Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Better Buttonholes (and Thoughts on Fancy Machines)

Readers, thank you so much for your manual buttonhole tips! My new Bernina 1008 and I are getting along fabulously and I've been putting your suggestions into effect. Doesn't this latest one look so much better than my last one?

The big thing I discovered is that you should use the BUTTONHOLE FOOT. Shocking, I know. My tips are cutting edge once again. For some reason, I thought that there wouldn't be a dedicated buttonhole foot for a multi-step buttonhole. Indeed there is. (I know, I can't believe I'm writing this either. Gertie, Queen of the Obvious.) For a multi-step buttonhole, it's a simple little doohickey with grooves on the bottom that slide smoothly over the "beads" - the raised sides of the buttonhole. The other change I made was to set the stitch length just a little shorter than recommended. Voila! Lovely buttonholes. At least I think they're lovely. What say you?

Also, I just wanted to share that I love my new machine. It's perfect for me, and I'm so glad I went with this one. I've made a blouse and a skirt on her, and we've bonded already. I still don't have a name for her though! All in good time, I suppose.

Anyway, on the topic of fancy sewing machines, as promised in this post title. I was interested in a comment Robin made on my earlier buttonhole post. She said:
I think you did a great job assessing your needs and weighing them to make your sewing machine decision. The business model used by SM manufacturers /dealers is frustratingly outdated and much maligned. Too many people go in with an idea of what they want and come out with a machine costing way more; with features they will never use.
Great point, I thought. It would have been very easy for me to be talked into a fancier machine, like the Aurora I was originally looking at. Though I agree the business model of sewing machine manufacturers and dealers is somewhat shady (convincing you that you NEED the top of the line model to sew beautiful things), is it also outdated, like Robin suggests? There does seem to be a push toward more streamlined, USEFUL technology in the computer world (like what Apple is doing, for instance). I wonder how this could be applied to the sewing machine industry.

And yes, I'm sure I would have loved the Aurora as well. Time will tell for sure, but I don't think I need the features of the Aurora, which would have cost me an extra $1,049. And with the money saved, I'm planning on attending one of Susan Khalje's couture sewing schools, an experience that I think will advance my sewing more than 283 stitches would.

What do you think? Are there ways you would like to see the business model for the sewing machine industry change? Are you frustrated with the choices (or lack thereof)? Please share!


  1. I just purchased a new sewing machine this weekend in Portland Maine where we have four sewing machine dealers - a Viking dealer in a JoAnn's, an indie fabric store with a small selection of Brothers, a Bernina and Elna dealer, and a Pffaf store.

    In terms of stock - it definitely leans strongly toward embroidery and quilting machines, but I felt that that's indicative of the sewing store industry as a whole - I can find more quilt fabric than you can shake stick at, but good luck finding any kind of quality apparel fabric variety, which I feel is very much the case in most places outside of the larger cities. Most stores has one or two non-embroidery machine options.

    I also found that customer service made a huge difference in my purchase. At the Bernina/Elna store, the sales people basically indicated I was stupid to not want a computerized machine and acted like used car salesmen ("It's the last one - are you sure you want to chance it being gone later?") The JoAnn's girl, while nice, indicate that I should see how the machine works by pushing the foot pedal with my hand and watching the needle go up and down. The Pffaf dealer listened to what I wanted, told me the price upgrade to the next step up in the series wasn't worth it and left me alone with samples of various types of fabric to try out.

    I bought the Pffaf.

  2. I just recently purchased a new machine because my last one bit the dust. I have been using mechanical machines all my life and really have little motivation to switch to a computerized one. I actually prefer older versions of machines. I ended up buying a simply no fuss machine for $60 (because my other machine literally bit the dust out of no where which means not prepared). It is fantastic and does only what I need and what I want. I don't need a stitch that includes ducks swirling and flicking water at eachother. I sew clothing and although the thought of a cutesy stich like that is cute... if I saw it on a shirt, I would throw up.

  3. Gertie, comparing computers and sewing machines puts us in proverbial apples and oranges territory. Computers are today's technology, which is still being refined. Although user interfaces may seem more streamlined, most operating systems are actually growing more complex. I've read articles suggesting that due to this exponential growth in complexity, it's unlikely that the Internet will even exist 100 years from now. Things tend to grow in complexity and then collapse, like empires.

    Unlike computers, sewing machine technology is not growing more refined. You can sew perfectly well -- and arguably better -- with a 60-year-old sewing machine. (You would not want to use a 60-year-old IBM computer!) For the last few generations, sewing machine manufacturers have been adding bells and whistles solely to create the impression that one's current machine has grown obsolete.

    Moreover, my understanding is that with few exceptions, current machines are flimsier than those of earlier periods. Sewers are rightfully suspicious of SM dealers.

    It can't be a fun business to be in at this particular time.

  4. Isn't all of marketing designed to make you spend more money than you really need to spend? And to buy things labeled as "luxury" so you can feel rich? LOL. I do a wide range of sewing, from clothing to quilts, to repairs and putting patches on pants knees, so I'm happy with the functions of my computerized Babylock. (And my dealer was great, a la mscleaver's Pfaff dealer.)

    You raise an interesting point about Apple. When I first started using a Mac back in the 1980s, some IBM PC users were deriding Macs as kiddie computers because they were streamlined and simple to use. (This was before Windows, in the era of command-line computing. If you don't remember that, consider yourself lucky!)But Apple saw itself as making an "appliance computer"--something Joe Average would be able to pick up and use intuitively. I think that's a good model for any business!

  5. I have been dreaming of taking a course exactly like the one Susan offers...this is the first time I've heard of her. And even better, she's coming to my city this summer, plenty of time to save up for her! Thanks for dropping the name.

  6. Well, if you want to know the truth, I didn't know there were buttonhole feet for machines until recently! :p lol! I wonder if I have one in the stash of old Singer attachments from my grandmother?? I actually just had my mom send me my grandmother's c. 1960 Singer buttonhole attachment, as I was curious to see if it would work on my slightly newer (only slightly! lol) machine. Haven't had time to play with it yet, but seeing your posts about buttonholes has actually got me excited about doing them again. lol!

    I know the times I have gone in to talk to sales people about sewing machines--most recently when I was shopping for a serger--I really hated the process. One dealer I went in to talk to, when I said I was on a strict budget, insisted I needed a machine that was well over three times what I could afford! :p Even when I asked about refurbished sergers, they brushed me off and said I "needed" a brand new machine. Uh... I don't think so! That's why I ended up buying mine online (which, admittedly, I wouldn't do for every sewing machine purchase); it took out the annoyance of people trying to railroad you into something you don't need. I also went to my local JoAnns and had the exact opposite experience: the sales people ignored me completely and couldn't seem to answer my basic questions once they caught on I was looking at the machine displays.

    I definitely think the sewing machine industry needs to catch up with the times. I know, as another commenter pointed out, quilting and digital embroidery got so big in the last 10 years, the industry has a definite slant towards those customers. Whereas those of us that are primarily garment sewers and just need the basics in a machine that will take a beating, are left with few choices. I wouldn't mind buying a machine that had some bells and whistles, but it just seems stupid to end up paying for things (like letter embroidery!) that I will never, ever use. I think sewing machine manufacturers would do themselves a big service to take a cue from the "useful technology" movement. I know garment sewists are kind of in the minority in the view of the industry (and judging from the amount of sewing crafts and quilting stuff available that far outweighs the garment sewing side), but I think many of us are starting to feel a bit ignored by the suppliers and manufacturers. (Case in point: I was at a independent sewing store this past weekend, and chatting with the salesladies about how hard it is to find what used to be common sewing notions anymore! Things like covered buckle kits--now not being made--and even seam binding and rick rack are getting hard to source!)

    Anyway, enough rambling--I got way off topic! lol.

    ♥ Casey
    blog |

  7. I'm sure there's a point with computerized sewing machines, but I've never gotten it =) I use the machine my grandmother bought in the mid 50s. It's a super heavy Bernina that sews everything from silk dresses to tents!
    If - horror and depression! - it were to die, I would look more at the quality of the stitches and at the construction of the engine (materials etc), than look for fancy applications. A good stich and an enginge that'll last, it's all I need in a machine. So why pay for more?

  8. For the last few generations, sewing machine manufacturers have been adding bells and whistles solely to create the impression that one's current machine has grown obsolete.

    Good point, Peter! I think that's key in this discussion: have the machines really gotten any better than our grandmother's generation of sewing machines? Certainly we have things like built-in zig zag stitches, buttonholes that don't require complicated attachments, quieter operation, etc. Maybe I'm just a plain Jane when it comes to sewing machines (and more than a little cantankerous ;) lol), but the idea that "more is better" hasn't really impressed me enough to buy a new machine. Despite what all the ads tell me otherwise. ;) lol.

    ♥ Casey
    blog |

  9. As far as I can see, the sm companies haven't a clue what a garment sewer needs or wants. I've been looking around the internet at machines and when I click on sewing as opposed to embroidery, the talk is all about how wonderful they are for quilting. We don't need the bells and whistles, but a good buttonhole and perfect straight stitching even when using heavier thread is what I want. I have never used most of the stitches on my machine and it doesn't have a huge number of them!
    I'm glad that you are happy with the machine and yes, that buttonhole looks great. I'd love to see a sample of how it topstitches with topstitching thread you'd use for jeans.

  10. Well, I'll speak out in favor of computerized machines, since I just bought one! I just bought a used Pfaff from the quilt store near my house (the expression 2.0). Yes, it has a whole bunch of embroidery stitches that I will probably never use, but there are a few other things that really sold me on the computerized machine: The buttonholes, the needle up/down, and the auto tie off. I LOVE buttonholes, and the keyhole and rounded buttonhole patterns were something I really couldn't live without. I know it's possible to get vintage buttonholers for mechanical machines too, but somehow I couldn't see myself spending a couple hundred bucks to take home a new machine that didn't do the stuff I wanted. The integrated walking foot is also a major reason why I went with the Pfaff, but you can get that in a mechanical machine as well.

    I had a pretty good experience with the salesperson as well -- I told her straight up that I was interested in making garments and not quilts, and that she wasn't going to sell me on a machine by showing me how I could make mirror images of duckies on the borders of my blouses. It turns out she had a great knowledge of garment sewing as well, and I picked up some good tips from her while she was showing me how to use the machine.

  11. I sew on a machine that doesn't use electricity and goes forwards and back (and only in reverse since I have a doo-hickey that was added to do it). Everything else I need are attachments (buttonholer, zigzagger,blind hemmer. Usually they don't even bother to sell me anything since they start and I say "Oh I have a treadle." and go silent.

    I do live by a really good store (as long as I can deal with the men and not the women) that when you discuss garment sewing will show you what you want. Last time I talked to him the garment sewer is almost forced into a very plain industrial, if you want it new. Of course, this is the same dealer that told me vintage is the best for small machines for garments and doesn't try and sell me diddly. Project Runway should not be discounted in the home garment interest, and therefore what IS being pushed for garments is what you see on television. It's what is being made and what people are identifying with (and a couple of home models with that brand that are okay).

  12. I have a computerized machine. A Viking. I never have any trouble with it and it's so quiet compared to my old mechanical machine from the seventies. It's a dream, really! Perhaps I don't use all the decorative seams, but it sure does perfect buttonholes. I'm one happy computerized sewist. ;-)

  13. The complaint about the business model of sewing machine companies and their dealers isn't really about what the products are, nor the salesman's tendency to sell something more than you need (That's what salesmen do, far too often!). It's about the utter lack of transparency in the sales process. It's hard to find out what the list prices for machines are, let alone what actual street prices are. Add on things like "can't take the machine to any reputable shop for warranty work" and paying for "free" classes with the machine, and you've got an industry that's firmly stuck in the first half of the 20th century.

    As for current products, there's no way I'd buy a new mechanical machine. positioning the needle bar by servo is more accurate, more reliable, more repeatable. And a direct drive motor provides maximum torque at any stitching speed. Yes, the electronics tend to lead to things like stitches of ducks fighting, which no one will ever use, bt that's not inherent to the product.

  14. I'm not sure, as I have never bought a sewing machine before. Mine was a gift from my aunt when she passed away.
    I love your blog!! Do you have any suggestions or advice for a beginner?
    I'm a stay at home Mom with a very tight budget so taking a class isn't an option right now.
    Any pointers would be appreciated!


  15. I think you made an excellent choice and I only wish that I had looked into this more before I bought my current machine. I really love my machine, but I, like you, would rather have a mechanical machine and didn't even know these were available. Nor did the sales rep at the Bernina Store even show anything like that to me. I really don't like how sewing machines today seem to be geared much more towards embroidery and quilting. It's really silly. Really silly. I have so many stitches on my machine that I haven't even tried. Mostly because I think using them on apparel sewing cheapens the look of the garment you are stitching. I suppose they would look OK on say, a quilt, but even then nothing beats the look and beauty of a handquilted quilt. Not to mention, I hate the plastic that they make machines with these days. Vintage machines made from real solid metal just seem to be made to withstand the test of time. Why don't they do that anymore?

  16. I was doing my button holes *without* a buttonholer attachment on my old sewing machine; I had to call up my lessons from my 1977 Home Ec class to remember how to do it!

    My new machine has a buttonholer and I am a much happier girl. I may even be more likely to make things that call for buttons now! LOL

  17. I'm definitely a knob-turner!

    Also, I've been on the edges of blogland for too long so I've taken the plunge and started my own.

    Enjoy! Jess.

  18. I am not sure that the tech industry is pushing away from selling complicated top of the line items as much as they are pushing toward sleek design that packages items with a lot of capabilities into something without a lot of buttons, ports, or bulk.

    I would love to purchase a new machine, as there are many things I dislike about mine. The main things I would like are 1) The ability to put my machine in reverse without having to actively hold down the button the whole time; 2) A pre-programed button-holer; 3) A blind hem stitch; 4) A needle-threading gadget. Those are really the only things I actually need. Sure a few more cute stitch patterns could be nice, but they aren't necessary. One of my friends just got a machine as a wedding gift that has maybe ten patterned stitches, and that seems like plenty to me. All of the other things I want can be done via various accessory feet, and I just don't see why I would buy a super high end straight stitch machine just for the features. Ability to sew through tough fabrics, lack of jamming and breaking, an extra-long arm: these are all things I can see myself spending money for, but not decorative stitch motifs.

  19. I have an old Bernina 810 and it sews great. The buttonholes are not so great, but if it is a small amount I will do them by hand.

    I am really thinking of getting an industrial machine. I would love needle up/down and auto tacking. I want more speed!

    I don't see a problem with so many craft and quilt machines around, so many people craft and quilt, the more people making things the better. But a lack of good quality garment machines is all a bit too naff.

    I did alot of research online and read heaps of reviews, then I did not need a sales person to tell me.

    Sewducky you will still be sewing in a black out, good on ya!

  20. I bought my current sewing machine - a Janome - online without road-testing it first. My previous one - also a Janome - was bought from a store but I didn't road-test that either, so I've never had to listen to the salesperson spiel. First time, my choice was motivated by the (low) price; second time, because the first one had been such a war-horse and continued to work despite all my attempts at sabotaging it (atrocious home-made servicing, breaking it when tripping over the power cable, etc.). I guess I was lucky both times because the first one was cheap and cheerful and great to learn on, although sewing on it did sound like something out of the St Valentine's day massacre. The new one is fabulous, sewing beautifully straight and even stitches, very silently. I love it. Especially the up/down button which has been a revelation.

    I'm very much a knobs person and have this fear that a computerised one will go wrong. Silly maybe, but I look at my grandmother's sewing machine, an Elna, which is 50+ years old and still works like a dream. For some reason I just can't believe that the computerised ones will be that durable and still working in 50 years time.

  21. I'm from Milwaukee - land of proud tightwads. Most women here don't bother "shopping" for a machine. They just go to the local Sprawl*Mart and buy a cheapy $95 job that works for crap and then they throw up their hands and declare sewing to be too complicated (couldn't possbly be the Cracker Jack box prize of a mahcine they bought). I shopped around for my newest and instead of answering my questions, the sales man just invited me to sit and play with all of the models and said, "I've found the customer always knows more than me what they need." Wow.

  22. Nice button holes. I hope I can learn to sew as well as you.

    Thank you for your nice comments about the skirt that I made. I hope you will come back and visit me again soon.

  23. I faced this choice for a little while ago. I checked out all latest machines and was overwhelmed by the number of buttons, electronics and stitches packed into the new generation. Being the person who loves quality I was preparing myself for parting with a large sum of money. But being hooked up on quality of the good old stuff, the beauty of vintage design and immense advantages of second hand shopping I bought this loveliest piece of equipment
    In a sleek 60's design, mint green, solid metal (heavy metal :D) machine, that does all those stitches perfectly. It has everything I need and even more - if I want it has all those beauty-stitches too. Some of which pass for blind-stitch very well indeed. And I payed guess how much? 40$ !!! And I love every bit of this machine, apart from it's weight.
    I think it's very much the same thing happening with all appliances-industries. Like mobile phones - they do amazing things that no one needs. I need to call, text, have an alarm clock and an address book. That is why I can't find a phone I'd like to have - I approach any purchase as if it were clothes. If it doesn't make me fabulous by every part of it it's not worth the money, especially if not being used at all.
    Surprisingly there's a lot of people out there that wish their life made simple and free of all the unnecessary functions and not that many products that would satisfy them. Very strange.

  24. Gertie, your buttonholes look much better. I also didn't know there were buttonhole feet for mechanical machines. But Bernina makes the best feet, as far as I can tell!

    I like the hemstitches on my computerised machine, I must say, and I've used the deco stitches on a range of things, but I could no doubt sew without them; I sewed for many years on a Singer 66 that went forward only. Yes, but it also went through leather without any trouble... I did hand-worked buttonholes, which were very pretty.

    Gertie, my mom finally sent me my copy of VoNBBS that I ordered many moons ago and had sent to her house. I am having such fun looking at it!

    And also, I think I'm on your side: I bought my first serger today, a Bernina 700D. None of the dealers thought I should get a top-of-the-line model, and this was within my budget. But the dealer wanted to charge me £100 more than I could get it for online; and then I happened into a used one. Hooray!

  25. The ironic thing about your taking a couture sewing class is that you likely will be sewing more by hand than by machine! That you are served well by a simple machine that makes stitches evenly, and that stitches well, means that you are likely a better sewist than most who are trying to cover up their inadequacies. Sorry, but a machine that you set up and push a button and it does everything for you instead of constructing a garment from scratch would be the equivalent of comparing a ride in a minivan to driving a posh vintage convertible with a stick shift. Give me the stick shift anyday!

  26. I knew about the buttonhole foot. Couldn't make a buttonhole without it on my 45 year old Pfaff. And Gertie, since you're a dial turner, you'd love my Pfaff for buttonholes! You turn *two* dials to do it! First, you have to get your fabric pencil out and mark where you're putting the buttonholes. Then you put on the right foot. It's clear plastic with a groove in it. Then you turn the dial, then the other dial in the middle, and make sure the dial on the top of the machine is in the right place. Then you start sewing. And a medium speed is best for smoother buttonholes on my machine. So you carefully sew down to where you have the end marked, press a button (Yay! both buttons *and* dials) and when it's done the end enough, you let go and start sewing the other side. And then when you get to the top, you press the button again. It took me a while to get the hang of it. I don't think I really did until I'd put off putting buttons on for so long that I literally had 25 buttons to sew on various things and buttonholes to make for each one!

    Honestly? I'd like to see people in repairs who actually know what they're talking about. I took the 1222 in for repairs three years back at the local sewing machine repair joint. They charged me $70 to tell me the machine was shot before trying to sell us a new machine. And they lied. They said the cam was cracked, but it only controls the seldom-used embroidery stitching. It sews the basics fine without it, and we obtained a replacement easily. They said the drive belt was dying, and it was just the sticker on it was cracking from age! And they said that the top tension assembly was shot, because it was a tad rusty. I took it apart, scrubbed it with steel wool and fixed the slight problem with it with a drop of superglue. Turns out that the problem I took it in for was that the tension screw in the bobbin case was missing. For $25, I got two new-to-me bobbin cases off ebay. I still have the old one, and I hope to someday find a tiny screw to fit.

    Before I fixed it myself, though, we took it into a Pfaff dealer for a second opinion. The guy there told us it was shot, and then tried to con us into giving it to him. Snake oil salesman. He also tried to convince us that we needed a $2,000 machine while he was at it! Yes, my machine is old, but it's durable. The 1222 and the 1222E were the last all-metal models made by Pfaff. (I love the manual--"It's so light at only 25 pounds!")

    I understand that they're in the business to make money, and to do that, they need to sell new machines. But I like my old one. I don't need a fancy embroidery machine when I barely use the embroidery stitches that I have.

    In its day, mine was a fancy machine. When I was volunteered to quilt the RS quilt at church, I was told that I still have a fancy machine. It was news to me since mine is pretty much mechanical. Some days, I would like a computer controlled one... just for the absolute automatic buttonhole feature.

    I took a Textiles class in college in which we had to dye our own fabric and then make something out of it. At the time, we'd just moved and couldn't find the pedal for the 1222, so we borrowed a machine from a friend. Now hers had a fancy buttonhole feature. You dropped in the button, and it made the buttonhole for you. I'd like me one of those! Though I can (obviously) live without it.Sorry to write a book and take up so much space...

  27. lovely buttonholes indeed! All I know is that of all the sewing machines I've had, I still pine for the basic Singer I had when I lived in France. It produced the most perfect stitches, weighed a ton and sewed ANY fabric. I gave it away when I moved back to the UK and have regretted it ever since. My latest singer is slightly more sophisticated but still very basic in comparison to most models on the market. I don't imagine ever wanting or needing anything more complex, although I wish I could produce better buttonholes on it! I paid more for my overlocker because I wanted a coverstitch function.
    I wouldn't want to be a new sewer with the baffling variety of machines available - one could easily be dazzled by the many functions, end up parting with too much money, then sew infrequently and / or projects that just don't require more than the basic stitches. I have see some stunning designs (as well as a lot of crap) done on computerised embroidery machines but could never, ever, ever justify that kind of purchase as I don't embroider my clothes, bed linen or towels!

  28. Oh, Gertie, I should have also said... When we were told the 1222 was kaput, we went on ebay and bought a Pfaff 1222E. Honestly? I could have bought a new machine for cheaper, because I paid $600 for the E. I'd be lying if I said it didn't give me any trouble, because it was having stitch length problems and needed the top tension assembly taken apart and a little drop of superglue to fix it. ;) Lucky me, I'd found a Pfaff servicing manual on ebay a few years back, and a whole yahoo group of people who love old Pfaffs and could tell me what was wrong and how to fix it!

  29. I've sewn for years-my 16th birthday present was a Kenmore machine that got used until the tension went. For a while I used an old Singer from my grandmother. It does make the most amazing straight stitches I've ever seen, and I keep it around. I did the research, thought I wanted a Bernina, went to a sewing show to try them out and ended up with a Viking. It's computerized, but not nearly top of the line. It does a lot more than one straight stitch and gets constant use. I can't say I wouldn't have been happy with a Bernina, but honestly, the dealer just wasn't as helpful or informative as I'd have liked.

  30. my 20+ year old singer died about a year ago. It was heavy as heck, had virtually no bells OR whistles, was scratched cracked, dented and marked on and I loved it dearly.

    Thankfully, my madre was visiting during it's demise, and we did a quick tour of machines on line, looked at some ratings and prices and headed off to Sears - just about THE most pressure free zone imaginable, unless you wander over into electronics, appliances or tools :)

    I got the one of the more basic Singer models, with only 20 "special" stitches. (I know some people (like my sister) scoff at Singers, because they use plastic parts, but it's what I grew up sewing on, and I can thread them in my sleep)

    So far the few things that I've found to be a wonderment are the one-step button holer with the special foot - the last time I made a button hole, these things didn't exist. Also, the addition of stretches stitches and a blind hem stitch/foot have been revolutionary.

    I'm dying to get a ruffler foot and some twin needles. Maybe also a cording foot, an invisible zipper foot, a gathering foot....(you can see where this is going)

    For some reason, I'd rather play around with feet then do some fancy stitching....

  31. After seeing this post I stayed up late playing around with the buttonhole function on my machine to try and get the perfect buttonhole. I'm almost there, having experimented with stitch length (I'm setting mine narrower than the machine suggests) What I kept finding though is that I get a dense mound of stitches at the back, on the first bar of the hole. Gertie, if you or anyone else have tips for avoiding this, I'd be very grateful!

  32. i have an old, used Bernina 1020 that has been just the best old warhorse of a sewing machine. It makes perfect stitches on everything from chiffon to leather. The key is frequent, regular cleaning and maintenance and changing needles often.

    One hint for best buttonholes (along with using the right foot ;-))--use a stabilizer. It will keep even thin fabric from 'tunneling.'
    Happy sewing!

  33. Ok, so I will be the odd man out here, but I would like to offer a glimpse from the other side. I work for a Bernina dealer. I am not your typical "salesperson", but I am sad to hear that so many of you have had a bad experience shopping for machines. I wanted to work at the store because I LOVE my Bernina. I am young, at 31, to work in this world and I do sometimes feel that the sewing machine dealer world is a little out of touch with today's sewer, but I think it is more a generation gap than anything. I feel that our generation shops a lot differently than previous generations. We are not boomers and are more conservative with our money. Also, by having access to the internet and being able to find information instantly, we come in educated. With that said, there are a lot of machine options out there in every price range. As a salesperson, I ask two main questions. 1. What kind of sewing do you want to do? 2. Did you have a price range in mind? The second may seem a little forward, but I don't want to waste someones time showing them something that they are going to die form shock when they hear the price. Another thing, I always ask the customer if they want to try the machine. It's the best way to experience why a Bernina is worth the money.

    I will admit that I am a sucker for the bells and whistles on a machine. I have a huge crush on our top of the line machine, the 820. With that said, I have what I call my "baby" Bernina, an Activa 240. It is a newer machine with buttons, but at the beginning of the line, and I sew everything on this machine! To me the best thing about a Bernina are all the feet and accessories. The right tools make a huge difference and I rely on a machine that will always deliver a quality stitch without any fuss.

    Gertie, you could make something beautiful on ANY machine, but I know you and your new Bernina will be friends forever. I am happy that you had a positive experience with your local dealer.

  34. When I bought my machine my sewing machine guy insisted on "Metal and Mechanical", for a long fuss free life. I am glad I listened even though I looked with desire at the fancy pants type. I ended up with the Bernina 1008 and I love it too.

    Sadly, from what my guy said (a few years ago now), there are fewer and fewer of these sturdy machines being bought out since the market sees them as clunky and out of date. Maybe we can change that, as there are enough readers here that are passionate about Metal and Mechanical!

  35. I mainly wanted to comment to say thanks- my sewing machine died and I was inspired by your blog to go and look for a bernina. I found that there was a tiny sewing machine shop just around the corner from me which I never knew about. When I said I wanted the bernina 1008 the lady was really pleased and never suggested I look at the computerised ones. She said it would last me for the rest of my life. They even had a friendly dog in the shop and give 2 hours of free lessons with the machine as part of the deal. I hope yours lasts for ever too!

  36. A few years back, my mother was dating the owner of a sewing machine store, and for a combined present he wanted to give me one of the top of the line bells and whistles computerized sewing machines. She got one and loved it. I figured she knows what she likes, since she went to college for costuming and has sewn garments for years.

    I wasn't going to turn down a new machine that I needed, since my lovely sew-anything Singer had started breaking and flinging needles across the room for no reason anyone could discern. So I sewed a few things on hers and I didn't like it at all. I went in, took a look at everything available, went home and did some research, and asked for a mechanical machine comparable to the Bernina 1008. I seriously thought about getting a long-arm, but I couldn't afford to replace my regular sewing machine, so a regular one it was.

    I had to send three e-mails before I could convince him I didn't want anything more complicated.

    I ended up getting what I wanted, and he gave me a new set of dressmaking shears to boot. I couldn't be happier with my machine, and I too love dials and feet!

  37. Yay thanks for the buttonhole tips! I also did not realise that there was a dedicated buttonhole foot (blushing in embarassment) and this post inspired me to read my manual!!! I've got the same machine, and I love her so much! Mine's called Bernina Von Teese and she's a doll! Happy sewing! <3

  38. I was searching for the best machine for the money after my wife decided to sew Christmas quilts for the kids. I found four of the most popular and best priced right now on Amazon and wrote about them on my website. All 4 have outstanding reviews. Check them out on my page:

    I'd love to hear what you think about them.


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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