Bernina 8 Series–The Dream Machines

Bernina 8 SeriesIf you missed the global launch of the Bernina 8 Series, you may have to wait a bit to see the webcast on the Bernina 8 Series website. It will be there eventually they say, but it’s not there yet. I was afraid of that, so yes, I stayed up until 3:00 a.m. to catch the launch live, which started at 1:30 a.m. here in my part of the world. It was sooo worth the late night and puffy eyes this morning to see if all that fancy marketing, car talk and just plain bragging on Bernina’s part was justified.

And with only a couple of reservations, I think the hoopla was justified. To be honest, my jaw dropped more than once during the presentation and I think that the more I see of these machines (for there were actually two machines, not just one) the more I’ll like them. And want one. *sigh*

So what’s the big deal? The 8 Series is not your mother’s sewing machine people. The overall messages about these new machines are luxury, size, speed and choice. The full feature list is available on the Bernina 8 Series site, as well as movies showing key features, but these were the high points of the webcast for me:

  • It’s just plain BIG, all over. 41″ from bumper to bumper. Um, sorry, from side to side. It’s so big, if I bought one I’d have to take ITMan’s SUV to pick it up from the dealer because there’s no way the box (crate?) would fit in the Mustang. The box for the Bernina 440 had to go in the back seat as it was, since my trunk was too small.
  • All that size overall means more space to the right of the needle, 12″ to be exact. For comparison value, I just measured the Bernina 440, and it has 7½”; I can well imagine how much easier it would be to push a large quilt though the machine with 4½” more space to do it in. Can you say less pain in arms and back while machine quilting? And a 15″ free arm is nothing to sneeze at either!
  • Push button needle threading makes threading the needle the work of a thought. Take the thread from the thread delivery system (the machine has leg room for four spools of any size or shape, with an integrated telescoping feeding system. No more external spool holders for specialty threads!). Lay the thread across the machine, push a button, the needle is automatically threaded and you’re ready to sew. Sure, all of my machines have needle threaders, but I still have to man the threader. This push button feature is just plain coooool.
  • The bobbin is a jumbo bobbin that has 40% more trunk space than before. You can select how much thread to wind on the bobbin, and how fast to wind it. There’s no bobbin case, and the automatic swing out bobbin system makes it easy to change, and you won’t need to change the bobbin as often when you can fill it up with 40% more thread. The bobbin system on the 8 Series machines can handle heavier threads than other machines, making bobbin work with decorative threads easier and more fun.
  • Here’s a jaw dropper: The Bernina 8 Series machines have a dual feed system! Thank you, thank you! More rubber on the road means more control and more consistent feeding. Don’t get me wrong, the newer Bernina machines handle feeding much better than the older ones I’d used over the years, but I still use my Pfaff for machine guided quilting and binding since there are so many layers and such a large potential for shifting. With a dual feed feature on a Bernina, I’d be a happy camper indeed.
  • A large and beautiful 7″ color touch screen is the command and control center for the machine. The machine has a clock and an alarm (I’ve always wondered why computerized machines didn’t have that!), you can store your needle size and type in the machine’s memory so you’ll always know what’s in the machine when you sit down to sew, and you can even change the wallpaper on the screen just like you can on your home computer. Virtually everything is programmable, from securing stitches to connecting stitches, from the slit width on buttonholes to the 360° stitching direction. You can even change stitching direction on the fly during stitching.
  • The embroidery functions are bigger, better, and faster of course, and a new hooping system promises to be easier and more user friendly as well. I’m sure there’s much more to be said of the embroidery functions, but as it’s not my mainstay I’m going to leave it at that.

Along with the two machines, the top-of-the-line 830 with embroidery and the 820 without, Bernina introduced a sewing cabinet and a machine quilting frame at the same time. I could see the machine quilting frame coming, what with pre-launch rumors of a huge throat area on the 8 Series machines. The machines are a natural fit with a machine quilting frame, and it looks as though Bernina has designed a good one from what I can tell.

As for reservations, I have a couple. The 8 Series is purported to be the fastest machine in the home sewing market, reaching speeds of 65 mph in 3.5 seconds. Oh wait, with 1,100 stitches per minute capability. However, I wonder if those stitches will be consistently sized at high speeds. On the 440, I’ve found that as the sewing speed goes up, the stitch size goes down considerably, since the fabric isn’t being transported through the machine consistently at high speeds. The stitches tend to get really small when you put the pedal to the metal. The new dual feed might help this problem a bit, and I’ll be interested to test drive one and see if this fault has been fixed in this new generation of machines.

The second, and arguably the largest, reservation I have is price. In the midst of all the hoopla, not one word did I hear about the MSRP on these babies. I heard “Go see your dealer today and pay a refundable deposit to reserve yours for November delivery of your new 830, or January delivery for the new 820,” and “Bernina offers interest free financing until January 2010,” but not one whisper about how much and whether a second mortgage on a house would be required to put one of these machines in your driveway, er, studio.

I called my dealer in Stuttgart this morning and he said that he has absolutely no solid information about any of it, because the actual product launch here in Europe won’t be until the end of the year, well after the machines are available in the States. I’m sure there’s some esoteric business reason for not launching the machines worldwide at the same time as they are available in the States, but I haven’t a clue what it might be. Are Americans just that much more likely to buy a high end machine like this?

As first impressions go, the Bernina 8 Series machines left a pretty good one. ITMan even said to figure out how to get one when I was telling him about it this morning. 😯 No, he didn’t accompany me for the webcast launch last night, only saying not to wake him up to talk about it when I came to bed in the wee hours. I can’t imagine what possessed him to tell me to get one either; he must know something I don’t about a big fat raise and a promotion coming down the pipeline for him or something, because with rumors putting the price point at over $10K I’m just not sure I’d go there, wonderful features or not. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be worth the price, just that a line must be drawn somewhere, and I thought I’d drawn mine at the price point of the 440. Still, a girl can dream a bit, right?

Edit: Check out Sew Wise with Sara’s actual user review of the Bernina 8 Series. As a dealer, she and her husband were at Bernina University for the unveiling, and she has even more details on some features than you can get from the Bernina 8 Series site. There are a couple more gems in there that I’m drooling over, like these:

It even shows on screen the percentage of thread remaining on the bobbin counting down from 20% down to 2% in small increments.

Next, there is no take up lever to thread. (You know the standard threading path of down, up and down?) There is a take up lever in the machine, but the machine threads it automatically. No more missing the take up lever or having the thread come out of it.

I’d be crazy for the bobbin warning system, for sure. The lack of a low bobbin warning system has been one of my pet peeves about the 440 since I bought it. Thanks for sharing Sara!

Your Voice: What about you? Do you want one? Do you think it would be worth the price? Which model would you get? What are your reservations? If you have any info about an actual dollar amount, do share so we all know what we’re up against!

7 thoughts on “Bernina 8 Series–The Dream Machines

  1. Great review, Nadine! The new Bernina sounds wonderful. I do love a Bernina, and I’m glad they finally opened up that harp–to a whopping 12″ yet–WOW! I won’t be buying one though. I have two new Janomes. Well, one is not-so-new. They had 9″ openings, and that was what drove me over to Janome from Bernina. That and I like the button to set for needle-down instead of tapping the foot pedal. I suppose the new Berninas have that feature as well.


  2. I was at the Bernina Dealer today. Tomorrow evening and again on Saturday, they are having an “emulator” demo (for lack of a better way to put it). From what I have been told it runs on the PC and it is just like sitting behind the machine. You can “push” icons and see what they do. I’m looking forward to checking it out!


  3. Yep, I want one. I want the 820 when it comes out. I want all those wonderful features except for the embroidery, I have a 630 and a 730 and am quite content with their embroidery abilities.

    However, the 820 doesn’t have all the stitches of the 830, and I love, love love using decorative stitches! I think they did this just to tempt me over to the 830, which is more than I wish to spend on a single machine. Darn them anyway! LOL


  4. Rian, I imagine that the needle down function on the new machines is probably similar to the Bernina 440. On the 440, you can tap the back of the foot to bring the needle up or down, but you can also set the needle down with a button on the machine, a short press to bring the needle down one time, or a long press to set it that way permanently for that sewing session, or until you set it permanently to the up position again with the button. That whole process was different enough from all my Pfaff machines that it drove me completely nuts when I started to use the Bernina, and I still have to think about it when use the button to set the needle permanently down. Sixteen years of being a Pfaffie is hard to overcome!

    Hi Kerri! The demo sounds interesting. Let us know how it goes!

    Welcome CJ! I hadn’t seen that the 820 didn’t have all the deco stitches that the 830 has, but then again, I wasn’t looking for that particular feature either. I don’t use decorative stitches much at all, so at least that won’t tempt me to lust for the 830. How sad though for people like you who do use deco stitches, and I’m sure you’re right about their marketing ploy on that one.

    I was saying to ITMan a few months back that they ought to start selling sewing machines like they do cars: you order the options you want, and forget the rest. I’d order mine without deco stitches, but with all the other bells and whistles. Sewing machine companies might even sell more machines that way; I know folks who buy a new car of the same model they already have, strictly because newer, better features are available on the new model. I can’t imagine sewing machine buyers would be any different.


  5. Thanks so much for an excellent review. I heard thru one of the dealers that the Bernina 8 would cost $15K. That is really way above my price range. But one can’t help but salivate at all the wonderful features of the machine. I own an Artista and also a Pffaff. I love them both and would love to get my hands on the 830. I can always dream, right?


  6. Hi Normie, and welcome!

    I’m glad it was a helpful review. Yes, I’m still dreaming too, and even if I had the money, I might not jump on it. It’s just SO MUCH!

    Thanks for stopping by!


  7. Thanks to all of the insight and suggestions from all of you! It was hard, but I was patient. I’ve finally been able to afford a Bernina 830. It was a “floor model” that had really hardly ever been used, except for very gentle demonstrations. It’s 2 years old and looks brand new.

    Like many of you I could have never been able to justify paying the full asking price. I paid $9,999 for the 830 Sewing/Quilting/Embroidery Machine WITH the Bernina Quilting Frame! The Quilting Frame is on backorder until August 2010, which really gives me a chance to finish prepping my sewing/project space.

    I’m also in the process of ordering a Sewing/Quilting Table designed specifically for machines as large/heavy as the Bernina 830. This table is not only beautiful and functional, but will be adjustable from a standard height up to 42″ high (great for designing and cutting) which is going to be a lifesaver for my aching neck and back!

    Thanks again for all of your very helpful input.


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