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Aug 17, 2018

The Adventures of My Bernina, Part 1


Readers, I have owned my Eighties-era Bernina 930 for more than five years now and have never had it serviced.


I know there are people who get their sewing machines serviced every year but I never have, especially because the only thing most of my vintage sewing machines need is a little de-linting and regular oiling.  Come to think of it, I've never paid to have a sewing machine serviced.  (My friend Rain Noe did once do a complete rehab of my Singer 15-91 but that was a (much appreciated) gift.)

Anyway, this week I decided I would take my Bernina in for servicing.  Over the past few months the hand wheel has started to feel increasingly tight and slightly squeaky -- a sound I had not been familiar with.  There were also a few minor problems which this Bernina (which I purchased rather impulsively in May 2013 on eBay) has had since I got it.  The bobbin winding mechanism can't wind a well-balanced bobbin, so I always wind bobbins on other machines.  The buttonhole mechanism gets three sides of the buttonhole perfect but can't manage to complete the fourth side.  This has never really mattered to me because I have never needed to use this machine to make buttonholes.  Everything else works fine.  Occasional application of sewing machine oil is the only form of maintenance I've ever performed on it.

A sewing machine dealership called Sew Right, in Bayside, Queens, which both sells and services Berninas, had been recommended to me by many people, including Kenneth King.  I was all set to go there when another Bernina-owning sewing friend suggested I go to a place called Crown Services on the Upper West Side on Broadway (between 107th & 108th Streets), which is just a short(ish) subway ride from home.  To get to Bayside, Queens, I would have had to take a long subway ride plus a long bus ride -- twice, since I would have to pick the machine up when it was done.  (I called yesterday and they said there were thirty machines before mine and it would take about three weeks.) 

So this morning I packed up my Bernina (wait till you see what I'd been storing in its huge plastic case -- so that's where all those were!), put the machine on a cart, and rolled it to the subway. 



The only hard part was getting it through the turnstile and up (and down) the stairs -- the thing must weigh close to 40 lbs.  Crown Services, which, according to my friend, is licensed to service Berninas, is the epitome of old school -- you just don't see many shops like this anymore.  They asked for a cash deposit (roughly $35) which I can apply toward the servicing.  The whole interaction took about five minutes after which I grabbed a Citibike and rode home. 



One more cool thing about Crown Services: they sell vintage sewing machines.  New and old machines are on display everywhere -- as well as a lot of vacuum cleaners!



I should be able to pick the machine up early next week.  Hopefully it will be in good shape.  Cross your fingers!

How often do you have your sewing machines serviced--and where?  Do you do it on a regular schedule or wait until the machine has problems?

Have a great day, everybody! 

32 comments:

  1. Enjoyed this. I don't get them serviced because I check them out myself. I once had a Singer 401a serviced and I think they messed it up, soooo.

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  2. I had a Singer serviced once and lived to regret it. I spent pretty much a month taking it apart, oiling everything that moved, putting it back together and twiddling with tensions to get it to work properly. In that time I bought a new Kenmore Snarlomatic, so named because the instruction book that showed you where to oil did not mention the bobbin screw. After I got a Bernina 1230, where the bobbin screw is the only thing you oil, I fixed Snarly and gave him to a niece.My 1230 and I have lived happily ever after. Fortunately there is a Bernina store in Dayton, where I bought it.

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  3. Ohh how exciting to visit that shop! I wished i was closer 😁

    I have a brother sewing and a singer sewing/embroidery combo machines. They are 'new' enough to find videos on servicing so my hubby and I make it a date and play.

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  4. I love this post (and that shop). There seems to be a lot of vacuum cleaner/sewing machine repair crossover—we have one of those here too.

    I tried to clean/repair my Bernette once but totally failed, so now I take it once a year to get serviced, at Sew Creative in Beverly, MA. They sell quilting cottons, but also bring in someone to service machines once a week. It's worth the $75 to not have to worry about it.

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  5. Peter, Have had all my vintage machines serviced at Gizmo, First Ave. at E 10th st...the man there is terrific & always does a great job...for my Bernina I use City Sewing @ 300 W. 38th St., they are a Bernina dealer & where I bought my first Bernina a 1008 similar to your 930, but the updated version....there's nothing like those mechanical machines...I use mine constantly in combination with my industrial...BTW-City Sewing has a tech that can visit you if you need a home repair-like he did when I was having an issue with my industrial..........

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    1. That's good to know, Howard. I didn't think of City Sewing!

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  6. I love this post and will be very interested in the outcome because of two things: I, too, own a B930; and I work at an upstate NY fabric store/Bernina dealer. Those of you who live in areas where sewing repair wizards are plentiful cannot appreciate the plight of those of us who live where such specialists are few and far between. The shop where I work is co-owned by a wife/husband team and he has been servicing machines for many years -- he's somewhat legendary. His advice: oil the machine regularly, change needles often, and get a professional tune-up at least once a year. I confess to being negligent on the professional tune-up piece of this, but I do oil and change needles all the time. And now because of where I work, I'll get the service job at least annually (employees get a huge discount on this service). All that said, I commend you on schlepping around NYC with that machine -- it weighs a TON! Keep us updated!

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    1. Would love to know where exactly in upstate NY as there might be a great need for legendary sewing machine servicing there!

      c

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    2. Gloversville/Saratoga Springs--about 25 miles north and slightly west of Albany.

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    3. If anyone is the Finger Lakes area of NY, AKA central upstate, Penn Yan Sewing Machine Shop. Leroy does a wonderful job on any machine with reasonable prices. Watkins Glen NY is close by. Happy Creating.

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  7. A lurker here (mainly). Just saying I love your writings and like to believe that one day I will start sewing my own clothes - noble but unlikely.....so I'll continue to live it vicariously through this blog. :-)

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  8. The picture of the items stored in the case made me laugh out loud. Thanks for the laugh this evening.

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  9. I’m taking my 5 year old B750QE in for her first paid for servicing. It will cost $160 and the reason why I keep her cleaned, oiled and new needles constantly. There’s no particular reason to bring her in except that I recently finished paying the loan off so as a gift to us both I made the appointment at the same dealership where she was purchased. Fingers crossed for great service!

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  10. I have the same Bernina and I love it to bits. Last year something exploded in the innards of my machine and my dad and I took it apart to replace the offending part (he's good with electronics). Putting it together again was extremely complicated and one part never went back quite the same way - a spring had sproinged and wouldn't go back. So I got it serviced, costing about $140AUD. Now it is as smooth as can be and I love it even more. What a great machine! But mine still doesn't wind bobbins very evenly.

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  11. I would have found that shop so distracting seeing all those machines and its great to think of people still getting things repaired (I feel the same way when I get my shoes fixed / resoled each winter).
    I get my machines fixed by a chap who services home sewers industrial machines (curtain makers) - so I think he is amused by my old machines-but I know he also enjoyed restoring the featherweight especially as he texted after to make sure I was happy with it-and bonus is he collects and drops off machines!
    I have been thinking of getting a vintage bernina as I want the drop feed. it will be great when you get your machine back (and your wig storage box!)

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  12. I only have machines serviced when something really breaks. Just recently that was the light socket on my late 70's Kenmore. Back a couple of decades ago I used to haul that Kenmore around NYC on a luggage cart to do alterations for catalog shoots. You brought back lots of memories of subway stairs and curbs.

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  13. Now that's where I need to go. Too bad I live in MN. :o( I had both my Grandmother's Singers serviced. And then my first Vintage Singer serviced. I no longer use those. But I thought if I serviced them I'd try? All 3 had problems they said there were no parts for??? :o(
    Where's my Grandpa when I need him. ugh! He could fix anything back in the day.
    So my newer machines we currently use sit tight with my oiling and lint removal. If my teens break a $150 dollar machine its cheaper to buy another.
    Can you wind bobbins now on yours?

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  14. I have my machines serviced every year or two depending on how much I sew.

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  15. I'm lucky in that we have 2 places in the West Springfield,MA area to get machines serviced (or buy new ones) The one I like has an Old Sewing Machine Guy, who even worked on my funky Bell Portable!
    I get attached to my machines, & wanted to see what he could do before I trusted him with my baby

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  16. I have a dumb question about schlepping the machine in the subway. Something I’ve never given thought to, are subway stations and trains not wheelchair accessible? If not, what do those who have them use for transportation? Just thought there might be a ramp or elevator for use. Handy for dragging around your 930. I have one, and agree it is 40-50 lbs.

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    1. Many stations have elevators but most do not, including the one nearest me and the one closest to the sewing machine repair place.

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  17. Both of my local sewing machine repair dealers have closed down. I haven't taken mine in two years because I will have to take them to North Jersey now...but Imma have to break down and do it soon...*sigh*

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  18. It used to cost about 20 dollars to have a full machine checkup but these days it is over a hundred dollars. That is what my last one cost! It keeps me from taking in a finely working machine. I should though, but which one?

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  19. My Berninas do like to sew really precise and fast, but don't like to do a lot of other things: buttonholes, bobbin winding (I just guide the thread by hand now), did I mention buttonholes? I broke down and bought a contract with the local sew/vac chain, which has turned into the deal of the century. I am shopping for a lowshank buttonholer, which will turn the Kenmore 1040 into the buttonhole machine. That's fine: her bobbin peg is too large for the modern size 15 bobbins. It's like every machine I have is co-dependant on the other ones. We're a team! Yeah!

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  20. I tend to get my machines serviced annually when we travel overseas. (Brother buzz box that I got for $150 at Target to use when my *&%$#@ Janome was being serviced, but what I use almost exclusively now and Janome 1200D overlocker/coverstitch) Must remember to book them in for September, we're headed back your way in less than a month! I used to get them done at the shop where I bought the Janomes, or at least, they would send them out from there, but they never were able to sort out the coverstitch to not skip stitches. They kept sending it back with a perfect sample sewn on calico. But who uses coverstitch on wovens? Last year I took then to a different place, turns out the guy who works there used to work at the local Janome head office and wonder of wonders, he fixed the coverstitch and it works just fine now (though it was almost a year before I was brave snob to treat it on lycra for myself)! Definitely going back there this year!

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    1. I have encountered this issue over the years -- bring the machine in with a precise list of issues (and the circumstances under which they occur) and get a "repaired" machine in return, that is questionable in outcome. I once had a problem with my B930 and took it to a sew and vac and the guy allegedly fixed it, telling me that he "sewed about 3 miles, straight stitch at top speed" to be sure it was fixed. No sewist does that. We are constantly stopping and starting and turning at curves and corners. The guy was nice but the issue was not resolved. It has never been resolved, actually, and the machine still works. Good sewing machine repair people are worth their weight in gold, especially if they listen to the customer.

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  21. My Bernina 435 has a computer in it that counts stitches. When it counted 2 million it also flashed a little message to get it serviced, so I did, to keep the warranty, and was glad I did. It got a new face plate and the Amishman who did the work at Chestnut Ridge Sewing (Berlin, Ohio) smiled so cheerfully at my pleasure and surprise he made it worth the trip. Since then I have not gotten the little message but anticipate another trip soon. It's a pleasant trip through farm land, and I browse for fabric in Berlin while I wait for the service to be done. With a reservation for same day service @$25, it costs a total of about $70 to have it done, plus the cost of round trip driving. Worth it, though--runs like a top. I remember schlepping my old Bernina 741--all 52 pounds of her, solid like a rock. Very seldom did she need to travel!

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  22. I take mine to the local quilting shop. I haven't done it often; the modern machine went in 2 years ago for its first-ever servicing when it was 11 years old, mostly because it was making a horrible ka-chunka noise. I've since found that regular oiling and cleaning keeps the ka-chunka at bay. I desperately want to learn how to service my own machines. The quilt shop does good work, but it can get expensive ($100 per visit) and it's about a three-week wait (book in advance and have it back same-day, or drop it off and pick it up when its ready. Same amount of time). I only have mechanical machines, so the quirks of electronics are not something I need to worry about. I've done a partial one on my Singer 115, which was mostly cleaning old dust and lint out of the bits and soaking the moving parts in oil! (It was sold to me as decor-only, but all it needed was a bobbin case and a good oiling. Runs like a charm!)

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  23. I ought to take my Elna in annually, but it seems to be about every two years. It's a small local shop, repairs mostly industrial machines. You can get your machine back from that man in a few days, vs. a few weeks from the sewing machine store!

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  24. Oh, Peter: I packed up and moved house about 18 months ago, sewing machine(s) were stored for a while. When I unpacked I took my used Bernina in for service (we have a wonderful shop in Ventura (SoCal)), got it back in perfect condition, my little old straight stitch portable Singer needed some attention, took that in, luckily, because my Mom's 1960 Singer went out, lifted that out of the cabinet, set up my portable and her machine went back there. Thanks to Art & Jenny's, we're all stitching away again.

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  25. Hi! I have had my Bernie for 34 years. I live in Northern NH but the only place that works on the older machines is in Essex Junction Vermont (a 2 hour drive north from me).It is called "Smitty's" and they do excellent work. I take the machine in about every 5 years. With regular oiling and delinting it always works great!

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  26. Hi, I got my 930 a couple of months ago off a sewing platform in Germany where I live. The man I bought it from tricked it out w/ an LED bulb and installed the needle up/down feature which the 930 E has but the humble 930 did not. I know this is frowned upon by purists, but I love this machine. I especially love the way the motor sounds. So capable. I could go into my Walter Mitty reveries, suffice it to say, I call her Choo Choo for all the right reasons. I do have a similar problem w/ the last leg of the buttonhole, but that is basically it. I enjoy your blog!

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