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May 8, 2013

Why I Bought a Bernina



Friends, there is a fine line between decisive and impulsive.

Scratch that.  In life, it's better to be decisive than impulsive.  But one person's decisive may be another person's impulsive.  Does that makes sense?

Long story short, I bought a Bernina.   It should be here within a week.   I was, admittedly, a little impulsive about the purchase, but very decisive too!  Here's why I bought it:

1) Having sewn with so many different kinds of sewing machines in the last four years, and with Bernina being such a major player, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  How can I recommend -- as I have here and elsewhere -- vintage black Singers and throw out superlatives when I haven't tried all the big brands?

2) If I don't like it, I can sell it.  I got a good deal, provided it works.

3) If I do like it, well, then I'll be really glad I took the plunge.

The machine I do most of my sewing on now -- a vintage Kenmore 148.141 -- is terrific.  But I don't think I'd have received a hundred comments if I'd written about vintage Kenmores, whereas a post about Berninas inspired a torrent of recommendations (along with a few naysayers). There must be something to the Bernina mystique.  I'm determined to find out what it is.

4) While I could have gone to a sewing machine store (in my case, my neighborhood quilting shop) and tried out Berninas there, that would have limited me to only contemporary models.  I was more intrigued by the older machines.  Plus I like supporting people who sell used stuff (provided they're honest and I believe most are).  Needless to say, used is generally cheaper too.

I feel very fortunate never to have been stuck sewing on an inferior sewing machine.  I've bought roughly twenty-five vintage machines and they all had their charms.  I couldn't keep them all,  however, so I passed some of them along -- they all left in better condition than they arrived.   I've sold Singers, Pfaffs, Elnas, Kenmores, Whites, and Necchis; I never regretted purchasing them: that's how I learned what I liked.

I want to thank those of you who helped convince me to give Bernina a shot.  However it works out, you inspired me to be decisive (and a little impulsive too).

Have a great day, everybody!

64 comments:

  1. I don't sew much (I do enjoy reading your blog), my sewing machine is an older model (a Singer from 1940s, I think, but works well. I had it cleaned and adjusted 10 years ago (110volt motor can accept AC or DC). But now you have me thinking of upgrading as new machines do so many different kinds of stitches (the kinds that are very tedious done manually), maybe this will open up to try interesting things.

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  2. Ooh, enjoy. I love my Bernina -- it's my first (and only) machine.

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  3. That's just like my Bernina. I'm pretty sure you'll love it. Lane

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  4. I loved my Bernina -- I had this model and sewed - sewed - sewed for years. I made almost all my clothes, my little girl's clothes, and many household things as well. It's the "all metal" one that just doesn't break down. My daughter is all grown up now, and she has that machine. I thought I needed to "update" and got a fancy Brother embroidery machine. I like it, but not as much as the Bernina. So I bought a 1950 Singer cause it's so pretty and sews so fast and beautiful. (I think I was a bit influenced by your blog, truth be told). My Bernina had a big shiny teddy bear sticker on the front, a gift from my little daughter. My embroidery machine has a big shiny heart sticker on the front, a gift from my little granddaughter.

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  5. I seriously considered a Bernina when I had to upgrade my machine recently but it was too much of a stretch for me so I plumped for a Janome. It will be interesting to see what you make of your new machine.

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  6. Bestill my beating heart. This is the model that convinced me to buy my current more modern bernina. The home ec turned fashion department of my community college had a sewing room full of this particular models and a few not quite sew nice bernettes.

    Bernina has the best CB rotary hooks bar none. I know there is some b***in and moaning about the newer embroidery ones but thats because they messed with a good thing and put a different system in.

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  7. I got this very Bernina at a thrift store for $12. After a $70 tune-up, it worked good as new. If you could have seen the look on the repairman's face when I told him how much I spent on the machine..."Do you know what this is worth!?"

    My only complaint about the machine is that it's a PITA to put in and take out of the case. The machine itself sews like a dream and does a wonderful buttonhole. I think you're going to love it.

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  8. Oh you clever thing, you scored the best model ever!

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  9. I hope you love her as much as I love mine. How old is that one? The ones I worked on in the 80 looked a lot different, so I'm guess it is new than that?

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  10. Welcome to the dark side--I hope you love it!

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  11. yay :) Can't wait to get the full report! But I must admit, I'll be disappointed if you don't like it. I feel confident that you will like the Bernina tho!! Enjoy Peter, I'm so glad you were impulsively decisive ;)

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  12. That's one of the machines my mom has!! I love sewing on it so much - she bought it back in the 80's but it still sews like new. You are very lucky, enjoy!

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  13. I can't wait to hear your comments. Many consider the 930 to be the finest machine that Bernina ever made. It certainly stands alone in a category all by itself when it comes to quality, features and driving experience.

    And that bobbin winder - makes me smile with delight every time I open up the hatch. The first time I saw it open up, I squealed with surprise, wonder and delight - a true bit of engineering magic!!

    If you don't like it, I know a hundred other folks who would jump at the chance to buy it!

    Good decision, impulsive or not!

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  14. if the new Bernina will lengthen those grey trousers...it will be worth it's weight in gold!

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    1. So mean. ;)

      They're already 1.5" lower (posting tomorrow) and may come down further.

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    2. LOL I'm with Bill J!

      Actually, I have a Bernina 930 Record, purchased new when it was top if the line. I'm thinking 1981? Still have it, because I couldn't part with it when I bought my second Bernina (1530) many years later. Couldn't part with the 1530 when I got the 730 (which embroiders-never say never) in 2007. Add one FW circa 1946, and that's the herd, excluding serger and coverstitch...

      The 930 does a fabulous blind hem (using foot 5), suitable for longer hems. And the long basting stitch (also helpful for trying out hems) changed my sewing from Becky Home Becky to something to be proud of. Excellent choice!

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    3. ...a sharp crease too, Bill J.

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  15. Bernina, bernina so easy and so versatile..... :D enjoy!

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  16. Bernina if you read this please remake the 930 EXACTLY as it was. I would be willing to pay $$$$ for that!

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  17. I LOVE MY BERNINA PETER! Yes, I said it- I couldn't believe I took a 1700 splurge on a new machine - a Bernina 430 and it is perfect - and I have heard fantastic things about the Record!

    That said I have a Bernette 334DS Serger that is heavy, metal, mechanical - and it's a champ - over thirty years old.

    Congrats and I'm looking forward to hearing all about it!

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  18. If it doesn't show up with a manual, you can download one here: http://www.bernina.com/en-US/Support-5/Out-of-Print-Manuals-us/BERNINA-Sewing-Systems-us

    I have this machine and it is fabulous!!! Good choice!

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  19. I love my 930 which I bought new in the 80s. It probably should be the only machine living here but the lure of computerized endless decorative stitches and machine embroidery kept me wagging home machines even another bernina a couple of years ago. The 930 is still the only machine here that I totally trust to make a perfect buttonhole every single time. I also would encourage you to have a bernina place do a basic service even if it sews well. It may not have had that in a very long time and you will get ultimate performance from it. I bought the vintage singers in particular the 201 as I wanted to sew on many machines and form my own opinions. You certainly should make the judgment call for yourself. Congratulations on the bernina purchase.The 930 is a great model for you to sample the brand.

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    1. Funny, I bought a 930 in the late 70's. Bought it on payments to my parents who cosigned the loan.
      It never made good buttonholes. I had it serviced for that so many times I gave up. I used my older Kenmore I bought in 1974 and still the best machine I ever had. My 930 is at my mom's house, and I sold the Kenmore to a friend. I haven't found a good buttonhole machine since. I use and industrial Juki, and only use home sewing machines for buttonholes bigger than 7/8".

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    2. Maybe it's a fluke - a lemon.

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  20. You may want to have gone over. One thing that happens is that the topstitch/basting knob will stick if it's not moved from regular stitching periodically. You'll know what I mean when you get it. That reminds me... ;-)

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  21. I'd be all up in a post about vintage Kenmores! I've got my mom's old Kenmore 158.12411. It's just right for a beginner like I am- not too many different gadgets to confuse me, but enough stitches that I can get almost everything I want done! I'm also glad it doesn't have a computer- one less thing to go wrong. So feel free to indulge in Kenmore love whenever the mood strikes!

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    1. Hear, hear! I read everything Brian wrote about Kenmores on his website briansews.com

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  22. Peter, I have had my 930 record for over 30 years and I will never part with it. From chiffon to upholstery velvet, it sews everything. I just paid $150+ to have mine serviced; you should probably have yours looked at too to make sure nothing is grinding or is not timed right. BTW, I have an old Greist buttonhole attachment that makes wonderful buttonholes with this machine. All you need is an adapter foot. Happy sewing!

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  23. This is identical to my first Bernina! I bought it used for $300 in 1998. I don't know what you paid for yours, and at the time I thougt $300 was a bit high for a used machine. But at the time, I didn't know Berninas the way I do now. It was worth every penny. Now I use my 1260 (inherited) for my every day sewing, but the 930 is the one I take to work when that's required. I hope you'll love yours as much as I love mine.
    Congratulations!

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    1. $300 was an awesome price for a 930!

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  24. I think that I have the exact same Kenmore as you. I love her, my little Maggie! There are times that I wish her tension control was a little better, and that I had more fun stitches, but she's a good little machine and I've been happy with her. I feel like I'm cheating on her when I look at and admire other machines though. :D

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  25. You are going to love this machine!
    Mermie

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  26. One thing I hate about living in a post Soviet Union country is that we do not have those awesum vintage machines here :/ and I cant buy one from ebay too because electric power has different voltage(?) here. Damn my life!

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    1. I know how you feel ! I have the same problem here is Israel :(

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    2. Why not purchase a converter ?

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    3. I asked an electrician about using convereter on a sewing machine. His answer was - bad idea. It's not safe. If something malfunctions...
      Plus paying custom fees and shipping costs like 3 sewing machines LOL!

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    4. Anyway, I bought a new computerized bernina 2 months ago, and it's great. I do have a singer treadle of my grandmother, but it's a pain to sew on since my legs are too long for the space between the treadle to the upper case :(
      We do have vintage machines in Israel, but only a small quantity, and since almost no one sews anymore (people buy "made in chine" clothes), they throw the vintage machine away, so the quantity declines all the time.
      Ordering a vintage machine from overseas is a mess. I try to find a nice vintage machine locally, to support the new one. I just missed a chance for a 730 record as i bought the new bernina (the record was very expensive), so maybe there is still a chance...

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  27. I have a same. It's a very strong machine. Congratulations for you buy.
    Sorry for my english
    Claire

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  28. so pleased you took the plunge. I love my Bernina 1120, I really dont want another machine. Its very similar to yours, just a little later produced.

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  29. Meredithp is right about the blind hem being really nice. I recently had to shorten some pricey custom draperies when my daughter moved and I used the blind hem on the surface layer (3 layers of drapery or I'd still be handstitching. I suppose they'd used a commercial blindstitch machine on the outer layers. I also used this machine and various feet like a teflon zipper foot and an open toe embroidery foot when sewing my daughter's horse show specialty clothing. Since some of that included ultrasuede,leather appliques and vinyl looking pleather with zippers and appliques the foot selection really let me get a professional look-great machine the 930.

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  30. I am pretty darn sure your reaction is going to be "why in the hell have I been pissing around with these other machines!!!"
    I got mine from a local dealer for 50.00 used years ago. Wouldn't trade for anything. including my newer Artista 200.

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  31. I knew you'd get one, but I thought that we'd be reading someone gave you one or you found one on the curb next to a trash heap. Enjoy the new machine.

    Dare I say that next we'll be reading about your trying to decide which other machine(s) to give new homes?

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  32. ENVIOUS!

    Now, update that machine count to accurately reflect the census at your residence.

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    1. Enjoy! It's my go to machine. It's closest competition is a Necchi Supernova. The Bernina wins because of the feet. I have made superb buttonholes with the 4-step process, but my favorite buttonhole is still made by the singer professional buttonholer that came with the family 401. Run the basting stitch once a month as has been mentioned. Be careful if you service it yourself, there are some electronics inside having to do with the foot pedal. The Bernina thirtysomethings group on yahoo has lots of good information.

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  33. SOOOOO JEALOUS! Let us know how it goes!

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  34. I have this machine, and it is on load to a relative. She said she will fight me to the death for it. She claims it has made sewing her chiffony things a dream. I love it too, but I only make crafty things and re-vamp kids clothes so my Brother is all I need.

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  35. You made a good decision. Enjoy!

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  36. I have a seemingly ever-growing flock of vintage and antique machines and love almost all of them, but my Bernina 930 (and 730) are my go-tos to just sit down and sew a garment.
    Love love love!
    I hope yours works out delightfully for you!

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  37. Nice buy! Growing up, my mom sewed for me on her Bernina 830, and pictures of that machine get me all nostalgic :) She still has her Bernina, and it still sews great!

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  38. Your sewing machine enthusiasm made me check the local craiglist equivalent and I think I suddenly stumbled on a featherweight and its a steal! I still have to wait a couple of days for the auction to close and hope no one else finds it. But it will be mine!

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  39. You got my Bernina! It is the one I got to sew my Victorian Reproduction wedding dress. The pattern was from Vintage Patterns. The best thing about this machine is that I can come back to it after a break and not have to fuss with it or have any problems. It is an old friend I could never part with.

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  40. I loved my Bernina 930--till the tension discs went out--just a note to those of you with this model--they are not supporting it any longer. You cannot get new replacement parts. Once the tension is gone--it is gone. Bernina still makes a machine close to the 930--$1400, I decided to just go with the new computerized ones. If they still supported the 930, I would never have purchased a new Bernina. Am I happy with the new computer one--OH YOU BET YA!!!
    I also used to sew with Kenmores, till I got that 930. The other reason I love Bernina--they give classes on how to use their machines and the feet the come with them.
    I cannot use any other machine now--Bernina has spoiled me.

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  41. I own 14 sewing machines. It's hard to depart from them. I just learned how to replace a jean zipper. I have been helping others by repairing their clothes. Among my 14 machines I own a Bernina 730 record. I purchase it for $15 about 6 years ago. The only attachment can with was a pressure foot. The foot control felt apart after my Husband accidental step on it . I was able to put a universal on one it. Now it purr like a kitten
    It a keeper.

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  42. I have and love an 830record...I think I have sewn enough stitches that I could have gone to the moon and back on them alone....wonderful machine! 40 years old and still sews as good as ever!

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  43. One thing I didn't mention about the 930 is that triple straight stitch. I had to hem some jeans for my daughter that had this heavy white topstitching and I used that stitch and a large needle with ordinary white thread. You couldn't even tell they had been hemmed. I was very pleased -didn't think an ordinary hem was going to looke right. The 930 is a great darner if it has that little circle foot still with it. I really love using the walking foot also with the 930 on the plackets of shirts and hems. If you like the machine you might want to find one-forewarned walking feet for berninas even used won't be dirt cheap. They are really well made though so that was the first foot I splurged and bought when I bought a computerized bernina. Two berninas here have not made me lose the love for the vintage straight stitchers but bernina specialty feet and zig zag stitches are awesome. My 930 has been pretty much trouble free. Until another machine in the herd is my go to buttonhole machine it is the first one out when fire is yelled.

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  44. Good luck with it. I'm still leaning towards a Juki industrial for my next new machine.

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    1. In addition to my personally knowing how well industrials sew, if you look at every dry cleaners that does alterations, or in tailoring shops, or even the Marimekko Store that does custom orders, they all have industrial Jukis. Obviously, they think they're the best investment.

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  45. Oh about the bernina parts, the dealers don't tell you there might be an after market part online and some other tech would repair it. I was told that about my beloved old bernina 234 serger it was not repairable as bernina no longer made a replacement foot control. I bought a new bernina serger and found after the fact the identical foot control which I harvested from a white sewing machine ( same numbers and info on bottom). Don't always listen to dealers as their primary business is to sell machines not repair them. I am really relieved I didn't toss my old serger as it only needed a new foot control and is still purring away. I am still a bit miffed about the no bernina part available blah blah speech regarding my serger as I felt it was a bit deceptive saying I could not repair it. More than likely even if an aftermarket part isn't available, someone will sell the various parts from one they have disassembled. Just saying.

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  46. My first Bernina was a 930. That was back in the early 1980s and it was my go to machine for a long time. Hopefully you are lucky enough to have gotten on with the needle up/needle down feature in the foot control. It is to die for. My all time favorite Bernina so far is the Bernina 1530. It is an oldy, but goody as well with more bells and whistles. Can't wait to hear what you have to say about the 930 once it is there.
    Kelley in VT

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  47. We've found my wife's Singer was a great buy. We bought it for her several years ago, and haven't found anything better.

    Bernina, I'm told, is a great machine, but the Singer has seen a lot of use. We went all out in getting it, including nearly every single option available. The result is my wife makes nearly all her clothes, (shoes and socks, we still buy), and while we haven't saved a lot of money, her clothes fit.

    Just one thought.

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  48. This is the exact machine I found at a Flea Market for $20 - yes only $20. It did not come with the accessory case but it was in its hard shell carry case and the extension table was in it also. After a good cleaning and tune-up at the local repair shop I now have my first Bernina for under #100. Now I need to start collecting the feet and accessories I need for my crafting. Enjoy!!

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  49. I have the Bernina 930 Record! I love it, it's basically the same age as me and runs like a dream. What a beautiful machine!

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  50. Hallo Peter,

    Which machine do you prefer for sewing : the Bernina 930 record or the Singer Featherweight ?

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