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Dec 14, 2019

Oh, Joy: My First Bernina Serger!

Friends, it has happened again!

Remember my actress acquaintance who gifted me her friend's Bernina 830 Record a few months ago?  Well she contacted me again last week. In her friend's storage locker there was another sewing machine: was I interested in taking it off her hands?  Was I ever!  As it turned out, this wasn't a sewing machine at all, but rather an overlocker (serger).  I noticed this as soon as I peeked in the box.

Now I must confess, the fact that this was a serger was not a complete surprise.  When I brought my Bernina 830 home in October, there was a second foot pedal marked "Bernette," as well as some other accessories that looked liked they belonged to a serger.  (I'm glad I kept them.)  I figured the owner of the 830 must also have owned a serger.  Whatever it was, I couldn't say no.  So just like last time, I grabbed my folding handcart and headed uptown, picked up my prize, and bussed it home.

Voila!  The model is the Bernette 334DS which I have learned was manufactured in Japan by Juki.

Miraculously, the machine came fully threaded so I didn't have to do much prepping before giving her a whirl.  I plugged in the pedal (the extra one that came with my 830 Record) and turned on the machine.  She seemed slow and the motor sounded (and smelled) like it was straining.  This baby needed oil.  I opened her up from the bottom and lubricated every place where metal meets metal.  A few minutes later she was purring and stitching speedily.

You can hear how she sounded before oiling and after here.

The biggest difference between this Bernina and my Brother 1034D is that the Bernina is nearly all-metal and smooth and the Brother is plasticky and very noisy.  That said, the Brother is a fantastic machine too, which I've had for nearly nine years.  It has more than paid for itself and been incredibly reliable.  In terms of stitch quality, I don't think there's a big difference, though of course I've had the Bernina just a day and haven't had the opportunity to do much experimenting.  Given its age (more than 30 years) it must have been a state-of-the-art machine when it came out.  I'm betting it was also very expensive.  I love how sturdy it feels: virtually no vibration.

I was able to download a PDF of the original manual on the Bernina site.  There's also a very dated instructional video on YouTube that's helpful and unintentionally hilarious in parts (the first minute plus 23:20).

Will I keep the Bernina and get rid of the Brother?  Given the Brother's age and reliability, it's unlikely I'll part with it, plus I know it so well.  But the Bernina really is something special too.  I have more than 15 sewing machines, so surely I can allow myself a second serger, right?

Has anybody ever used this model Bernina?  How do you like it?

Happy sewing -- and serging, everybody!


  1. Lucky you! I own the 335DS - the 5 thread equivalent of your 334. It is bomb proof and will sew anything. I bought it new in 1991, and yes, the 334DS and 335Ds were top of the line and expensive. It hasn't missed a beat in all that time. My only advice would be to follow the manual when rethreading - they are very particular about the order in which they are threaded.

  2. I've never used a Bernina serger, but wanted to pop in and say that it was thanks to your glowing praise of your Brother 1034D that I went in search of one (and ultimately found one on Craigslist). I'm the costumer for the Sweet Adeline chorus in which I sing, and that little baby has been wonderful. So, a belated THANK YOU for your review years ago of the Brother.

  3. I regularly recommend that Brother to people interested in sergers. I think it's such a good way to figure out if you're even going to USE a serger. Nothing beats a solid metal machine though. Lucky duck you!

  4. Congrats! I was gifted a serger recently too - a Bernette 234. It's my first serger, and I think it will fill my needs for the next while. I was lucky that it had been recently serviced and it purrs like a kitten! The threading diagrams on it are great, and I had no problem figuring out what goes where. It was a b**** to get the thread into the lower looper! It also came with a rolled hem attachment, but no instructions for that ... still have to track that down and play. Have fun!

    1. You will love the rolled hem for scarves and thin fabrics. It's really easy to use. This one was my first serger. I now own a Bernina 1300DC and use it constantly. I was the first person in my town to own and use and teach serger sewing. I know you will enjoy it.

  5. Wow! Merry, Merry Christmas! It found a good home, I'm sure you will soon be good use to it.

  6. For clarification, you not only got a free Bernina sewing machine (BERNINA!), but now, also, a free Bernina serger.

    I'll float a conspiracy theory regarding this in the near future.

    For now I'll just quip how happy I am for you.

    Happy I say.

  7. I own exactly the same machine and love it. After replacing a broken part, new blades and some oiling the machine Overlockt everything without complaining.
    I'm happy to own my machine and hopefully never have to part from her.

  8. My first serger is a Bernette 334DS, which I bought in 1991. It was slightly used, as it was a classroom model that I bought at the conclusion of a 2-day seminar, so I got it for half price - paid about $800 at the time. Yes, it was the top of the line model. I remember hearing about the next new model being released only a few months later. I've loved it for all the years I've owned it, especially the way the everything is accessible from the front compartment (my newer Juki has both cutting width and stitch length knobs inside the left door, which means I have to move the serger out of the recessed space it sits in to open the door.) I wore out the carbon motor brushes about 10 years ago, so bought the Juki while I waited for replacement brushes to arrive from China. My husband got the Bernette fixed in record time, and now I have both set up in the studio. Enjoy!

  9. I bought this model in the early nineties, and it's still running fine today. Maybe not as fancy as some of the newer sergers, but a fantastic machine.

  10. Best Rolled Hem ever. Got mine in 1989... be sure the needles are completed seated UP in the little hole... no stitch will form if even the teensiest fraction not up in there! Traded it in.. for an Elna 925... went back the next business day to buy back my trade and it was SOLD & GONE already. Eventually found one on Craig's Scary List. Back in the napkins as gifts business... Roll the calendar forward, Elna electronics were getting hicuppy... got the newest Bernina L460 and it is just as sweet as the 334 DS. You will love your new machine.. Congrats!

  11. I've had my 334DS since 1993 ($1,399 new) and I use it constantly - I've had to have the brushes replaced twice, and it still runs great. My mechanic/dealer says that the 334DS is the same as a Juki industrial, made by Juki, just in a Bernina case, which would explain how durable it is.

    I will say that if you can't get the stitch to balance you'll want to unthread the serger completely and rethread in this order: upper looper, lower looper, right needle, left needle. I use mainly Schmetz 10 Universal needles, but I have used stretch Schmetz 11 on lycra knits and 14 Denim on heavy denim/twill. There's a big, fat blue workbook for this model in addition to the manual. Love mine! Gail, San Juan Capistrano, CA

  12. As a normally silent follower of your great blog, just wanted to say how much I enjoy it. Also a big thankyou for giving me the courage to open up the my 234 machine and oil and clean it. For a long while I have never been quite satisfied with the stitches, always fiddling around with the thread tension dials, but during the cleaning discovered that the stitch length was actually set at about 1, not 2 1/2 which is normal. Duhh!! Result, perfect stitching, thanks again !! Have a wonderful 2020, Angela

  13. About 5 years I bought one for $100 on Gumtree (Australian site like Craigslist), then spent $160 getting it serviced but I'm too intimidated to use it :(

  14. Great info from all. Many thanks. Used to have a Baby Lock 3 thread but just couldn't get the hang of it. The 334DS sounds like a good idea at this point. Now to find one at a reasonable price in Australia.

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  16. Just came upon your posting...I had the classic White 534 for many years, which kept going out of timing so broke down & bought the Bernina L450 serger...what a work powerful and precise...and so well designed that there are almost no bits to clean out from the innards of the machine...I clean & oil it after every project & we're both just as happy as can be!...

  17. I still have my Bernettd 334 DS.. It works as well today as it did 30 years ago. I needed to find THAT late 80's vid to reconnect with threading. There is a higher quality Juki vid (exact same machine), but I lost track of where it was. I found that vid to be easier to view. I found myself saying...did I every know how to thread this #$%^&^machine. Once accomplished, it was like...How hard was that.


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