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Product Review:
Elna Heirloom Edition 6005 and Quilter's Dream 6003Q

By Addy Harkavy, Pinetree Quiltworks.

If you're looking for a machine with loads of functions, a super straight stitch, and terrific quality for the price, the Elna Heirloom Edition 6005 and its sister machine, the Elna Quilter's Dream 6003Q are worth a test drive.

Let me start by saying that I approached these machines with a fair amount of skepticism because I currently own two Berninas (a 1008 and a 1260, both workhorses) and owned two others (including a 930), and I honestly believed that it would be difficult for a contemporary machine to rival a Bernina.

I didn't try out the Elna machines willingly. My local Bernina and Elna dealer had been bugging me since the release of the Quilter's Dream to put an Elna through its paces, and I'd been staunchly resisting for years. My resistance was based on three major factors:

1. My Berninas did everything I wanted them to do, were workhorses and a pleasure to use
2. More seriously, the presser foot lever is on the right side of the post and most easily reached with the right hand -after years and years of using Singers and Berninas, my left hand is programmed to find the presser foot lever at the rear of the post
3. If I liked the machine, I'd probably want to own one, and it's not as though I don't have enough sewing machines (3 antique Singers, an antique Elna, and 2 Berninas).

It happened like this: A few months ago, while I waited for one of the store's owners to take a quick look at a couple of malfunctions on my Bernina 1260, I experienced a weak moment and let the other owner sit me down in front of the Elna Quilter's Dream 6003Q.

The first thing I noticed was that it was pretty quiet. It ran very smoothly. It had a really nice straight stitch, and I had to admit that I liked it. It seemed very comparable to my Bernina 1260 in most respects, but it did run more quietly and more smoothly and offered a machine quilting stitch (more about that later). It was also much easier to program than the Bernina 1260, and its features were logically arranged and really well thought out. Uh oh.

At that point I got up and asked about the status of my Bernina. It was still being evaluated, so I grudgingly sat down at the Elna Heirloom Edition. Bad move.

The Elna Heirloom Edition 6005 is very similar to the Quilter's Dream 6003 in its basic features (including the quilting stitch), but it offers many more (99 vs 40) stitches and easy-to-program alphabets that look super. This got my attention, because now the machine offered something beyond what I get from my Bernina 1260. I fantasized about quilt labels with great lettering and the machine's ability to remember long strings of letters. This machine, too, ran quietly and smoothly, and its straight stitch was superb.

So let me stop right now and say that both Elna models offer an impressive list of features that are astounding in light of the purchase price. Needle down one of my "must haves" in a high-end machine, and these babies have it. They also feature retractable feed dogs, adjustable foot pressure, automatic needle threaders (that really work as described), rotary hook bobbin systems, thread cutter, and a whole lot else.

The Quilter's Dream brags about stitch-completion tie-off, a feature very useful for machine quilting. Both machines' bobbins load and are visible via a clear throat plate, so bobbins are convenient to change, and you always know how much thread remains on them. Not only that, the bobbin cover diagram shows how to place the bobbin. Neither machine has a knee lift, but since I don't use the Bernina's, that wasn't a big issue.

Both the Quilter's Dream and the Heirloom Edition come with a load of accessories, and both (have I said this before) are so easy to program that even I can do it with only minimal reference to the user's manual.

Interestingly, the " foot (standard on the Quilter's Dream and additional on the Heirloom Edition) has an edge guide, a feature that doesn't thrill me. It turns out, however, that the clear plastic foot (standard equipment) gives an exact " seam when needle position is at 5.5. (I did the setting and double checked it on graph paper.) So not only do you get a perfect " seam, you can also see the fabric as it moves under the edge of the foot.

The so-called "quilting stitch" on both machines makes a stitch that more or less resembles hand quilting when invisible (clear nylon or poly) thread is used for the top thread. I tried the stitch with regular cotton for the top thread and found the resulting stitch to be attractive and even decorative.

Was there anything I didn't like? Absolutely. That presser foot lever at the right of the post is the one thing on these models that makes no sense to me. Since the Quilter's Edition is so similar to my Bernina 1260 that their functions are close to duplicative, I'd have a tough time trading or putting aside my rear-of-the-post presser foot lever for one at the right side of the post. But if I didn't already have the Bernina and if I were making a dollars-and-cents decision about the Elna Quilter's Dream versus a more expensive machine that does the same things, I'd adapt (but not gracefully).

In the end, I wound up purchasing the Elna Heirloom Edition 6005 because it offers some features - including the alphabets - that will come in very handy and because it was so easy to use that it seemed to have been designed with my preferences and convenience in mind. After a few months, I have not adapted, even ungracefully to the presser foot lever and persist in reaching for it with my left hand. I'm getting used to that, however, and I am resigned to the fact that I will reach around for it from the left rather than using my right hand, which is the way the machine was designed to be used.

Though I still love my Bernina 1260 and can't imagine selling it, I have to admit that the Elna Heriloom Edition 6005 has become the machine I most frequently use.

Cost: This is always an issue. These machines offer unbeatable bang for the buck. At present, the Elna Quilter's Dream 6003 is advertised (with a bunch of extra accessories and goodies, including a walking foot with guide and a free-motion/darning foot) for $999. Wow! The Heirloom Edition runs a couple of hundred dollars more. Feature-for-feature, I think these machines easily hold their own against more expensive machines with similar function and - without reservation - term them Best Buys

For more information and a list of dealers, visit Elna USA at http://www.elnausa.com/index.shtml

Addy Harkavy 2003. Reprinted with permission by Addy Harkavy.

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