I went looking at real machines again today. I went to the Janome dealer in San Mateo and the Brother dealer in San Mateo.|
The Janome dealer's shop was a place called Always Quilting. My overall impression is that for them, quilting is really where it's at. The staff that were there weren't familiar with the Janomes and weren't really prepared to discuss them, demo them, or troubleshoot them. When I asked the person who was working with me whether there were any real differences between the DC3050 and the DC2011, 2012, 2013 series, she went into their stock book to look them up (which had the very basic descriptive text you get at the Janome site). We played with a DC2011 they had out for a while, and everything was going fine till I asked to see it do a buttonhole. With the manual's help, she and I figured out how to release the current foot and put the buttonhole foot on and get the button in. The machine then happily sewed… half a buttonhole, after which it beeped a few times and threw up an incomprehensible error message on the screen, which was NOT in the manual. I couldn't figure it out. The staff person couldn't figure it out. A little wearily, I asked if there were someone else who'd be in at some point later in the week who'd be more familiar with the machines who I could talk to. If and when the store owner comes back from her Hawaiian vacation and is interested in trying to sell me something, she'll call me. As far as repairs go, they do some in-house but send out for a lot of them, meaning machines would be unavailable for potentially long stretches of time.
Color me unimpressed: if I'm going to be buying an expensive machine, I want to be able to depend on local knowledge and support!
Salient prices from Always Quilting:
MC350E (the only standalone embroidery machine I'd really consider at this point; I assume the Babylock Spirit is stupidly expensive): $1700
Because the Janome experience had been so poor and because I was sort of in the neighborhood anyway, I decided to pay the San Mateo Brother dealer a visit. The difference in staff knowledge and expertise between them and Always Quilting was, thank heaven, night and day. I ended up getting a pretty good demo of the 1250D, which is as far as I can tell the Ellure+ with Disney designs taking up space that could be used for other stuff. They also had a 2800D (looked like the Ellegante 3), which was fun to look at but is still outside my comfort zone for price - plus there's the dratted Disney thing again.
One thing that the Brother dealer has going for them is that they let you take as many classes as you want, forever. But… there's the Disney thing.
Salient prices from AAA Vacuum & Sewing in San Mateo:
1250D $1899 ***
2800D: Their regular list price for this is $3999. Their floor model, though, had had all its books borrowed and never returned. The store is including digital versions of all the documentation in the purchase, for $3200, which I have to admit is tempting for the color screen and extra functionality.
But geez, $1899 for basically the Ellure+??!? The Sunnyvale store is selling it for $1599, and the Millbrae store has it for $1499.
So… Given that the Janome 350E is at least as expensive as the lowest-level combo I can get from Babylock, it seems much more reasonable to just go for one of the combos. (Unless you recommend I look at embroidery-only from Viking/Husqvarna? I was put off their combos by the number of 'it needs repair every other week' comments I saw, but I didn't look at their emb-only machines.)
I haven't decided whether I'm seriously considering the Esante or not. The quoted price I have for it (from Sunnyvale) is $2899, which is a little on the high side. (And if I'm considering that, the extra $400 for the 2800D isn't that much more for a sizable jump in functionality.)
The Ellure+ may end up being a good, if slightly inconvenient, point to jump in with. Advantages: Quite affordable price point, what should be a sufficiency of stitches; may try looking up the manual online and see if I can see exactly what the stitches are. Disads: no stitch editing, can only plan/place 1 embroidery design at a time (both of which come on board when you go up to the Esante). But am I willing to pay that much more for those functions (plus hellalotta more stitches)? It's a good thing I'm making myself wait till the end of August to purchase anything!