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Need advice – compare sewing machines

sewartist02 | Posted in Machine Embroidery on

Hi all,
I’m a long time Bernina owner but I am at the end of my rope. I own a 180E which is a lemon. I’m thinking about selling it and starting over. I need a good machine for embroidery – I want to use some canned designs and I also need to be able to design and digitize my designs. I would like to hear from Viking, Pfaff, Babylock, Janome and other machine owners re pros/cons of your machines. Bernina is trying to bankrupt me with their planned obsolescence and prices. I own all the bells/whistles including the Artista Designer software.

Thanks for any advice.



  1. PLW1017 | | #1


    I worked for a Pfaff/Bernina dealer for several years and when I chose my machine I got the Pfaff 2140.  I LOVE it! I've updated it several times via the Internet, most recently last week and it now has all the same features as the new 2170 they're selling now! That's one thing I really preferred over Bernina.  I also preferred the embroidery functions.  I found them superior to the Bernina in both performance and ease of use.  I still have an older Bernina that I really like but I use my Pfaff 99% of the time for all my sewing.  I sew a lot more than I embroider but it's great to have the embroidery available and it's so easy to use that I don't feel as if I have to take a class to refresh my memory in between uses.

    I'm sure you'll get many different responses and opinions and they're all worth what you'll pay for them! LOL  Visit your local dealers and "test drive" several different machines for yourself to see which one fits you best.


  2. Chase | | #2

    I'm really sorry to hear this because I sold my old mechancial Bernina and bought a Viking with all the bells and whistles, and I'm longing to have my Bernina back! The Viking is a very nice machine, but it doesn't have nearly the precision of the Bernina. Example: when you push the backstitch button, sometimes it backstitches immediately, and sometimes after two or three stitches, which is very annoying. Also, the automatic buttonholer doesn't work if the fabric is even slightly thick--you have to fiddle with the pressure foot tension a lot to get it right. I imagine there would be the same problem with embroidery on any bulky fabric. I have an older Viking that doesn't have any of these problems, but it can't do embroidery. I still think Berninas are the best machines, and am going to trade my almost-new Viking toward one as soon as I can afford to. Sorry you got a lemon! Chase

    1. SewTruTerry | | #3

      Sorry to hear that you are having problems with your Viking. Which one do you have?  If you are haveing these kind of problems and your machine is less then 5 years old you should take it to your dealer and have them look at it.  There may be some minor problems with the tension or other computer components that should be under warranty.  Worth checking out and giving up the head and heart aches that you are experiecing.  Good Luck

      1. Chase | | #4

        Thanks for writing back! It's a Platinum 750, and just requires more fussing than it should. Luckily my dealer lets you trade up at 100% value within a year, and also sells Berninas.

  3. ChrisHaynes | | #5

    I started out with a used Brother PE-100, which is a very old embroidery only machine with a 4" x 4" embroidery area.  I've not really had any trouble with it at all.

    I recently upgraded to the Brother PC-6500 for the larger area (5" x 7"), but since it was the floor demo machine it has a few quirks --- but still works fine (its quirk is that it keeps telling me the bobbin is running low, even when it is a new full bobbin --- so it is get re-calibrated, cleaned and checked over).  It is a combo machine that seems to be easy to convert back and forth.  Its regular stitch quality is very nice, and it makes beautiful buttonholes.  (note:  Brother and Babylock are essentially the same machines).

    It does not have as wide as a stitch as the Bernina 180.  I have sewn with a friend's Bernina 180, and while it is fine -- I was not impressed with its stitch quality compared to my old mechanical Pfaff 955 or my newer Brother PC-2800 (which I bought for its lovely buttonholes... the stitch density is balanced on each side!).  It may have something to do with how wide the needle can go.

    Oh, I now have a Brother PC-2800 for sale and a PE-100 to give away.

    1. sewartist02 | | #6

      thanks for the information. I agree about the stitch quality. My old Bernina 1130 makes a much prettier satin stitch and in general is a better machine. It really has been a disappointment to go through this - spending so much money and having nothing but problems. I guess it is like buying a car - a lemon. Too bad Bernina doesn't stand behind their machines better. All they want to do it sell you more or another machine.

    2. Shulas | | #18

      Hello  there,

      I am looking at taking a try at embroidery with a machine. Is the one you would like to give away still available. I would be interested.



      Edited 4/7/2006 12:23 pm ET by Shulas

      1. ChrisHaynes | | #19

        Where are you?

        1. feismom | | #20

          Chris - did you ever live in Glen Williams ON?  I used to work with a Chris Haynes who lived out there and did a lot of sewing.

          1. ChrisHaynes | | #21

            No... a Google search on my name brings up around 45000 hits!

  4. 2busy | | #7

    Hi Patti,

    I've never owned a Bernina, but I can comment on the Viking Designer I.  I don't know how the Designer I compares with the new Designer SE, but I encourage you to get a demonstration of both at your dealer's.  Since the SE came out, there should be plenty of used D I's available if you want to consider a used machine.  I use my machine primarily for machine embroidery, with regular sewing occasionally.

    I had a Brother ULT 2003 that I never really learned to use because I would always go back to the Designer I since it has an automatic lift of the presser foot when the sewing stops.  Then I thought I couldn't live without the Innovis, so I traded in the ULT when the Innovis first came out, spent a fortune, and have never used it--always fell back on what I know best, the Designer I.  My D I has become tempermental about light bulbs (if one burns out, you have to replace them both--they are hard to change, and now I can't get the lights to work at all).  Oh, by the way, the DI uses SHV format, and you will need some kind of software to convert from other formats.  HV had an expensive proprietary product, and annthegran sells something that will convert to SHV but I haven't tried it.

    A word of advice:  if you want to digitize and sell your designs, hang on to the Artista software if it converts from other formats.  I digitize with PE Design and Embird, but they won't convert to the proprietary Bernina format.

    Hope this helps--



    1. sewartist02 | | #8

      Thank you for the information. I am going to go to each dealer and have them demo their machines for me. I've heard good things about Viking. I've heard good things about Pfaff. I own a Viking serger that I love. Looks like it is time to switch brands.Patti

    2. SewTruTerry | | #9

      I have a D1 as well and love it and my Rose.  I had thought about trading in my Rose for the DSE but think I want them all in my sewing room. I work at a Viking Sewing Gallery and have had a chance to sew on the DSE and I want it even more now as there are a ton of things that you can do on the DSE without having to use your computer like with the D1.  The stitch quality is as good or better than the D1 and there are more types of button holes than the D1.  The biggest advantage is being able to switch from embroidery to "straight" stitching without having to take the embroidery unit off of the machine.  I can't wait to get my DSE.

      1. Bernie1 | | #10

        When I bought the Bernina 165E it was spitting oil all over my embroidery and making lumpy stitches. So I took it right back and they gave me a new one - no problems. I also have a Designer 1 which I wouldn't trade for anything - goodness if the SE has better stitches, how much better can it get? My machine makes the most beautiful stitches and has not given me problems with buttonholes. I also own a Pfaff 1540 which I use only for making costumes. I'm looking at getting an old Bernina 1230 or something from the 1100 series but my DH thinks I'm nuts. What if I need to embroider on two machines at once, though, and I'm working on a costume and a suit at the same time? ;-). You can never have too many shoes, too many accessories or too many sewing machines.

        Honestly, I think it's a matter of taste. Every manufacturer is capable of making a lemon. If you are having trouble with your 180E, take it back and get it replaced. Everyone I've met who owns that machine loves it.

  5. booklovr | | #11

    Hi there,

    I agree with you about the Bernina 180E.  I bought one of the first ones and it was so bad the dealer gave me a new one.  It actually was a reworked one.   When Bernina brought the 180Es out they rushed them for the Christmas season and had tons of lemons.  So they took some of those and reworked them and the dealers replaced some of the really bad ones.  But I continued to have trouble with mine, to the point that I wasn't using it.  I have a Bernina 910 and a 1230, both of which I love.  I went back to the dealer and traded my 180 down to a 170.  I still have that one and use it all the time.  It's still tempermental but it works most of the time. 

    If I had the money I would definitely buy a Viking Designer1 or DesignerSE.  Everyone I know loves their Viking and I hear a lot of complaints about Berninas.  After being a dedicated Bernina user I have come to the point where I wouldn't buy another one. 

    Good luck shopping.  It's fun to see all the different machines and what they can do.


    1. SewTruTerry | | #12

      I have to tell you if I didn't before that I sell Viking machines and love hearing about all of the problems that other people are having with their machines.  I have 2 Vikings and love them both and want to get the DSE real soon.  Of course because I am now working I don't have as much time to use them at home but I get to play with it at work.  I usually tell people that ask about all of the latest gimmicks like self threading and all of that, Viking will come out with it as soon as their engineers can make it work right all of the time.  They are a little slower when it comes to bringing out the new stuff but when they come out with it, it is right.   Can you name the one person that built your machine? I can because each Viking is built from start to finish by one person only and they put their name on it and everything.  I think this counts for something.

      1. booklovr | | #13

        Every thing I hear about Viking is good.  I would have one now if I could.  I'm very disillusioned by Bernina.  The older Berninas work like troopers but the newer ones have tons of problems.  When you pay that much for a machine that shouldn't happen.

        Thanks for the imput on the Vikings.  I hope to be able to get one some time.


        1. sewartist02 | | #14

          Thank God, it isn't just me. I was a dyed-in-the-wool Bernina woman until this 180. I am sick of the excuses and now the dealer saying "I just need to upgrade." I'm not poor but I haven't won Powerball either. Just an upgrade of $2 to 6K is not small potatoes. When you pay $4200 for a machine you expect it to work. Other industries would never stay in business by telling you to spend even more money "just" to upgrade. I'm definitely going to look at Vikings. I liked the one person builds it info. Funny thing is that I was leaning toward a Viking originally. Should always go with your gut, I guess.Patti

          1. booklovr | | #15

            I know exactly how you feel.  I've used Berninas for over 20 years. 

            I like the idea of one person building a machine also.  Let me know how it goes with Viking.


          2. earthmama | | #16

            I am looking at sewing machines..mainly Bernina and Viking. I haven't done much sewing in 10 years but am pretty experienced at least I used to be.LOL What about the Viking PLatinum 750 or the Interlude series? I am quite confused at all the different machines. Always wanted Bernina but ebery time I look at them I come away not sure at all..I just need some input from people who sew...all the computerized and embroidery looks like a lot to learn. I am looking for the easiest to learn....thanks Mona

  6. ixs | | #17

    I'm so sorry you're having trouble with your 180E; I bought a demo from a shop in Ohio and just love it. The two women owners are very upbeat and entrepreneurial and troubleshoot for me over the phone if I have a question, as I live in Michigan and Arizona and also am on the road in an RV. HOWEVER, my present 180E hasn't been trouble free, but when one looks at all the electronics, one can see why they CAN be problematic.

    It took some fine-tuning (by the shop) to get to where the Sulky thread wouldn't break while doing embroidery, although the thread Bernina recommends does a great job.

    I am more a seamstress than an embroiderer, so I am much more interested in how it sews clothes. I bought a Bernina on the advice of two expert seamstresses after looking at most manufacturers for at least 5 years. I love it for the wonderful one-direction buttonholes it sews, and the fact that you can hold a button up to the screen to measure it for sewing, and have it come out the right size.

    HOWEVER, I have had to have one of its boards replaced, at something around $300, but I knew when I bought the 180E that it might require more maintenance and was prepared that it might happen. I've spent more on computers over the years.

    Make sure you have good needles and thread and take it to a reliable dealer for service, and maybe the machine will work better or up to your standards.

    1. ixs | | #22

      Hi,Just catching up on old threads--back from Arizona--been gone 6 mos.Did you ever resolve your Bernina problems? You know, we all have such individual needs/wants for our sewing and individual expectations of what a machine should/could do...... That probably influences your decisions a lot, especially in sewing.I asked two very excellent/experienced sewers before I bought my Bernina. It still eats thread if I don't use long enough thread tails, but that is my problem, as I am trying to be economical with my thread use....You know, I have two older mechanical sewing machines, and they have ALWAYS worked great, and one is all metal, so it will NEVER wear out. But I still moved on to another machine; my preferences and maybe all that outside influence/advertising???? I even have a treadle machine that sews fantastic straight stitches, BECAUSE THAT'S ALL IT DOES. Well, hope to get an update. Hope you have had a change of luck with your machine/s.

      1. sewartist02 | | #23

        Thanks for asking. I still have the 180E. I upgraded to v.4 software and only use the machine for embroidery now. When I save enough money, I am going to buy a Viking. I will probably keep the 180 though because there is very little resale value and I already sunk all that money in it. Thank goodness I still have my 1130 workhorse. I've got a Singer Featherweight from 1937 and yes it only sews a straight stitch but it's the prettiest most consistent stitch I can get. I agree with someone's earlier post...you can't have too many machines. :-)

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