Sunday, 24 November 2013

My New Sewing Machine. Bernina 330 v's Pfaff Classicstyle Home

I have been holding on for a week to write this post as I wanted to give my new sewing machine a proper 'run out' before I felt I could compare the two machine, my old Pffaf and the new Bernina. People often ask me about choosing a sewing machine, and it's very hard to give perfect advice as it's so personal a choice. People choose based on their previous brand experiences, familiarity of an old machine etc etc. What is perfect for me, making lots of quilts, might be really basic for someone wanting to make machine embroidery pieces for example. I only say all of this as I want to be clear that this is just my humble opinion about which machine to choose, and the best advice anyone could take is to go to a knowledgeable sewing machine dealers and try some out.

Lots of people always assume that as I do so much sewing I must have some whizzy sewing machine, and people often apologise that their machine is 'basic' only for it to be much whizzier than mine! I have sewn on the same machine for the whole entire time I have been making quilts. It cost £300 12 years ago and seemed like a fortune then. I've never found it wanting, never wished it did more ( apart from the longing for an all-in-one buttonhole function). I choose the Pfaff because it was consistently praised as a mid range machine ( below a Bernina, above a singer, alongside a husquvarna). It had IDT, which is a flashy way of saying that it had a little lever than you could pull down to make your usual sewing foot 'grip' like a walking foot when going through lots of layers. This meant you could sew through many layers without fabric splaying apart. I bought a 1/4 inch patchwork foot ( which is the most crucial thing a quilter could ever own for their machine) a 'straight stitch plate' which is a replacement silver bit for the bed of the sewing machine where the needle comes down. Instead of a wider hole that can accommodate zigzags, this has only one small hole where the needle goes through to pick up the bobbin thread. The small hole means that your sewing is much less likely to get sucked under and into the bobbin casing, causing a jam. They were both great purchases, I would def recommend them whatever brand of machine you use.

I have loved the Pfaff and was devastated when it died. I've replaced it with a Bernina. My first instinct was to have another Pfaff, but several posts on sewing sites have pointed out the increasing problems with getting reliable parts for this brand, which I understand is due to a change of ownership of the brand name. If I wasn't getting a Pfaff the choice was easy - Bernina. I also rate Janome highly, my mum has one and loves it. Janomes make great patchwork machines, but they tend to come with a lot of bells and whistles, even lower through their range. I wanted a machine that was really really good at straight stitch. I don't need 10 alphabets and 6 button hole styles.

I chose Bernina because its widely rated as the best quality machine out there and I want this one to last and last. it is a family company and they control their own parts subsidiaries - which means you can always get parts. It's a metal cased machine, good and stable. However I have only bought their entry level machine the 330. I chose this machine as I need a machine that is light enough to take out to classes with me. Their bigger 500 series was just too heavy to carry about ( and too expensive to want to!).

So far I am loving the Bernina. It is stable, the straight stitch is really reliable. I adore the needle up/down function which allows you to stop sewing with the needle still in the fabric to pivot etc. It  still has more fancy stitches than I need but some of them are fun, and my daughters teddy clothes are going to get much snazzier hem decorations as a result! The bright light is amazing if you sew at night when your kids are in bed, like me.

What I don't love as much is that I had to buy the walking foot and 1/4 inch foot separately and they were not cheap, but it was still cheaper than upgrading to the specific patchwork edition the 350. It only comes with a soft cover which is a bit of a pain so I have also bought a carry bag for taking it out to classes. It also takes a bit of getting used to that I have to change the foot to get the walking foot function. With my old machine I could swap between the extra walking foot function at the flip of a switch for sewing binding etc.

However all in all I couldn't be happier with the new machine. If you are hoping Santa will bring you a new sewing machine this Christmas I can't encourage you enough to seek out your local independent sewing machine retailer. In a world of slick retail experiences it might not be the most modern sleek shop you've ever visited ( here in the UK they tend to be shops that have stuck around for a long time and might look a little bit dusty on the outside!) but inside there will be a wealth of information that you just won't get at a department store no matter how knowingly sold! There is no substitute for experience - the stores in advising you, and yours in being allowed to sit and sew for an hour trying out the machines you are choosing between. I bought my machine at Home Counties Sewing Machines in High Wycombe, so if you are local and need a machine I would highly recommend them.

I hope that this has been useful for anyone looking for guidance on how to choose a machine, and what to look for. Now I'm off to play with my new (early) Christmas pressie again!