Sew Mama Sew recently asked readers to review their sewing machines to give those in the market for a new machine a place to start researching. I know when I started looking for a new machine I sought out reviews wherever I could find them. I also asked my sewing and quilting friends for their recommendations and advice.
Because there are few reviews for the Bernina B530, I am writing one here and will post the link at Sew Mama Sew. The questions are those asked by Sew Mama Sew, but I will happily answer any other questions in the comments.
What brand and model do you have?
I have a Bernina B530. It was used for classes at the local AQS show (for four days) so it was discounted because it wasn’t “brand new”. It seemed brand new to me though–I could find absolutely no evidence that anyone had used it.
How long have you had it?
I’ve had it since July 2012–about a year-and-a-half.
How much does that machine cost (approximately)?
I think my husband paid around $2800. It was a birthday present. But the Bernina Stitch Regulator (BSR) and the walking foot were included in the deal. Those are two pricey additions to the B530. I believe they are included with the B550–the next model up–as well as a few more stitches and presser feet. Otherwise the B530 and B550 are identical machines.
What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)?
I mainly sew quilts–but I occasionally sew clothing, bags, curtains, mend clothes, etc.
How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get?
I try to sew every day. Some days it’s just a few minutes, but other days I can sew for hours and neglect everything else I need to do.
Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name?
I love this machine. I love it. I still can’t believe it is mine and I feel happy when I have lots of time to sew with it.
What features does your machine have that work well for you?
It works very well for free-motion quilting. I had a very basic mechanical machine that did everything I needed EXCEPT free-motion quilt. I tried everything–every needle, every kind of thread, every tension adjustment. I tried those bobbin inserts and the EZ glider. My friend Beth (who is the most knowledgeable person I know when it comes to sewing machines–she owned the local Bernina dealership before selling it several years ago–so she knows what she is doing) checked it out and found a better free-motion foot to fit. Sometimes I could make my old machine do what I wanted–but more often than not I felt like I was fighting the machine and adjusting this or adjusting that to make it work. I was frustrated and often gave up.
But! My Bernina 530 FMQs perfectly. I barely have to adjust anything–ever–and I can FMQ for hours without a struggle. Because I learned to free-motion quilt without the BSR, I personally find it easier to quilt without it, so I almost never use it. What it can do is kind of miraculous though. I do use the walking foot often–for straight line quilting and attaching bindings.
The knee lift–or free-hand system, FHS— and needle-down feature are indispensable to me now. My old machine doesn’t have these features and I couldn’t go back. The 530 also makes gorgeous, easy, perfect and repeatable buttonholes.
And the Bernina presser feet are fantastic and easy to change.
Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?
The instruction manual is a little weak–in my opinion as both a user and a graphic designer. It refers to the sewing machine as the ‘sewing computer’ and it took me a while to understand what that meant. The manual feels as if it was written by a computer instead of a human being.
Would you recommend the machine to others? Why?
Yes, I would highly recommend. It just works beautifully. It’s a heavy, well-made machine that will last for years and do what I need it to do.
What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine?
The machine should have good solid basics. The controls should be clear and easy to figure out. I also think that the shop you buy from should have great customer service–you should be able to call or walk in and the shop should cheerfully help you with whatever you need.
Occasionally I wish for a larger harp area, because that would make free-motion quilting large pieces much easier. And I wouldn’t complain if it had an automatic thread cutter. These are things I could have if I wanted to spend more money.
But for now, I’m perfectly happy.