Janome MB4 Review

Janome MB4 Review
Janome MB4 Review
Author
Users
  • Stitch quality
  • Speed
  • Ease of use
  • Maintenance
Beginner
Needs lots of help – able to sew a straight seam but unfamiliar with most sewing techniques; needs assistance and instruction on basic sewing techniques.
Intermediate
Competent – can make different clothing items without assistance or guidance, but not good enough to sew intricate projects or to sew without a pattern.
Expert
Expert – can sew anything without instruction or assistance; possesses an expansive knowledge of sewing techniques and terminology.

Janome, the company that brought machine embroidery to the home, has gone one step further with the MB4, the very first 4 needle home embroidery machine, and I finally got a chance to review it during a visit to Sunshine Sewing and Quilting.

Janome MB4

Janome MB4

Pros

  • Compatible with 6 industry standard Tajima hoops
  • First ever home embroidery machine capable of sewing with 4 threads
  • Small footprint – takes up very little space in your sewing room
  • Work with standard backlit LCD touch control panel or optional RCS unit

Cons

  • Significant learning curve for people who have never attempted machine embroidery before

At A Glance

When I first spied the Janome MB4 in Sunshine Sewing and Quilting, I actually thought it was an industrial embroidery machine. It is certainly impressive looking enough to be an industrial only machine.

I was impressed but a bit skeptical when I learned it was actually intended for home use. I didn’t notice the four needles until after I had counted eight thread spools on top.

Four needles

Four needles

Faye, Sunshine’s owner, explained that the Janome MB4 has space for up to eight spools of thread but only four needles, making it possible for users to wind bobbins while sewing and to have additional thread colors at their fingertips when it’s time to change from one thread color to another. This feature is especially useful when working with designs that require multiple thread colors.

Features

  • Backlit LCD screen
  • Auto thread cutter
  • USB memory key compatible
  • ATA PC card port and USB port (Host) on RCS; USB port on MB-4
  • Compatible with Janome software
  • Embroidery speed up to 800spm
  • Built-in designs: 50
  • Fonts: 10
  • Monogramming: 2 & 3 letter
  • Expanded built-in memory
  • Change colors to favorite thread: Janome, Robison-Anton, Madeira, Mettler
  • Drag & Drop editing for easy placement
  • Embroidery design resize 80% – 120% by 1%
  • Rotate in 1 and 90 degree increments (clockwise / counter clockwise)
  • Flip vertically and horizontally
  • Embroidery area tracing

Working on the Janome MB4

To look at it, one would guess that threading the Janome MB4 would be a complicated matter. In actuality, threading it is even simpler than threading a regular sewing, quilting or embroidery machine for home use.

To thread the Janome MB4, simply go along the easy to follow color coded thread guides. Believe me when I tell you this is much easier than threading any serger. So, if you are comfortable with threading a serger, threading the MB4 will be a piece of cake.

Easy to follow color coded thread guides

Easy to follow color coded thread guides

Bobbin winder on the left side

Bobbin winder on the left side

The bobbin winder is on the left side of the machine, completely out of the way of the embroidery area. So, if you want to wind a series of bobbins while working on an embroidery design, you can do so without taking time away from with your work. When it’s time to insert the bobbin, simply flip open the door beneath the work area and pop it in.

The Janome MB4 is equipped with an LCD screen on the right side with all of the function buttons within easy reach. The LCD screen, however, is not capable of giving you a visual image of the design you are working with.

The MB4 that I reviewed is equipped with the optional RCS unit which makes it possible for users to actually see their work. In my opinion, the RCS is essential.

RCS unit

RCS unit

However, it is possible to operate the MB4 and get the benefit of all its features by using the standard LCD backlit screen only. The RCS unit is mounted to the right side of the machine, and blocks access to the LCD screen. One may at first think this is a design flaw, but with the RCS unit in place, the LCD screen and its function buttons are not necessary.

Each of the function buttons located on the side of the machine for use with the LCD screen is also found on the RCS unit along with a series of other function buttons that allow you to reposition, enlarge or shrink your design change colors and perform many other functions.

The USB port is situated on the outside of the RCS unit. For those who choose to use the standard LCD screen rather than the optional RCS unit, the USB port is situated to the right of the function buttons.

USB port

USB port

Embroidery designs can be selected on the LCD screen by toggling through file names until the desired file is located. With the RCS unit, the process is pretty much the same, with the added advantage of being able to actually see the design you are working with.

The embroidery hoops that come with the Janome MB4 are nothing like the familiar built in embroidery unit you see on other Janome home sewing and embroidery machines.

Embroidery hoops with silver arms

Embroidery hoops with silver arms

Instead, they have what looks like silver arms extending from both sides. These arms just snap into place on the unit. When you are ready to remove your work, they snap out just as easily.

Once a design is selected, colors locked in, and the dimensions and thread color sequence is programmed, all you have to do is push the start button and let the MB4 do its thing until the first four colors are finished.

Then you simply come back to the machine, change the threads and push the start/stop button again. How easy is that?
Aside from traditional embroidery designs, the MB4 is also capable of producing lace projects. Depending upon the weight of your stabilizer, these lace creations can be as light or as heavy as you like.

Capable of producing lace projects

Capable of producing lace projects

In addition to the six built-in lace designs on the Janome MB4, you have the option of importing your own designs from your flash drive or computer.

Fabrics

  • Natural fibers/cotton-linen-wool
  • Fine fabrics/silk-satin-taffeta/velvet
  • Knits
  • Synthetic fabrics/blends-rayon-polyester
  • Upholstery
  • Leather/suede
  • Fur
  • Reptile skin
  • Canvas/Twill
  • Plastic/Rubber
  • Extra thick fabrics or multiple layers

Accessories

Standard Accessories

  • 3 Embroidery hoops
    • M1: 9.46″ x 7.88″ (240mm x 200mm)
    • M2: 5″ x 4.3″ (126mm x 110mm)
    • M3: 50mm x 50mm
  • Scissors
  • 5 Bobbins
  • Lint brush
  • Seam ripper
  • Needle threader
  • 5 Spool caps
  • 9 Spool net
  • Oiler
  • Tweezers
  • Accessory case
  • 4 Screwdrivers
    • Large
    • Small
    • Offset
    • 3 sided screwdriver tool

Maintenance







After each useMonthly*Once Each Year**As Needed
Clean race hook and feed dogs
Wipe head with soft dry cloth
Wipe head with soft damp cloth
Lubricate
Service by sewing machine repair professional

* more often if the machine is used for extended periods of time or if used frequently

**more often if the machine is used heavily or if it is not operating properly

Tying Off The Loose Ends

If machine embroidery is your passion and you are committed to this specialized type of sewing, I suggest you give the Janome MB4 serious consideration. On the other hand, if you are not sure you want to dedicate a lot of time to machine embroidery, why not first invest in a combination sewing and embroidery machine.

That way, if you decide that machine embroidery is not something you want to dedicate a lot of time and energy to, you will not have made a bad investment.

A machine like this is definitely not for a beginner. If you have never sewn anything at all in your life, or if you are just starting to make your own clothes, accessories and home décor accents, give yourself time to improve your skills and learn more about sewing before jumping into something on this scale.


The Janome MB4 is a great option for people who are experts at machine embroidery and are ready to take the next step. If starting an embroidery business, this machine is a good way to get your foot in the door.

Good machine for an embroidery business

Good machine for an embroidery business

A review of comments on the Janome website indicates that some users had difficulty with updating the RCS unit. I hasten to add however, that the latest post I saw indicating that there was a problem with the RCS unit was about two or three years old. This tells me that the manufacturer has addressed the issue and remedied the problem.

The advantage of the RCS unit is that you are able to actually see your design and manipulate it visually. With the LCD screen, you work with words n numbers only, and must rely entirely upon your skills.

This may be good once you master using the MB4, but if you are not an expert in machine embroidery, you could easily get frustrated.

The RCS unit is officially an optional accessory, however, Faye at Sunshine Sewing and Quilting informed me that she sells the only sells MB4 with the RCS unit as a standard accessory… in my opinion, a definite plus.

I take my hat off to those who are adept enough at machine embroidery to take the MB4 without the RCS unit. You can always plug your computer in to the machine and pull up your artwork that way.

Perhaps my own hesitance in attempting to embroider without a visual display is a product of my own limitations when it comes to machine embroidery. All I know is if I were going to buy an embroidery machine, I certainly wouldn’t want to work with just a tiny LCD display of numbers and file names.

If you are confident about your embroidery skills and feel comfortable working with the LCD screen and a computer, please do not let my own limited experience restrict you.

The Janome MB4 is an excellent machine that produces superb results, and that fact does not change regardless of whether you use the RCS unit or not.

4 Comments

  1. I would like to know of someone in NW MN to help with designs in general. The whole process of downloading, finding etc. Even when I put them on my USP thet don’t show up. I feel so defeated. I don’t want to do anything complicated, just the simple designs.

    • You need to make a sub folder on your USB stick, then Janome will recognize the designs.

  2. Helen -

    Thank you for visiting Sewing Insight. I am not familiar with Minnesota geography, but this link will give you a listing of all authorized Janome dealers in your state. http://content.janome.com/index.cfm/FindaDealer?zipcode=&radius=50&state=MN.

    Minnesota is a very large state. I just hope that at least one of the dealers on this list is close enough for you to visit.

    Happy stitching.

  3. I have a Janome MB4. It is 3 years old. I love it when it sews well, however about 2-3 times a year it gives me fits. It will pull the top thread down into the bobbin case and race. This results in cutting article off the machine. The article is usually ruined, thus loss of time, thread and replacement cost of article.

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