I recently purchased a Bernina 475 qe sewing machine. It's my first Bernina – so as a newcomer to the brand, I thought I would post a list of things you might want to consider before you buy.
You can see my unboxing of this Bernina sewing machine here.
What is Bernina?
If you haven't heard of Bernina, you are not alone.
Personally, as a novice to the sewing world, I also had not heard of the brand until recently.
I first noticed the machine being used by some of the instructors in my Creativebug classes.
Just by watching those tutorials, I could tell that this sewing machine was capable of far more than my own 15 year old inexpensive other brand model.
I started researching and learned that Bernina is a Swiss company that has been around since 1893.
They make top of the line sewing machines, sergers, and long arm quilting machines to name a few.
They sell their products through authorized dealers – so you won't find them at big box stores or online.
As far as sewing machines go, they offer different “Series” machines – 300 series, 400 series, 500 series – all the way up to 800 series.
The 800 series is at the high end of the spectrum. These machines offer the most features and of course, cost quite a bundle.
At the other end you have your 300 series that have a limited number of features but are relatively more affordable.
Why I Chose the 475 qe
As a newcomer to Bernina, I set my sights on the 475 qe for a few reasons which made sense to me at the time.
However, knowing what I know now – after using and learning more about Bernina – my thought process would have been very different.
I will try to go over what I was thinking then and what I would do now to help you with your decision making.
Don't get me wrong – I think the Bernina 475 qe is an awesome sewing machine.
I really like it and would buy it again in a heartbeat.
But after sewing on it for a few months, I find that I like it SO much that I want even more features.
Yes – I am thinking about upgrading! Is that crazy or what?
Choosing the 400 Series
My decision process started with me zeroing in on the 400 Series machines.
I knew I wanted some fancier features than what came with the 300 series.
Namely, I liked the front loading Jumbo bobbin feature the best.
But there are so many other bells and whistles that I love:
- the pattern start and end function
- 840 stitch patterns including alphabets
- decorative stitches
- free hand system
- pattern repeat
- automatic thread cutter
- start/stop button (option to stitch with either foot control or without)
- option to set needle stop position (up or down)
At first glance, the 400 series machines were about half the price of the 500 series machines.
And even that price was still a stretch for me, especially when you compare it to way cheaper machines in the big box stores.
Mistakes I Made At This Step in the Game
Because I decided on the 400 series – I ONLY looked at the 400 series to make my decision.
I did not compare the features of the 400 series to the 500 series and above because I did not want to spend more on a sewing machine.
Also, I did all my research online – mostly at Bernina.com.
There are no dealers near my town that have all the machines on display, and I was hesitant to drive too far away because of the whole coronavirus situation.
Lessons Learned: Get familiar with the features of all the different series of Bernina machines, so you know exactly which ones are important to you.
Go to a dealer (even if they are far away) that has actual machines on the floor that you can try sewing on. Ask the dealer to explain some of the features of different models so you can figure out which features are important to you.
One of the reasons that I wanted to upgrade from my old brand machine was that I wanted to learn how to quilt. (I made some pot holders on my old machine and it was so tedious).
In fact, one of my first projects on my 475 qe was this Riley Blake Quilt Kit.
Because I had quilting on my mind, the qe (which stands for Quilters Edition) seemed like just the thing I was looking for.
So, the 475 qe seemed perfect.
All Bernina Quilters Edition machines have some additional quilting stitches as compared to models that are not qe.
Mistakes Made Here
You can still quilt on non-qe machines – so don't rule them out without looking at the other features.
Features I Wish I Paid Attention To
One thing that I did not pay attention to was the stitch size.
The Bernina 475 qe is a 5mm machine.
Many other Berninas are 9mm machines.
Honestly, I did not even know what this meant when I bought my Bernina.
This may not be the technical explanation, but this size refers to the stitch width and the spacing of the feed dogs.
Apparently, the 5mm width is great for quilt piecing – and I found piecing my quilt was very easy.
The downside of the 5mm width is that any decorative stitching that you do will be less than 5mm wide – which means it is really small.
Now that I have been sewing on the B475 qe for a few months – I really wish that I had a wider 9mm machine because I have been adding decorative borders to some of the things I make (like these DIY fabric face masks).
Some people like having 2 Bernina sewing machines – one 5mm and one 9mm.
Maybe they are on to something ….
The Bernina 475 qe is NOT a dual feed machine.
What is dual feed?
Well, when you sew the bottom feed dogs serve to pull your fabric under the needle and the presser foot.
Because the feed dogs are underneath your project they pull the lower layer of fabric and the upper layer sort of just goes along for the ride.
Some Bernina models have a dual feed feature. This is sort of a built in foot that fits into a special presser foot.
It works in conjunction with the feed dogs and pulls the upper layer of fabric through the machine evenly.
Because the 475 qe is not a dual feed machine, you can use a walking foot to achieve the same results instead.
I have read that the walking foot is a better option as it gives your project more traction.
If you plan to quilt, you will need a walking foot anyway (it is sold separately).
But there is something to be said about the convenience of having the dual feed at the ready.
BSR – Bernina Stitch Regulator
If you plan to do any free motion quilting, the Bernina Stitch Regulator (BSR) is a fun accessory to have.
It is activated by the motion of the fabric under the foot and gives you nice even stitches as you free motion.
The Bernina 475 qe does NOT come with a BSR.
The good news is that it does have the special plug for the BSR attachment – so you can buy one separately.
However, a BSR retails for around $1,000 – so it is an expensive add on.
If you want a BSR, you may want to go for a more expensive machine that actually includes the BSR.
Throat space is the distance to the right of the needle to the vertical part of the machine.
The B475 qe is a smaller machine and has a throat space that measures 7 inches.
Compare that to the 790 Plus that is taller and has a throat space of 10 inches.
Larger quilts are definitely easier to make on a larger machine.
However, if you take your machine on the road – to classes, etc – then you will appreciate the smaller 475 qe which is very manageable.
Your Bernina dealer is more than a place to buy a sewing machine – so make this choice carefully.
First, make sure you get a good deal. I have learned that even if there is no promotion happening, Bernina dealers will often offer their own discounts and also have some wiggle room in the pricing.
It's a big purchase, so if you get a price that you like then you will have a happy feeling in all your future transactions with your dealer.
And there will be future transactions, trust me.
You need to get your sewing machine serviced yearly – so you need to trust this dealer with your precious new sewing machine.
You will need presser feet and genuine Bernina accessories as you expand your sewing skills and try out new projects.
And, you may outgrow your current machine and want to trade it in.
Many dealers will offer you a full price trade in within the first year of purchase and a decent percentage in the years there after.
A Bernina is More Than a Sewing Machine
What I am learning is that owning a Bernina is not just about the machine – it's about the experience.
It's about the enjoyment that you get from creating and sewing.
You may sew as a hobby or as a business but when you sit down to sew, you want your time spent to be as stress free as possible.
For me, sewing on my Bernina 475 qe is a HUGE improvement compared to sewing on my old machine – and I am so happy to have it.
It is a fantastic machine to start on and it's also a great machine to hold on to – if it does everything that you want it to do.
Given everything that I did not know going in – I may have to see what I can do about upgrading to get some of the additional features that I don't have right now. (Oh how that 790 Plus SE deal is calling my name!)
Anyhow, for the time being, I am thrilled with my Bernina and everyday I learn about new things that it can do.