Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Bernina Newbie: Can I stump the Bernina 380?

Let me admit something first off. I've got a bit of an ornery streak. (Okay, maybe more than a bit...)

I'm that person who heard over and over and over how wonderful Berninas are from a huge number of sewing friends over the years, but I had never sewn on one myself. In fact, I hate to say this, but I may have even rolled my eyes when they would talk about how much they adored their machine.

I mean, I love my machines as much as anyone, but come on! Could these machines really be THAT wonderful?

My first machine I owned myself (as opposed to the machines I borrowed or used under watchful grandmother eyes) was a 1969 model Kenmore that shook so violently the neighbors would phone over and ask how we made out in the earthquake. I bought it for $10 at a yard sale and it was mine, so I thought it was quite a bargain and tried to ignore the fact that none of my seams were straight, and after packing tape, duct tape, and a rope tether didn't work, I had to have a friend there to hold the machine while I was sewing...or it'd hop off the table and onto my lap. Seriously.

So, you can imagine when I upgraded to a cheap student Singer machine, it was an amazing feeling. At least it was right up until I burned out the motor after a year. I knew I was sewing a lot, but I didn't imagine I could kill a machine from pure exhaustion. Live and learn. 

My next was a Singer Embroidery, gifted by my in-laws in exchange for providing them an heir to carry on the family name (since I got to keep both the adorable kiddo AND the machine, I felt like I was getting the best end of that deal). And finally, I gifted myself a Pfaff because I decided that sewing for so long and so often meant that I deserved some of those creature comfort features you can't get on a lesser machine. 

And do you know, when I was choosing I didn't even look at a Bernina? Ornery, I told you. Oh, I knew what they all said. The way they'd say the word Bernina was even with a kind of reverence you save for talking about your first kiss or the pet you had as a child.

I only tell you all this so you'll know - I did not become a PNQS team member for love of Bernina. I was Bernina-indifferent. Bernina ornery. My Pfaff has dual feed. For the girl who isn't too far away from a machine that made pictures fall off the walls or wave a white flag from their bobbin cases to give up and beg me to stop sewing, dual feed was the culmination of all my sewing hopes and wishes. (You know, none of that nonsense with two identical pieces of fabric coming together on a straight seam and one's suddenly half an inch longer.) 

So, of course, let's get the ornery girl onto a Bernina, right? I figured "when in Rome..." but didn't expect much.

In fact, I was a little excited to NOT be excited. I'll show them that they're nice machines, but they can't be all that special. 

What is it they say about pride? It goeth before a fall, eh? 

There she is, over there. My pretty Bernina 380 who arrived in the box looking like a million bucks. Everything was so thoughtfully made. The case of feet and accessories, the cover, the way the machine itself was designed - it was like I stepped into a whole new sewing machine world. The world where they still care about craftsmanship, presentation, and little touches that make the sewist's life easier. 
Do you see Pfaff over there glaring at Bernina while we
work on the charm pack? She'll get over it!

And she (I still haven't thought of a suitable name for her - do you name your machines?) was HEAVY. I had gotten used to the plastic machines (the white flag wavers) with flimsy insides that didn't hold up. The Swiss don't make flimsy, because this Bernina is SOLID. I can feel the weight of the bobbin, the precision of the workings.

When she came out of the box, I tried a few stitches. Can I just ask a serious question? Did the Bernina engineer who came up with the hands-free foot-raising lever get a Nobel Prize for that? Because if not, I think we should start a letter writing campaign. Amazing. 

I stitched together an entire 5" charm pack trying to confuse it. I wanted it to mess up. I wanted to see what would go wrong if I just pushed it. 


That flat, non-puckered, non-shifted seam is
not possible, is it? Bernina 380 and the
swimsuit test she nailed.
I was running out of ways to stump the Bernina - it was handling everything so perfectly...and the decorative stitches available were much cuter than the standard ones on most machines. Could all of those people have been right? Is that possible?

And then, it came to me.

A test so difficult, so treacherous, so tricky, so annoying that it would force the Bernina 380 to yield. I'd be the clear winner because no machine can handle the terror that is...

Knit bathing suit fabric.

Yes, folks, I cut a corner off of what will be my next bathing suit,  chopped it in half(ish), and I slapped them right sides together and sewed. I laughed the whole time because I was going to win this one. It was going to pull and bunch and undoubtedly one side would shorten while the other lengthened, and then what a mess. 

Except it didn't. My new Bernina 380 took those two pieces of swimsuit material and put them together as if they were pressed and starched quilting cotton. With no dual feed. I just assumed because it didn't have dual feed, I wouldn't like it as much, but it's actually that this Bernina DOESN'T NEED IT. This is one of those moments where I have to question everything I once assumed. Ever have those? 

I'm still ornery, but I suppose I have to admit I'm one of those Bernina people now. I've only been sewing with it a short time, but I keep finding things I love.

Not only is it a dream to sew on, the features are unheard of. The hands-free presser foot lever is potentially the best thing ever invented, and whatever inner Swiss workings are making the sewing come out so perfectly, it's so far beyond wonderful.

I get it now! I get why you all told me that your Berninas were so far superior to anything I was looking at. I understand now, and you can say I told you so. I'm sure I deserve it. I won't be listening, though, because I'm heading back into the sewing room to, you know, finish that bathing suit...

Join me every month right here for my adventures as a Bernina Newbie. I'm not kidding when I say this machine is rocking my world, so I'm going to make a new and exciting project each month to really show you (and myself) what it can do. 

 It's extremely rare for something to live up to its hype, but Bernina does. I can hardly believe it myself, but I'm not going to lie...I love it! See you soon!