If you’re new to sewing, you might be wondering whether it’s worth it to invest in an expensive, premium sewing machine or if you should stick to an inexpensive machine. And if you’ve been sewing for quite a while and are still using a budget machine (like me!), you might have the same question. Last month I got the chance to try out the Janome Skyline S5, a truly premium sewing machine, for a few weeks, and I think I’ve figured out the answer to that question. I’ll tell you a little bit about this machine and compare it to the budget machine I currently sew on to help you decide if it’s worth it to invest in an expensive sewing machine.
Note: there are some affiliate links in this post.
I do most of my sewing on a super inexpensive Brother sewing machine (you can get an updated version on Amazon for under $150). For the most part, it works just fine. My older version really doesn’t have any bells and whistles, but the thing sews! and I’ve been able to create a lot of garments over the past few years with it – for what I paid, it’s been a great little machine. When Janome asked me to try out their new Skyline S5, which has an MSRP of $1499, I figured this better be some kind of amazing sewing machine. I knew it would be better than what I was used to, but a sewing machine’s a sewing machine, right?
Wrong. As I spent a few weeks sewing with the Skyline, I realized that 90% of my sewing frustration comes from using a budget machine, and that if I ever had the chance to sew on the Skyline full time, I’d likely be sewing all. the. time. (The other 10% of my sewing frustration comes from my own stupidity, in case you were wondering.)
The difference between a budget sewing machine and a premium machine comes down to 2 things in my opinion: 1) premium machines are much more automatic, and 2) premium machines are much more customizable.
Sewing is quite repetitive and extremely detail oriented, so anything that can be automated by a machine is not only handy, it also contributes to a better looking final product. For example, I hate making buttonholes on my machine. I have to do everything manually, and it’s hard to get things to line up right and look good. The Janome has a completely automatic buttonhole plate that makes buttonholes a breeze (you don’t even have the measure anything – you just place the button you’ll be using in the plate and it figures everything out for you!). Lots of other things are automated, too, like auto locking stitches at the end of each seam so you don’t have to backstitch, and threads that automatically get pulled to the backside of the fabric and clipped for you. I’m kind of a lazy seamstress, so I loved all the things this machine could do for me. It’s full of features and details that made sewing simpler and more enjoyable.
Sewing is also full of lots of different situations. The same settings and stitches that work great on cotton fabric are terrible for knit fabric, and the same method for hemming a gathered skirt doesn’t work so well for a circle skirt, etc. So the ability to customize how the machine sews is really wonderful, and will eliminate most of the frustration involved in sewing. For example, sewing on knits can be really tough on basic machines because knit fabric often gets stretched out as you sew, making it look terrible, and you can’t use a normal straight stitch or the seams will pop when the garment is worn. The Janome Skyline S5 has all sorts of extra features to make sure this won’t be a problem: you can reduce the pressure on the foot so fabric doesn’t get stretched out; it comes with an even feed foot to make sure the fabric feeds nicely, and it has a super durable stretch stitch that looks like a straight stitch but stretches beautifully (no more popped seams!).
You can change and customize just about every part of the sewing experience with this machine: stitch length, stitch width, pressure, tension, feed dogs up or down, etc. You can even sew using a knee bar instead of a presser foot if you want! And that’s not even mentioning the hundreds of different stitches you can easily choose using the digital controls (including the entire alphabet!). Add in a different foot for every different thing you’d like to do, and this machine really makes sewing easy.
When I realized how much this machine could do I was worried it would take me forever to figure out how to use it, but 10 minutes out of the box I was sewing my kids’ names into scrap fabric. The instruction manual is very easy to follow and I felt familiar with the machine very quickly. Can you tell I love it? I don’t want to send it back! Maybe they just won’t notice if I keep it…
If you quilt, you’ll love this machine. It comes with a quilting guide bar for quilting parallel lines, has automatic stippling and clasp stitches, and has specific settings to make free motion stitching simple. There’s even a few special stitches made to look like hand quilting.
So, back to the original question: is it worth it to buy an expensive sewing machine?
Well, the answer is that it depends. If you’re just starting out and you aren’t sure whether you’ll love sewing, the newer version of the Brother machine I have or this Janome machine would both be great options for a starter machine at about $150. Either one would be a great way to get introduced to sewing without a huge investment.
But if you’ve been sewing for a while and you have the funds, I’d definitely recommend a premium machine like the Janome Skyline S5. If you sew regularly, you’ll save huge amounts of time and frustration by upgrading to a nicer machine. It’s certainly a splurge, but if you have the option, wouldn’t you like to splurge on something that will make the hobby you already enjoy even more enjoyable? I can only imagine how much more I would have enjoyed sewing when I first started learning if I’d had a machine like this to work with. If you want to learn more about the Janome Skyline 5S, visit the Janome site.
So, are you interested in seeing what I used the Janome Skyline to make? I sewed up this holiday party outfit for my daughter that’s featured in the newest issue of STYLO magazine:
I was a little nervous about hemming that full circle skirt made from slippery material, but it was an absolute breeze with the rolled hem foot on the Janome. The detail on the top of the dress is made from lots of pieces put together, meaning I had some pretty thick sections to go through, but that was no problem either.
The dress is the Scene VI Dress pattern from CaliFaye Collection, sewn up in a polyester shantung from Jo-Ann Fabrics. The sweater is the Heidi&Finn Ballet Sweater, upcycled from a thrifted sweater, with the addition of puffed “princess” sleeves.
To see even more photos of the outfit as well as over two hundred pages of amazing sewn kids’ clothes inspiration, visit STYLO magazine. I’ll be back on Friday with more photos and a tutorial for how to add puffed princess sleeves to any pattern – see you then!