When I started sewing, I only knew about Singer and Viking sewing machines. “Brother” made reliable printers and I looked quizzically at the other brands that came up during Amazon searches for “sewing machine.”
It was not until I took my first sewing class that I even heard the name “Bernina.” The way the mother and daughter spoke about the machine, I knew it was a brand that was (at the time) above me, financially. It was like I was driving a reliable late-1990s Honda Civic hatchback and they were talking about buying the daughter her first BMW.
My beloved Singer 1507WC is considered a “very basic machine” among Singer’s expansive product catalog. There is one dial to set the stitch, one for stitch length, and one for thread tension. I started out sewing to improve my environmental and social sustainability, and the 1507 was and is a very good machine to learn on. For 3.5 years this machine did almost everything I needed it to do. But recently my sewing needs have begun to eclipse the machine and the machine itself is acting up. I plan to have my machine serviced, but even after that expense, the limited stitch options would continue to challenge my knit projects.
It was time for this sewist to evaluate her sewing machine’s capabilities and take a leap of faith and finances. I first turned to Twitter and the #sewcialists, who recommended machines and offered tips for sewing machine shopping.
I knew what I wanted. I wanted a mechanical machine that see me through the next 40 years. (Computerized sewing machines are fantastic, but for as much of a tech-geek as I am, where sewing machines are concerned, I am a traditionalist.)
I wanted a Bernina 1008.
Experience has taught me that that more money does not strictly equal better quality. However, some reputations you shouldn’t ignore. Gertie wrote an informative post about her Bernina 1008 that helped me understand what I wanted in a machine. Seamstresses that I respect have had their Bernina 830s since the 1970s and those machines are still purring. They describe their Berninas as their favorite sewing machine. It is love.
Making this investment (hint, a new Bernina 1008 costs more than its model number) was not an easy overnight decision. For months I craigslist-stalked a few local Bernina 830s and 1006s, but couldn’t commit. The prices were great, but I did not trust myself to know if the machines were in good condition. After much internal debate, bolstered by wedding shower gifts intended to contribute to a new sewing machine, I visited the Renton, WA Bernina dealer where new and used Bernina sewing machines were available for purchase.
I hoped for a used Bernina 830, but I prepared myself to spend the full amount (plus tax) on a new 1008.
If you will permit me to use a Dungeons & Dragons/Game of Thrones mash-up analogy: I felt like a young squire walking into the master sword-smith’s shop and asking to look at the Valyrian Steel swords. I was convinced I needed a better machine for my future sewing adventures, had deep doubts about my worthiness. Much to the salesman’s credit, he never made me feel ignorant or out of place.
I asked to look at their mechanical machines, and he showed me the only two used models he had: a 530 (used in home-ec classes) and a 1008!
The stitches lined up for me that day. This was the sewing machine I truly wanted. It looked nearly new (though it is about 10 years old), was priced $500 less than a new 1008 model, included the manual and all but one of the standard feet, and it came with a walking foot (purchased by the previous owner for $190). When I sat down to give it a test-drive, I fell in love. I never knew a machine could sew that smoothly. I tried to maintain my composure and calmly ask a few more questions before officially announcing I would buy it.
Even used, I would not have been able to buy this machine without help from family members and friends. (Thank you, thank you!) This is part of their wedding gift to me and Greg. I will use it to make and mend garments for both of us for years to come. And the first project for this new sewing machine? My wedding dress.
What of my Singer machine? She will still have a home. Later in the year I will take her in to be serviced and keep her around for sewing parties or random paper crafts that require a simple sewing machine.