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Bernina vs Pfaff

gina | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on

I am looking at buying a Bernina 153 or pfaff 2044.  I am really stuck.  My bernina dealer is also the pfaff dealer although he tends to favor pfaff.  I sew mostly apparel and home dec.  Straight stitches and seams are important to me and so is matching of seams plaids etc.  Here’s what I have heard so far ( I have sewn on both of them too! And they both sew nicely but slightly differently)

Pfaff has the walking foot which is good because it works with other feet like a zipper foot.  The Bernina folk say that this little foot only pushes in the middle so its not that great and with their feed system you don’t need it.

The tension systems are differnent of the two machines (rotary vs cb?) and Bernina says that theirs will make a better stitch.  On the two new machines they both look good but with time does that change?

Pfaff has more features, but I can forgo features for quality of stitch if need be.

Bernina has more classes, but right now I have small kids and not a lot of time or chance to go to classes but some day I may be able to.

Any help please!


  1. ChrisHaynes | | #1

    Rotary and cb "tension" systems?  I don't know, but it seemed to me when I sewed on a friend's Bernina 135 and the upper tension system seemed to be the same as my Pfaff.

    Were they referring to the bobbin? (that is where there are major differences).  The bobbin cases may have differences in bobbin tension, how they rotate (full rotation versus oscillating), how the hook grabs the needle thread.  Pfaff machines are usually full rotation, where Bernina makes both oscillating and rotary.  Then there are the horizontal bobbins, like my little Brother machine -- it is much slower than either Bernina and Pfaff.

    Anyway, just the other weekend I helped piece a quilt.  We had a Bernina and a Pfaff set up.  I got to work on both, there was not much difference between the stitches.. they both made lovely stitches (the Pfaff is 12 years old).  The Bernina was quieter.

    I think the reason that Bernina can feed evenly is that (I think, it looked like it on a demo) the presser foot lifts just a little bit as the feed dog pulls.  So it can feed evenly... BUT in the Bernina "FAQ" page the standard recommendation for quilts matching plaids is to get their walking foot.

    There is talk about the quality of Pfaff not being what it used to be since being bought by Viking/Husqvarna.  Not being built in Germany, but elsewhere... but I don't know if that... you might check out http://www.pfaff-talk.com

    Bernina has a knee-lift for needle control which is nice.

    Pfaff's IDT is very nice, and works for most feet (like the zipper foot which is handy for piping)

    Perhaps here are some other criteria to think about:

    1) area to the right of the foot --- sometimes you have to put lots of fabric on that side of the needle

    2) cost of accessories

    3) maximum sewing height of foot... how thick can the fabric be (I've made curtains where when I lowered the presser foot, it did not move... very thick, but it sewed through)

    4) cost of repairs and maintenance (if your dealer sells both that may not be a problem)

    5) Which one you like to sew with better... how does it feel?  Do you like where the buttons are?  Is it easy to change feet?  Does it sound good?

    1. ElonaM | | #2

      <<I think the reason that Bernina can feed evenly is that (I think, it looked like it on a demo) the presser foot lifts just a little bit as the feed dog pulls.  So it can feed evenly... BUT in the Bernina "FAQ" page the standard recommendation for quilts matching plaids is to get their walking foot.>>

      I've had a couple of lovely Berninas, and yes, the foot does indeed lift a little bit with each stitch. It makes for less "creep" of the upper fabric, but I do use the walking foot for situations where exact matching is necessary.

      The knee-lift lever is an absolute joy, in that you don't have to take your hands off the fabric when you need to raise the foot for turning or whatever. Another advantage of this lever is that you can use it to raise the foot even a tad higher than usual to slide a really thick fabric under it.

      1. ChrisHaynes | | #4

        I thought so.  I also know that you can get knee lift levers for other machines (bought separately).

        I'm such an old fogey and so used to old technology that when I was using the new Bernina with all those features I never thought to use them! 

        I also have this problem with my little computerized machine.  Even though it ends with needle up... I instinctively reach over to the hand wheel and raise the needle up a little bit.

        For me it is a push as to which is better... I love both the Bernina and the Pfaff.  My decision lately has been based on the dealer.  I couldn't stand the dealer of one brand ... but I found out that there is an industrial sewing machine dealer who also sells that type (actually BOTH!, plus others) that is much easier to deal with nearby.  So if I ever get a hankering to get another new machine... I'm taking a bit of a drive!

    2. gina | | #5

      Thank you for your thoughts!  I appreciate your help!

      1. betsy | | #6

        I have had one pfaff for 27 years. I love it, and only got another machine because I had to have my one machine serviced (a rare circumstance!), and had jobs to finish. I got a Pfaff 2040, and am as happy with it as I was with the first.    I don't know about the options on the Bernina you are considering, but there are a few Pfaff features I love:

        The built in needle threader is WONDERFUL!! My mother and mother in law have each had trouble threading their Berninas.

        The automatic needle-up ending position (I'm sure there is a catchier phrase for this!) is very convenient, especially if you have new sew-ers on your machine.

        The low bobbin thread indicator is nice , especially if you are topstitching or mach. quilting.

        The built in walking foot works well for me.

        Didn't Threads recently have an article by Carol Fresia and Judy Neukum (please forgive spelling!) comparing machines?  good luck! Betsy

        1. gina | | #7

          The article I saw listed information on 31 machines, but it didn't give me much of a comparison between them.  For example, the listing showed the retail or types of presser feet but not really which one they thought sewed better etc.  Unless that info is in a different article I would be interested in seeing it.

          1. betsy | | #8

            Tht's probably the article I remembered. I'll let you know if I find another. Betsy

  2. ChrisHaynes | | #3

    Oh... I just thought of something else if you are doing garment sewing:

    Check the buttonholes.  Look for which one makes nicer buttonholes and/or is easy to make buttonholes.

  3. GNDSCHULZE | | #9

    Hi Gina,

    I have the Bernina 153 and love it.  I had a Viking prior to this machine.  It is so easy to use and impressed my sister and aunt so much they bought one too (the 160 model).  I think you would be very pleased, the 153 is the quilting machine so it comes with your walking foot and other useful quilting feet along with the basics.


    1. selwood | | #10

      Knee lifts and knee levers (vs. foot controls) are two seperate things. If you are ever to do free machine embroidery, the Bernina presser foot knee lift is what you would enjoy. I have had my Bernina many years and have had no maintenance problems and the tension and even stitching, even through multiple denim layers is remarkable. On the other hand, my East Indian friend whose sewing prowess I respect has a Pfaff which she swears by. Like buying a car, whichever fits and feels the most comfortable (among the best) is the one I would choose.

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