot to do these but they didn't have all of the accessories out at the show. The edging foot will make these edges neater.
I don't use this machine for free-motion quilting so the work space (4.5" x 8.2") was plenty big for me.
I still wasn't 100% sure at the show so I got their card and thought I might call them the next day and order one. When I got home I decided to see who the local Brother dealer is to make sure I could get it serviced locally. I found out that it's a shop that I like a lot so I made plans to go there Saturday and test it some more.
Estelle went with me. They didn't have this particular machine but they did have the next step up, the DreamWeaver. I'm glad I went and tested this one. It sews exactly like the Laura Ashley but it's HUGE and has even more features. It also costs almost $4000 but if I did free motion quilting I would have gone for this machine and it's large work area. They let us sit and play with it as long as we wanted and it was enough to convince me that the Laura Ashley was the right one. Since they have a price match guarantee I decided to order it there. It will be here in about 10 days!
I know from talking to Wanda that the Brother and Babylock machines are basically the same machines but the Babylock machines are considered to be much better. I think this machine is basically the same as the Babylock Symphony and I probably would have been happy with that too. This is where local dealer support comes in. Our Babylock dealer used to be a Pfaff dealer. After several shoddy repair experiences with them I will not visit their store anymore. I know that the Brother dealer has dedicated Brother repair people in the store so I hope to get better service there. That's what really sealed the deal for me.
I won't recommend this, or any, machine to anyone until I've used it for a while but I will say that there's no substitute for taking your own fabric and threads and testing sewing machines the way that you use them. I also think that local dealer support is really important if it's available. I have to drive an hour to take my Pfaff for repair and Estelle ships hers to Pennsylvania for repair.
I really enjoyed playing with all of the machines. There really are only a few sewing machine options these days. What they really want to sell are embroidery machines and I'm just not interested in that. I'm glad to be done with this and I hope I don't have to do it again for a long time!