Considering the popularity of the Janome DKS100, there doesn’t seem to have been too many reviews online (or at least my hours of searching only unearthed a few), so I thought I’d let you know my initial thoughts.
I hadn’t planned on buying a new sewing machine. I only recently got back into sewing and my existing machine, a Janome 423S, seemed more than enough for my needs, especially with my firm belief that you can do 99% of your work with a straight and zigzag stitch. I’m not the sort of person who buys into every new fad, in fact I consciously try to avoid adverts/marketing as much as possible in a (probably futile) attempt to consume less. On the other hand, I’m an enthusiastic but fairly hopeless sewer, and so the thought of anything that might make the job easier is just too tempting.
The other big driver behind my purchase was that since I last picked up my machine, something wonderful and new had permeated the world of sewing…computerisation! Whilst I’d had no interest in upgrading my old mechanical workhouse, I wondered if computerised machines might be a game-changer, and in the end my curiosity got the better of me.
Why Janome? I’m not (or I wasn’t) a Janome devotee by any stretch of the imagination. Given the years of loyal service that sewists get from their machines, I can see why manufacturers inspire such loyalty. I actually learnt to sew on a Swiss-made Elna, and when I bought my first machine in the nineties I stayed with the brand. Unfortunately that machine was not a success – or rather I was a rough and impatient owner – and it didn’t last more than a few years. I made the move to Janome by sheer chance, in that I was very kindly given the machine via Freecycle (and have paid that forward by re-gifting my 423S to a very grateful sewing newbie).
When nosing round recently for a new machine, I wondered what had happened to Elna, only to discover they were bought up by, you guessed it, Janome.
So. Like many wannabe sewists, I’ve become a devotee of Tilly Walnes and her easy-to-follow blogs, so it made sense that Tilly would be the first person I’d go to for sewing machine advice. You know what I said about trying to avoid adverts and marketing? Well this is because I’m an absolute sucker for a bit of branding, telling me that my life could be this polished and perfect if only I owned XYZ…and we all know that Tilly is queen of branding. Everything she posts just looks so pretty…and down the rabbit hole I went. Tilly recommends the DKS100 as a beginner to intermediate level machine for those who need the functionality of more stitches (like quilters), or those who use their machines often enough to warrant something a bit higher-spec than a mechanical.
After doing some research I was torn between the DKS30 and the DKS100, which are essentially the same model but the 100 version has, you guessed it, seventy extra stitches. I despise my shallow self but the decider turned out to be this:
Yes. The DKS100 can machine-stitch a cat.
I immediately had visions of my own clothing label, each item painstakingly embroidered with my kitty logo. Sensible Jay did worry that all these cute stitches were just an evil ploy to get you to part with cash, and that I’d end up not using 98 of them. But in the end my decision was made for me because a practically-unused DKS100 popped up on eBay for 2/3 of the retail price. I won the auction and secured the machine, a load of quilting extras including a knee lifter, and a stack of sewing books for £300. Saving money and recycling; my lefty-liberal conscience was clear! (Ironically, in chatting to the seller I learned that she had been inspired to purchase the machine by none other than… Tilly. That woman has special powers.)
So first: the negatives. A couple of the reviews online mentioned that the DKS100 has the sewing area set quite far back, and when I unboxed the machine I immediately saw what they meant. The DKS100 is a chunky little bugger, a good couple of inches deeper than my 423S, and the positioning of the needle means that you have to be sitting really on the level to it in order to see what you’re doing. Thankfully, this is not a problem for me as I’m only 160cms, but I could see how it might lead to hunching if you’re taller.
The other slight difference between my old and new machine is that the DKS100 seems to have a slightly greater foot pressure which means that it’s not as easy to manipulate the fabric quickly in order to reposition it. However, I think this is something I’ll quickly get used to.
Now for the positives. Buckle up, because these are many and varied.
If you’re upgrading from a mid-range mechanical as I was, this machine is a game changer. It has things I didn’t know I wanted or needed, but can immediately see will be mega useful and will change how I sew. For example, so far I’ve only used the machine to put in a zip and bind an armhole, but I’ve used at least three different feet and 5+ stitches. Whereas on the old machine it was easier to do everything on a straight or zigzag stitch, this machine auto-selects the correct length, width and tension for each stitch, making it super quick to switch between stitch patterns. It even tells you which foot is the right one, which is a boon to me as I still find the variety of stitch/foot combos pretty befuddling.
Sewing from the Front
The other super-great features of the machine are huddled together on the front of the machine, and have really changed the way I sew for the better.
Unlike some people, I have always liked using the foot pedal, and didn’t imagine that I’d use the start/stop button located on the front of the DKS100 (the functions are isolated so you can only use one or the other – the start/stop button won’t work while the foot pedal is plugged in.) I WAS WRONG! As soon as I gave it a go, I never looked back.
Similarly, I’d never used a needle lifter, and had thought to myself “what’s so hard about turning the hand wheel half a turn anyway?” The answer is of course, nothing, but the nice thing about all these computerised features – the needle lifter, thread cutter, auto lock stitch, even the way the bobbin feeds – is that each one is so precise that overall they make for easier, quicker and neater stitching.
The auto-lock function is equally handy, and for people like me who always forget to back stitch at the beginning of a seam, you can set the machine to do it for you.
The thread cutter is an absolute boon and is probably the one thing I really couldn’t live without.
The speed slider/speed limiter is just amazing for a newbie sewist like me who’s crap at sewing neatly. When I was sewing that tricky armhole, I could start the machine on the absolute slowest speed, and easily stop it every few stitches to check lines. Don’t ask me why stopping is easier with a button than a foot pedal – but for some reason with the foot control I felt like I always had to keep the machine running, and only stop once I got into difficulties.
What is particularly helpful about all these features is how Janome have grouped all the most frequently used buttons together meaning that it quickly becomes second nature to sew from the front of the machine rather than constantly reaching for levers and scissors.
When it comes to straight seams etc, that DKS100 not only does what it says on the tin, it does it with whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles and a cherry on top. (Can you tell I like this machine?!) Perhaps it’s because I’m upgrading from such an old model, but the DKS100 does everything better – it’s smooth, beautifully quiet and goes so fast that I haven’t dared to run it at full speed yet – 80% was fast enough for this newb!
Only time will tell if I end up using my kitty stitch frequently enough to warrant this purchase, but when I spied this lovely skirt on Instagram it certainly gave me inspiration as to how I could use my new embroidery stitches.
Of course, I gave them all a test run. Because I’m a hard taskmaster/big meanie I picked some rather unpleasant turquoise polyester that looked a lot nicer when I ordered it online. I reckoned if it could adorn this, it could manage anything.
I have to say, I think every single one of them is absolutely adorable, and I’m even considering making children’s clothes simply so I can use them all. Or I’d actually be very happy to just use them on my own clothes (age-appropriate dressing be damned) – a little hem of anchors would look great on a navy skirt, say.
The Janome DSK100 retails around £500 here in the UK so is definitely not in the ‘basic machine’ price bracket. If you’re someone who takes in a skirt or makes curtains every couple of years, this machine isn’t really the thing for you. You’d do better seeking one out on Freecycle like I did, or finding a robust and reliable second hand model via eBay or Gumtree – you might be surprised how often they come up.
However, if you’re someone who does a lot of sewing, the design spec of this machine will enhance your pleasure no end. Comparing my two machines together, it’s like the difference between driving an old Nissan Micra and a new BMW – both will get you from A to B but only one of them will do so in style and comfort.
I’m super glad I bought mine; I think that the investment plus the ease of sewing on the machine will mean I’ll sew more, and sew better. I’d love to know if upgrading made any difference to your sewing habits?
I hope you enjoyed this review, I’m nothing to do with Janome (or any company) and I wasn’t given anything for this review. Sob! I’d love you to follow my blog or on Instagram @thecamdenstitch. Thanks!