I have been sewing since the dawn of time...seriously. My first machine was my mom's straight stitch Singer. It had the curved wood carrying case, the first "portable machine" and was powered by a knee control. It had no speed control, only did a straight stitch and didn't have a button holer or reverse stitching. I made bound buttonholes for everything before I knew there were other options. I sewed garments on that machine into my first year of college when I invested in a $200 machine that had my first zig-zag and buttonholer. Since that time, I have owned most every sewing machine made. It didn't take me long to realize that not all machines are created equally.
When I found my way to Bernina machines, I found a whole new world of performance. While I will admit there were features on my other machines I thought I would miss, I realized that many of those "features" were actually compensations for performance shortcomings.
Perhaps the first two biggest amaze-ments to me were the stitch motor performance and the true quarter inch. When I sew decorative stitches with my Bernina, I don't need to shove or "help" my fabric through to make accurate stitches. While some of this is needle performance and thread, more of it has to do with having a motor on the Bernina machines that can accurately truck the fabric through the feed-dogs evenly for the stitches to place as accurately as possible. The other features on the Bernina that allow it to do this well are having presser foot pressure adjustment. I can adjust the presser foot to be tighter or lighter against my fabric into the feed dogs. But perhaps better than decorative stitching was how the motor would let me plow through bulky layers of fabric without binding up the machine or shoving the needle out of place. WOW.
As for a quarter-inch, quilters have been sadly deluded with the concept of a "scant quarter inch". Such a creature should not exist. 2.5" strip sewn to a 2.5" strip with a quarter inch measure, should be a 4.5" finished unit. If you are still using a scant quarter inch, you are either using thread that is too thick causing the fabric to buckle over the threaded seam or you are using your iron as a "fix-it tool" shoving a pleat into your work. Perhaps it is because we believe we are bad at math that we accept the "scant quarter inch", but it just is NOT necessary. When I moved over from all my other machines that gave me a metric measured quarter inch with all kinds of adjustments to my Bernina, I realized something about the Bernina 1/4" measurements....they are accurate because they are NOT metric. A "metric quarter inch" is an adjusted measurement. There is not a metric measure that perfectly matches the English quarter inch. (Don't you remember conversion charts for changing from English to metric....always leaving a hanging decimal point?!) So, they tell you to move your needle out of center position to "adjust it more". For all of you Singer Featherweight lovers, this is what will drive you crazy. As soon as you move your needle out of center position, you are putting a zig in the back of your fabric because your needle is now having to reach over to pick up the bobbin thread. Throwing more thread into your seam causes as much mess as heavy thread.
At any rate, when I first started piecing, I had moved from my college machine to my first "big kid machine". Having been a pretty good garment sewer, I figured how tough could a quarter inch be. It WAS tough. As much tape as I adhered to my machine and contortions as I tried, I couldn't get an accurate quarter inch. I bought every foot I could find from thick plastic boys to every metal foot I could rig onto my machines. Then I went the route of talking to machine dealers who each convinced me my issue was my machine and I kept moving machines. At one point, I even owned a couple of Featherweights. While cute and charming and good stitchers, I was too accustom to computerized features such as needle up and down and more to stay friends with an FW for long. Of course, I loved the journey as I learned so much about not just quilting but much more.
Then I met Bernina machines for piecing and the magic began. I didn't have to stick my tongue out and hold it with my teeth to get an accurate stitch. My Bernina machines have the 1/4" tooled to fit the ENGLISH quarter inch....just as I am cutting....with an English system. Yes, I thought the whole world would be metric by now....but it isn't and I am glad because I have too much invested in yards of fabric to switch metric and now that my quarter inch is happy, I am happy.
What is your FAVORITE FEATURE of Bernina machines? Tell Bernina via their blog. They will be selecting winners from those who COMMENT on their blog. Feel free to comment on my blog too. I like to hear from you and hear about your sewing journey.
All the Best to You, jill
p.s......how to find the Bernina blog? CLICK HERE (You will need to go to the blog for March 10, 2010 and post by the date to be eligible to win.)