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May 15, 2013

Bernina Update + Prepping My Silk

Exhale, readers, I have good news: the Bernina works great.

Did I mention that I had to purchase the power cord separately?  That's why I couldn't test it yesterday; I only received the cord today.  I was nervous when I plugged it in and turned it on.  Given the rotten packing job the seller had done. I didn't know what to expect.  But it seems mechanically superb.

The good:

Silent motor.
Strong as Samson.
All the functions seem to work.
Eight feet included seem adequate to my needs; easy to change.
Manual downloadable for free, easy to understand.
Easy to thread -- I didn't even have to look at the manual.
Takes regular Class 15 bobbins and doesn't seem to mind if they're not Bernina originals.
Excellent thread tension, easy to balance.
Very cool super-long basting stitch.
Strong feed dog action.
Heavy (though not as heavy as Michael's mother's Kenmore) and solidly constructed
Table extension fits great, comfortable to use.
Relatively intuitive (haven't mastered all the controls).
Many needle position possibilities.
Great speed control.
Strong light (At first I thought the bulb was blown but it just needed tightening)
Light can be turned off while machine is still on, if you don't want/need it.
Easy to place in hard plastic storage box.

The bad:

Knee bar to control raise and lower presser foot not included with machine.
No accessories box (though many accessories)
Needle plate is marked but markings aren't numbered.
Small crack in plastic near pedal plug; doesn't affect anything mechanically.
No "needle down" feature on pedal -- when you stop sewing the needle is up (apparently this is true of the first generation of 930's)
Handwheel small (and stiff) compared to vintage Singers; you don't have the same close connection with the wheel that you have on the old mechanicals.

That small crack will be easy to reinforce.  Did the seller mention it?  No.  Do I feel like making a big stink about it?  Not really.  (He'll claim ignorance and blame USPS.)  I will never think about it again once I start using the machine.  I considered letting the seller know I was annoyed at the way the machine was packed, but what's the point?  Would you?

If I had to make one criticism of this machine -- and this goes for most zigzaggers, not just the Bernina -- it's that even the designated straight stitch foot doesn't provide the visibility that the old Singer straight stitch foot does.   (Even on my Kenmore zigzagger, I use a Singer straight stitch foot.)

The feel of this machine is different from that of all the other mechanical machines I've ever stitched on.  Maybe it's the electronic foot.  It feels extremely precise and you don't have to worry about the foot racing.  I am truly looking forward to getting to know my 930.  Oh, and I found a Bernina service specialist in the Garment District should I need anything:

I'll be making a video of the machine sometime soon so you can see (and hear) it in action.

Meanwhile, the silk project.  Today I hand-washed the charmeuse (testing a small piece first) and experimented using silk organza strips (cut on the bias and stretched wet under the iron) to stay seams.  I used this fancy soap I'd bought a long time ago that's supposed to keep moths off wool; it's mild and smells good.  Very little dye in the water I'm happy to say.

I rolled the wet silk in a towel and then hung it over the tub to dry.

Meanwhile I cut 1 1/4" bias strips of silk organza.

I soaked them and dried them under my iron, pulling the bias strips taut.

When dry, they look like tight, sheer ribbon.  They won't fray since they're cut on the bias and they will prevent stretching when sewn onto my seams.  They're super strong and as thin as silk (duh) so no bulk.

With the organza stay tape, bias edge doesn't stretch.

My sewing strategy is to cut the silk between two layers of tissue paper, pin in the seam allowance to prevent stretching (actually, my silk pins do not leave marks in my charmeuse regardless of where I pin), and as I stitch my seams, add the organza strips on top.  I may do this on all the important seams, not just the bias ones, since I have the strips ready and they add no bulk.

I even experimented using this old Singer foot which keeps the organza strip in place while I sew.  (What's that foot called again?)

So I feel cautiously optimistic about all this and hope to start cutting and sewing tomorrow.

As far as the Bernina goes, I feel relieved and lucky.  Since we have no secrets here at MPB, if you're interested in seeing the eBay listing (and what I paid) you can find it here.  I'd be curious to know what you make of the seller's language.  Would you have risked it?

Happy Wednesday, everybody!


  1. The kneebars that come with the bernina are not standard. As far as I know they have always been an added extra. I had to pay extra for mine. So thats probably why it didn't come with one.

    Do get the proper bernina bobbins. It makes a difference when winding. All the old accessories will fit nicely in the newer style accessory boxes they sell.

    There are approx a billion give or take feet available including the leather roller foot which is the bomb. Truly.

    1. That's good to know. Yes, it came with 9 Bernina bobbins.

    2. The knee lever was standard with that was TOL at the time.

  2. Great to hear that the machine turned out great!! Those straight stitches look great!

  3. Congratulations on your new addition, Peter. I'm glad you're happy with the 930. I may venture into the land of Bernina after many good Singer and Kenmore experiences. Keep up the good work behind the wheel (needlebar?). I continue to stand in awe of your sewing accomplishments.

  4. Congratulations, Peter. I think your affection for this machine will only grow. I have had an 1130 for 20+ years and hope it lasts as long as I do. ;) About the lack of needle down via the pedal, on mine, pressing the pedal with the heel of my foot moves the needle 1/2 (um, what's the word) round trip, if o e full stitch is one round trip. IOW, pressing with your heel should give you the needle down you need. HTH.

    1. Thanks, Sandra. My understanding is that that's true of some Bernina pedals but not all of them. I don't think mine has that capability.

    2. The needle up/down feature was added on later versions of the 930. It's in the machine actually, not the foot. The reason I know is that mine was an earlier version and didn't have it. Grrr. The later version also had a thread cutter on the throat plate. I can tell by your first picture, you have the earlier version without needle up/down. Sorry. I hope the foot controller was included? Last I heard, they were astronomical to replace.

    3. Thankfully, the foot is original and works fine.

  5. Hi Peter, looks lovely (your silk project). I have been mulling over how to sew down my stay tape (for several days). I had considered the ribbon applique foot. the photo is not very clear. Do tell, which foot did you use. I MUST know.... Cathie in Quebec!

    1. It's called an edge-stitcher. You have to experiment with the slots depending on where you want the stitch to land your stay tape. It's better than nothing!

  6. Yes, let the seller know the packing was not adequate, that there appeared to be small damage during shipping. Otherwise, he may continue to send things out poorly packaged, and someone like me will go berserk and slice off his head with a pair of dull pinking shears. Save a life, Peter.

  7. Agree with TM.
    Regarding your last question, nolarms went off when I read the eBay listing or the 1st three pages of feedback. There was some negative feedback but no deal killers. I probably would have asked for better photos and a list of everything included, but then I get paranoid when I read no returns and it's $400!
    I didn't understand the phrase "used since new"- I thought all used things were used since new, and not a second before that!
    What did you think was remarkable about the seller's language?

    1. Michael had the same reaction to "used since new." I understood that to mean that the seller was the original owner and had used the machine -- it hadn't just sat for years, which could be bad for the machine.

      I thought the seller sounded a little defensive about how the machine wasn't "a garage sale find." But that's me.

      Who only sews velcro on nylon with a Bernina? LOL

    2. Maybe the same little old ladies who only drive their cars on Sunday?

  8. Oops!
    Nolarm = no alarms

  9. Happy Landing there, Peter, and enjoy your new machine. I enjoy mine. Just for fun; I love putting in an invisible zipper with my #35 foot and stitching in the ditch and edge-stitching with the #10 foot. Those two feet have saved the day for me, many a time. Mary

  10. I would probably have asked some questions of the seller prior to purchase.

    1. Me, too. I don't think I've ever paid more than $50 for anything on eBay and I frequently ask questions. :-)

  11. Congratulations Peter. You have a fine machine, at a good price, despite the concerns and missing items.

    Yes, the 930 was top of the line and was fully decked out with everything - including more feet than most people ever use.

    There are three different Bernina straight stitch feet you might want to look at. First is the traditional ss foot that came with the machine - very narrow right toe, larger left toe, still a narrow foot with a full forward facing slot for good visibility.

    Second is what is know as the Quilter's foot - as one would expect, it has 1/4" wide toes both sides with markings for pivoting on 1/4 seam allowances.

    Third is the Jeans foot (I think it's #8). A heavy duty foot designed for use with larger needles. It's designed with minimal slop where the needle penetrates the foot. The idea is this small clearance with help support the needle so it doesn't deflect when sewing very dense, thick fabrics - the machine is powerful enough that people have gone crazy sewing thick/heavy materials with this foot. I'm not aware of anyone else having made a foot like this. Great foot!

    Class-15 bobbins do work - just don't buy the cheap ones made by D...z. They're crap! There are some good quality Bernina "compatible" bobbins and feet now available - expect to pay about $1 per bobbin and around $20-28 for common feet (Lots of these on Ebay and on-line sellers. Not as nicely finished as the real Bernina brand, but they work fine, and don't cost $50+ each.

    And yes, I see a lot of cracked plastic bases on the 9xx series. But not as many as the 1xxx series... and the new computerized plastic machines are even worse - older plastic housings had steel nuts/reinforcing in them. The new ones are just plastic held together with cheap sheet-metal like screws.

    But it's still one of the best machines ever made, ever!! Enjoy it!

  12. In my neck of the woods, you got a really fair deal on that machine, warts and all.

    If it was me I'd be inclined to take it in for service as soon as the project is finished. Who knows how long it's been and you will have had a chance during the project to see if there are any issues that need a closer look while they're in there.

    There also are some pretty good oiling diagrams on the "BerninaThirtySomethings" yahoo group since that particular maintenance manual doesn't include them. It assumes you're taking the machine to the shop regularly and won't oil it yourself(seriously?!?).

    Agreed on the defensive seller language and terrible packing, but ah well, it seems to always be a coin toss with eBay unless it's someone you've bought from before. I'd sworn off eBay for machines more than once, but now have come to a more philosophical approach. I think that'll only hold until the next very special find that gets damaged in shipping and then I'll curse people who don't know how to pack all over and swear off shipping once again.

    REALLY enjoying the dress progress and your approach! Now I don't have to go through it for the first time myself ;)

  13. Forgot to say, I'm used to vintage machines and don't tend to use the knee peddle on the 930 (tired to train myself and it didn't take), so I wouldn't miss it if it wasn't there and frequently don't even bother to put it on for a project. I also wish that the default wasn't to needle-up (and mine is also the older version without the foot-tap feature for needle-down), but find it simple to do a little manual wind of the wheel to get in the right position, they same way I do with an older Singer.

  14. Would you consider giving Willy a cameo in your upcoming video?

  15. You will love your 930! My grandmother gave me hers a few years ago and I wouldn't trade it for anything! I take it for service every few years and my local dealer always smiles and tells me how much he loves the 930. It is a keeper!

  16. I'm feeling the itch to upgrade -- I've had only my second-hand Singer Quantum CXL for 15 years and, while I love her, I think my sewing would benefit from new machine inspiration. My acquisitive nature has been focused on fabric and notions for 30 years so it's coming out of my ears. I've been reluctant to get another machine while I'm here in Italy because of the voltage difference, but I'm returning stateside soon and your polygamous (!) approach to machine ownership makes me wonder. My hangup, I guess, is that I don't really enjoy the part of getting to "know" a machine.

  17. As an online buyer of vintage i would expect the item to be well packed to withstand rough shipping and perhaps inclement weather (especially for patterns). If an item is damaged during shipping as a result of poor packing I would definitely make contact and expect action of some kind. I don't mind high shipping costs as long as the packing is excellent and the materials used are adequate for the shipping journey. I recently had an Art Deco coffee set sent in a recycled soft nappy box - it arrived with the bottom flap open. I might have not left neutral feedback had they not stated in the listing that the reason shipping was so high was because they were going to pack it well...

    If items turn up with differences to the description i always contact the seller...not necessarily to get partial/full refund but to let the seller know so hopefully it won't happen again - i'm thoroughly sick of buying patterns for my collection that are listed as complete and turn up incomplete :(

    Please make contact with the seller Peter, if only to try and set the standard as better for the future.

    Great post - i've never stabilised with silk bias strips - feeling a little more confident to try it soon :)

    I'm almost feeling a little sewing machine envy LOL i've never sewed on a Bernina and have only ever heard wonderful things about them.

  18. I will not participate in a race to keep up with the Peters. There is no machine like my own machine(s), there is no machine like my own machine(s), "Auntie Em, where are those damn ruby slippers?"

  19. I would give the seller feedback on the packing. Some people just have no clue in that respect and he might improve his packing in the future as a result.

  20. Let the seller know about the packaging.

    Many years ago I packed a shipment for transport to colleagues overseas and the goods arrived smashed to pieces. I didn't find out about it until months later. While I still squirm thinking about it now, I was glad someone told me so that I could be more careful next time.


  21. You'll enjoy having this machine! Regarding the feet, if you get the open toe embroidery foot, you'l have plenty of visibility. They also sell a clear plastic foot, that should fit this machine.


  22. I'm glad the Bernina works. I suspect this will be a long and happily used purchase. Another option for the presser foot is to buy the Bernina-to-low shank adapter, and use your Singer straight stitch foot. I got one and then a generic even feed foot and it worked well.

    And IIRC, those needle plate markings are in millimeters. I took a sharpie marker and colored in the ones I use most often.

  23. If it makes you feel any better, my Bernina didn't come with an accessories box either - and I bought it new, from a Bernina dealer. They did give me a small zippered pouch to keep the feet in; it looks like a make-up bag. It actually kind of sucks. That's my only Bernina-related complaint haha.

    Definitely contact that seller and let him know that his packaging was bad. Sure, your machine shipped out fine - but I cringe to think of him doing this to other machines, and them not faring as well. It may just be that he didn't know any better. Someone needs to tell him!

    1. Lladybird, I totally agree with you about the zippered pouch. Bleh... I have several complaints about it. Otherwise loving my Bernina (as I told you just a day or so ago on your blog!)

  24. I probably wouldn't have paid for $400 plus for a machine that I couldn't inspect and couldn't return, except under eBay's protection policy.

    You should definitely contact the seller. If you're going to complain about the packaging and an undisclosed condition like the crack AND disclose his or her vendor name it's only fair; otherwise it comes off as slightly passive-aggressive. It looks as if s/he sells a fair amount of stuff; the feedback will be helpful.

  25. that is a good deal! After reading your posts a while back about Berninas, I decided to get a 930 myself, but paid about 30% was in my area, so local pickup saved the shipping hassle. Mine came with most accessories, except it is missing the knee bar too! If you find one, please post. I have been using a pfaff tiptronic for over a decade, but can't say it has the best stitch quality. (the automatic needle thread too is great, however.)

  26. I think you did just fine with this purchase. If I didn't take a chance on auctions I would have missed out on some great items. It is scary to make larger purchases but I have been very lucky with those I have made.Of course I always remember the risk element that is involved and weigh the possibility of a sorry item into the purchase just in case. I second the open toe embroidery foot and the edge stitch foot as they work really well. The open toe foot is great for applique or any stitching where you need to really see what you are doing. Enjoy the new machine.

  27. What a great foot Peter. Makes me regret having a modern machine, but then again, servicing old machines is harder in Australia. Or maybe I'm wrong, and there are lots of vintage machine users here? I can't see the evidence on local blogs however. And I certainly don't see many for sale in op shops.

  28. Just found your blog and have been LOVING all your posts. As far a Bernina goes, I teach basic machine usage for a dealer in the NW where we sell 8+ brands of machines. The Bernina is BY FAR the most sturdy, well built work horse out there. Being from the only family owned sewing machine business left, they can pick and choose a little more, but you pay for that quality in the end. I have a number of older machines but a Bernina is something I covet!! Congrats on the purchase and I know Cathy is going to reap the benefits from your new baby!


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