It was love at first use, it's been a year since I got the Elna eXcellence 680 (aka Elna 680EX), now I'm sharing my honest thoughts; the reasons I chose this model, its features and the overall pluses and minuses. This is not a sponsored post. If you are looking for a new sewing machine or simply have an interest in them, this might be helpful. 
I tested the 680 out at work. I might have got very excited and I didn't even want to sew with it because I knew I'd be ruined! While happy with the basic Janome model I had, I dreamed of owning a more advanced machine and I had wish list of features.

The list was:
✦ a needle down function
✦ speed control
✦ bigger throat space

Not an excessive list is it? The reason those three things were important to me is because I knew they would make my quilting life easier. Needle down function would allow me to pivot more easily (with less hand cranking!), as well as stop and start without the stitches jumping about. Speed control to help with free motion quilting or any time I wanted to just be slower - I'm a pedal to the metal kind of sewer! And bigger throat space for less awkward squishing while quilting.

But something was holding me back and it wasn't just finances.

What frightened me was (no, not the cat) having a computerised machine. It terrified me because what if it broke? Like the electronics on a car that are crazy expensive to fix. After chatting to the Elna rep and a bit of research it turns out that has rarely (if ever) happened. So there was nothing to be afraid of. And this is where my family stepped in. My Nan said 'you need the proper equipment since this is your work' and my Dad and her bought me the machine for my birthday. I can't even begin to tell you what that meant to me, I guess you can imagine, and there were tears.

So now I have the computerised machine I once feared and it is so simple to use, incredible user friendly and I am utterly ruined!! I can't even begin to talk about all the features, you can easily find that list online anyway. What I will tell you about is all the things that I really like about it.

The 1/4" stitch setting that moves the needle. A simple setting that means I can easily use the regular foot rather than the 1/4" foot when needed, like when sewing a straight line to make flying geese for example.

It has a 9mm sewing width (hence the need for a 1/4" setting) and so many stitches, along with alphabets that I haven't even played with yet. Using decorative stitches has become a such a fun part of sewing and they can look so different from the diagrams, especially when you play about with stitch length and width.

The memory function is a nice feature, one I haven't used a lot but it's great when I just want one or two decorative stitches - like I did when making the Starburst Pillow.

On the front of the machine there is a locking stitch, it's really handy and not something I realised would be so useful. It's great for appliquΓ© and anywhere you don't want to backstitch. It does leave a small knot on the back so it isn't great for quilting, but even so I seem to use it for other things quite frequently. 

I have very quickly got used to the thread cutter, it definitely saves thread and has speeded up the whole piecing process!

The one annoying thing is if you turn the machine off it resets (needle to the centre and a straight stitch) rather than return to the stitch you were using before. Obviously that can be a good thing sometimes but as I often have to stop and start sewing, it would be nice not to have to change the stitch back. A small gripe all things considered and it does prevent that whole 'breaking a needle because you forgot you were doing a zig zag and put your 1/4" foot on' situation, which did happen to me (more than once) with my old machine.

And then another good thing - ahhhhhhhh the storage!!

Neat places for the feet, bobbins and a larger space under that pull out tray. So handy. There is also a small bit of storage in the slide out section under the plate. 

The 680 sews like a dream. It has made for far easier quilting, my fmq has improved a lot although I don't do much - having the bigger throat space helps with that too. The guide on walking foot actually works and stays put (want a laugh? Go look at how I used to set up my guide - it involves using bobbins and a rawl plug!! With that set up I'm amazed at how many quilts I made!).

All the accessories, some of which I haven't used (bad reviewer! but hey I haven't needed to put a buttonhole in anything!) and I'm still not sure I fancy the knee lifter thingy, though after reading this article about ergonomic sewing I might well give it a go.

One extra that is available through Elna, though I didn't buy it, is a cone holder that attaches to the back of the machine. Instead I upgraded from my previous other hack (involving a CD spool - it does work but can't be used with a horizontal spool pin) to a metal based Prym Cone and Spool stand, which works like a charm!

Leave a comment below to tell me your favourite thing about your sewing machine. I would love to know and it might help others find their perfect machine!