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Apr 30, 2013

Berninas are the Best -- TRUE or FALSE?



Let's face it, readers: there's something about Switzerland (and all things Swiss) that's very compelling.

The mountains...



The castles...



The -- what are these people doing exactly?



And then there are the beautiful Bernina sewing machines -- purportedly the best sewing machines one can own.  Alas, I've never sewn with one.  



I'm not drawn to the new Berninas of course.  I'm not even sure they are made in Switzerland anymore; I believe some of their manufacturing takes place in Thailand.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Most of you know that I own, or have owned, many different sewing machines, earning myself the reputation of a somewhat promiscuous sewer.  I've sewn with American Singers (too many to count), with Italian Necchis, a Chinese Brother, a few Japanese (and one Taiwanese) Kenmores, and German Pfaffs.  I've sewn with Swedish Vikings and even a few Swiss Elnas.  But no Bernina has ever crossed my threshold.

It's the old mechanical Bernina's -- the 730's to be exact (zigazaggers that can do a few embroidery stitches) -- that appeal to me.  I also love a knee pedal (which I had on my Elna Grasshopper, since sold), which some 730 models come with.

Bernina's proprietary presser feet -- which cost a pretty penny if purchased separate from the machine I understand -- are apparently very beautifully crafted.  I've also heard that the Bernina stitch is second to none.

Now, I have always maintained that a well-balanced stitch is a well-balanced stitch, and if your machine can create that, that's pretty much all you need to sew garments.  Still, I must admit, I am tempted by the Bernina mystique.  The ones I've seen on eBay, however, mostly go for a few hundred more than I'd want to spend on something (let's be real here) I don't actually need.  But it would sort of complete my sewing machine repertoire, don't you think?

Maybe I'll use one and realize that it's not that big a deal.  Or maybe I'll kick myself for waiting so long to own one!





Readers, I ask you:

Do you currently sew, or have you ever sewn, with a Bernina?  How did it compare to other machines you've owned? (and if you can be specific about what you're comparing it to, that would be great)

Have you ever used a vintage mechanical Bernina like the 730 Record?  Everything I've read around the Internet suggests that they're very special machines.  Do you agree?

In short, are Bernina's really better than any other sewing machine, or do they just have some brilliant marketing going on -- for decades?

This enquiring sewer wants to know!



140 comments:

  1. I have a new Bernina (3 years) and it's amazing. The feet are terrific (though so pricey) and remind me of mechanical steam punk bits and pieces. I saved up and bought a walking foot and my mother was appalled by how much I'd paid, but then when I was helping her do something on her machine, I had to get out a screw driver to attach hers. I think Bernina's are thoughtfully designed and they seem to be created by people who actually sew.

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  2. Love your blog and this is my first time commenting on it since I am more of a quilter than an apparel sewer. I have an old Bernina 830 that I don't use much (and kick my self for not using it more)and the stitching is impeccable. I'm thinking that none of my other machines can really beat it. I bought it from a friend whose mother was the owner of it. The mother died and my friend didn't sew, so I bought it from her for $250 which was a screamin' deal.

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  3. Well, I've collected and used more machines than you can shake a stick at (not that it's a contest, or anything I'm proud of), Pfaff, Singer, Viking, Necchi. But my go-to machine is still the Bernina 830 Record I got from Mom in 1977. It has never let me down, is up to every task, and does what I ask of it with ease and confidence. It works like a tank and purrs like a Porsche. There's good reason why it's probably the most sought-after vintage machine out there.

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    1. Good girl! I love mine too!!! Want one for my daughter!

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  4. I have a Bernina Bernette 25 model, it is my first and only machine that I bought last year when I proudly entered this world of sewing, it is an elegant machine, easy to use and love the stitches. No problems so far, it does the job and all I ask her to do :). X

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  5. I have a new Bernina 350 that I just bought over Christmas. True, the newer ones are not made in Switzerland (although I have been assured by multiple people that the factories are still Bernina owned and managed/trained... just in a different location due to costs), but I will say that my non-Swiss-native Bernina produces a much more beautiful stitch than my "vintage" (I use this term loosely; it's from the early 90s) German Pfaff 7570. Not that the Pfaff is bad, the Bernina is just superior.

    And yes, those feet are wonderful and fun to collect! I guess I don't get why people keep saying how expensive they are, though - in my experience, they run about $40-$50 a foot, not counting specialty feet. Pfaffs were about $30-$40 a foot, so not much of a price difference there.

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  6. Hi, Peter. My 28 year old Bernina 930 Record is the best vintage machine I've ever sewn on. Yes, stitch is great and many machines can do that. But, my 930 is almost silent. And, I can quilt continuously for hours and hours and it never gets hot, not even the pedal. Lots of feet came with it. And, it's simple enough I've been able to do all my own repairs and adjustments. It's set up for machine quilting all the time because I can piece on my other vintage machines, but this is the best one I own for continuous sewing. Lane (p.s. do it. you won't regret it.)

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  7. Have you ever sewn with an Eva sewing machine? I have sewn all my home sewings with an Eva machine and when it counts on durability I trust my Eva to do the job.

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  8. I have a Bernina 240 that I bought 2005 and I really love it! The button holes are gorgeous. I really didn't want to get one with a million decorative stitches etc, but when you see how tasteful their decorative stitches are, you get a bit swayed. I've used only a few, because I sew children's wear and some fit.
    I was however dismayed that after spending $1,200+ on it, that yes it was manufactured in Thailand! I asked the shop that I bought it in, how much bloody money do you have to spent for it to be from Switzerland. They quickly said 1,000+. I said, apparently not!
    ANYWAY...... I have also sewn with them in college when I worked in the theater arts costume shop. They swore by them and that is when they were all made of metal and were true work horses, so around the 1980's. I loved sewing with them, and yes the seams are beautiful, and boy did they take the abuse in that shop. On the other hand, the Vikings in the home ec department in the same university, were always falling apart.
    So, I say if you can get your hands on an old one and want to give them a whirl....you will like them. My other favorite was my mom's old Necchi with a cool old cabinet with cast iron legs and a foot pedal, incase you didn't have any electricity. Some day I may retrieve that one from her.

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    1. Maybe they're made in Thailand by Swiss immigrants? ;)

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    2. I was told or read during my research that while some manufacturing occurs in Thailand, the company keeps a close eye to make sure that the precise standards are maintained. Hope that is true... still, I personally think it stinks that they don't still keep it all in Switzerland. Obviously the reason is money, and for the price charged by Bernina I think they could pay Swiss people.
      Just my humble opinion, and I will now step down...

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    3. It does stink that they don't produce in Switzerland anymore. The factory used to be close to where my grandparents lived. The design and development of new machines is still taking place there. However, considering that the minimal salary in Switzerland is 3600 CHF a month (plus pension that is paid by the employer which evens out at roughly 4000 for the employer), I understand that the mass production is now done abroad. I just hope that they pay decent salaries in Thailand.
      On the machines: I inherited my grandma's 830 from the 70's and I love it! I can't really compare to other manufacturers, though, as at (elementary) school we also had Berninas. But if a bunch of 12 year olds can't get them to break, they must be pretty solid, right?

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    4. A lot of what are considered luxury products are now designed in the US (for instance) but manufactured in an Asian country (such as China). Best example I can think off is the Apple iphone i am currently typing this on.

      Quality control is really what this is all about...

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    5. Hi Peter,
      I know I'm about a year late here, but I just found your blog -- it's pretty darn cool!

      I work as a service tech at a Bernina dealer in New Jersey, so I thought I'd throw out a little information.
      1) Bernina still operates a factory in their home base in Switzerland. It's mainly the high-end models.
      2) The factory in Thailand is owned by Bernina and they have several Swiss people on site.
      3) One advantage of the computerized models is some of them have an optical buttonhole foot, so the length of the sides is very consistent.
      The 800 series machine they made in the 1970s and early 80s are my favorites to work on. Sweet machines!

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  9. I bought a Bernina recently after MUCH research and soul-searching. I have to admit, I love it! My old machine, a Viking, did things that drove me nuts - like I lifted my foot off the pedal and it kept going! After too much aggravation I decided I wanted a machine that would WORK so I could get back to enjoying sewing, and I knew I would keep whatever machine I bought for a very long time.

    Several things convinced me to get a Bernina - and that is NOT putting down other machines!! - I only know what I tried. The Bernina can sew over several layers of material and not even blink. Too many others I tried would stall at running over layers like that (like hemming pants and going over the inseam area). The Bernina feels very solidly built, while others I looked at seemed too "cheap" - not in $, but in feel. It stitches beautifully, I'm not forever messing with tension like I did with my very first machine (something from Sears, not expensive, so probably serves me right). I knew many people absolutely adored their Berninas, and after dozens of raving reviews decided that maybe there was a reason Berninas were rated so highly.

    Nope, I don't hate other brands. In fact, my serger is a Babylock and my coverstitch machine is from Janome. For each machine I did a lot of research into which machine would meet my needs/desires the most.

    Now, to be fair - Berninas are expensive! And honestly, while I'm a firm believer in that you generally get what you pay for, I have no doubt that some of the price is paying for the name. Since I am NOT someone who is impressed just by name, that is annoying. I have also heard - and found this to be true at my local dealer - that they are getting more and more into quilting and embroidery. Since I am not into those things, the decision to NOT get a top of the line machine was easy. :)

    I don't own many presser feet yet, but the ones I do own work beautifully.

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    1. I love the fact that the tension just WORKS! No messing with it! That is a relief! Yes, and sewing through jeans/layers is one of the top things that sold me on mine!

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  10. I own a Bernina 801 Sport that was purchased used in 1989. It is made in Switzerland, but the main feature for me was that it is heavy and made out of metal. It has sewn everything from silk to leather. It has a consistently beautiful stitch and simple mechanics that do not seem to break or bind. I have sewn on a vintage Sears Kenmore and some newer Vikings and prefer the Bernina. Yes, the feet are spendy, but worth it if you want to do a rolled hem or other technique. Their website has great instructional videos for the feet too!

    The only feature that I wish mine had was the button to adjust the presser foot pressure. Otherwise I have been blissfully happy.
    Lori

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  11. Yep. I'm a Bernina snob. I bought mine used (an 1130) about 14 years ago and there are models for more than I paid for it now on ebay. Love mine.

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  12. Berninas are amazing, I'm lucky enough to own a used one from a high school home ec class (the band "Slip Knot" is etched onto the side of the casing). My 1005 isn't fancy like some of the newer models, but the stitches are great and I rarely have any tension problems or jamming like I have had on other machines. My mom has a few and I love sewing with them when I go home to visit - so smooth, purrs like a kitten practically. They make sewing a joy.

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  13. I'm in Germany, so I can only speak about prices here, but they are expensive. However, all the other machines seem to come at similar prices. Here too, everyone seems to think that Bernina (and secondly Pfaff - German) is the best.
    I have sewn on a Necchi for years, and it did the job properly, except for when you stitched backwards. It would always turn the fabric a little to the right instead of just sewing straight. Once I understood that, it was working fine.
    I also sew on an old Elna from my grandma, and it also did a pretty good job. However, there was almost no "control" like sewing more slowly, or letting the needle in the down position, etc.
    So last year I decided to get a Bernina (450). And guess what: I loooooove this machine! Although I spent a lot of money on it, I am so happy I did so! As you can see, I'm still very excited about it, although it's mine already since half a year ;)
    So, if you want to buy a new Bernina, I would say go for it. However, I don't know about the older models...

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  14. Yes they are all that. I have one of the Swiss engineered but made in Thailand machines I got 13 years ago and that thing can rock and roll. I have also had the experience on sewing on many of the 830 records which my design school eventually traded in for 2 juki industrials per machine the dealer wanted them that much

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  15. I've had a second hand Bernina 1020 (all mechanical) for about 20 years. It still runs like a dream and I've sewn every thing from silk chiffon to leather and heavy duty outdoor material (snowmobile cover!). It needs to be serviced, but other than that, I just clean and oil it regularly and change needles often. I also have an 830 that I bought at an auction, and a 950 in an industrial base. I'd use the 950, but don't have room. I've sewn on Singers, and even have some vintage ('50s) models and a treadle. Plus, thanks to you, I have a Brother serger! What I love about my Berninas are that they are sturdy, simple, reliable, quietly elegant and well-made.

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    1. "quietly elegant." I love that.

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    2. I, too, bought a second hand 1020 about 18 years ago. Sews like a charm and is very quiet. I also have a Janome 6500, but I wouldn't give up that Bernina 1020 for anything.

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  16. I've sewn on a few Berninas in classes and they do stitch beautifully - exceptionally so. So, I think there is something to it, even though when I chose a new machine I chose a Viking (and I am happy with it). Although I think that was based on cost/value etc. I wanted some features that I would have had to spend more for with the Bernina.

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  17. Hi Peter, I've never sewn with a Bernina but now that I've read your post and these comments above I really want to!

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  18. I bought my Berninas (yes two, the Aurora 430 and the 700d serger)when G Street Fabrics in DC had a by a Bernina sewing machine (which were 33% off at the time) and get the serger for free. So effectively I got them for half price. It was a total impulse purchase to be quite honest. I was in DC for training and got the email and stopped by to take a look. They still were ridiculously expensive, roughly $2000 total, but I've never looked back and love every moment that I use them. Before I had been sewing on a mid price Singer, and the difference was astounding. Also it's great that the sewing machine is dual voltage, so no matter where I am in the world it will work without a transformer. I love all the feet the you can get with it, they work amazingly. There is no downside to a Bernina.

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  19. I had a Bernina 1120 for 21 years and it was a workhorse - I made over 300 wedding dresses on that machine as well as thousands of other garments. what did for it I reckon is quilting - not the actual act but lugging it around, or rather dragging it in a suitcase thing on wheels where it probably got juddered a lot. So, I bought a second hand 1230 and I am off again. I then bought another 1120 for our shop studio, and a 830 Record, as well as some new Janomes (Viking) Everyone gravitates to the Record. It is the machine I set beginners up on, because it practically sews things by itself. It is very quiet too. The one fault that is a concern tends to be the bobbin winder - you have to loosen the wheel to make them run and sometimes it just won't tighten and reengage. A friend's one has the same problem. It's not fixable according to our tech.
    I do love them, but not the new ones, which feel plasticky to me and they can be quite finickity apparently.

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  20. I sew with a Bernina 1130 ($350 used, 10 years ago) and I love it--solid as a rock.

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  21. I have an 830. My next door neighbor was the Bernina dealer...he adapted my machine with an industrial motor. Bought it in 1969. I've sewed sequin cloth, chiffon, leather...always perfect tension. At the university we had a costume shop full of them. They hold up very well to student abuse.

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    1. bill J, can you supply the contact information for your neighbor, we need to replace the motor on a 730?

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  22. I just scored a 1958 530-1 at a thrift store for $23 (with all its feet!!), and I absolutely love it. It is by far the best machine I have ever used, despite it being 55 years old. You can absolutely feel the quality of the machinery.

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  23. I have a Bernina 830 record from 1978 that I love! It is technically my mum's but I now call it my own ;) It sews beautifully and has a few handy features that isn't on the modern Janome I've tried (the ability to move needle position is gold!) I've also used my Grandma's 1970's elna and a few different modern janomes. I'll hold onto my Bernina forever and am considering supplementing with a machine with three step zig zag and possibly able to sew leather, as I wouldn't want to risk my Bernina. I also have a 1980s Bernina overlocker, also my mum's.

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  24. I've never sewn on a Bernina but I've always wanted to, just to see what the difference was. I think the metal machines in general just do a better job overall - I've sewn all kinds of things on a Singer 404, a machine I inherited from my grandmother, and though it's been through the wringer and a couple of knobs are missing, it still has a beautiful stitch. My one problem is that the zig-zag attachment doesn't work right anymore and I had to buy a new buttonholer and since it's not a Singer I don't feel that it makes buttonholes the way the original buttonholer did. That could be because the original is all metal and the newer one is not. My featherweight is excellent, as well, although it may need a bit of adjusting at the moment. I wouldn't trade either machine for a Bernina.

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  25. I haven't had good luck with berninas, but they do have a loyal following. I have a 20 year old pfaff with a built in walking foot, rock solid machine...just tuneups every now and again. I have used tHe berninas but to me, it's just a machine. I also have a featherweight and a little Janome jem and an elna serger....no problems with any of them.

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  26. I have a Bernina 230 and its bar none the best sewing machine I've ever sewn on (its not a high end machine either). I've also used some of the vintage ones at public schools (though I've never sewn on an 830) and even though they've taken a SERIOUS beating from kids (I'm talking middle school here) they still run like champs. I'm pretty sure there aren't many machines that would hold up to that kind of wear and tear. And really, the stitch is just amazing, the tension perfect and the buttonholes are gorgeous.

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  27. I have 2 Bernina's. My go to machine that I used almost exclusively is my 930. I have a newer Bernina, which I love, but the 930 is my favorite. I've owned and sewn on Bernina's since the 70's and I love them.

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  28. :-))) ... I´m still a silent reader from Germany an have to laugh about the picture withe the men who play the "Alpenhörner" (a musical instrument like trompet or horn).

    I think Berninas are not really better than other sewing mashines. It is like buying a car ... Merdeces, BMW or Audi ... all brands are good ... it is a personal desicion. I´m sewing with a Janome 6600 and my overlock is a Bernina MDC 1300.

    But I love these old Berninas from the 70s ... my mother had such an old maschine with the green case you showed on the first photo.

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  29. Love, love, love my Berninas. I bought a new 810 34 years ago that is still sewing well. I also have an 818, an 840 commercial and a 530, all purchased at garage sales. The commercial machine is my go-to machine because it will sew through denim and leather like a dream.

    My daughters have claimed two of my machines. We'll see if I let them go.

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  30. Bernina's are truly the best. You can drop into City Quilter on W 25th Street, they're a Bernina Dealer, and try one out.

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  31. I'll go against the tide and say I'm not a Bernina person. I liked the way it sewed when I was trying out machines, but my $1500 went to a Biking machine that I could get 90% of the feet including a walking foot and it did more than a similarly priced Bernina. It is made in Switzerland too. I love my Viking. It does everything. Well, OK, I'll admit it did not sew through 12 layers of fabric AND a pin I couldn't see. After that, it needed a timing adjustment and a new needle.

    I actually do own a (sortof) Bernina. My contractor gave me a Bernette from his mom's garage. I don't know what model it is, but it needs servicing. I can't sew on it yet.

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  32. I have a bernina.
    It was a gift from a man who loved me. For my birthday 6 years ago
    I would never have bought a bernina because it is way to expensive for me, but he likes a bit of snobism ;)
    I am not complaining, it is a very good sewing machine.
    But I can't compare it in a proper way because before I used second hand very old singer - machines who were broken all the time...
    My bernina is the mechanical one they still sell now . i didn't want one with electronica because of the problems when it's broken.
    I'm not a big sewer, but i do like my bernina and I guess i will never ever have to buy another ;)

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  33. I have a very basic bernina that I got during a floor model sale and I love her. I'm not saying I couldn't have gotten something less expensive and I don't love paying for her feet but she is my sewing machine.

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  34. Once you go Bernina, you never go back. I have a 1630 and a 180 plus 2 Bernina sergers. We used Berninas in the costume shop I worked at in college and they are real work horses. For the amount I spent on my Berninas my husband thinks that I should be able to throw fabric at the machine and have a pair of pants pop out.

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  35. My Mom gave me a used Bernina 730 in 1980. It has sewn uncomplainingly, perfectly, with a few tuneups, ever since. The stitches are superb. The feed dogs are like thoroughbreds in a racetrack, handling slippery panne velvet, rugged faux leather, curved seams and straight. I have sewn on Elnas, cheap Asian knockoffs, and my second favorite, my Singer Featherweight, but La Bernina is the stupendous best. If you can lay your hands on a 730, and you have a repair person nearby to help with any tuneups needed (I've done four in 30 years), it's worth the money. ENJOY!

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  36. I had my mom's 930 Record. She had every gadget/foot there was to have and used them all. Unfortunately, the machine did not swim to safety during Katrina. When it came time for me to replace it I bought a new Bernina Activa 240. The selling points were that it has the threader and it is fairly portable. I loved the 930 and I love the Activa- especially the threader!

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  37. I bought my Bernina 1130 at an estate sale a few years ago. $175 complete! I love it and I have a dozen or so-well, 35 other machines, mostly Singers. My Bernina is just an all around joy to use. So it's pretty much all I use. If you get a chance you should try one.

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  38. I have a 1970 Bernina 830 Record which is really my mother's machine, but I have her on long term loan. She's a workhorse, my poor Elna sits in the cupboard ignored because Bernie is my favourite. The buttonhole isn't perfect, but I suspect could be adjusted if I knew how. The straight stitch is the best I've seen and she handles things that Ellie would just refuse to even consider.

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  39. They are alpinehorns...
    I learnt to sew on a late 1960s bernina that was mum has only just stopped using because she wanted a new machine. I would happily sew on One again.

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  40. I adore my 830 Record - purchased on Ebay for $250 when I went back to sewing. I know it was a deal;) The feet are astounding in what they allow you to do - hey couture does not require a lot of fancy-shmancy I love this machine so much - even the way she smells is gorgeous - all strong machinery. Take it in once a year for tuneups. At the tailoring studio I take lessons in, I get to sew on the 730, also terrific. Both have knee pedals. I think it's true, once you go Bernina, you don't go back.

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  41. I tried a vintage Bernina Minimatic
    http://thegarmentfarmer.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/ponderings/

    And I want one!!! It had been stored for a while and needed servicing, but even so, it was powerful and very quiet.

    I currently use a Janome HD1000 and a 1951 Singer 201-2. I do enjoy the Singer 201-2, but I think the Bernina is even more lovely.

    Please try one Peter, and give us your experienced opinion.

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  42. I started out sewing as a teenager in the 80s on my mother's mechanical Bernina. |She still sews on it. I didn't appreciate it then, but it sewed like a dream. When I left home, I bought various sewing machines, finally returning to Bernina last year when I bought a new Bernina 330. It was (is) the best money I have EVER spent. I also have a Bernina overlocker, and it is just as good. I've also sewn on a Bernina industrial machines, and they too, have a fantastic stitch. When it comes to Bernina, believe the hype.

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  43. My experience is with the new machines you loathe, but I do love my Berninas and I've owned several of them. My first sewing machine ever was a brand new, electronic/computerized, plastic Husqvarna Viking Rose in 1999 that had "introductory level" embroidery capability. It sewed well and gave me no problems, but the cloying pink and gold enamel rose on the front and the pink/purple color scheme were condescending. Also, it felt cheap, with all those plastic parts, and I did not like the drop-in bobbin. I went from there to Bernina for several reasons. First and foremost, they seemed much more solidly built, with sturdy metal presser feet, and as silly as this may be, I liked the overall aesthetic of Bernina better than the look of the Vikings at that time (and now as well). I can't stand plasticky pastel machines. I also liked that the higher-end new Berninas were more readily customized, that is, I could override the default tensions and stitch settings so that they would be the way I wanted them every time, without having to make the same adjustments each time I sat down to sew. I also noticed that just about every celebrity quilter I admired was sewing on a Bernina, and -- huge factor for me -- my local Bernina dealer is a fabulous resource, a very experienced technician and gives wonderful service before AND after the sale. I probably also got sucked into some of the marketing crap -- their ads are so seductive that you almost feel like they are selling a skillset and creativity along with the machine, which is naturally ridiculous, but that's how just about everything is sold these days. No, I take that back -- most other commodities are sold with sex. I have yet to see the steamy Bernina commercial, but I can envision it -- Remember the scene at the pottery wheel in the movie Ghost? Something like that, except Demi Moore or whatever actress/model is sewing away in a negligee instead of working clay on the wheel...

    I've owned a Bernina 180, 200/730, and now a 750 QE, and I've never been anything other than pleased with them. There's nothing I have ever wanted to sew that they can't handle. I had a Bernina 1100 DA serger, and now have their 1300MTC serger, and I love those, too. Are they worth THAT MUCH MORE than other machines? Well, they seem much more solid and substantial than other new machines at similar price points, IMO. But I brought home a Featherweight from a Habitat ReStore last weekend; now THERE'S quality construction and engineering. No comparison.

    So after all that, I have no idea whether older mechanical Berninas are better than other brand sewing machines. But if you rave about one on your blog, you'll make me want one... :-)

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    1. I know EXACTLY what you mean about liking the overall aesthetic of Bernina better than many others. I LOVE the look of my 550, I am not a "frilly" girl and don't want a "plasticky" machine - I want a workhorse. LOL!

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  44. I bought my old Bernina 740 Favorit (like the Record, but a flatbed with a very fast powerful motor) for $75 two years ago. The previous owner went into a nursing home and sewed on it right to the end.

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  45. Our costume shop is all Berninas. They are the only machines that stand up to the constant abuse of mutiple student stitchers. They take the abuse and still sew magnificently!
    We've had Pfaffs, Singers, Vikings, Jukis, Brothers, Kenmores and Elnas.
    They couldn't take it.
    Interestingly we were forced by procurement to get Juki sergers this last purchasing round. They're made in the same factory so we didn't fight it. But they break down constantly. Even the repair man has commented on the difference in quality. Bernina is just better made parts... even when it's two brands made in the same factory!
    I know they're expensive. If I had to buy a personal machine I don't know that I could afford one. But there is a difference, and even if I bought an "acceptable" home sewing machine... it would not be the same.

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  46. I am a a high school (Home Economics) teacher and we use Berninas for our students, have done for more than 40 years because they are so durable. The kids give them a real hammering and they stand up to it! I use an 830 Recorder at school must be more than 30 years old and it only needs servicing once year - its great!

    I have to admit that at home I have a Janome which I much prefer but I think its more for sentimental reasons than anything!

    Has anyone heard of a Musgrove sewing machine - I learned to sew as a young child on a Musgrove, it was a magnificent machine that sat in a wooden box base with the fly wheel and belt exposed - it was mesmorising to watch!

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  47. Oooh, can't wait to read all of these comments! Of course, I love all of the Swiss things (aka chocolate) and I've heard many great things about Bernina. But I've also heard that the machines are overrated - which is to say much more expensive than the quality warrants. I've only sewn on one Bernina - at a craft store (where many others used the same machine) and it was pretty messed up. So I can't say I'm in favour. But perhaps I just don't have enough experience...

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  48. I've got a few...right after we got married, hubby surprised me with a new sewing machine...AND a serger. The machine is a 1530- computerized basic machine, no embroidery, but does have an automatic buttonhole. It stays set up in the sewing room and is my primary machine. Since then, I have also acquired a 1001, which is a mechanical machine and my go-to, carry-to-sewing and work on heavy items machine. That little machine actually sews jeans and mends better than any other machine I have used. I hesitate to use the 1530 for really heavy-duty garments like hubby's overalls because I don't want to mess it up. The 1001 sews jeans hems, no problem, zippers, etc, and multiple layers. I've done tons of mending and repairs with that machine. It was a yard sale score for 150 bucks! Had the original box, all the accessories and also a (broken) walking foot. Also have a Bernette serger, also a basic model and it is a nice quiet machine.

    The 730's and 830's are really great machines and very sought-after. I found one for five dollars at a yard sale...omg, that poor abused little machine was so neglected! It was filthy, had been left out in the damp, and was bearing grime and rust. I did bring it home, cleaned it up, oiled it and also sprayed it down with CorrosionX rust inhibitor.(Think: Rain style spa treatment!) Let the poor thing soak for a while, then had hubby check the foot feed and cords, bit the bullet and plugged her in...the first few rotations were a bit slow, but after the oil was distributed and it warmed up a little, it still runs like a top! of course, I got none of the feet or accessories, but the machine is a trooper! A friend just brought me another just like the photo above. It took me a while to figure out why it won't hold it's stitch, but I finally discovered a hairline fracture in the tension knob. A new knob should do the trick so she'll have a great little machine, too. And, we're fortunate to have one of the VERY BEST Bernina technicians in the industry, right here in town! We're lucky!

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  49. I have a Bernina 430 which I love with knee peddle! I bought it at a store closing sale (I live in the LA area so we have multiple dealers); I was worried I wouldn't love it - I think I paid 1600/1700 dollars and I LOVE IT! Thankfully, but boy, those older Records are worth the money. That said the same dealer sold me a Bernette 334DS serger and it is a 30 year old metal workshorse (hard to thread!). So, I have to say I remember when I bought it I recall reading or having someone tell me the upper end Bernina (starting at the 600 series?) is built in Switzerland. . .

    Finally, I really have to oil it and keep it clean to keep the stitches absolutely perfect and the machine silent. Which as I have many OCD traits I'm happy to do! Thanks for the wonderful post:)

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  50. My first Bernina was the 930(I still have it). And my sewing went from happy hands at home to professional overnite. I am now on the 1530 (half computerized half mechanical) and I love it. I really do recommend them but I also tell my students to buy t he dealer. The local dealer here is Fab so it's a no-brainer about what to get. It was the tension thing that really made my sewing really improve. I swear by mine. And as soon as I can do a little refitting with my cabinet , I'll get a new 580 and 830.

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  51. I don't have a Bernina but I lust for one big time!

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  52. As a sewing machine technician, I've had the pleasure (and frustration!!) of working on hundreds of different brands/models of machines over the years. I've worked on the best and the worst of machines. I've learned about and experienced the many different hook systems that various manufacturers have developed and used in their line-up of machines, both as a technician and as an award winning sewer. And I've seen the changes that have occurred in the sewing machine industry over the past 50 years that resulted in the decline of home sewing, companies going bankrupt and/or struggling to find ways to attract new customers and reduce their costs. Of course, there is also the ever changing demands of customers for new features.....or marketing departments convincing us we need new features. ;-)

    Bottom line, I have over 200 fine quality machines in my collection - everything from 100 plus year old relics to a late model computerized embroidery machine. They each have distinct features and qualities that make them the "best" for certain sewing applications, or just fun to "drive". But if I had to choose, and could only keep one machine, it would be a vintage mechanical Bernina. I'd have to think about it some more, but somewhere between a 730 and 930 mechanical - with no computer circuits, servo motors, sensors or miles of delicate cabling.

    As a technician I love working on older Berninas. They bring me much satisfaction in knowing and appreciating the quality of the engineering, manufacturing, precision adjustments, well designed features and unique driving experience. And those feet!!!.....wonderful, beautiful feet!! Such fine works of engineering art. Nothing else works better. Not even quality industrial feet, for managing fabric for specific sewing tasks. Finally, no one else has excelled at pushing the engineering of the humble Class-15 hook system as high as Bernina. Without a doubt, as proven by hundreds of students who have taken my Specialty Threads class over the years, nothing surpasses the versatility, dependability and ease of use/adjustment as the Class-15 hook system (of most any machine). Yes, there are quieter and smoother running hook systems, but for sheer versatility over a wide variety of sewing applications and ability to use all kinds of specialty threads - everything from fine mono-filaments, to every kind of metallic, mylar, woolie, perle, elastic, nylon, upholstery, silk and even knitting yarn, nothing works better than a Class-15 hook. And no one makes a better Class-15 hook system than Bernina. No one!!

    No, I'm not a dealer... of any brand. I'm just an independent guy with a box of tools and a passion for fine quality sewing machines. My other passion is sewing, designing men's fashions, and participating in our local community of fiber artists. I work on fine vintage sewing machines because I enjoy them.... it helps to pay the bills and buy more fabric!! ;-)

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    1. And you are smart as well as quite cute !

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    2. I have two Bernina's - 730 and 801...they belonged to my grandmother and mother. I have used them for hours and hours of sewing and mending. I am now trying to adapt a walking foot to the 801 and having trouble getting the needle to go down into the bobbin case to pick the thread...in fact, the needle keeps hitting on metal and won't go down at all! If the walking foot is removed, all is well...ideas??? solutions??? The 730 has several stitches available and is the one that I use more at this point... so, the 801 has been in retirement for the last couple of years. I am trying my hand at quilting and would really like to utilize both machines if possible...one for regular sewing/piecing and the other for layering quilts.

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  53. Peter: I think it is so funny when someone tries very hard to be talked into something. (I have a friend here who does that, and he also often tries to be talked out of doing something.) Keep your eyes open and your new sunglasses clean; you will meet the Bernina of your dreams soon. I have no information to offer as I have never sewn with a Bernina, but I am just on my way to EBay out of curiousity.

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  54. P.S. Have a look at the awesome 1938 Bernina 117-K on EBay, item #4004472855803!

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    1. I have a Bernina 117K that I inherited from my father (who bought it in the 1940's to mend tents with). I learnt to sew on it more than 40 years ago now and I'm still sewing with it today - it has a lovely purr when it sews and always keeps wonderful neat stitches..... Nothing modern compares to this wonderful old workhorse!

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  55. I have a Bernina 930 and an 830. I have relatives using them. They are amazing machines, and I love them. Right now I have a modern Brother which is perfect for my uses. They do everything and they are as smooth as butter. However, they are very expensive. I checked them out on Ebay, and I hope my relatives don't sell them on the side. YIKES! My mother only used Berninas that is why I have the 830 and 930. The 930 is amazing.

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  56. Peter,
    My story is the opposite of yours. I have ONLY owned Berninas (except for a couple of vintage Singers and 1 vintage Elna) in my 45+ years of sewing. I still have my original 830 Record, as well as my mother's. TOTAL WORKHORSE machines! Until a few months ago,my "new" Bernina was almost 20 years old - a 1260. Still in awesome condition and a fantastic machine. I recently bought a Bernina 1200 MDC serger- which is beyond dreamy - and a brand new 710 electronic machine. My new baby (the 710) is a sewist's dream. I can't believe how much I love that machine. Buttonholes, stitch quality, programming versatility - amazing. I am almost exclusively a garment sewist - so I can't speak to the quilting market. All I know is the reliability and long-term performance of Berninas are unparalleled. I recently sold one of my 830 Records (yes, I did own 3!!) for $450 - and they cost $750 nearly 40 years ago. Not many machines have that kind of resale value.

    I think true Berninas are still made exclusively in Switzerland - I believe it is the cheaper "Bernette" brand that is made in Asia - but I am not 100% sure of this.

    Anyway - try one out and see what you think. I can vote 100% for all of my lovely Berninas!

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  57. I purchased a Bernina 801 Sport after graduating from high school in the early 1980’s and fell in love with it, I upgraded a few years later to a 930 and it was wonderful. A moving incident left me without a machine so I tried a Viking and I was not happy, it “felt cheap” in a lot of ways. I then purchased another Bernina Virtuosa 160 (Switzerland) in 1997 and this has been my heavy duty, sew anything, get-er-done machine ever sense. I have made countless quilts, drapes, suits, gowns (3 wedding gowns), upholstery projects, endless amount of shirts, pants, and craft projects on this wonderful machine. I now use it primary for quilting and heavier fabrics. I also have a smaller Bernina Activa 220 (Thailand) that I use as for “everyday” sewing. I have used my Mum’s Janome DC2010 but prefer the solidness of the Bernina. Do a couple of “test drives” on material that you sew on the most, take a range from thick to thin with you, and judge for yourself you will either fall in love or you will not without any in between.

    Buddy in VA.

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  58. I've sewn on everything from Singers to an industrial Necchi (wore that thing into the ground) and they all had their good points. But I have a Bernina Artista that feels like I'm driving a Lamborghini when I'm sewing. And my Bernina serger is still running after 20 years of use. Peter, those machines just purr, and they make sewing even more of a pleasure. It's worth it to try one just so you've had the experience, whether you decide to invest in one or not.

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  59. My only experience using a Bernina 1031 sewing machine was in a theater costuming class I had a year ago. I sewed my renaissance costume on it.

    The costume consisted of brocade over canvas. The canvas served as interfacing. The stitches on the Bernina came out ok but I had some trouble with it possibly because I needed to adjust the presser foot tension according to the thickness of my fabrics.

    I would say that the Bernina is comparable to my Kenmore 385.123 sewing machine that my mom bought me at Sears about 14 years. Omg, time has really flown by. Phew!

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  60. Peter, while I can appreciate all the praise of Bernina machines, I have sewn on an old mechanical one(don't know the model) and can honestly say I wasn't any more impressed than I am every day sewing with my vintage Japanese made Brother machines. From my moms' 1964 Prestige to my 1956 Pacesetter, they are every bit as much of a purring workhorse as a Bernina. Just my opinion.

    Cari

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  61. My Mum owns and still uses a Bernina bought with the proceeds of a small win on the football pools over 50 years ago. It still sews perfectly, has only had one major problem in its life caused by the cat deciding to scent mark it, resulting in a bit of rust and a few less pleasant side effects but after a good service it's right as rain again and the best machine I have ever used! If you have never tried one you must, they are a dream to sew with.

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  62. I bought my Bernette 3 years ago and she has never let me down... Everything I throw at her, she's up for it. I love her, I even named her (is that weird?) Aline, the Sewingmachine. I use her everyday. My dream is to buy a real Bernina one day (mechanical, not computerized), maybe I should make it a 10year plan, everytime I have to use my seamripper I put 50cts in a jar (don't think I would mind ripping seams that much anymore Eye on the prize and all...)
    I used to own a cheap Toyota machine and it gave me nothing but headaches... Don't remember what we had in sewing class, but those weren't all that great either...
    Think I'll stick to the Bernina-family even if the nearest dealer is a 2.5 hour drive from my home.
    Good luck finding your Bernina!

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  63. I have that very machine! She is called Betty and over the last 2 years we have become firm friends. I do own a Janome 6600P which is my daily workhorse but every now and again Betty comes out to play and we have great fun. I've been updating my sewing skills at a local class and we use modern Bernia's - and I have to say, they are just as good. Really sturdy and take some real hammering from the students. If anything happened to the Janome, I'd consider a Bernina.... Good luck with your search, everyone and their Mother is looking for them here in the UK!

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  64. Apart from "quiet", so far everything everyone says about their Berninas--all-metal, runs forever, sews great, can handle anything from chiffon to leather--applies to the 1967 Singer 600E on which I learned to sew (it was my mother's high school graduation gift), so maybe what we all really like are solid machines that sew accurately, regardless of manufacturer?

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    1. I think it's like automobiles (a metaphor others have used too). Nearly all will get you where you want to go; it's the experience of driving them that differs.

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  65. Bernina 830LE owner here, made in Switzerland. Makes no difference whether it's made there or in Thailand, Bernina is a family owned company and they own and run the Thailand facility, so the only thing you get for a modern machine made in Switzerland is the mystique which is worth less than thin yodel.

    I have owned Singers, Elnas,and Necchis. This new 830 is my first Bernina. I took the go large or go home route. Vive la difference! My sewing has never been more accurate. The machine feels "sure footed" somehow; it knows where it's going and I just need to nudge it along every once in awhile. The feet are also a key component to the accuracy as well, but you have to know how to use them and sometimes the directions that come with the feet leave much to the imagination. Fortunately, online Bernina support is incredible and one can learn so much by scouring their video library.

    If it's a vintage Bernina, you can't go wrong and you'll figure it out. Caveat about modern Berninas: you will need the support of an excellent dealer. They are key to making certain your machine will sew exactly the way You want it to sew on the fabrics you want to use.

    Life is full of surprises. I was surprised that the Bernina made such a difference in my sewing skills. I thought my stable of Elnas would have done that, but they've been eclipsed by that hulking 45 pounds of sewing wizardry .

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  66. Wow, nice pictures...well I live in Switzerland, so of course I am using a Bernina. I always did, since I started sewing some 30+ years ago. And I probably won't change. What I especially like is the free arm, which has more space around, than other brands. I own and owned different models. I can remember the older Berninas, which were fully made out of metal. I liked that better than the newer ones, where the outside is plastic. Besides that I am still very happy.

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  67. This is my first time commenting on a post after several months of lurking, but I couldn't help but put my two cents in on owning a Bernina! I don't have a vintage one, but a second hand 440 QE that I purchased off craigslist a little over a year ago. Before purchasing my Bernina, I was sewing on a mid 90's mechanical Janome that I bought in college It was and still is a good machine.

    When I started looking to upgrade to a newer machine, I did a lot of research. At first, I thought I would just get a newer Janome. I went to the local dealer and tried a couple models. They also sold Pfaff's and I tried a couple of those. They all were good machines. I went the the Bernina dealer last, and it ended up being an eye opening experience. There was that much difference in the feel of the sewing, the appearance of the stitching, the quietness of the machines, the intuitive design and functionality...and the sticker shock! Bernina doesn't allow dealers to advertise prices online so I didn't know how much more expensive they were until I got to the store and fell in love. So I went home and started saving and looking online for second hand ones.

    The things I love about my machine that stand out are the ease of changing feet, the separate bobbin winder, the knee lift, l/r needle position mover, being able to use the heel of your foot on the pressure foot to put the needle down, and the walking foot (so much quieter than my janome one), and a few other items specific to the QE for quilting and embroidering (not something I would imagine you would be interested in). And the over quietness and elegance of the machine.

    It does have two quirk I've found. Like any high end item (or person--ha!), it likes to be kept in a certain way. It drinks oil in comparison to my old Janome, But then again, I can probably count on two hands how many times I oiled that machine--a me problem for sure. So about every three bobbin changes I oil the bobbin housing, and she's off again as quietly as you please. And she likes high end thread only. I can see where getting it serviced once a year would be good too in order to get all the lint out. But using the high end thread does help keep that down. I just hate that where I live (Atlanta, Ga) the Bernina service department is always running a 3 week or more lag time in getting your machine back from servicing. I think I might go through withdrawal if I had to be without my machine for that long.

    I know this is long and a little off topic (non vintage machine). But maybe it will help others that might be interested in getting a newer machine.

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    1. That's why I have a spare I bought a 215 to have on hand - it's also nice because I can piece on one machine and embroider on the other.

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  68. In the mid-late 80s, I made a huge leap in machine quality from a late 70s Singer with tension problems to a Bernina 1020. Wonderful machine, never gave me a problem. Then I began to wish for more decorative stitches, so I traded it for a Viking. I will be blunt and say that was a dumb *ss move on my part. While the 8-way stitching is great for mending (not that I like it), I've rarely used the decorative stitches. When a used 1030 showed up at the Benina dealer, I snapped it up. Should (when?) the electronics on the Viking give out, I'm prepared. I don't regret getting the Viking, but do regret the trade-in of the Bernina.

    Should any other vintage Bernina's cross my path, depending on price, my finances, mood, phase of the moon, I won't rule out passing them by.

    @Bobbin Doctor - it was nice reading an opinion of someone who knows them from the inside as well.

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  69. I have quite a collection of vintage machines, many that you also have, and enjoy sewing on most of them. I also have a vintage BERNINA 730, an almost vintage 1080, a newer 440QE, and have sewn with newer BERNINA models - the 350 PE and the 580.

    BERNINA machines, even the new ones, sew with incredible precision - allowing me to concentrate on my project and not worry about the sewing!

    I also recently blogged about my long-time sewing relationship with my BERNINA's here: http://sewsitall.blogspot.com/2013/03/meet-my-machine-blog-hop_22.html

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  70. I've owned and repaired several vintage and new computerized machines. Of the vintage machines, my favorites are the Singer 201, 221 and anything in the older Bernina '30's series, I.e., 730, 830, 930. I currently do my everyday sewing on a Bernina 1008 and a 550. There is a a lot of silly hype about Berninas but they do sew like a dream. The newer computerized ones I am not so crazy about.

    Definitely buy a vintage Bernina if you can swing it.

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  71. I've had Bernette, Singer, Viking and Bernina. Nothing compares to Bernina. I make cloth dolls and need a perfect very tiny stitch and of all the machines I have used the only one that qualifies is Bernina.

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  72. This is so timely Peter... I've been drooling over the newer Berninas for a while now and am starting to squirrel money away. I was always one of those people who assumed older was better but was very swayed by sales pitch of the sewing machine dealer on the Daughter Fish' podcast who made a good case for buying new. I would also consider buying secondhand but the I need a lot of features I might require on a newer machine. Thank you for posting this! I'm sure I will refer back to it when I am ready to take the plunge!

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  73. Have tried posting several times and with each attempt my response gets shorter:

    FALSE.

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  74. I sew on a Bernina because my grandmother has used hers for decades! I didn't have an extensive history with sewing machines (using mostly 50+ year old inherited machines), so I wasn't experienced enough to understand the comparisons. However, I must say that I love mine!!! It went in for servicing recently and I was forced to sew on my back-up machine (Singer). As soon as I got the Bernina back I realized how solid it is. I have had it for about 10 years and it is a workhorse!

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  75. I've had my 817 since 1976; it's been in for service only once, and it's a great machine. Two speeds, for sewing leather or, I dunno, sail canvas. I bought a used 910 about 10 years ago because I wanted a free arm. It's good, too, but the needle up is a bit annoying, and I can't wind bobbins while sewing, which the older one allows. With both, I use a Greist buttonhole attachment for lovely round-ended buttonholes. It just screws on to the Bernina conversion post foot. My dealer is retiring, and I considered a new 750, but the old ones do everything I want, so I got them some additional feet instead, for less $.

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  76. I bought a Bernina 2 years ago and will never go back to anything else! Mine has the snap on feet, which older Bernina owners look down upon, but I love them. They are less expensive, and super easy to change out. I highly recommend taking a class at a Bernina dealer. I have been sewing for years but learned many new ways of doing things as well as how to use their particular specialty feet. Makes things very easy that I used to dread (like putting in zippers and buttonholes). Previously I have sewn on a Pfaff, an Elna, and an old mechanical Singer. I also own a Singer Featherweight, but don't love it like my Bernina.

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  77. I had a White machine as a beginner. It was so hard to get to sew correctly that I just gave up on learning to sew. Later I took a class, determined to master that machine and learn to sew. After seeing the teacher's Bernina do everything so effortlessly, I bought a 930. I loved it and found out having a good machine makes sewing enjoyable, not a headache. I latter added a 170, and just recently the Bernina 830. I also sewed a bit on my grandmother's Singer as a youngster. I didn't know there was "hype" about Bernina, but I would almost sell my hubby or first-born before I would part with my 830. Of course, the 830 doesn't need fed, and never sasses.

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    1. My first machine in the 70's was a White and had I cussed, I would have had a dirty mouth! LOL I hated it. Hated how the tension could never adjust properly. Then, when Bernina came out with the computerized models, one lady traded in her 830 Record and I snatched it up for $300. At the time, I thought that was a lot. That was probably in the mid 80's. Now, after all these years, sewing for 2 girls, our houses, and now grandkids, not to mention lots of craft fairs, I can't imagine not having it. I am looking for one for my daughter for Christmas. I am tired of hauling mine back and forth! Love it! Am sure I would love a newer one too. Does anyone sew on the 1120? Wondering about that one.

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  78. If you are interested in purchasing a Bernina 830 and so many extra feet, just let me know. It is simply too much machine for me. I just like to do a few sewing things, and embroider. I will never have enough years to
    do all that this machine can do.. So wasted on me.

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    1. How can I reach you, Susan?

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    2. There are actually two BERNINA 830 models - the older style vintage 830 Record, and the brand new top-of-the line BERNINA 830. Be sure you know which one you're looking at, the price difference is several decimal points!

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  79. I love my Bernina 440. My previous machine was a Brother on the cheaper side that wouldn't even sew straight. How can a sewing machine call itself a sewing machine and yet feed everything through crooked?! At any rate, I knew after a year sewing on that that I was addicted for life and should pony up the cash for a Cadillac. I have never looked back.

    And a note on the attachments: They are very well designed and very solid in build. For instance, the button sew on foot has a little pin on it that is designed to create a shank. This pin is also adjustable. If you need a longer shank, you got it! It is fabulous.

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  80. I have a Bernina 430E (it's got the embroidery module) and I LOVE it. Love. My kids say I should marry it. I named her "Briar Rose".

    I've sewn on a lot of machines. I've owned a lot of machines. Modern, vintage, antique (think 100+ year old treadle). Not one of them can compare to how smooth and QUIET the Bernina is. Add to it the fact that I can hook my laptop up to it and churn out embroidery that is professional looking and I'm set.

    I will never own any other brand of machine other than Bernina. And yes, they are made in Switzerland. Or so it says on all my stuff. The frame is made of cast aluminum. It's extremely durable and can sew ANYTHING. And I do mean anything. Want to make shoes? Can do. Want to sew leather? Yup. Denim? In 8 layers even? Youbetcha.

    If you don't want a full-on embroidery machine and the $$$$$ outlay to go with, I suggest a Bernette. They can be had for under $500.

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  81. I have a 801 Sport which my husband bought for me in 1983 because I was always swearing at my Kenmore. I also have a 1260 and a serger which I bought a few years later. I have thought about buying a new one but that would require buying all new feet and I have so many and I really love my machines. So I keep sewing with the ones I have and never swear at them.

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  82. I agree about a good dependable machine with consistent stitches is the main objective. I have owned 1 Electronic/Computerized Bernina, 3 BabyLocks, 4 Pfaffs, 5 Janome’s, 5 Singers, and some other sewing machines during the past 40 years of sewing and quilting. I was disappointed in the Bernina. I found I was needing to adjust the stitches more than with most other machines I had used. I would compare the Bernina to the Janome as for overall good basic stitch consistency while quilting. Currently I use Pfaff and Janome machines.

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  83. I have sewn with a Bernina for well over 20 years. I wore out two sewing machines in 6 years (a Singer and a Pfaff) before my husband suggested that it might be cost effective to pay for a better machine which would last longer and he was kind enough to buy me one when her inherited some money. I looked at the machines my talented friend used ( I am a quilter) and decide that Bernina was the way to go. I bought a 1230 and have given it a hammering over the years - it must have sewed for miles and miles. I oil and clean it on a regular basis and it has never let me down. I think it has been serviced twice. I have two other Berninas which I now use most of the time (the 1230 is heavy to move) - a new 820 for patchwork and machine quilting and the 350 which I use for workshops. The 350 (one of the entry level machines with quilting extras) has amazed me with the quality and power of the motor. I made an item from cotton twill which was interfaced and realised it had sewn through 18 layers without a problem. It does need oiling regularly - I often quilt with it and the batting fibres soak up the oil but apart from that it is a wonderful little machine.

    Berninas are costly to buy, but I could sell my 1230 for more than I paid 22 years ago. I have sewn everything on it from heavy quilts to satin stitching the edges of gossamer fine organza wraps (with metallic thread!)

    I'm sure there are other reliable makes (I'm wondering about a mechanical Juki myself) but I have given my Berninas a good test run and the quality is second to none even in the entry level machines.

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  84. I love my 1973 Bernina Record in its adorable red case. It sews through anything and always has a balanced stitch. The best part is I can do the maintenance myself as it is mechanical.

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  85. I've been sewing since I was 5 (making doll clothes first) and have sewn on an old Necchi, then a Kenmore (my first machine), then a Viking, then another Viking, and then caught the Bernina bug when I started working part time at a Bernina dealership. At the time I had a Viking, but the store owner had a used 440QE that she very wisely told me to take home and play with. WHAT A DIFFERENCE! I personally am convinced it's all about the feed dogs. I've never had a machine that feeds the fabric through as effortlessly as my Bernina. I'm teaching My Bernina classes now, and can always tell when a new owner has had another brand of machine because they want to push and pull the fabric through the machine. I've got a 635 now that I love, had it for a year and a half and our tech told me after he cleaned it that I had 2.2 million stitches on it, so I guess I do sew quite a bit. I'm looking at the 780, but don't plan to jump into that purchase any time soon. I completely agree with the old saying "Nothing sews like a Bernina, nothing."

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  86. I only started sewing about two years ago. always wanted a machine, but never followed through till one day at the thrift store I spotted one of those horrible, new, cheap, teeny tiny machines. I started messing around with fixing clothes, sitting on the floor with the tiny machine in front of me. my boyfriend is a mover, he brought home a riccar that someone didn't want (I wonder why? ha ha..) the difference from that crappy little machine to the riccar was amazing until I broke it, somehow. he brought home a domestic, and I'd wind bobbins on an old, dirty, LOUD singer because the domestic bobbin winder didn't work. one day, he came home with a red case. FIFTEEN BUCKS at the Sally ann. 1972 830 record. Allllll of the problems I'd ever had on the other machines were taken care of; no horrific front tension to disassemble and reassemble and get really frustrated with(are these disks facing the right way?? I think the spring coiled here..) a smarter way of threading with less tangle, that clever movable needle, and I don't miss adjusting the pressure of the foot(came with four or five btw). my co-worker, a few months later, brought me a "serger" that she had been given by a dying friend "I'll never be able to figure it out" .. I told her"that's not a serger, it's a sewing machine, a bernina 1001!" she was happy with her old singer, so I took it home. it's a wonderful machine, gears are metal, it's from 1992. But I just love my 830.

    rags to riches, Peter. think about how much I "earned" there!

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  87. Unequivocally false!! I have a triumph of German engineering... The Pfaff!! Owned by Singer now mine is an industrial in a domestic housing, cost £550 and hasn't needed to be serviced in 16 years! I only needed to change the oil last year!
    I despise Berninas, mainly because schools in the UK stockpile them, don't service them and then expect them to work so I spent far too many of my formative years struggling with shoddy machinery.
    I guess it's just that you love what you love, and only that machine will do.
    I work a lot on costumes for Film and the Pfaff just whizzes the fabric up because of the in-built walking foot (literally a stroke of genius, and completely life changing for me), I also have a 1960 Frister-Rossman with 54 cogs which fit onto a dial at the top of the machine and change the stitch, and a 1940s beaut of a machine I picked up for £2... I thought you'd approve!!
    I guess you need a holiday in the UK because here in Bristol you can pick up Berninas fairly regularly for about £35... along with Singers, fantastic Jones', Vikings and the good ol' hand cranks in most charity shops xxx

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  88. False. I tested some new Berninas and I will say that they were incredibly smooth running. But honestly the best straight stitch of any of my 7 machines is the 1904 Singer 27. My go-go machine is a 14 yr old Janome that runs like a top and can handle any fabric.

    Bernina problems: $$$ They take only Bernina feet, needles and accessories. They are awesome machines but I don't think they are truly worth the price.

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  89. I love my Berninas. I have an 803, a 930 and a new 830. They all stitch beautifully and have lots of hours on them. The 803 only straight stitches so it has the most perfect straight stitch. The 930 has taken a beating like no other machine and keeps going. It has been used for everything - stage costumes, quilts,upholstery, heirloom sewing often for 8 or more hours per day - and did it all. I also had a 180, 200 and 730, so you could say I am Bernina loyal. The new 830 does everything and is easier to use and quieter than the others. My Berninas have never left me down.

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  90. My grandmother gifted me with a love 1977 Singer which lasted me 29 years, sewed wonderfully well, just did what I asked, and well. Then change to a Huskvarna Viking which I hated with a passion. After two years of "putting up with it", I changed to a Bernina Aurora 440 QE. Love it with a passion, would not part with it for love or money. I'm a Bernina convert, solid, simple, does what it promises and ergonomically correct for me.

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  91. Seamstress of over 40 years here.

    I'm sure the old Berninas are wonderful, but I bought a new one a few years ago and found it to be a fussy, seriously overpriced piece of garbage. Sold it a few months later at a loss of several hundred dollars to someone who was very happy with it. Whatever.

    Give me a vintage Kenmore or Singer anytime. The stitch on an old Kenny is the best in my opinion. I'm in the minority here, but I cringe whenever I hear the word "Bernina".

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  92. Interested in finding out how you like your Swiss Viking machine? I recently acquired a vintage Turissa (Viking) sewing machine made in Switzerland, unfortunately something in the foot pedal melted and I will need to get it replaced if I want to use it. It is number 6 in my collection of vintage machines! Love your blog!

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  93. I have a Bernina 430 and have been sewing on it for several years. I keep it cleaned, oiled and change the needle when needed and have never had a problem with my machine. It produces the best stitch ever! My mother had a Kenmore that I until I purchased my own machine in the early 80's and it was a Singer. I didn't realize how frustrating the Singer was until I began using my Bernina. Try a Bernina, you may never want to sew on another machine!

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  94. My grandpa had an old Bernina and it was really wonderful, and still running beautifully after all those years. However I have to say some strong words against the opening about all things swiss being compelling.

    Apparently the Swiss do not feel the same way.

    I live on the border of Switzerland in Austria, and EVERY, I mean EVERY single weekend, holiday and possible day to shop the local stores here are packed with Swiss, They come over the border to buy groceries,clothing, and well damn near everything! Even the local DIY store is kept in business by swiss customers, probably 50% or more of the customers are swiss. More over holidays like Christmas. They come over because the Swiss Franc is so strong and they can buy things cheaper here and anywhere else in the EU so many just driver over the border for everyday shopping. And this is not only in my area, apparently it is all along the borders of Switzerland.

    It was rather shocking when I heard and saw this, but even the Swiss would rather buy cheap! :P

    That said in the past this region, as well as the neighboring Swiss region was known for high quality textiles, the famous "Swiss Dot" came from around the St. Gallen region,abou 20 minutes from my home. There are still a few facotries around, but more and more they are being closed due to high operating costs due to the strong Swiss Franc.
    It is really sad too, because very quickly the only thing that will be left in Switzerland will be the stupid Swiss banks, all the other business is migrating elsewhere....

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  95. Berninas are awesome!! I own a 1260 and that machine is a dream (a very heavy dream, but a dream). I grew up using my mom's Singer. It worked just fine but nothing special. However, as soon as you use a Bernina, you realize you have something special. My daughter, 9 at the time, took sewing lessons. Over the course of a summer she sewed on numerous machines. When I finally let her use my Bernina, the first thing she said, "This machine is so much better than what I'm used to!" Would a 9-year-old lie to you??? I've haven't used the newer Berninas but my 1260 is a keeper.

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  96. Have a 3 year old Bernina 430, its really heavy because its internals are almost completely made out of metal, opening it up you see more or less one block of steel, which isn't the case with other newish sewing machines. And it does heavy duty work, 6 layers of thick denim almost as thick as my thumb, machine doesn't even slow down, 2*(3 layers of duct tape + bubble wrap + 2 layers of heavy cotton + industrial strength straps) no hick-up, just pouring away.

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  97. Wow it is so good to see so many people loving their Berninas! I'm in New Zealand and actually work in a craft store which sidelines as a Bernina agent. Recently I went to the annual Bernina NZ conference, and I learnt so so much about the brand's ethos as well as the effort that is put in to the tailoring of each model. I've got a bernette, which is a baby Bernina and will definitely be upgrading to a Bernina when I can afford it. Peter, if you're looking for a machine that sits flush with the table, have you thought about their semi-industrial model, the 850 I think it is? Obviously this has less features than other Bernina models, but I LOVE the precision industrials have and the semi seems like a good cross over. You cannot beat a Bernina!

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  98. I sewed for 20+ years on Singer. Then I bought my first Bernina in 1992 - a 1630 top of the line and also a Bernina serger (they were offering easy credit - LOL). I used the 1630 almost daily for 20 years - without repair or tuneup - and it sewed like a champ. Last year it was fried by a lightening storm. After crying awhile, I bought another gently used 1630 on Ebay and it works like it was new! My Bernina serger is still going strong. There is NOTHING like a Bernina. I think you will love it, Peter. Best of luck with it! Keep us all posted!

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  99. I learned how to sew on a "Singer Touch and Sew" and have tried out every brand.
    Nothing sews like a Bernina, Nothing!
    If you want "vintage" then I suggest the original Bernina 830. More than 1M were manufactured!
    Currently, the top-of-the-line Bernina's are manufactured in Steckborn, Switzerland and the mid-line and entry levels are in Thailand. A group of Bernina dealer's visited the Thai factory in January and were very impressed!
    I love the new Bernina's and would sew on nothing else!
    Bernina...Made to Create!

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  100. I sewed on a Bernina 741 for 40 years and wept when its one nylon gear broke. It delivered me from a Singer hell I never want to see again, and stitched clothing, home decor, luggage, and countless other projects. I traded it in for a 435 for the many versatile buttonholes and wider stitch, but its precision was delightful. Be careful celebrating "all metal"--it is the fine engineering and design that makes the all-steel Berninas so easy to use. Lots of worse machines are all metal but not worth fiddling with. Enjoy your 930, Peter!

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  101. I have a Bernina Record 730 and I love it. My mother also has one, it was bought around 1962-1965. This machine is so reliable, it's like a tractor, it sews even the thickest seams in jeans. I had my sister's Bernina from the 1990' but it couldn't do the thickest jeans, so I returned it and sew with my <3 Record 730 again. I also have a Bernette I bought new 1997, I love it as well.

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  102. Singer, White, Toyota, I've had all of these, all so-so performance compared to my Bernina 440 QE, which was immediately outclassed by my Bernina B830. Confirmed Bernina lover here.

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  103. My Bernina 830 Record Electronic was purchased new in 1979, I would never part with it, never had any problems. My friend has a 1960's Bernina (not sure which model) and it has done a lot of work - evening gowns, motor has been replaced but she still loves it. This friend recently purchased a new Janome embroidery machine but will not part with her old faithful Bernina.

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  104. I have 4 Bernina's, the 830E, 1300 serger,380 & a 17 yr old 1260QPE. I also sell Berninas for a living. I absolutely love the brand, othewise I would never consider selling them. I will be off to Thailand to see the Bernina factory.
    Think of Bernina of Thailand this way, if you buy a Toyota in the US, it's still a Toyota. I personally drive Chevy's, but it's a good comparison.

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  105. I have a Bernina Activa 220 that I absolutely love! What a little workhorse that never lets me down. I also have a Juki TL2010Q that is amazing for free motion quilting. Couldn't part with either of them.

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  106. I've just got a bernina730 and looking forward to using it. Needs a bit of TLC! I hope to get as much joy from it as you guys have. Will keep you posted on how I get on!

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  107. I own the original 730 Record. Purchased new for $350.00. It's the only thing I asked for in my divorce settlement! Perfect stitch every time. I own a 1090 and a new 730E as well as a Bernina Serger. A bit of a snob, I know.....the only other machines in my home are my great grandmother's treadle that I learned to sew on and a 1954 Featherweight that I couldn't resist purchasing.....once you sew on a Bernina there is no turning back.....

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  108. I learned to sew on my mothers Bernina 830 record. My first machine my first love. My family had 3-Bernina owners from the older 7 series records in the 1960's to the 830 record in the 70's. I have since purchased Babylock computerized embroidery capable machine and other portable Babylock. I am thinking I should have purchased the latest Berninas. I still may do just that.....that is once I get over the sticker-shock! Bernina has always been a premium brand. I will always love Bernina sewing machines!

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  109. I have and love a Bernina 200/730... bought 2nd hand, says made in Switzerland.. solid as a rock... love her! Now if only I knew how to do more.. still learning..never stop...

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  110. I'd heard about these machines for years and last Friday picked up an old Bernina 730 Record in a Salvation Army store for A$40. There was a problem with the foot pedal (dirty electrical contact switch plates) but that didn't take long (15 minutes?) to sort out. An amazing little machine. It just exudes quality in every little detail from the beautifully balanced stitch to the design of the electrical fittings. One aspect I found strange is that to alter the presser foot pressure you are required to lift the top cover (not difficult) and use a screw driver. I have to do the same on my 70's Singer industrial machine but I didn't expect this on a domestic machine. I'm looking forward to using the Bernina; it is so quiet and I love the two-speed switch at the back.

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  111. I just bought a Bernina 817 for $185 from an estate sale. I worked on a 817 that my friend owns and was very impressed at the "smooth, workhorse quality of this machine. Does the price sound fair. I looked at the Bernina 830 Records on Ebay and they were more than I had to spend...$599. I feel like I just adopted a baby...can't wait for it to arrive!

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  112. I learned to sew on my mother's 1940's electric Singer (with a knee peddle). It only did a straight stich, no reverse, perhaps a buttonhole attachment (I don't remember), but I used to sew all of my clothes and I even made 3 wedding gowns with it.
    Even though the electronic machines I used did a lot of fancy stitches, I never enjoyed them as much as my mom's Singer. So recently, I decided to go back to a 100% mechanical machine, and bought a Bernina 1008. It works very well, and I like sewing with it better than with mroe sophisticated machines. But, one day I saw a Bernina 117L for sale (about $70). It was beautiful, and even though I didn't need it, I bought it. It is absolutely wonderful. Even my mom's 40's Singer did not feel as "solid' as that Bernina. The hum of the mechanics sounds lovely and it sews absolutely beautifully, through thickness of heavy fabrics, and light ones too. I don't know about other Berninas but if I had found this machine first, I never would have bought another.

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  113. I inherited my grandmothers Bernina 730 - it's been pretty good. The problem is that it has some minor issues - I'm not even sure what they are, but when I inquired about getting it fixed, I was told that they no longer make parts for it. So maintenance is definitely an issue. I grew up using my mom's Bernina, which was newer by not "new" by any means - probably almost 30 years old. Hers is definitely smoother, but that again could be my particular machine. I used a Brother machine in a sewing class and as un-vintage and immature as it may be, I honestly preferred some of the newer features. I'm sure those features can be found on new Berninas as well, just at a very large price tag. The main problems I've run into seem to be tension related - I can step on the pedal and the motor surges, but the needle won't move. The reverse switch occasionally stops working. But overall a good machine - I actually found this post because my husband just bought me a new machine and I was doing some research on selling my Bernina. I'm sad to see it go, but I wanted something lower maintenance. Now I'm actually second guessing myself!

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  114. My mom sewed most of our family's clothes when she began having trouble with her Singer in the 70s and asked my dad to buy her a new machine. He went even farther and set her up with a Bernina dealership. My mom taught the sewing classes and my dad repaired machines. I grew up at the shop sewing on Elnas, Riccars and Berninas. There's even a picture of a me, a small project and the now 100+ year old pedal machine I made it on. However, for a kid having fun, I loved popping the embroidery-stitch disks in and out of the Riccar. If you can find that model I recommend it for giggles, but they may be rare: I only found one other post that mentioned them specifically. Meanwhile I own an 830 record and an 840 favorit, another model that no one mentioned. My mom always referred to it as an "industrial" and it requires a cabinet. She and my grandmother both owned one. I inherited my grandmother's and I love it. Both my machines are from the 70s and they do indeed purr, but I would liken the 830 to a family car and 840 to a sports car.

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  115. I just picked up a used Bernina 930 Record from a pawn shop of all places and I am so excited. It sews like a dream. I took it to my local dealer and they're going to service it and clean it and get her looking like new again. I paid next to nothing for it and I just cannot wait to start using her everyday!

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  116. Hi Peter. I have a 1982 Bernina Nova 900 I bought at the thrift shop for 25 bucks. It goes for about 500 on ebay. I really love it but I recently bought a Janome Magnolia because I wanted an automatic bottonhole. I love to stitch quality on the Bernina. I also have a 2000 viking which is just so so.I tried some new Berninas at Sewing Summit but couldn't get past the plasticky feeling and the 3000 dollar price tag.

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  117. Why am I the only person that is not blown away by my Bernina. I recently got a Bernina 215 and it isn't what I had expected after spending over $1000, it rattles a bit, skips stitches in zigzag and the pressure foot pushes my fabric out of place. Not sure if I got a lemon? everyone seems to love them. Any suggestions?

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  118. The Bernina in your photos is the same model that I bought second or third hand 35 years ago for GBP 125 (a kings ransom in those days!). It's had 3 new motors and a 'hysterectomy', I didn't need the swing needle function, so had it removed. It is a REAL workhorse and was in daily use for about 10 years as my outline quilting machine.
    When I relocated to the beautiful island of Mallorca, nearly 10 years ago I brought a rucksack and the Bernina. It sits on the table still, not quite but almost, in daily use for my alterations business 'Sew What?'

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  119. I just purchased a Bernina 740 Favorit Sewing Machine from the thrift store for $20.00. I talked the manager down from $30 because the top thread get tangled in the bobbin area every time I try to pick the bobbin up. I have heard that this machine is "industrial strength", but at this point I really don't know if this will be expensive to repair, or how much it will cost me to acquire accessory feet, since it only came with a basic zig-zag stitch and no manual. Not sure if I will keep it a this point.

    Melissa

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