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Interview with Heidi Lawton - Regional Sales Manager for Janome

We speak to Heidi to find out the what she does as sales manager for Janome, and what makes Janome machines stand out from the other brands:

How long have you been regional sales manager at Janome?

I joined the Janome team in 2004. Heidi Lawton

What exactly does your job involve on a day to day basis?

Where shall I start!

If you draw a line halfway through Birmingham, I look after all the accounts above that line, including Scotland. My job is to look after the Janome Stockists, let them know about new machines, products and accessories. Help with promotions in their stores, and training for their staff. I am also involved with the Janome exhibitions, and making samples on the Janome machines to show their features and benefits.

Do you spend a lot of time out and about meeting Janome stockists? 

I usually work from my office at home one day a week, and the other four days I will be visiting Janome stockists. It is a large area to cover, so I am often away from home for a couple of nights per week.

Do you train people on using the Janome machines?

Yes. It's part of my job to train the Janome stockists on the new machines, accessories and embroidery design software. We often have new accounts opening and staff changes in stores, so this can be a large part of my job.

Janome runs "Test Drives" around the country in our stockist's shops, which I teach in my area. At the moment, we are running events for the new Janome Horizon 7700QCP. This is our long arm quilting machine, with a huge 11" sewing space. The machine retails at £1749, so these events are a wonderful way for customers to Test Drive the machine in a full workshop before they buy.

Do you get to test the new machines before they come to market?

Yes, this is a great part of Janome at quilt showthe job! In the spring of this year, I had a Horizon at home before it was officially launched to the public, I have to learn the machine inside out and make samples on the machine to show the new features.

Do you also do exhibitions and shows?

The Janome exhibition team travel to all the major sewing shows in the UK, and in my area they visit the Festival of Quilts and Sewing for Pleasure @ The NEC and The Knitting & Stitching Show @ Harrogate.  I also work at these sewing shows, and it is a great opportunity to speak to customers face to face. Many of the Janome stockist exhibit at the smaller exhibitions and shows around the county, and if I can, I try to attend these as well. 

What are the best aspects of your job?  Are there any aspects you don't enjoy?

I love to sew and be creative, but I am a born organiser, so this job is the best of both! I genuinely love the Janome machines and can appreciate their features and quality. I can confidently sell the products and know both the stockist and the customer will be happy with their purchase.

I love meeting customers who have had Janome machine for years and hearing their stories, many of the customers I meet actually become friends!

What is your favourite Janome machine and why?

That's a difficult one! It depends what project I'm working on.... at home in my workroom  I have a range of Janome machines, of course the new Horizon, which has to be my favourite at the moment, the large sewing space, Acufeed (similar, but better than an integrated walking foot) and strength of needle penetration is just wonderful whatever I am working on. I made a leather handbag on the Horizon a few weeks ago, and it stitched it so easily! embroidery

I also have the Janome MC11000, the top of the range sewing & embroidery machine. This machine has a huge range of utility stitches, buttonholes and decorative, but the embroidery is just beautiful.

When I get free time, I like to make embroidered craft item, and for this I use the Janome MB4. This is a four needle embroidery machine, which changes colour and trims as it goes. It makes embroidery so quick and easy.

For the MC11000 and MB4, I use the Janome Digitizer MB, this allows me to create my own embroidery designs from scratch. 

I also have an overlocker and an embellisher at home. Felting or embellishing machines are fantastic to create surface decoration and using up old scraps of fabrics and then doing some free machine embroidery over the top. They are also wonderful at making scarves and shawls with knitting yarn and water soluble fabric, you can create a strange felted, woolly designs. I just wish I had one of these machines a few years ago when I was doing my City and Guilds Free Machine Embroidery course!

What machine would you recommend to someone new to sewing?

When you are starting to sew, you need an easy machine. For a beginner, the easiest machine is a computerised machine. You just press a button to select the stitch and the machine will default to the best stitch length and stitch width, and also tell you the foot you need to use for that stitch. This way to can start being creative straight away, and not spend time trying to get your machine set up correctly. Also, as a beginner, try to buy your machine from a store that offers some sort of training, if someone shows you how to thread the machine, wind a bobbin, select stitches, change feet etc, it will make your sewing experience so much easier.

Janome computerised machines start at £299, which is a reasonable price for a good quality machine.

What machine would you recommend to a more experienced sewer looking for some new stitches and features?

Janome HorizonAs I have mentioned earlier, the new Horizon machine was launched earlier this year. This machine has the Acufeed feature, which will stitch all types of fine, heavy and bulky fabrics. It also has a new range of Stitches called "Play"; these have a high heel shoe, a dress form, quirky hearts and an umbrella... great stitches to decorative craft and quilting projects. The large stitching space, 11", is great, not only for quilters, but people who sew bridal, large curtains, heavy soft furnishing. The machine is wonderful for free machine embroidery and quilting, and is happy to stitch with various decorative threads. 

Or, if you already have a great sewing machine, why not try automatic embroidery? Janome embroidery machines start from £599, so they have come down a lot in price since they were developed years ago. Embroidery design software allows you to scan in your own drawings and turn them into stitches, making your embroidery completely unique. Embroidery designs can be added to quilts, clothing, soft furnishings and craft projects.

What makes Janome different from other sewing machine brands? 

Janome is the largest sewing machine manufacture in the world, and not many people know this, our factories actually make for other machine brands who respect our high quality. Unlike some other brands, we insist ALL our machines have a metal body or internal frame for stability and stitch quality, this is across our complete range. This pride in our quality and reliability of our machines is why we have such a large market share in the UK. Many of our stockist's sell Janome as their main brand, because they are confident the machines are up to the job.

Tell us more about your blog and the Janome website, what can people expect to find onJanome them?

Janome.co.uk is the first point of information about all things Janome in the UK. It has full specifications of sewing, embroidery and overlock machines, and Janome software and accessories. It also has up to date information on new products, events and stockists and sewing courses in the UK.

Social Networking is a large part of today's world, and I felt Janome and Janome stockists are doing so much, that it's a shame so much goes un-noticed. My blog is to share any Janome news about new products, new stockists, new workshops....anything Janome and sewing related in my area.

I am often asked "Where can I buy fabric", so this week I have added a Fabric Shops page, I come across so many beautiful fabric, haberdashery and trimmings shops as I travel around the country, it seemed logical to pass on this information. So if you can recommend any good shops, just contact me via the blog and I will happily add to the list.

Home sewing is sometimes a lonely hobby, and sewers are turning to the internet to meet like minded friends and source ideas and inspiration. So, I am planning to add a page to showcase customer projects that have been made on Janome machines, so people can share their work and ideas.

Tell us more about you, what is your background?  What did you do before working for Janome?  When did you first start sewing?

Heidi Lawton JanomeMy Mum was always sewing when I was little, on a New Home machine, (which is part of the Janome brand), and I was always crafting of some kind. Mum only told me the other day she taught me to crochet and knit when I was seven, and I don't think I could remember how anymore! I was first allowed to use her machine when I was about ten, and I was bought my first sewing machine, a Janome Mystyle 22, when I was sixteen as a reward for passing my GCSE's. Textiles and sewing has always been my passion and through school I always found the classes a pleasure, and couldn't understand why some of my friends didn't enjoy it! I did Art and Textile A Level, then onto an Art Foundation, and then onto Art College to study HND Costume for TV and Theatre at Bournemouth. I loved making period costume, and I even made some props for the Gwyneth Paltrow film Emma! It was filmed in one of the local villages to Bournemouth, and when they needed some last minute props they contacted the college! I made a hand embroidered purse for Harriet Smith, and it took my breath away when I went to the cinema and saw my purse on the big screen... I still have the film on video somewhere!

After college, I had several jobs within the fashion business, pattern cutting, design room assistance, production assistant, but after a move back to Nottingham, I started working at a local sewing shop, running the training school and teaching many of the classes. I also had a few years working for Melco, an industrial embroidery machine supplier, as Software trainer.

I joined Janome in 2004, and have never looked back. I love travelling the Midlands, North and Scotland to visit the Janome stockists and using my sewing skills to develop samples and classes to promote our machines. Customers often say they would love my job and how lucky I am to work with sewing machines.... and I have to say, I feel very lucky working within the hobby I love.

handmade fascinatorWhat type of sewing do you prefer?  Do you sew much outside of work?

I have tried most sewing techniques over the years, dressmaking, curtains, free machine embroidery, soft furnishings, quilting and hand embroidery and I've done part time courses in millinery and free machine embroidery. These days, I love to work with embroidery and the digitizing software creating new designs. Lots of my friends have got married recently and starting a family, so I am enjoying making wedding and baby gifts. I also love to make embroidered flowers, using a mixture of automated embroidery on the computer, free machine embroidery and water soluble fabric and making the flowers into fascinators and corsages.

What is coming up for Janome?   Any new models coming out soon, events we should know about etc

Janome is always looking for ways to develop machines, accessories and software to make sewing more creative and fun.... but, until they are ready to be launched, they are top secret! You'll have to keep checking the blog for new products!

Is there anything else you wanted to mention?

We are always looking for feedback on our products and if there are any requests or suggestions for new features or accessories, please contact me through the blog, and I will pass them on to our Head Office in Japan. And of course... happy sewing!!

You will find the Janome website here: http://www.janome.co.uk/

Heidi's Janome blog can be found here: http://sewjanome.blogspot.com/