Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Juki 8700H-- A Learning Curve

About two months ago I excitedly recieved my new sewing machine, a Juki 8700H. Up until this point, I've only sewn on domestic machines. After much research, a lot of back and forth and conversations with sewing friends and the lovely people at Sewinggold.com I decided on this machine.  The reason that I ultimately got the Juki was multi factored: 1) Cost 2) Information available on this machine 3) The ability to sew heavy materials 4) The reviews from other bag makers.

I purchased from Sewinggold.com and I am so pleased with their customer service and knowldge through the process. I spoke with them on the phone prior to purchasing and they graciously answered my questions no matter how silly, and helped me settle on one machine. I purhcased the machine on a Saturday afternoon and it was delivered on Tuesday morning.

I do admit that the boxes that were delivered were a bit daunting.

It came in 4 boxes of which none were light! The total combined shipment was about 160 pounds. Opening the boxes and really not understanding how things are supposed to go and what was what was a bit intimidating. The machine came complete with a set up DVD that went through step by step of how to assemble and set up the machine. Honestly, I think the idea of putting it together was more scary than actually putting it together. The whole process took two of us about 3 hours from start to finish. The table assembly was the hardest part! 

Once the table is assembled at the motor is mounted on the table, pretty much all thats left to do is drop in the machine and connect the belt from the motor to the machine. I am actually really grateful for the experience of putting it together because I feel like I  have a better understanding of how the machine  and what all these parts are than if I had someone gotten someone to put it all together for me. 

But to break it down, here's the good/the bad and the UGLY of switching from a domestic to an industrial.

The Good:

-This machine is a BEAST. I have tested various materials: cork, vinyl, interfaced cotton and leather and it hasn't yet balked at anything I have been able to fit under the presser foot. 

4 Layer of Glitter Vinyl (not canvas): 

5 layers of 3oz leather:

8 layer of cork:

Some obscenely thick leather (no idea where I even got this stuff):

About 10 layers of interfaced quilting cotton: 

I haven't had it hesitate sewing anything yet. The only time I had an issue was when I attempted to sew some leather and forgot to change the needle out and tried to sew leather with a size 14 needle....it wasn't pretty, the needle revolted and broke in several places.

-Automatic Bobbin winder that fills bobbins as you sew, need I say more?

-Ease of changing the bobbin. I've found it actually easier to change the bobbin out in the juki than my domestics.

-Stitch quality: I do feel like when my tension is set properly for what I am sewing, my stitches are far more balanced.

-Cost for accessories: When stocking up on needles, bobbins and presser feet I was SHOCKED at how much less expensive it was for these items. Needles were less than 2 dollars for a pack of 20 and bobbins were about 4 cents each. Even the presser foot were only a few dollars each. Quite a change from the nearly dollar per needle costs for microtex.

-The speed: well not so much for me, because I slow at a grandma's pace but more confident sewists will appreciate the rate at which this thing moves. The speed goes up to 4,000 stitches per minute (OMG that like 70 per second....who sews that fast). I currently have the motor set to 350 stitches per minute as the top speed.

-Servicing: The way this machine is set up, servicing really isn't something that you do. All the parts are pretty much replaceable and relly not overly difficult to change out. Also, again they are not very expensive. The only servicing you really need to prepare for is to change out the oil on occasion and cleaning up your feed dogs and bobbin area.

-Knee lift: OMG, this has been the best thing ever! I just use my knee to lift the presser foot, allowing me to never have to take my hands off my project. Great for turning corners!. It also lifts so HIGH, fitting those bulky seams under is never an issue.

-Needle Sizes: I can get needle sizes up to 23 for my machine. 23!!!!!! From someone who could only get up to a 14 on my domestic this was an amazing game changer.

-Thread sizes: I always struggled to get my domestic to use topstitching thread or thicker threads, even with using a regular weight on the bottom and a top stitching needle. Now, I have to issues at all, even with heavier thread in the bobbin as well.

The Bad:

-Frequent Adjustments: unlike my domestic, the Juki is a lot more sensitive to changes in materials and bulk. Although it doesn't hesitate to stitch, it does require more frequent adjustments to the tension and presser foot pressure.

-The Tension: This is both good and bad. There isn't a handy dial nubered for you because the tension is SO adjustable. It generally requires a lot of turns to make adjustments in tension. Which is great because you have so much control, but when you find that perfect tension for say, cotton you gotta test that out on a scrap before you start sewing your project. I made the mistake a few times of not adjusting from materials and found that my stitches were loose, requiring me to adjust and resew.

-Threading: I wouldn't say that threading the machine is complicated at all, but it does require several more steps than a quick 4 step process that many of us are used to on domestics. It makes you think twice about the order in which you sew things because you inwardly groan when it's time to change thread colors.

-No Bells & Whistles: Love your automatic thread cutter? Automatic threader? Yeah, this baby is the stripped down version of your domestic with it's fancy features. No thread cutter, threader or needle up/down buttons. It sounds silly, but I didn't realize how much those features sped up the process. There are some industrials that you can get these features on, but those were not an option for many available options.

-This is NOT a compound walking foot machine. And unlike a domestic you can't just get a walking foot attachment for it (not that it's the same as a compound walking foot). I'm used to sewing with the walking foot on. I have to use care when sewing straps and long seams that it isn't getting all out of sorts.

-No markings on the needle plate: Those of us who are so used to this just being the standard, may be a bit dismayed to learn this is NOT the standard on many industrials. You can easily purchase one, but it's not something that you can expect.

The Ugly:

-Thread stays in the bobbin: Often when finishing a seam, when you lift the presser foot the top thread will be in the bobbin casing. At first I thought there was something wrong, but I have been assured that this is normal. It just slows me down because I have to then turn the hand wheel to get the thread back up.

-Lack of versatility: I knew going in that this machine would be pretty much used solely for bag making. This machine is rated for heavy duty sewing. Although there are industrials that are rated for lighterweight materials such as garments, this machine is not one of them. I tried it on uninterfaced cotton and it quickly shredded that material. Industrials are typically meant to do one job only, and do that job well. Don't expect that any industrial will completely replace the versatility of a domestic.

-The handwheel is "locked:: I was completely shocked by how hard it is to turn! A friend explained to me that you have to put a slight amount of presser on the pedal (not enough to get it to sew, but enough to engage the motor), which is kind of tricky to do and takes a bit of getting used to.

-Adjustments: Again, be prepared to make more adjustments than you probably ever have. I have now had to get used to even adjusting my bobbin tension, which most owners of a domestic machine are told to never EVER touch it. Now, it becomes something you may need to do and do often.

-It is HEAVY DUTY: The main foot that came with the machine has a finger guard, why does it have a finger guard you ask? I know more people than I can count that have sewn clear through their finger, I don't think for a second that this machine wouldn't make it clear through my finger. The other feet that you will commonly use (zipper, piping, teflon, etc) will not be equipped with a guard.

-Reversing: There is a bar that you will hold down to reverse on this machine. The bar goes down about 2", if you do NOT hold down the bar all the way, it doesn't fully reverse. I couldn't figure out why I would be stitching along with a stitch length of 5, only to have my reverse stitches look like they had a length of 2. It was because I wasn't holding down the needle all the way.

Are you thinking about getting your first industrial? After having mine and using it consistently for the last two months I have to say I am sold and I wish I had taken the plunge a lot sooner. It's definitely made sewing many things a lot easier. It has been able to sew pretty much anything I can stick under the presser foot. The learning curve was a bit steep but after pushing myself to figure it out (I made myself sew ALL my bags on it, even though it slowed me down at first), I LOVE it and I am getting much quicker.

If you are thinking about it, I would highly recommend talking to a professional dealer and make sure you are looking at the machine that is right for you.


Janelle @ Emmaline Bags said...

Love this post! Lots of good info on your machine.

Cool Lizzie said...

CYNDI!!! What a godsend to the machine-purchasing community - this info is SO helpful. Thanks for taking the time to write this!

Carrie said...

Cyndi, This is informative and especially timely for me. I am waiting for delivery of a Juki cylinder arm. I’m excited yet also wondering what the learning curve will feel like. Knowing what to expect from a real life bag maker like you is helpful. Thanks for sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly details of your transition from domestic to industrial!