Saturday, November 22, 2008

Product Review: Oh Brother! Brother Innov-is 80, that is.

I got a new sewing machine! It's a Brother Innov-is 80 Project Runway Limited Edition. I'm just so thrilled I can hardly type!

It is a major upgrade from the basic White model I have been using since 2003. That was a gift from my mom because I was "getting married and you should have a sewing machine". It was true... Lord know how many times I've needed to darn some holes in my husband's church-league softball jeans. I learned how to sew on my mom's Viking... a 20 year old workhorse that is only now needing to be replaced. The White was good for learning too, but I'm definitely at a point where daily use will kill one of us, and I'm betting it's not going to be me. Dropped stitches, lack of creative potential, frequent bobbin jams... I was losing hair and sleep.

But I went to a local Brother dealer called Leabu and bought the new Brother with my hard-earned Etsy profits. It was priced $100 less than I was expecting to begin with and came with a $40 rebate! That dealer has truly excellent customer service and offers lifetime sewing lessons by appointment with any sewing machine purchase, so I was happy with the whole process.

It has sooo many utility and decorative stitches, one step buttonholes and eyelets, an alphabet and a 7mm stitch path. I'm in love! It has a button for start so you don't even need the foot pedal. That was strange at first but I have to say it is a nice thing if you have kids literally underfoot... less unexpected sewing when some be-diapered baby sits on the pedal. The LCD screen is handy and shows what you've selected, and I've found it to be pretty intuitive and easy to use. I've completed some orders on it, and every stitch is perfect. The thing beeps if you've made a selection that is incompatible with other settings or if you forget to lower the presser foot, for example. I would love a serger too, but this machine has an optional foot that can cut and would give similar results if used with an overcast stitch. The bobbin apparatus is a 360 degree movement instead of oscillating, which causes less jams and is easier to clean. Top-loading the bobbin is a cinch and the clear window lets you know if you're about to run out of thread. The upper thread pulls off the spool instead of turning the whole spool, so the whole process of sewing is a lot quieter now. And did I mention it's self-threading? I have no trouble threading the needles myself, but it is faster.

So far, I am completely pleased with my purchase and I look forward to using it instead of fearing the jams like I did with my White for the past couple months. In it's defense, it could use a tune up beyond the disassembling and cleaning. It was not made for the abuse I put it through and I'm looking forward with a smile at the new and exciting things I will be able to produce with my new machine. I'd recommend it!

*Update 1/23/09: I'm still in love! It's been a couple months of daily use and the machine is wonderful. I have not yet broken out the foot pedal and am very happily using many of the functions regularly. Not as much decorative stitching yet, but the basic functions are like gold and everything works as perfectly as I could have hoped. It has already paid for itself in the amount of work I have been able to accomplish, jam-free, since I bought it. If you are thinking about purchasing this machine, I would definitely say go for it!*

*Update 3/24/09: Someone asked about using this machine for thicker materials... I have not tried thick leather myself (jacket suede was no problem), but I have used it for sewing some very thick items using 3-4 layers of duck cloth and it worked like a dream. I woud assume that if you use leather needles, it would do fine on leather. The foot lift can go up extra high to get really thick stuff in and out, and I know there is an adjustment method for the foot height so you can theoretically get over a thick bump (welt, thick seam) in the sewing path without causing bunching or uneven stitching, but I have yet to use that (and I use it everyday). Like any non-commercial machine, however, I'm sure it has limitations and you'd want to be careful not to burn out your motor by making it work too hard. Hope that helps!*

*Update 4/8/09: In response to the comment question about the Innov-is 40 vs 80 for a beginner... after reading a good initial review of the 40 here by Consumer Reports, I would recommend getting the best one you can for the price. I have my own business based largely on sewing, and the Innov-is 80 purrs like a kitten on a daily basis and has paid for itself many times over in the six months I have owned it. The machine I used for the prior 6 months was as basic as basic can be, so I'm sure the the Innov-is 40 would be great choice for a beginner. It got great reviews, has many stitch functions seen on more expensive models and is a great price for a computerized machine, priced around $400. The 80 has more built-in functions, including an alphabet and a keypad stitch selector instead of a dial, but the price goes up to $600. I got mine for a lot less, but barring a super deal, the 40 would certainly suit a novice and many dealers will accept trade-in upgrades for a year after purchase, so if she really loves sewing and wants the 80, that could be an option. Hope that helps!*

*Update 6/15/09: For Nichole - My machine was a floor model that had been used as a "test machine" for a few weeks or a month at Leabus, so that accounted for a big chunk out of the price (and basically guaranteed that the machine was in perfect running order!). There was also a Brother rebate going on at the time. If I had it to do over and knowing what I do now about the quality of the machine and the truly great support and customer service at Leabus, I would have bought it there at full price. It's worth it. It's still very quiet, I still have not used the foot pedal and I am loving it even more as I learn more things I can do with it (vs the very basic White machine I had prior). I have not needed any of the lessons there (the machine is running perfectly and I'm not new to sewing), but I'm keeping my eye on the classes in case something catches my eye. The owners have been helpful every time I've gone in, and I've gotten advice from them that was so honest it kept me from purchasing a poorly designed sewing machine foot from them (they seem to have a very steady business from returning customers... always a good sign!). I will be buying a serger later this year and I am going to buy from them again. Hope that helps!*

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I literally just came home with the same machine (Brother Innovis 80) and was looking for more reviews on it... when I found your blog. This post was terrific help — and helped me breathe a sigh of relief over the hefty price tag I faced down so that I could bring this baby home! I am really looking forward to using this machine; glad to know it is bringing joy to others out there! Happy sewing :)

Shalini said...

Hello! I am thinking of getting this machine and I stumbled upon your blog while looking for reviews. Is this machine good at handling tougher materials- like leather. I am thinking of making a few purses. I read a review that said it wasn't that great with durable fabrics, so that has put some doubt in my mind. Otherwise it seems like the perfect machine for me! Thanks! :)

Anonymous said...

I am still trying to determine if I should get the Brother Innov-is 40 or the Brother Innov-is 80. It is a birthday present for my wife (she's mentioned a sewing machine several times over this past year or two, so I'm getting the hint). She's never used a sewing amchine that I'm aware of, but I know she will become quite addicted to it once she gets into the groove. Any advice between these 2 specific models would be very helpful. Thanks.

Karen said...

I have updated the post to answer your question! Thanks for asking!

Shalini said...

I ended up getting the Innov-is 80 and I love it! I had zero sewing experience before this machine, so I had a friend who sews help me with the decision. I chose it over the 40 because of the additional cute stitches (alligators, flowers, alphanumeric, etc. which come in when I am feeling silly and creative or making things for my baby niece) and additional buttonholes, as well as the fact that it came with a hard cover carrying case versus the soft plastic cover of the 40. I plan on taking my machine around to classes and my friend's house, so I needed a good travel case. Also the 80's ability to combine stitches to create new ones is also nice. In retrospect, I think I would have been just as happy with the 40 since I can see no significant difference between the two other than the ones listed above. If you are getting a good deal on the 80 and it's not much more expensive than the 40 I would go with that one. Otherwise stick with the 40 because I am learning that I could have done just as much with it. As far as the quality of the machine, it runs great. So far I have made a stuffed animal and skirt with no problem. Also make sure the sewing dealer offers a free introduction to sewing class with purchase of the machine (that was a real life saver for me) and check on-line to see if Brother is offering any mail-in rebates (I found one for $75). I know it's a big decision since these suckers are expensive, but I am sure your wife will enjoy whichever one you choose! :)

Anonymous said...

I am having a terrible time!!! the auto needle threader keeps breaking, the bobbin keeps getting jammed, I can't get even stitches - did I get a lemon or is there some trick to it all?

Shalini said...

When I first started sewing I did not realize that the thread kept hooking between the spool cap and the top of the thread roll. This would cause the thread to bundle up underneath the fabric and shift the bobbin casing out of its spot. As a result, I had to replace the bobbin casing (for $55!) because the needle punctured it. I am totally new to sewing, and I did not know that I needed to push the spool cap right up to the thread roll in order to avoid this. Rookie mistake! Maybe this is your problem?

Nichole said...

i just discovered your blog when looking for reviews on the innov-is 80. i actually just looked at it this past weekend at leabu as well! small world! :) i fell in love with it in the store. i have the cheapest of cheap singer sewing machines now and was amazed by the features. now that you've had it for 6 months or so, are you still loving it? it is still as quiet as when you bought it? noise is a huge issue for me. also, how has leabu been for customer service so far? they seemed so helpful while i was in the shop. have you had any of the sewing machine lessons yet? and finally, you mentioned that you bought your's on special. do you know if they regularly advertise or post their specials anywhere? while the machine was awesome, i would really prefer to pay less than $600 for it! thanks! :)

Anonymous said...

Has anyone quilted with this machine? It puckers on the back. I bought a walking foot. I was told this would help and they told me to iron the back material to get it to stop puckering. And don't try to control the material let it go by itself. I think the bottom tension is too tight but I was told not to touch it. please help. thanks

Karen said...

I have done only a very small amount of quilting on this and only on baby sized quilts. I did not experience the problem you seem to be having. If anyone else has had issues, please post! Thanks for commenting :)

Meg said...

Karen,

Thanks so much for your blog! I have been teetering between the Innov-is 80 and the PC-420, and your blog pushed me over the edge. That and the fact that my local dealer offered to price-match me on the 420 I was going to order online, plus throw in some free classes! You review and the great value he's offering has sealed the deal! I can't wait to go to the shop tomorrow and buy my new machine. I'm a novice/intermediate sewer, and this will be my first computerized machine. I am so excited!

Beverly said...

I have a new Innovis 80 and love sewing on it. I bought it to replace a machine that I've had since 1979!
One issue: I like the automatic buttonhole but I am having trouble gauging placement and it also seems to sew the buttonhole at a slant. Any suggestions?