Sew, Mama, Sew is having a sewing machine month and since I love my sewing machine(s) so much, I’m participating.
We were a crafty household growing up and I learned to sew on a treadle Singer and my mom’s 1970s-era Husqvarna. By high school, sewing in one capacity or another was part of my life, and my grandmother bought me a White machine as a graduation gift. It was simple, but served me well until it was crushed moving house. Enter my mother-in-law the quilter who had just traded in her 40 year old Husqvarna for a new Bernina. She took pity on me and bought her old machine back for $1 and then sold it to me.
That Husqvarna took me from crafty hobbyist to artist who sewed nearly every day. But when I started free-motion quilting, I knew it was time to upgrade. I did some homework and narrowed my choices down to upper end Pfaff or Berninas (we were living in Germany at the time and these were the most available/best deals). So here’s the pertinent Sew, Mama, Sew info:
What brand and model do you have? Bernina 440 QE
How long have you had it? About 4 1/2 years
How much does that machine cost (approximately)? With the exchange rate and a discount for being with the US military and not having to pay German VAT (value added tax), I think I remember it being between $1400 and $1700.
What types of things do you sew? I sew mainly quilts of the scrappy, arty sort, but also handbags, clothing and kids costumes, a little home dec, some softies, and patches onto uniforms. Once I repaired a hammock strap and a leather belt.
How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get? I sew nearly every day, and have been known to throw teh occasional weird thing at the machine (see aforementioned leather belt). The add oil indicator (based on number of stitches sewn) comes on monthly.
Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name? My machine has no name, but I love her dearly. I also love teh old Husqvarna for sentimental reasons, and because you just can’t help loving such an old workhorse. My expectation is that my Bernina will also still be going strong in 40 years.
What features does your machine have that work well for you? I didn’t anticipate it, but I love the knee lift. It is so convenient to be able to lift the presser foot without moving your hands! Close runners-up are the ability to lift the needle up or down with the tap of my foot, and the automatic button hole feature.
Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine? It doesn’t drive me nuts, but the stitch regulator wasn’t as great as I had hoped. I can free-motion well, but not show-quality perfect; and unfortunately, I can’t get the stitch regulator to be any closer to show-quality than I am on my own.
Would you recommend the machine to others? Why? I would definitely recommend any of the mid-grade to high-end Berninas. In my experience, they are predictable, well-made machines with all the features most sewers would need. The feet are very easy to switch out on machines made in at least the last five years, which I think encourages people to use the right tool for the job. I’ve had no problem finding Bernina dealers from California, to Germany, to Hawai’i and everyone has had wonderful customer service.
What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine? I see a sewing machine as a durable good and so I think it’s important to buy something sturdy that will last. I’ve seen too many beginners get frustrated with cheap machines (ie: tension problems and hard to swap feet) and not only never finish their projects, but walk away from the experience feeling like failures. As long as one is making the investment, I suggest to buy a machine that doesn’t just do what you want to do now, but can also accommodate what you want to do in the future. With a good machine, you’ll grow quickly and you don’t want to have to go machine shopping again in just a few years. Oh, and I think it is important to try out several machines to get a good feel for them. I found that ergonomically, I was more comfortable with the Berninas than the Pfaffs — probably because they were similar to the Husqvarnas I had used for over 20 years. I’ve heard many Pfaff users say that they can’t get comfortable on a Bernina. Either way, buying from a sewing machine store gives you a chance to test drive and get as much support as you need, whereas buying from a discounter is a bit of a shot in the dark.
Do you have a dream machine? I already own my dream machine. 🙂