I have three sewing machines set up, and I use all three of them. Of the machines I have, this is the one I've had the longest, a Brother CS6000i. I have recommended this machine to many people, and I'm not sorry I did. For the price, sub $200, it has everything a beginning quilter needs. It comes with a 1/4 inch foot, a walking foot, and the extension table. It has a lot of features I love; a needle threader, clearly marked seam allowances, needle up/down button, and the needle always stops DOWN! I love the needle stopping down! It has a quilting specific stitch, #37, and it tells me which presser foot to use. It beeps if I put the wrong one on and won't sew. It's great for troubleshooting because it has error messages. If I ever take a class, this is the one I'd take because it's lightweight.
It's a good little machine, so why did I get two other machines? Well, actually, this is my second one of these. I wore the first one out. The gears are nylon, and you cannot lubricate anything yourself. I am not a casual sewer, I sew about 40 hours per week on average. That's a lot of sewing for a machine like this. I was looking for something to be a bit more of a workhorse, though for garments, I still use this machine. (Except hemming jeans, this machine does not like hemming jeans) This machine has a nasty habit of having the thread jump out of the takeup bar, which makes me crazy!
Here is my Bernina 1080. I bought it used (probably made in the 80's), and it's a great machine. It is drastically different from the Brother, partly due to age, partly due to quality. It has all metal gears, and will sew through anything. I can lubricate the bobbin area, but still have to take it in to get the rest lubricated. It does not have a needle threader or a needle up/down button. I miss those. It can stop with the needle down, but I have to remember to press a button each time I turn it on to get it to do that. The tension is almost always perfect on this machine, with no fiddling, no matter which stitch I'm using, and no matter what kind of thread I use. The thread never jumps the thread path, and I am sold on Bernina having the best threading system. Overall, this is my favorite machine. I really like the way Bernina presser feet attach, it has a great machine bed attachment that helps keep my seams straight (I bought it separately), and it has a couple specialty stitches I especially like, like the serpentine stitch. I do not like the machine bed markings for seam allowances at all. It's very confusing.
Here is my Juki TL98QE. I bought it to go on a quilting frame, which was a disaster. Other people's Jukis love sewing on a frame, but not mine. My Juki sews like garbage on a frame. I took it off the frame, and had an 'aha' moment. It is a good machine off the frame, a very good machine. It only has a straight stitch, but it has a very nice one, and it's FAST. It is great for free motion quilting, and the nine inches of throat space is awesome for that. It is a completely mechanical machine, so I can do all the lubricating myself, and when I shut it off, then turn it back on, all the settings are as I left them. My other two machines are computerized, so if I'm using an odd stitch I have to reset everything every time I turn the machine on. Now that I have it in a cabinet, my Juki and I are friends, and becoming better friends all the time. This machine is really growing on me. I need to get a 1/4 inch foot for it, and then I'll probably use it for piecing too. It is really fast when strip piecing.
Even with three machines, I have still been wanting an upgrade. There are times I want embroidery options, other times I want more than the 9" of space the Juki has. I use the Bernina the most, but it has no needle threader, or an needle up/down button. I've been drooling over the Bernina 820 and 830 for a while now, but my budget can't handle either of those. I bid on a Bernina Aurora, on ebay the other day, but I didn't win it. I've been checking on Janomes but there isn't a dealer in town.
The thing is, none of these machines are exactly what I want. I want a sewing machine a la carte. Sewing machines are computerized these days, why can't someone say, OK, there are 30 buttons, what do you want them programmed to do? Wouldn't you just love a sewing machine company that charged by the feature, and you could skip the ones you'd never use? I don't need 200 stitches, or 12 button holes. I don't need a machine that speaks more languages than I do, or one that looks like you need a pilots license to operate. They can stretch existing sewing machines, so why can't they make them to order.
If an average sewing machine has a 6" throat, can I pay an extra $100-200 for every extra inch I want? Even at $300-400 an extra inch I'd come in cheaper than a lot of high end machines. What about stitch packages? If the cable company can separate out channels, why can't I pick and choose which stitches I want? Yes, I want the serpentine stitch, but I have no idea what those 20 are for, so not those. Can you see the beauty in a la carte sewing machines? I think it would be awesome! I want a 12" throat, a needle threader, a needle up/down button, the needle to stop down always, maybe 30 stitches, and you know what, while I'm ordering, make mine purple! or red?
On a more contented note, I got a great deal on some Aurifil thread! Aurifil is my guilty pleasure. It's my favorite thread, but because of the price, I don't buy it all the time. Tristan Threads, a Canadian company, is selling out all of their stock because they aren't going to carry it anymore. They had more Aurifil than I knew even existed! I knew they made polyester thread, but had no idea they had wool. I had never heard of wool thread before. At any rate, I got 48 spools of Aurifil cotton 50 wt. for $118 which was awesome! They are out of this particular set, but they still have some good deals going on. I had no color choice, but I'm happy with what I got.
I'm learning to be more adventurous in my thread color choices for quilting. I'm quilting on the ugly quilt right now, and I'm using my ugliest thread in honor of the project. It is the color of pea soup, and not a pretty green at all. You know, it's looking pretty good on the quilt! These will be fun to play with, and half of them are good colors for piecing, so I'll be set for a while.