First Impressions – Brother Innov-Is XJ1 Stellaire Sewing & Embroidery Machine

As you may know, I bought a Brother XJ1 Stellaire sewing & embroidery machine back in June. My plan has been to use it for several months, then write a review on it. But after my blog post about the Bernina 570QE, I’ve had several people email me to ask what machine I do like, since I really was not much of a Bernina fan. Well, I’m here for that discussion. đŸ˜‰

I’ve made no secret that I’ve had four Brother machines prior to buying the Stellaire (Stella, for short). The Brother Innov-Is PC8500 was my first serious sewing machine, then I purchased a Brother Innov-Is 2500D, which I sold. My next Brother was the Innov-Is DreamCreator VM5100 (George), Bertha, the single needle PRS100, and now I have Stella. I guess you could say I know Brother!

Stella is the latest in the Dream Machine line from Brother. I think the Dream line started around 2014, but don’t quote me on that. I do know that’s when I bought George, and he was part of the Dream line. I thought about buying the original Dream machine back then – it was $1,500, more than I paid for George (about $4,000, in February 2014), but I couldn’t see the need for a laser guide, or the MuvIt foot at the time.

I was so naive.

I love George, and he continues to be a faithful companion in my studio. My mom even bought the same machine around the same time I purchased George. If you’re not familiar with Brother sewing machines from a dealer, they are a dream to sew on. The user interface is amazing, and it’s probably the easiest brand on which to sew, hands down. It’s a great machine for a beginner, but it’s wonderful for the more advanced sewist as well.

Once I realized that the Bernina really wasn’t going to be a good fit for me, I wasn’t sure where to go from there. I mean, I love George, but I’m not interested in doing business with the local Brother dealer. There’s another dealer a little further away, so that’s where I went, and to begin with, I looked at the Luminaire 2 Innov-Is XP2. Let me just say, that is one heck of a machine.

It’s biggest feature is a projector that can project embroidery designs directly on your fabric. For larger designs, it really is only part, because it projects at full size, and there’s not a lot of room to work with. It also has a camera that can scan your fabric in the embroidery hoop for perfect placement. Not only can it project embroidery designs, it also can project your decorative stitches, which I found especially intriguing. I use decorative stitches in my quilts frequently, and the ability to audition stitches would be very nice. At the time I was looking, the price on that machine was $15,000, or if I wanted an open box, I could do that for $11.000.

I looked at the XJ1 during that dealer visit, but I wasn’t really serious about buying another machine, and I didn’t really explore it at that time. I did find out, though, that it sold for $9,000, so I went home and did some research on it. I found that while it doesn’t have the projector or camera, it does have a phone app that basically does the same thing the projector and camera do on the Luminaire. You take a photo of your hooped fabric with the app, send it to your machine wirelessly, and you can then accomplish perfect placement of your embroidery design. It’s actually really cool, and in my mind, it’s one less part to break on the machine. I’ve used it a couple of times since I bought Stella, and it works really very well.

After a couple of months of research, I decided to buy Stella in June. My favorite features are the very things I didn’t think I needed – the laser guide, the MuvIt foot, and the app for embroidery. And the throat size. I do think it’s a little taller under the throat than George is. I KNOW it’s a bigger machine – it barely fits my Horn of America Quilter’s Dream sewing cabinet. In fact, I’m going to have to replace the cabinet soon because of the machine’s size.

Stella sews like a dream, and she has beautiful embroidery. I finished the Woodland Creature Band baby quilt with end to end quilting done on Stella, and it was amazing. The machine has a ton of stitches, which is awesome.

My first impression of this machine is that it was well worth the money I paid for it, and I will have many happy years sewing on it. No machine is perfect, but I do really like this machine. Chris asked me recently if I was still happy with it, or if I wish I’d gone with the Luminaire, and I can honestly say without hesitation that I’m really happy with Stella.

So in answer to the question, what machine do I like that has a big harp space, I’d say any of the larger Brother machines (and there are a few). They are easy to use, sturdy, and they never let me down. I’d feel good recommending a Brother to anyone. But before you buy anything, give all the machines you can a good try out. No two people are exactly alike, and my quilting may be vastly different from your garment sewing.

Until next time, keep on sewing!

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