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  • What's So Special About the Old Berninas?

  • What's So Special About the Old Berninas?

    Old 06-19-2018, 12:25 PM
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    Default What's So Special About the Old Berninas?

    I picked up an old Bernina 540 Favorit at a thrift store and so far haven't gotten around to using it, namely because I'm too busy and have too many sewing machines already. So many, in fact, that I need to get rid of a few cabinet-mounted ones to make room. I have a couple Singer 201s and a Necchi Nora that are my main workhorses (hemming, fixing things, occasionally making things, typically camping related--I don't do embroidery or anything like that), and am wondering if this old Bernina is anything special compared to what I already have aside from being pastel green.

    It has some plastic gears in it (no cracks, I checked) that make me a bit nervous and also make me wonder what it is about these old Berninas that make them so highly sought after? I could get more for the Bernina than just about any of my other machines if I sell it, which is why I'm trying to figure things out before posting anything on Craigslist or eBay.

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    Old 06-19-2018, 12:41 PM
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    I think they're over rated. Yes, they're good machines but I can't honestly say I think they're any better than my vintage Japanese machines.

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    Old 06-19-2018, 02:20 PM
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    I rate them highly. They have been the most reliable and least fuzzy of all my zigzaggers. All the functions and settings are easy to use. I have kept my freearm 730 Record, it does the neatest satin stitch even on fine fabrics. I don't often need wash-away stabilizers or stabilizers at all. Hemming jeans with them is not a problem either, they are strong and tough enough. Plastic gears can crack, but they often last 20 or even 50 years and some machines are still intact with their original parts. Replacing them is worth the effort, I would expect it to be a long lasting repair.

    I think the 540 is the rotary hook model and takes different bobbins than the Bernina CB hook and bobbin system. It might have a stronger motor than the freearm models, and higher stitch per minute number. They stitch along smooth and nicely. They only have bulit in single layer cams, and not the double stitches you can find on other brands. The green machine in yoru picture have a hand wheel that easily allows for a treadle setup; most around here don't. Cabinet versions in good condition usually sell quickly.

    I would not mind having a Necchi BU, or one of the Supernovas either. There are a few models made by Gritzner, Phoenix and Adler I like. The machines I use are my 201 in a cabinet, and a good freearm zigzagger is a must for me and that's a Bernina 730 and an Elna for stretchy stitches. If you have plenty of nice machines don't hesitate to sell one to a someone who needs it. You should clean, oil, and do a bit of sewing on it before you let it go though ;- )

    Last edited by Mickey2; 06-19-2018 at 02:37 PM.
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    Old 06-19-2018, 02:35 PM
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    I don't have any vintage Bernina's but I have had 2 contemporary ones. IMHO, they are the best thing ever for garment construction, making bags, general sewing. I've made tons of clothes, 2 garments that won national awards and even drapes for 2 houses in mine. I've never had problems sewing any kind of fabric or any thickeness. If it will fit under the presser foot (even if I cram it under), it will sew it. I love my Berninas!
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    Old 06-20-2018, 05:26 AM
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    Like any of the older machines, they are made of all metal.
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    Old 06-20-2018, 05:55 AM
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    I wonder, also, what makes certain models more rave-worthy. I think of several factors when I rate my machines: stitch quality (straight separately from zig zag, satin, and decorative); tension; motor sound/feel; useful and unique features; and beauty. I can't underestimate the "pastel green"! I am also a sucker for shiny chrome and sky blue.
    I would rate my Bernina 830e record and Bernina Minimatic 703 high on my list for motor sound/feel (although the mini is clackety on slow speed, with low torque selection), with good but not best straight and zz stitch. I like a smooth, quiet, powerful feel to my SM motor. However, I think my Elna zig zag, Singer 201-2, and Pfaff 260 have the most satisfying motor feel to me. For st. stitch, many machines are as good. The best zig zag/satin goes to the Elna and Singer 237. And, sad as I feel about it, I can't beat my Kenmore 158.1774 for decorative stitches and reliable tension. Kennie is just so homely!

    For beauty, my White FR treadle, minty green Brother hand crank, blue and chrome Morse 4400. And the featherweight for cuteness.

    Having said all that, the one that is currently set up for construction on my sewing table is the Bernina 830. Big Red is the only machine I have with a presser foot knee lift. That is why I scoured my sources until I found an affordable 830. The knee lift seemed so cool, but I haven't quite got the hang of it. Time will tell whether we truly bond, but my two cents goes with Cari: over-rated when there are so many other great machines out there.
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    Old 06-20-2018, 05:59 AM
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    The old Berninas are the best! Actually made in Switzerland. Why don't you sew on it a while and decide for yourself if you like it? If not, sell it and let someone else love on it. It's a gem. Great find!

    Definitely not over-rated! They earned their reputation.
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    Old 06-20-2018, 06:26 AM
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    I can't say they are overrated in my area, they don't sell for more than others of similar quality. I did mention it, but if I should emphasize their good points; easy to use functions, all levers, knobs, needle positoin, stitch pattern etc. are set with out any fuzz; my 730 has nice zigzag, at least as good as any machine I've used (often better), new or old. It feels solid and runs nicely. The freearm models have a narrower arm than most other machines, but it doesn't apply to the 540 of course. The 540 should be stronger and faster. A Bernina in a cabinet would go quickly in my area. They are generally easy to clean up and get going again.

    I have to say, there aren't many other models that are just as good, but there are a few. The Pfaff 360/260 are much more work to clean and relubricate, they stick! You have to take out the cam mechanism and find optimal grease or decide to try oil. Berninas just need oil.

    Much the same for the Japanese models with combo push-turn buttons, they need a lot of attention, and the various models are not of the even quality of brands like Bernina or Pfaff. With the finer points on stitch quality it's hard to tell if it's model specific or if it's down to adjustment or maintanance. I have heard of people insisting their model 15 has better stitch quality than their 201 and vice versa. Getting the right thread and needle match can make the difference, not so much a model issue.
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    Old 06-20-2018, 08:27 AM
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    Mickey I'll put the stitch quality of my vintage Japanese Brother machines up against any high priced fancy machine including Bernina, any day. Haven't had one show me up yet. It's all about perception.

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    Old 06-20-2018, 09:12 AM
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    I usually don't complain about stitch quality in general, but on some fabrics some of my machines behave better than others. Some times it's about finding ways about it, but other times the machine makes all the difference. I haven't nearly as many machines as you Cari, vintage Japanese aren't as common here as in the US, the ones I have had my hands on have been fine, a bit noisy but not terrible.
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