You can make great things on a simple, inexpensive sewing machine. I started sewing on a Brother CS6000i and it took me through my first four years of me-made items. I made a lot in those first four years, including my wedding outfit, first few quilts, and many, many bags. You do not need an expensive machine to have a rewarding sewing practice. However, if your sewing practice is one that sticks, you feel like you’ve outgrown your intro machine, and you can budget for an upgrade, go for it!
Once I knew sewing was something I’d do for the rest of my life and fixing things on my Brother machine was costing more than its purchase price, I began researching brands and saving. I decided to go with Bernina because its known for its stitch quality, longevity, and several folks in the sewing community endorsed them.
Berninas are expensive. It’s a big deal to fork over several thousand for one machine. After a lot of consideration and saving, I bought my first Bernina from a dealer in the Bay Area. One thing to note is that your local Bernina dealer probably sells at a lower price than what is listed on the official Bernina website. I’ve now purchased three machines at dealers that were $500 – $1000 lower than the MSRP.
Bernina 530 Sewing Machine
The quality difference between the B 530 and my Brother was immediately noticeable and my sewing practice really exploded. Everything was so much easier to do. Tension issues were non-existent or easily resolved, buttonholes were BEAUTIFUL and easy, and the edgestitch foot? Holy shit, I love that foot! On my new 530 I could adjust the presser foot pressure, needle positions, sew on buttons, and it could handle thicker projects.
The 530 really sold me on Bernina machines overall, so several years after its purchase, I was able to buy a Bernina serger to replace my temperamental Brother 1034D.
Bernina L 460 Serger
I purchased my L 460 on sale because Bernina was gearing up to release the 800 series several months later. I would absolutely love to own the 890, but that’s a cost my budget and I can’t get behind. I’m also a little wary of combo machines and air threading, but I’m not speaking from personal experience.
The dealer I purchased my L 460 from also includes free classes for it, forever! I was able to take one class before COVID hit and it really helped me understand all of its features and how to thread it. I’m using this online video series to periodically refresh my knowledge. It’s for the L 450, but they’re very similar. Bernina also has workbooks to help you understand just how much these machines can do.
I really love this serger. I feel like when I sit down to use it, I know exactly what’s going to happen and how to control it. With my 1034D it was always a gamble!
Bernina 770 QE Sewing Machine
At work, I get to sew on a B 475 QE and it made me wish my 530 had some of the newer features like the automatic thread cutter, the jumbo bobbin, and the touch screen. So, I decided to upgrade to the B 770 QE. There was a deal to purchase this machine and get either the L 460 or the embroidery module for free. Since I already had the L 460, I went with the embroidery module.
I’m pretty miffed the embroidery module requires $2,500 design software that only works on Windows. Since it was a free add-on, I didn’t really look into it. Should have done more research! I haven’t played with the free embroidery designs yet – I’m sure I’ll hate them – so that’s a topic for a later post. But HEY, Bernina! Create a web-based design software and I’ll embroider all the things!
I chose the 7 series over the newer 5 series for a couple reasons. The first was cost, the 590 was several grand more, and the 7 series has a 10 inch workspace – I wanted that extra space for quilting and bag making. And lastly, that freebie deal totally swayed me. I need to make an embroidery learning plan so I actually end up using it. If anyone knows how to turn Adobe Illustrator files into something the 770 can read, please let me know!
I still have the 530 and I plan to keep it for when I’m sewing something with topstitching (a two machine set up is the BEST), when and if I’m using the embroidery module on the 770 and need to sew, and I plan to stagger services so I’m never without a machine. Or I might sell it… I’m not sure!
Bernina L 220 Coverstitch
The year of working from home and never ending loungewear made me decide to buy a coverstitch machine. I found this used Bernina L 220 on eBay. I was super nervous about buying a second hand machine that I wasn’t able to test out, but the seller seemed to only offer sewing stuff, had a high rating, answered my many questions, and offered a 30-day return policy, which also covered the cost of shipping it back.
When I first posted about my ‘new’ coverstitch on Instagram, I got a lot of panicked comments and DMs from folks asking if they should buy a coverstitch machine instead of a serger. They do different things! I wanted a coverstitch machine for hemming knits, flat joining seams on athletic wear, and inserting elastic on swimwear. I have my serger (aka overlocker) for finishing woven seams and constructing knit garments. It has a lot of other applications, but that’s what I use it for the most. Basically, a coverstitch machine is not a necessary machine, but in my opinion, it works and looks a whole lot better than a twin needle.
I’m so impressed with this machine! It handles everything both like a boss and I can’t believe how flat the fabric is in between the stitch lines. I always get so much tunneling and weirdness with a twin needle. It can do a single needle chainstitch, wide and narrow double needle, and a three needle stitch. So far, the only thing I wish it had is the free hand system.
I’ve read that the Juki MCS-1500 and MCS-1700QVP (only available at a dealer) is essentially the same coverstitch machine as the Bernina L 220, which is sadly no longer in production, if you’re in the market for a coverstitch.