Friday, December 6, 2013

Juki HZL-F600 and Juki TL-2010Q Sewing Machine Reviews

I get countless emails asking me about whatever happened to Vera (my awful Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 835 sewing machine). Today I would like to address what has happened since I posted about Vera and which machines I ended up with. This will be a long, but hopefully informative, post.

To read the initial letter sent to Husqvarna Viking regarding the machine, click here.

To read the response to the letter sent to Husqvarna Viking, click here.

In the response post, you will read that I purchased a Juki TL-2010Q. Originally, I wasn't going to post a full review of this machine since so many other bloggers have already done the same. But, now that I have answered questions from dozens of other sewists out there looking for a decent sewing machine, I decided to go ahead and post about it here.

Monster - Juki TL-2010Q

Juki TL-2010Q

I purchased my Juki TL-2010Q (who has not been officially named yet, but has been lovingly referred to as "Monster" in my house) the first week of January 2013. Initially I had a few problems with the tension, not because there was anything wrong with the machine, but because setting the tension on the Monster is much different than setting the tension had been with Vera. As always, I keep my manual close at hand when sewing and referred to it often in those early days. My friends Cristy (Purple Daisies LLC and Sew Much Like Mom) and Alyssa (Pile O' Fabric) both have this machine and helped me understand how it works. If I ever had an issue, I called one of them. Isn't it nice to have such knowledgeable friends?! Honestly, I didn't have many issues then and still haven't encountered many almost a year later. This machine is just great.

The 2010Q is a true workhorse. The solid metal frame and casing means this machine has top notch parts not susceptible to heat or friction related warping. The straight stitch only design keeps the needle stationary, avoiding any needle placement/timing related issues. I really love that it is built to hold cones of thread rather than just tiny spools that feed sideways through the machine. And if you need to use a thread that may be more slippery than a traditional poly or cotton, the 2010Q manual draws out how to feed the thread through the thread intake to decrease the chances of the machine coming unthreaded.

There aren't as many bells and whistles on this machine as there are on some others, but the features that come with this machine are the best. There is an easy-to-use speed control lever ranging from tortoise to hare located on the front of the machine, making it convenient to change the speed of stitching mid-project. There is a large reverse lever for quick back-stitches as well as a knee-lift for quick turns. The machine has a needle threader which threads from the side, not unlike a long arm machine (did I mention this can be a mid-arm when placed on a frame?) taking the stress and anxiety off of having to re-thread a minuscule needle eye. The automatic cutter can be used by either pressing a button on the front of the machine, or kicking the heel of the foot pedal. Also, the thread cutter draws both threads to the back of your work, super handy when you don't want threads on the front. If you're lazy and don't like to pull the bobbin thread up before starting to stitch again, you can begin stitching immediately after using the cut function. Just know sometimes the needle will come unthreaded when you sew this way. The table this machine comes with is large and accommodating for piecing and quilting. And even though the bobbin is placed underneath the machine, the table offers a trap door making changing the bobbin with the table on the machine a breeze.
Juki TL-2010Q

This machine came with a walking foot. The first time I used the walking foot, I loosely quilted a queen size flannel quilt. The foot clicked and clacked and really just made it clear that it wasn't going to do a great job on the quilting. I managed to press through, quilting the entire quilt with the same foot. The quilt turned out fine; no tucks, tension issues or skipped stitches, but still the foot had been SO LOUD. I contacted the store I bought the machine from.

The store employees had not heard of the problems I was (or perceived) having with this particular walking foot, but ever the customer service based company, they replaced the walking foot, free of charge. A few months later, I used the new walking foot to quilt another straight line quilt, this one for someone's wedding day. I wanted it to come out perfectly, and it did, but not without more clicking, more clacking, and more paranoia from me. I called the store back to discuss the foot, only to find that the particular foot I had was very expensive, more than $100 on average. They, as well as I, were flabbergasted. Surely I was doing something wrong. If I'm being completely honest, I don't straight line quilt on this machine very often, or at all. I really like FMQing so I typically do that when finishing a quilt. Cristy lent me a couple other walking feet to try on the machine, but since I don't make many things that require a walking foot, I haven't had the chance to use them yet. I called another local Juki dealer to ask about the foot, and they were as puzzled as I was. They said I should make sure my foot pressure is high while using my walking foot. I don't remember what I had the pressure set to when I quilted these quilts. SO, this is my way of saying the walking foot that comes with the machine is supposed to be good (and costly) but I haven't had great luck with it. I need to tweak my technique before I can give an accurate review of this particular foot. But, since you don't need a walking foot for quilting, I'm not sure how detrimental this will be. Maybe if I were a bag maker, a shoddy walking foot would be a bigger problem.

Juki TL-2010Q

Juki TL-2010Q

The machine is sturdy, never scooting around my tabletop even when I have the pedal-to-the-metal on full "hare" speed. It's a great machine. Amazing. Fantastic. I would recommend this machine to anybody. AND I HAVE!

So then I was left with an amazing straight-stitch machine and Vera. Freaking awful Vera. I thought it would be okay to keep the Viking around for those times I needed specialty stitches, like zig zag or button hole, but she couldn't even handle those. At best, Vera had become a giant dust collector in my craft room.

Big Butt Hazel - Juki HZL-F600

Juki HZL-F600

Fast forward to May 2013. I still had not been able to create a consistent stitch with Vera. I had, however, still been able to churn out some impressive amounts of commission projects and quilts, buffering my craft budget enough that I could buy a new machine. I hemmed and hawed for a while, claiming I was completely satisfied only owning a giant, Vera-shaped doorstop and an amazing Juki TL-2010Q. But my husband heard me from my craft room. He heard the screaming, the frustration, the hate-filled words that spewed from my mouth and onto Vera's stupid, plastic face. He couldn't stand it any longer and so, set up a babysitter so we could go machine shopping.

I did some research online before venturing out into the claws of sewing machine salesmen. I knew the features I was looking for. The price I was willing to pay. I came prepared with a giant bag full of projects and no time limit. (I am a salesman's worst nightmare, I assure you.) I tried out many machines from many manufacturers. I stitched and quilted for HOURS, taking the time to work on some projects and giving each machine a real workout to determine how well it would hold up under pressure. Eventually, I found myself coming back to a Janome my friend had recommended to me. It fit my price point and had a stellar recommendation, but it still didn't quite feel right. I made up my mind to leave the shop and sleep on it for a few days.

Then, realizing they may lose a sale and grasping at straws, the saleswoman asked me how I felt about Juki.

Juki? I LOVE my Juki.

After all shock had worn off that I had even heard of Juki and a 10 minute vacation to the back room, she emerged with the Juki HZL-F600. Having never heard of this machine, I was hesitant, but wanted to give it a fair try, especially considering the company had earned my respect by making such an amazing 2010Q. As I pulled out another project, my husband began frantically bashing his fingers into his iPhone screen, searching for any and all reviews he could find on the machine. Turns out, there weren't very many out there, giving him pause over whether we should even consider this machine. After all, we couldn't find reviews for Vera either and look how that turned out.

Juki HZL-F600

Sitting there in that tiny machine shop, sitting on the too small chair and stitching in a too small area, I fell in love. Fell in love with the fact that the same great features I adored in my 2010Q had been transferred to this computerized machine; the knee-lift, the table, the cutter, the speed control. I fell in love with the sound it made as it whirred through button-holes and zigzag stitches, the sound it made when it performed the basic functions it was meant to perform. I fell in love with the storage it offered, both on the machine and on the case. It was sturdy and it never faltered once during my hour or two sewing session. I knew this was the machine I wanted.

Juki HZL-F600

The local shop I purchased from is fantastic. They are interested in pleasing their customers and worked with me on the price. My husband had found the machine online for a much lower price than they were asking, but I like to support my local economy and so asked the owner of the shop if he would match the price. I would pay cash. Satisfied with that deal, he asked for $50 more than the online price, which I wasn't going to argue. I also discussed with him my dilemma with Vera:

I had the machine and all the parts but it was a terrible machine. I didn't feel right selling it to someone on Craigslist or eBay. I couldn't, in good conscience, sell that awful machine to someone who thought they were getting a smoking deal. I just couldn't. I wouldn't. But trading into a machine shop toward a new machine would both give me a small return for my troubles through the years and still keep me away from any moral dilemma. If they chose to fix and resell the machine, at least they could offer customer support. Or they could scrap her for parts. I didn't care.

The owner offered me a more than fair amount for trade-in on Vera, saving me from that monstrosity once and for all. I cannot even tell you the relief I felt when I handed her over to the saleswoman! I was finally free! After a quick ride to the bank, I came back to find a brand new (not even the one they opened for me to play with) Juki HZL-F600 sitting, waiting for me. Again, I love this shop.

I have had the machine about seven months now with no problems. She sews brilliantly. Her name, Big Butt Hazel, comes from the fact that she has a very wide base, mostly due to her computer. I mostly just call her Hazel though. No need to cause a complexion!

I bounce back and forth between these two machines, sewing about 20 hours each week on each of them. They perform different tasks for me and both are staples in my craft room. Hazel usually accompanies me to guild meetings and sewing play dates since she's lighter than the 2010Q, while the 2010Q is my sole quilting machine. Hazel actually has some great quilting capabilities too, but I choose not to use them. Hazel is used for all alterations. She has a tiny free-arm. The 2010Q is used for most of my piecing.

Hazel is a self-lubricating machine (as are most computerized machines). I make sure to run her at least once per week to keep all her joints moving smoothly. The Monster 2010Q gets oiled about once per month (as needed). The manual includes detailed directions on how to oil the machine (made even easier by holes in the casing specially designed for oil) and also includes your first bottle of machine oil. Right now, I keep the hard case on Hazel when she's not in use, but I don't use the soft case that came with the 2010Q. I keep meaning to make a sewing machine cover for him, but it just hasn't happened yet. It's on my to-do list, I guess.

So there you have it: my reviews of my sewing machines. If you have any questions regarding these machines, please do not hesitate to ask. I would love to share my knowledge so everyone can make a more educated decision when purchasing their sewing machines.

The last bit of advice I will leave you: a sewing machine is an investment. Save up until you can afford the machine you really want. Don't settle for the machine that might work for now.

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