Review: Janome 712T Treadle sewing maker

January 31, 2022 0 Comments

The Amazon product links in this post are affiliate links. If you click on these links and purchase something, I will earn a small commission.

I’ve been sewing on treadle sewing machines a lot of of my life, and I really don’t take pleasure in sewing on electric machines, so when I first saw the Janome 712T, which is a modern treadle head created for the Amish and other off-grid sewers, I was curious about it. but it’s currently selling for $289 online, and that’s a lot of money to pay for a maker I couldn’t try out first. When I saw a barely used one for a quarter of that price, I couldn’t resist getting it.

As I was researching this maker and reading reviews, I observed a lot of preppers are recommending this machine. before I get any further, just in case you are a prepper and don’t read down to the end of this review, please don’t waste your money on this machine. It’s probably not what you need. a lot more on that at the end of the review.

Lets start with what I like about this machine, considering that the list of things I don’t like is really long.

The manual is pretty good, and it was written or at least edited by someone who actually speaks English. If you’d like to look at the manual for a lot more information on the features, you can download a pdf copy from Janome’s website.

The Janome 712T makes great stitches, and has a respectable selection of utility stitch patterns. The only stitches I ever use are straight stitch, zig-zag, tricot stitch (3-step zig-zag), blind hem, and stretch blind hem. I really like the feather stitch, but I’m not sure where I’d use it. Here’s a sampler of the stitches it can do. The upper edge was finished with a large zig-zag stitch and the overcast foot. I think it finishes the edge better than the overcast stitch used on the lower edge. The stitch width on the buttonholes seems a bit narrow and is not adjustable – the stitches might not hold well in coarsely woven fabric.

Stitch sampler – ideal side

Stitch sampler – wrong side

Compared to vintage zig-zag machines, the Janome 712T does really well sewing knit fabric. If you use the ideal type of needle, it will sew on any fabric without skipping stitches. It is not extremely picky about needle type or thread type for a lot of fabrics. The ability to sew well on knits and elastic is probably the one thing that makes this maker worth keeping for me. all of my vintage machines tend to skip stitches on knit fabrics and elastic.

The extra-high presser foot lift is nice. If you push up on the presser foot lifter, it will raise up extra high to help you position the foot. It lifts higher than any of my other machines, and is really helpful when you are positioning the buttonhole foot.

It takes plastic class 15 bobbins, which are common and easy to find.

I like the clear bobbin cover and clear bobbins, so you can easily see how much thread you have left. I also like that there is a diagram showing the proper bobbin thread direction, considering that I use several sewing machines and they all thread a little differently.

You can open up the maker with a phillips head screwdriver and oil it, so you don’t have to take it to be serviced for routine maintenance. The manual says that it only needs to be oiled two or three times a year if used constantly, but remember that your vintage treadle base needs to be oiled with sewing maker oil after every 8 hours of use.

The manual does not mention using twin needles, but you can use up to 4 mm large twin needles with this machine. To thread the machine, either put a bobbin on top of your thread spool, or use two bobbins if your spool is too tall. To stop thread tangles, position the upper bobbin so it is unwinding in the opposite direction from the spool or lower bobbin. Hold the ends of the threads together and thread the maker as if it was a single thread, except for the very last thread guide before the needle. The thread that goes through the left needle must go through the last thread guide, but skip the last thread guide for the thread that goes through the ideal needle.

Here are some views of the insides.

The Janome 712T does have some great features, but its main downside is it’s really hard TO TREADLE. I don’t think Janome went to any special effort to design a low-friction maker here – I’m guessing they just modified a design for an electric maker to have a different handwheel so it could be used on a treadle base. There are plenty of vintage zig-zag machines that can be put ideal into a treadle base, and none of them I’ve tried have anywhere near as much friction in their inner workings as the 712T.

I first tried putting my Janome 712T on a Pfaff treadle base with a large 14 inch diameter drive wheel. It was so hard to treadle, I nearly couldn’t keep the maker going. I had to lean forward and really push on the pedal. After just a few minutes my legs were burning. I needed a treadle base with a smaller wheel for this machine. For reference, I previously had my singer 328K on the Pfaff treadle base, and I could sew all day on it without getting tired.

Smaller treadle drive wheels make pedaling easier, but the trade off is slower sewing. I have a couple of singer treadle bases with 12 inch diameter drive wheels, but I’m delighted with the machines I have set up in them and I didn’t want to modify the cabinets to fit this machine. To get the 712T to fit in a normal singer treadle cabinet, you have to remove the metal piece that the belt goes through on the ideal side of the hole in the cabinet top. It is typically attached to a large spring that assists with raising and lowering the machine. other reviewers have also pointed out having to cut or sand their treadle cabinets a little to get the Janome to fit.

Here’s how I ended up getting the Janome on a treadle base that worked better with this machine. I used an Elgin treadle base (a $25 garage sale find) with the table top from a singer electric sewing maker cabinet. The Elgin drive wheel is just slightly smaller than a normal singer drive wheel, which makes pedaling a bit much easier (but still not what I would call easy – you are going to get some exercise using this maker no matter what treadle base you put it on).  The table top is one that fits a longer base singer machine, such as a Touch & Sew, 328, 401, 500, etc.

Here are the dimensions of the hole in the table top:

I wanted the sewing maker to be able to fold down, and to do that you need about 7.5 inches clearance between the underside of the table and any obstructions on the treadle irons. The Elgin treadle bases (the same as “The Free” brand bases) have the wheel and a cross brace up pretty high, so to be able to lower the sewing maker I had to raise up the table about 2.5 inches. In my normal haphazard woodworking style, I screwed together some scrap wood into a frame and screwed it onto the top of the treadle base to raise up the table. I’m only 5’2″, so with the table raised up I have to sit on a tall stool to put the table at elbow height, but I think sitting up higher gives me a lot more leverage to push on the pedal anyway, so I’m ok with it.

If antique treadle cabinets or cobbled together frankentreadles like mine aren’t your style, you can get some great Amish made cabinets to fit your 712T (or any other sewing maker that would fit in a singer treadle table). I wouldn’t mind having one, but they sure cost a lot. I’m guessing they are worth it, though, if you have the money, considering that they look well-built enough to last generations. Or if you have the skills and tools, you could make your own table top. just a solid piece of wood with holes to fit the sewing maker and belt would work.

Here are some of things I don’t like about this sewing machine:

It requires a lot of effort to treadle. Did I mention that?

It’s not a heavy-duty sewing machine. Your legs will supply a lot more power than a normal sewing maker motor does (at least at low speeds), but I don’t think this maker must be used for sewing jeans, for example. An occasional jeans hem might be OK, but make sure you hammer the seam flat before you sew it, and sew slowly. With my vintage machines, I can sew fast to get enough power to sew over the seam in a jeans hem, but I’d be seriously anxious about breaking the Janome 712T doing that. just because you can sew over thick fabric with this maker doesn’t indicate you should. There are a lot of plastic parts inside. You’ll need an all-metal vintage maker or an industrial maker if you plan to sew heavy fabrics regularly.

Like a lot of low-end to mid-range sewing machines made these days, it’s “disposable”. You use it until something major breaks, at which point it’s more affordable to get a new maker than to have it repaired. For example, take a look at the timing belt as seen from the underside of the sewing machine. I’m not a sewing maker repair expert, but it looks like you’d have to disassemble half the sewing maker to replace that.

It’s not good for sewing 1/4 inch seams. Janome does make a 1/4″ foot with a guide on the edge, but with the needle in the center position, 1/4″ to the ideal is ideal in the middle of a feed pet dog section, which might fray the fabric edge. I did figure out that you can put the needle in the left position and adjust the blind stitch foot (which comes with the machine) to get a 1/4″ edge guide. This would only work for sewing straight edges, though. I wouldn’t recommend this maker to quilters. Besides, when you are quilting, you will probably be sewing for long periods of time, and you will swiftly get tired, because this sewing maker takes a lot of effort to treadle (I think I pointed out that . . .). A vintage straight stitch maker is probably the best option for piecing quilts, and requires nearly no effort to treadle. If you want to have zig-zag stitches for applique, there are vintage zig-zag machines that you can treadle (more on that later).It doesn’t take standard snap-on presser feet or short shank feet. You have to get Janome feet. standard snap-on feet will attach to the machine, but the needle is a little over to the ideal of the center of the presser foot, so the needle won’t line up ideal with a standard foot. You can see this with my favorite quarter-inch foot. The needle hits the foot rather than going through the hole.

The zipper foot that comes with the maker is just dumb. Snap-on zipper feet are not good in general, but this one is particularly bad. considering that the needle is a little to the ideal of the center of the foot, you really can’t sew close to the zipper teeth. I recommend getting an adjustable low-shank zipper foot. because the foot is adjustable, the needle being a little off-center doesn’t matter. just remove the snap-on foot adapter and screw on the zipper foot.

The presser foot pressure is not adjustable.

There is nowhere to attach a hand crank or motor. This maker can only be used with a treadle stand.

There is a setting called “Auto” on the tension dial. This is misleading. This is just the default tension that works a lot of of the time for a lot of thread. The maker is not magically adjusting the tension for you. adjust your tension as needed. For example, you might set the tension to 2 or 3 for maker basting and 5 or 6 when using thick topstitching thread.

Here are some directions for attaching a treadle belt and getting started treadling. use a 3/16″ leather treadle belt, or if you like you can use 3/16″ quick-connect hollow-core urethane belting and matching connectors. If you use a leather belt, prolong its life by slipping it off the drive wheel between uses. considering that this maker takes a lot of force to treadle, I had to adjust my leather belt to be pretty tight and rub it with rosin to keep it from slipping. Also, instead of connecting my leather belts with the staple it comes with, I like to sew them together with heavy thread through the same holes you would use the staple in. After going through the holes several times, I tie off the threads and put fray check on the knot.

If you are new to treadling, the main thing you need to do is develop a routine of always using your hand to get the hand wheel going in the ideal direction whenever you start sewing. The top of the hand wheel moves toward you on this maker (a few vintage machines turn the opposite way).

A lot of references on how to treadle a sewing maker don’t mention this, but it’s way much easier to operate the foot pedal with one foot at the back edge of the pedal and the other foot on the front edge of the pedal. It doesn’t matter which foot is in front. Experiment and find the foot position that works best for you. The Janome 712T requires so much force to treadle (I know I probably pointed out that a couple of times) that proper foot position really matters. I also found it much easier to treadle this maker while wearing shoes, although I normally sew barefoot or in socks on my other treadle machines.

My recommendations for preppers:

It really bothered me when I saw this maker being marketed to survivalists and preppers. I know the reason why this maker is being recommended – affiliate links. It’s not like you can link to a vintage maker on Amazon, right?

Since sewing is no longer a frequently taught skill, a lot of people seem to be completely clueless about sewing machines these days, and I read a lot of things on forums that really made me flinch – the blind leading the blind in completely the wrong direction. If you want to see proof of how clueless the general population is about sewing machines, just go look at the sewing maker ads on Craigslist. I bet you can find a few ads where the seller only shows pictures of the back of the machine. often there are half a dozen pictures, and not a single one is of the front of the machine. Can you imagine trying to sell a car and only posting a picture of the back end?

If you want to

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