Sewing machine review: Janome Sewist 525S
I bought my Janome 525S last year and have been so happy with it. I have wanted to review it for you for a long time, and now that I have tried and tested quite a lot of the functions I feel like I’m in a much better position to do it! I was hoping to get it done before 2014 was out, but never mind…here goes!
Why did I choose this machine?
I did a LOT of research before settling on this one. I wanted a machine that was a bit more advanced than a basic machine, but I didn’t want to get one that was too fancy. My budget was £200-300, so that ruled out a lot anyway, but there was also the fact that I love doing embroidery by hand so there was no point in getting one that could do that if I wasn’t going to use it! But I did want to find one that could do buttonholes and freehand embroidery using a darning foot (this is sold separately – see later section of my review!). This machine does have consistently good reviews (at least it did when I was looking into it) and it is also used on The Great British Sewing Bee. I paid £249 for this machine and it was worth every penny.
What do you get?
The machine comes with a plastic cover and machine plug. It has accessory storage underneath the extension table and comes with the following bits and bobs:
Blind hemming foot
Automatic buttonhole foot
Bobbins (I think I got 5, but I bought some extras so not sure now!)
Small and large spool holders and an additional spool pin
Tools for care (screwdriver/lint brush/felt cushion)
The machine comes with a 2-year warranty, which can be registered online.
This machine is perfect if you’ve had some experience of sewing already, or you’re a beginner who is determined to have this as a long-term hobby. It’s so easy to use! The instructions are clear for the basic functions of the machine, although I did have to read one or two things a few times (but that could just be me!). It does come with a needle threader but I must admit that this is one of the features that I have not yet tried out, as I usually just thread it myself. However, my friend Daria has the same machine and she says that it is super easy to use and she uses it all the time! The machine is a top loader so it is very easy to load and you can see when you’re running out of thread. I didn’t have this on my last machine, so found myself sewing with no thread rather frequently – argh!
You can see the stitching guides on the cover here too – these are really helpful! I made a sample of the basic stitches for your here too – a bit wobbly, but you’ll get the idea. They cover pretty much everything I need so that’s useful.
One thing that I did find quite awkward was the reverse stitch button. It didn’t seem to work at first, and given that I had spent a lot of money on it I didn’t want to be too firm with it. But I realised that it actually moves down part of the way without doing anything, but you have to press more firmly to push it right down for it to work. It isn’t a problem once you know this, but the instructions don’t point it out and I thought that the function was broken, when it was fine all along! So that was a bit embarrassing after I sent it back…at least I can pass this bit of important information on to you now 🙂
In addition to the basic stitches, you can also do overcasting (which is like overlocking, but without the need for an overlocker), blind hems and insert a zip. The machine comes with the right feet to do all of these things too (the invisible zip foot is sold separately – see the ‘extras’ section), and it is really handy to be able to do overcasting when making clothes for a neater, more professional finish. I used all of these functions when I made Tom’s trousers and after a couple of practice attempts on some fabric scraps (which is always advisable) I was able to do them no problem. The zip foot is easy to sew with, but you just need to make sure you have things the right way around! I found the instructions to be clear here, which is good.
Another stitch that comes under this heading is buttonhole stitch, and (thankfully!) this machine does automatic buttonholes. When I made the waistcoats for our wedding I did them all manually so this function is amazing to me! All you have to do is pop the button in the end of the buttonhole foot and place your fabric in the right place and the machine will do the rest. Great stuff! But make sure you practice on some scraps first to get the hang of this, as you wouldn’t want to ruin a garment by getting it wrong. You also need to remember that when stitching the second side of the buttonhole, you need to keep an eye on when to stop as the machine doesn’t stop automatically at the end like some machines do!
This is my practice attempt the first time I used it – you can see that it produces lovely buttonholes! Then you just need to rip them open with a seam ripper (provided). You just need to remember that when stitching the second side of the buttonhole, you need to keep an eye on when to stop as the machine doesn’t stop automatically at the end
I have since made another waistcoat for Tom – click here if you want to see how that turned out. Some of the stitches that I am yet to try out include the straight and zigzag stretch stitches and the button sewing stitch. I haven’t really made anything with stretch fabric yet, but I’ll update this when I do! I also stitch buttons on by hand, and will probably continue to do so.
The instructions cover several stitches which they refer to as ‘decorative stitches’, which include decorative satin and stretch stiches, smocking, quilting, pin and shell tucking, fagoting, patchwork and applique. The only one of these that I have tried out is quilting using the quilting guide, and this is very easy to do. If you’re new to quilting then it’s really good to have a guide as you go along – to try this out I made a fabric cover for my machine using the guide, and it meant that the quilting was evenly spaced. Click here to see the tutorial to make a cover.
I bought a few extra things for my machine that have come in handy (to varying degrees). If you want to have different feet for this machine, each one costs about £15, so you’ll need to bear this in mind. I chose to get an invisible zip foot and a darning foot for freehand embroidery. The zip foot is really easy to use, but I would suggest a practice run first. It does come with its own instructions in the packet, and they are easy to follow.
The darning foot is a bit more tricky to use, to be honest! This is definitely something that will need lots of practice. It was also a little bit awkward to set up the first time, but I think it will be easier next time. I made this when I was playing around with this foot, and it’s something that I’d love to master.
I also bought a bias tape foot for attaching bias binding to quilts. However, there is obviously a knack for this foot and I don’t have it – I cannot get it to work at all! I’m going to try to persevere with it, but you may find it easier to use your standard foot for binding and stitch the back of your binding by hand.
Ok, I think that’s about it! Oh, I did read about this little computer keyboard hoover on Tilly and the Buttons a while back, and it is really useful for cleaning out the machine. I should also say that I recommended this machine to a couple of my friends, and they love it too. I hope that you have found this review helpful! And no matter which machine you choose, happy sewing 🙂
***Please note that this is not a sponsored post – I bought this with my own money and wanted to give you a genuine review of this Janome machine.***
Post updated 14th August 2016.
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Thanks so much for this review, very helpful.
I am just wondering what foot did you buy to do the free hand embroidery?
I’m so pleased that you found my review helpful 🙂 Are you thinking of getting this machine or do you already own it? The foot that you need for free hand embroidery is the darning foot (or open toe foot) – you can find it here: http://www.johnlewis.com/janome-open-toe-embroidery-darning-foot/p301548
The first time I used it, it took me a while to set it up and to get the hang of it. It just feels a bit strange as it’s so much freer than the other feet! But just stick with it 🙂 Good luck! Clare X
Thanks for that Clare! Yes I already have the machine. Like you I did a lot of research and had same budget.
Going to have a go but may call on you for more advice!!
Thanks again xx
No problem, Huda! Best of luck – happy sewing! 🙂 xx
Thanks for this review! I have the same machine, bought about 5 months ago, and was about to send back under warranty as I didn’t think the automatic button hole foot worked, but now I see your picture of your button hole and realise the right hand of the hole is supposed to be a different thickness to the left one. I was thinking there was something wrong!
But just out of curiosity, have you tried any of the Stretch Stitches? For the life of me, I can’t get the Knit one to work – the machine jams. So wondering if I need to get that fixed or I’m possibly doing something wrong!
Hello! I’m so pleased you found it helpful 🙂 Sometimes it is reassuring to see someone else’s isn’t it?! Me and my friends are always checking things with each other now that we have the same machine! Haven’t tried out the knit stitch yet, but have a crafter noon planned in a couple of weeks with a friend and we’re going to try to make a Tilly and the Buttons Coco dress (which will need this!). So I’ll let you know! On my (very) old machine I realised that the bobbin could make my machine jam. Haven’t had any problems with this one, but after the problems with the old one I always make sure I fill the bobbin at a constant speed. Chopping and changing makes it wind differently and this seemed to make it catch. Might be worth a try?! I’ll get back to you once I’ve figured out the stretchy stitches! 🙂 X
[…] got too many machines….. 1) "Rosie" – Viking Eden Rose 250C 2) "Janie" – Janome 525s 3) "Pearl" – Viking Designer SE LE 4) "Sally" – Singer ProFinish Serger 5) […]
I was wondering whether when you attach the darning foot to the Janome 525S, can you still do normal stitching as well if you put the foot down – or do you need to swap the foot back every time?
Hello FeFe! I have never actually done that but I guess you could – I’d suggest having a little practice first though 🙂 It feels quite free in comparison to the other feet, so you have control of the direction. As long as you’ve got a steady hand, I’m sure it will be fine! Clare x
I tried sewing normally with the darning foot and it was fine. I was just being lazy really, not wanting to keep changing the foot, but it appears it’s good to go! Go Janome!
Firstly can I echo the others on here who thank you for your brilliant review: it inspired me to buy my 525s! I am very new to sewing but am already an addict (when my children bless me with the time to focus on a project :-)). I have found the machine to be brilliant and pretty a straight forward up to now…I am making a pair of trousers from the Third Sewing bee book which require a buttonhole: I’ve been trying to use the auto-buttonhole function and am having a nightmare! It’s a stretch fabric (interlocked jersey cotton) and regardless of whether I use a ballpoint needle or a standard one the thread (guternburg brand) bobbles up within the eye of the needle and eventually snaps as the machine tries to do the second side of the buttonhole OR the fabric jams beneath the sewing plate. I’ve tried adjusting the tension and adjusting the density but with no luck yet 🙁 Any thoughts?
Hi Vicki! Oh I’m so glad to hear that you found my review helpful (and that you bought the 525S after reading it – yay!) 🙂 I know what you mean about sewing – it is completely addictive! Glad that you’re enjoying your machine. I’m impressed by your trouser sewing – it’s very tricky! Have you used interfacing on your stretch fabric? I’ve never done buttonholes on stretch fabric myself, but I know that it’s something you should do. I think a lightweight interfacing should do the trick – you wouldn’t want to change the feel of it massively. Do a test on a scrap of fabric first to check to see if it works before trying it on the actual trousers. Other than perhaps lowering the feed dog on the machine (which you need to do when sewing buttons on, but not usually for buttonholes) I’m not sure what else to suggest! Try the interfacing first and then let me know – I can always test it out if that would be helpful 🙂 Clare X
Hi. I’ve just used my machine for the first time. It worked brilliantly on first piece of fabric for straight stitching going backwards and forwards and zig zag. Then put in second piece and it now skips masses of stitches. Very frustrated and disappointed. Haven’t changed any of the settings – any ideas please Anne
Hi Anne! It sounds like it might be something to do with the tension. With any fabric, it’s always a good idea to have a test piece to check before you go straight on to sewing your favourite fabric (I’ve done that so many times – argh!). Did you use a different fabric type on the second one? To change the tension you need to move the vertical dial that’s numbered 1-5. If the tension is too tight then you need to move the dial to a lower and vice versa. Hope this will fix your problem! 🙂
Hi there – I have the same model and am attempting to try freehand embroidery – I was just wondering when you do freehand embroidery using the janome darning foot (open toe) do you need to use an embroidery hoop, as it doesn’t seem to fit under the foot? Do you know if you have to use a hoop or can simply do freehand embroidery without it?
Hi Lucy! I don’t use a hoop when I use the darning foot – admittedly, I still need more practice at it…good luck with yours! xx
Thanks for this review, as a total novice it is very clear and in plain language!
You’re very welcome, Jem! Thank you for reading – glad you found it helpful 🙂 x
Thank you for the wonderful review and post. I have just bought this machine as a gift for my wife, whom has just recently taken up sewing. She is into Indian Fashion and is trying to do a wavy stitch – we can’t figure out which setting/stitch length we need to be on or if it is even possible? Any help would be much appreciated – J Singh & B Kaur 🙂
Hello! Oh I’m so pleased that you found my review helpful, and that your wife is getting into sewing. I really hope she’s enjoying it and getting on with her Janome! Although this machine has what the manual calls ‘decorative stitches’, they aren’t decorative in the sense of embroidery type stitches. They include things like smocking, pin tucking and quilting – all of which I would refer to as ‘techniques’ rather than decoration I guess. You could get a bigger zig-zag stitch by lengthening the stitches (have a practice on some scraps of fabric to test this out), but it doesn’t sound like that is exactly what your wife wants to do. The nearest thing that this machine does is a decorative satin stitch (see stitch ‘I’ on page 34 of the manual), which would work on delicate fabrics.
I would suggest that once your wife has got to grips with the machine and feels like she’s more confident at sewing (and would, therefore, definitely like to continue) she may wish to upgrade from this machine to one that does a better selection of embroidery stitches. The computerised models will do this, and Janome do a wide range of these. It would be more of an investment, but worth it if she wishes to sew more embellishments on her work. I hope this helps! Clare 🙂
Great info on the Janome! I have bought it but I can’t get the butonholer to work.
It sews down one side and the just piles up at the end. I have followed the instructions, I am sewing taffeta and I have interfaced it. I am at my wits end with it. Any ideas?
Hi Debs! Thank you for reading my review – I’m glad it has been helpful 🙂 Sorry to hear you’re having buttonhole issues! Is it with the automatic buttonhole? This has happened to me before, and despite following the instructions I had not pulled the buttonhole lever down far enough. This is what makes the buttonhole foot kick in to the other side, so if it isn’t pulled down far enough then it won’t happen when it gets to the end. Have you got some scraps of fabric to test it on exactly as you will sew the finished project? Also, don’t forget to ‘reset’ before trying again – you need to do this between each buttonhole. I’ve forgotten to do that too and the stitches carried on forever! Good luck, and let me know how you get on 🙂 Clare
Hello Claire, I am thinking of buying this machine, can you please give me the dimensions? It seems to be on the smaller side but I can’t find height/width/depth anywhere online.
Hi Jen! So sorry for taking ages to get back to you – the dimensions are width 42cm, height 28cm and depth 17cm. Not sure how that compares to the other machines that you’re looking at, but hope this is helpful! 🙂
Do you know how this machine does with heavier fabrics? I am wanting to make canvas potholders.
Hi Evelyn! I think it would do just fine with canvas – the thickest I’ve used is what Cath Kidston calls ‘cotton duck’ and that’s pretty hard wearing. I’ve stitched through a few layers with this machine and it has been fine 🙂
I’ve been looking for a new machine and this one just keeps popping up. I really would buy buy it but I’m a little worried about how it preforms in a wide range of fabrics. I intent to use it not only for clothing but also upholstery.
For my clothing I prefer silk and chiffon, and for my upholstery I like leather and well-woven thick fabrics, so i need a machine that can handle both extremes.
Could you tell me if this is the one?
Bianca (from Norway!)
Hello Bianca! I’m SO sorry for taking such a long time to get back to you. I think that as long as you had the right needles for the tougher fabrics, this machine could handle it just fine. I’ve stitched some thicker fabrics on it and it has done the job great so I’m sure you’d get on well with this machine. Lovely to know that my blog has reached readers in Norway! 🙂 Clare
I bought this machine in 2009 and it has been a real workhorse for me. I have made everything for tiny dresses for a stuffed puffin that a wee girl of my acquaintance loves, to clothing and costumes, to a full suite of lined draperies for an Edwardian flat in San Francisco and a 19′ dodger (front canvas on a sailboat cockpit) with vinyl windows.
It’s performed very well, it’s been regularly serviced after every major project (like the draperies) and almost always if there is a problem, it’s because I’ve done something wrong, like forgetting to put the presser foot down on thick fleece! I’d highly recommend it without reservation.
Mine will, I hope, soon be going to that wee girl who’s now 10, and I’m looking at a slightly more advanced model for some additional decorative possibilities and such.
How lovely, Beth! Brilliant to hear that you’ve been so happy with this machine, and that it will have another home with your friend’s little girl. Wonderful! 🙂
Hi Clare, This is a really helpful review – thank you for posting. I had been considering buying this machine for a long time, especially since I heard it was used on the Great British Sewing Bee. When I found your review last week, it convinced me that this was the machine I wanted and I went out and bought one. Like you, I wanted an invisible zipper foot and a darning/free hand embroidery foot. I didn’t buy the second as it was very expensive here (equivalent to about £40), but I’ve researched online and found a cheaper Janome-brand alternative. I have yet to do much sewing – just a test drive on a bit of scrap fabric, but I’m looking forward to trying it out properly soon. I also saw your post for the sewing machine cover and plan to make one soon – that will be my first attempt at quilting. Thanks again, Marie
Hi Marie! Yay, I’m so pleased that you found my review helpful and that you decided to go with this machine. Have you tried it out yet? Hope you enjoy stitching! The accessories can be a bit expensive sometimes, so I’m glad that you’ve sourced a foot a bit more cheaply. Good luck! Clare 🙂
Hello Clare. Does you know I if it is possible to do a form of overlooking on this machine? Thanks
Hello Carryl! Yes, there is an overcasting foot that comes with this machine – I have used this when making clothes and it’s been a good alternative to purchasing an overlocker so far 🙂 Clare
Used ruffler foot snd set it as per instructions. The needle keeps on breaking half way How can you raise the foot higher if material is thick or need more room to change foot please. Thanks
Hello! I’m not sure that you can raise the foot higher – if the needle keeps breaking with a thicker fabric, that suggests to me that you are currently using the wrong type of needle for your fabric. There is a fabric weighting and needle guide on page 8 of the manual, which you can find here: https://www.janomeflyer.com/pdf/Janome%20Sewist525S%20manual.pdf The only other thing I can think of is to drop the feed dogs (see page 6 of the manual). Hope this helps! Clare 🙂