You may already have seen a couple of blogs written by Carol Lightburn on a new shop featured on the UKQU website, Panico’s. I’m lucky enough for this shop to be my Local Quilt Shop which I visit on a regular basis. Imagine my delight then when Carl, having found out that I blogged for UKQU, invited me to ‘play’ with the brand new Janome M7 Continental, which has a massive 13 1/2 inch throat space and has been very much designed with the quilter in mind, and write a short review.
I have to admit to historically being a ‘Bernina Girl’ and having never used ANY Janome model before, I was intrigued to see the features in this super model and try them out. I’ve now had the chance to pop along to Panico’s and play on 3 occasions so my review will cover those visits, but in no way will I even begin to touch on all the features this machine offers. If what you read in the following review interests you, get in touch with Carl at Panico’s or go to the Janome website where there are numerous video reviews and lists of all the features.
On my first visit, and being completely new to Janome machines , I started by looking at the manual so I could familiarise with some of the basic features. I like to start from the very beginning and explore a new machine for myself so I’d set myself a bit of a task!
The manual is HUGE but I was determined to try and understand all the buttons.
BIG MISTAKE – after over two hours, and while I’d explored quite a few of the features such as the Start/Stop button and foot pedal (if the foot pedal is plugged in, you can’t use the Start/Stop button), being able to lock stitches at the beginning and end of stitching, the automatic cutter (a button and an extra small foot pedal that can be installed alongside the main foot pedal), and all the feet (there is a huge number of extra feet including such as 2x 1/4inch feet – one with a metal guide and the other without, a ruler foot, a blind hemming foot which can also be used for Stitch in the Ditch and an Acufeed foot which is an alternative to a walking foot), I HADN’T EVEN STITCHED A SAMPLE PIECE!
I am rather OCD in wanting to follow instructions but I thought I really needed to get on and sew!
I started though by filling a bobbin and loved that the bobbin winder is independent of the main stitching.
Threading was very straight forward and there is an automatic threader which is easy to use.
My first line of stitching was lovely – I didn’t even have to hold the two threads to the back of the machine as I started sewing. The three huge LED lights above the whole machine bed make it so easy to see exactly what is happening as you are stitching.
I tried a few different stitches – there are loads to choose (including being able to create a variable zig-zag with the aid of the knee-lift). This is not an embroidery machine but it will do just about anything else you can ask of it!
Phew – that was enough for my first visit. It was at this point that I thought that I’ll never be able to go through all the features and write about them – so I decided that on my next visit, I would set myself a task of using some of the special piecing features on the machine that Carl had mentioned to me.
In preparation for my next visit, I got together some blocks ready to make a quilt for Linus (Carl supports both the Stockton and Middlesbrough Linus groups) as I thought this would be straightforward to stitch but allow me to use a feature Carl has mentioned about the machine that had interested me. This is the ‘memory’ setting in the quilting section enabling the machine to remember the length of stitching that is done in any one ‘run’.
My immediate application here was for chain piecing – and wow – it was really useful, especially if just using the Start/Stop button as once I had done my first line of stitching two blocks together, I was given the prompt to ‘remember’ that length of stitching so that the next line of stitching would automatically stop after stitching the same length as the first!
This meant I could stitch a line, the machine would stop automatically, I could position my next two blocks to stitch, press the Start button and not worry about pressing the Stop Button and overshooting before needing to position my next blocks. This is a really useful feature if usually using the Start/Stop button to sew, although probably not so necessary if using the foot pedal as it is easy to simply lift your foot off the pedal to stop sewing.
The quilt top containing 36 blocks was completed in that visit (which was around two hours).
For my final session, I went prepared with the quilt sandwich as my intention now was to use the machine to quilt it! I was really looking forward to the space of the throat and being able to manoeuvre the quilt easily. My quilt was only fairly small (36 inches square) but this machine has such a vast throat space I know it could handle much bigger quilts!
I wanted to ‘Stitch in the Ditch’ (SITD) to stabilise the sandwich and then alternate between doing some Free Motion Quilting (FMQ) and some Ruler Work. I love using rulers in my quilting – there are so many templates available now that can really enhance quilting designs.
Starting with SITD, I had the choice of several feet. I tried the ‘blind hemming’ foot which can also be used for SITD. I did need to reposition the needle so that it was lined up behind the metal guide but that was easy to do. I also tried the Acufeed foot to help manage the quilt sandwich.
Once that was completed, I tried some FMQ. The machine has an FMQ setting that will automatically lower the feed dogs – one thing I often forget to do and then wonder why the sandwich isn’t moving easily. Once I had selected the required option, the screen also advised me on the best foot to use.
The main FMQ foot is a hopping foot although there is a choice of feet for this. The FMQ foot on my own personal machine doesn’t hop so it took me a little time to get used to using this one but since I just did some simple meandering, I soon got the hang of moving the sandwich around. I was pleased that the metal bed of the machine and large extension table enabled the free movement of the quilt sandwich.
Finally, I was keen to try the ruler foot. Again there is a special setting on the machine for the ruler foot and one of the things I most liked here was that I could easily adjust the pressure of the foot and the tension as these often cause some difficulties with other machines.
Initially I was using the same thread as I had used for my piecing and to my dismay, on my practice piece, I noticed that I had skipped stitches when I stitched in one specific direction with the ruler. However, this again is something that often happens with other machines and ruler work so I changed the thread (I love to use Glide thread to do my FMQ and ruler work and had brought some with me) and the issue of skipped stitches vanished! I was delighted.
This is the completed quilt for Linus.
It was at this point I realised I would never have time to try out all the other available features, but I do want to mention that in addition to a variety of available stitches there is a hand-quilting stitch and even sashiko stitch included in the ‘quilting’ section, and this machine has a USB port allowing other stitches created in compatible Janome software to be imported into the machine.
The M7 Continental is clearly an outstanding machine, rich in features and for anyone looking for a machine that has everything, this has to be worth considering. It is pricey but that’s not surprising and is competitive with other makes and models that offer similar features. I asked Carl about training for anyone purchasing this machine as it would be so easy to miss many of the great features, and he told me he provides unlimited training to help customers learn and get the most out of the machine. He tells me that Janome are currently also developing training sessions which is good to hear.
I’d like to thank Carl for the opportunity in letting me try out this wonderful new model and certainly when and if I’m in the market for a top-end machine like this, I will be looking at it!