I am proud to be a BERNINA Ambassador and spread the word about a sewing machine company I believe in. But I did not start on a BERNINA, my story may shed some light on your own sewing experience and whether you should be considering a new sewing machine.
When I was 13 years old, my parents bought me my first sewing machine—a store brand model from a major retailer that came in its own cabinet and folded in for storage. I was in heaven. I used that machine for many years and thought it did everything I needed it to do.
Fast forward to 2001, when I began to teach quilting at a local BERNINA dealer; we had BERNINA models in the classrooms and around this time I was just starting to play with free motion. Free motion really tells you a lot about a machine. Working on a particular free motion project at home became an exercise in constant frustration–stitches skipping, thread breaking, bird’s nesting on the bottom. I finished the project in the classroom without a single problem, which convinced me that I really needed a BERNINA. I bought my first one in 2002, a B 155 that changed my way of sewing. Sewing became enjoyable—the process, not just the result.
It felt as if I had been driving to and from work in an old beat up car that more or less got me where I needed to go albeit with some discomfort and trouble along the way, and now I was driving a high powered sports car. What a difference a machine makes. Remember, like that sports car, it isn’t just about getting to your destination; it is about enjoying the ride.
What makes BERNINA different?
I am not going to bore you with all kinds of technical information about how it is made and how other machines are made. (If you are into that sort of thing there is lots of good information on the BERNINA website) Here is the bottom line for me as a sewing machine user—I can rely on this machine and it doesn’t give me the kind of trouble my old temperamental machine used to give me every time I sat down to sew.
- I can sew all day and the machine doesn’t overheat (my original machine used to get very hot and actually started smoking after one particularly long day of sewing)
- The self adjusting tension makes constant fiddling unnecessary
- Free motion is a whole different animal on a machine without constant hiccups
- Different thread, different weight fabric , it doesn’t matter, this machine does what you want it to do and doesn’t complain.
A few features of the BERNINA machines that I think makes them special:
- Self adjusting tension
- Programmable foot pedal
- Presser foot automatically lowers when the foot pedal is pressed. Seems like a small thing, but very helpful.
- Temporary altered memory (which means if you make changes to the default setting, move to something else and come back, the machine will remember)
- BSR—this is a big one. The BERNINA Stitch Regulator takes the learning curve out of free motion stitching. It reads the speed at which you move the fabric and adjusts the stitching speed accordingly and automatically so stitch length is always consistent. A wonderful and painless way to learn to do perfect free motion.
- The freehand lever—this is a favorite gadget of mine. Lift and lower the presser foot to different heights with a knee tap. I use this every time I sew; between strips of piecing, when little wrinkles appear just ahead of the foot, to jump to another area, or to pivot with needle down.
- I love the automatic knot at the beginning and the little scissor tool that cuts the threads at the fabric surface after a line of sewing. It may not seem like a big deal, but it saves lots of time while sewing—and no little tails to trim.
- I don’t need a different foot for quilting; the “dual feed” works with any “D” labeled foot to feed the top and bottom fabrics simultaneously, allowing for perfect matching of things like stripes and plaids, pieced corners and to enable a variety of feet to act as a quilting foot.
- Nice bright work light
- Easy to navigate computer screen allows total customization
- There are lots of gadgets and feet that do so many things you won’t ever have time to try them all!
- Great online videos to help answer questions as you learn how to use your machine.
What do I sew on?
Several years ago when I became a BERNINA Ambassador, I got the wonderful B750 as my loaner machine. "Nina" and I spent many happy hours together during the three years she spent with me. When it came time to purchase the loaner or something else, I chose to go with the newly (at the time) released B570 QE instead. "Zina" made more sense for me and the way I sew. Since I don't work on particularly large projects, the slightly smaller bed was fine for me (the bed on the B750 is 10 inches and the B570 QE is 8.5). This not only means the machine takes up less space on my work table, it is also lighter and less expensive--and let's face it, that is always a consideration. But otherwise, the B570 QE does everything the bigger B750 does--same large hook bobbin, same 9 mm stitch width, same dual feet function on many of the feet (which makes them operate like walking feet--an awesome feature), same bells and whistles. I love it.
My favorite accessories
The machine you get is only the beginning. The fun comes with the accessories and the feet that perform various functions and make life so much easier. When I got my B570 QE, I also bought a few little goodies.
The Circle Embroidery Foot attachment 83. This little gadget is lots of fun and allows me to sew circles in a variety of sizes in any of the fancy stitches on my machine.
Quilt Rulers. These are relatively new and taking the quilt world by storm. The various sizes and shapes of the ruler kit rulers work with the special free motion foot 72 to make perfect circles, curves and straight lines using free motion stitching. And check out the tutorial by Amanda Murphy on the BERNINA we all sew site--lots of very helpful information.
Magnifier Set. Yes, I am getting older and so is my vision. I have special glasses my eye doctor prescribed for close work, but the magnifier set that clips onto the front of my machine makes seeing my work even easier.
As I mentioned before, I can't live without the free hand knee lift, I use it every time I sew. Just a touch of the knee will lift the presser foot to reposition my work, pivot or jump to another spot.
I will also admit there are a few goodies I have purchased that I haven't had time to play with much yet, so when I do I will update you on what they do!
Thinking about purchasing a sewing machine?
There are some very good machines on the market, but many more that are really not so great and will be a constant source of frustration. Here are a few tips for making that important purchase:
Go to a dealer, don’t buy online. Please. You need to sit at the machine and use it. Seriously, bring some fabric to the store and sit at the machine and do what you would do if you owned it. You need to get the feel of a machine and ask questions. When I purchased my first BERNINA, I knew free motion was really important to me, so I sat at lots of machines and did free motion on some fabric and batting I brought with me. That is the only way to know for certain if you like the way the machine does what you want it to do. Once you purchase a machine you will want guide classes (which come with your BERNINA at the dealer) to get you started and you want to have somewhere you can turn when you need servicing or assistance. My dealer, Lisa at Pins and Needles in Mt. Kisco NY is terrific. She answers all my questions, helps me troubleshoot and services my machine.
Don’t be dazzled by lots of fancy stitches. Many people fall into this trap—this machine does 400 stitches but this one does 10,000 (I am exaggerating). You may not need 10,000 kinds of stitches. No, let me assure you, you DON’T need 10,000 kinds of stitches (although my BERNINAs both have plenty to choose from). Which brings me to the next important point:
Know what you need for the kind of sewing you do (or would like to do in the future) so the features on the machine you get fit your needs. I love the look of machine embroidery, but I don’t do machine embroidery so spending the extra money for a sewing machine with embroidery capabilities doesn’t make sense. Why spend that money on something I might only use once or twice? I would rather buy different feet that do specialized jobs I do want.
Remember that this machine will serve you well for many years, so don’t shop price alone. A good machine will remain a good machine if properly serviced (mine goes in every year the week of my birthday so I don’t forget) and you won’t need to replace it. Yes, newer models will come along with exciting new features and I can attest from my wonderful new B570 QE (Zina), these can be very nice. But my older BERNINA (her name is Gina) still does everything I really need it to do and still functions like a well oiled machine (well, it actually IS a well oiled machine!).
If you are thinking of purchasing a sewing machine, please visit the BERNINA USA website, or email me if you have questions about my personal experience. I love talking about my BERNINA, that is why I became a BERNINA Ambassador.
WE ALL SEW
Whether you own a BERNINA or not, do visit the We All Sew blog site. There are lots of wonderful projects and inspirations (including a few of my own—just search Leni Levenson Wiener in the We All Sew site or click the link) to get you fired up and excited about whatever it is you do with your sewing machine.