Bernina 475 qe – Things to Consider Before You Buy

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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.

bernina 475qe sewing machine

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.

Start your online research at Bernina.com but also join some Bernina Facebook groups like the Bernina Lovers group. The members are so helpful and they offer a wealth of information.

Quilting

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

Stitch Size

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 ….

Dual Feed

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

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.

Dealer Choice

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.

Happy sewing!

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14 Comments

  1. I’m reading this review retrospectively as I’ve been the proud owner of this machine (my ‘Nina’) for just over a year. I’ve had other machines but a Bernina was always top of my wish list. My darling partner was seriously ill last year, and after I’d nursed him better, he decided to buy me a new machine by way of saying thank you. I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful stockist nearby, which also sells amazing fabrics, precuts and all the associated haberdashery, so off I went to try out a Bernina. I didn’t need much persuasion and after a little discussion, I got a walking foot and a few other accessories included in the price.

    I have been blown away by what a beautiful machine the 475qe is. Using it for the first time was so intuitive, even if some features, such as the jumbo bobbin, were new to me. I jumped straight in and made a jelly roll race quilt, it wasn’t great but I was hooked and it was just the first of many quilts I’ve made since. I know if something goes wrong it’ll be my fault, not Nina’s. She’s a strong, reliable work horse and never lets me down.

    Like you, I only looked at this series, as the price was an important factor, but I really don’t feel limited by the size, functions and features of the machine. In fact, I’ve just finished quilting a queen size quilt, even if it was a bit of a squash and a squeeze at times. It’s pretty basic quilting but I’m happy with it. I really love the walking foot, and the quarter inch foot makes piecing a doddle.

    Thank you for your honest review, and to other commenters for the things they’ve said. Happy sewing for many years to come to all of us!

    1. Hi Rachael,
      I really enjoyed reading about your experience with the Bernina 475qe sewing machine. It certainly is a little work horse and I love it, too.
      Thank you much for your kind words and I am so glad that you liked the review.

  2. Your article was very good and explained things from the perspective of a big box machine to a dealer only brand. I just purchased a Bernina 475, Kaffe Fasset edition…that was signed by Kaffe. So, I may be “fan girling” a bit, but I’m coming from the perspective of my “daily driver” being a Babylock Altair. I was first attracted to the 475 Kaffe edition because, let’s face it…I absolutely adore Kaffe and Brandon. They are so down to Earth and the collective creates stunning fabrics. The 475 Kaffe edition is also mint green with the paper weight design. Who wouldn’t love that? It also includes 30 decorative stitches, created by Kaffe. I knew going into this, it was a 5mm stitch and short throat. I wanted a lightweight machine to take to classes, travel with (elderly parents…500+ miles away from my home and at 8 hrs away, I’m the closest immediate family…my brother is 14 hrs away). For the back story of my machine…I bought a very basic Brother 30+ yrs ago. It still works, but I’ve never been happy with the stitch quality. I breached the dealer only market with a Babylock Accord. It was a very nice machine, but I outgrew it quickly. I upgraded to a Babylock Ellisimo Gold 2, and out grew it. I currently own a Babylock Altair. The Solaris Vision…darn that machine, flirts with me every time I’m in my LQS. To make matters worse, I went to a class at my LQS and was paired with the SV. I’m holding firm…I’m committed to my Altair. I love to do machine embroidery, but I also love to piece, FMQ, do ruler work…and when my Altair is tied up with an embroidery project…I get antsy. I clean my space, reorganize, cut for the next project…but, I really want to SEW. So, I was minding my own business, drinking coffee, reading the paper…doing Wordle…and my hubby said, “Isn’t Kaffe Fassett a fabric designer you like?” I was puzzled, but answered, “Yes. Why?” He told me about 2 events KF was going to do in NC…1 of which was less than 2 hrs away. He talked me into a weekend trip, that included me attending the event. I totally “fan girled” at the book signing after the lecture. Yes, I’m no longer a “girl” by a long shot, but I did it anyhow. I saw the 2 Kaffe edition machines and just about swooned. I behaved…ok, I sort of behaved…I left with a very large, heavy shopping bag with 2 entire quilt kits, fat quarters, 1 yd cuts, thread…and couldn’t get those machines out of my head. I researched Bernina…I’d heard the name, but never sewed on one or saw one outside the KF lecture. I’d dearly love the embroidery machine, but could not justify the purchase. The main reason I was drooling over the embroidery machine was the KFC embroidery files loaded on the machine. But, my rationale was blown out of the water with that machine. It was just about as heavy as my machine and the embroidery field max was a bit smaller than my Altair. After researching both machines, I decided to go with the super adorable 475. I drove 1 1/2 hrs to the quilt shop to test drive this machine. I took a few of my frequently used 1/4(high shank) rulers with me. The stitching was perfect. The bobbin is HUGE! Needless to say, I drove home, in the company of this beautiful, lightweight, mint green, little gem. I unboxed it, got it settled into my sewing room, made several quilt sandwiches and played. Oh, I failed to mention I purchased the ruler foot at the same time I bought the machine. It comes with all the basic feet…so, I’m set there. The ruler quilting was beautiful. Stitch length, without the regulator, was more consistent than my usual work. So, all of that said, as an entry level machine or as a second or travel machine, I think it’s a great choice. The only downsides I see are, it takes different feet and bobbins than my Altair. It is a front load bobbin, and I thought I’d hate that, but for FMQ…it’s kind of great. I think you just need to really think about how you want to use your machine. Will you only sew at home, in a permanent spot…go as big as you can afford. If you plan to travel, take classes, have no interest in quilting large projects, this is a great machine. Feet are expensive, when compared to snap on feet, but it came with every foot I consistently use, other than the ruler foot. Plus, I do have my Altair, with a full stable of snap on feet, if I need something specific. All of this explained, I didn’t understand having more than 1 machine until I retired and had time to sew. If the 475 hadn’t been a Kaffe design AND signed, I’d have gone with an entry level Babylock. The main reasoning for that is, I have all the feet and the learning curve would be minimal. I had a brief “tour” of the 475 today, brought it home, threaded it, wound a bobbin, did ruler work…it’s pretty intuitive if you have been sewing for any length of time. I know this is lengthy, but for persons in my stage of life, I hope it lends a perspective into a full function, lightweight, machine.

  3. Thank you for your journey and thoughts in purchasing the Bernina 475QE. I too am looking at it and watched several videos on Youtube with Cody and he recommended I buy a 535 instead. I already own a Janome 9 mm machine and its great but in piecing it can eat the fabric very quickly. Bernina should include things like a walking foot, 1/4 inch foot on some of these machines but that being said I have put my research on hold and noticed they are discounting some of the machines at Bernina.com which is great. I want a reliable machine not one I have to take for service frequently. It is expensive to do that. Thank you again great review and suggestions.

  4. I have been teaching with and using Bernina machines for my personal sewing machine for the past 30 years. Great machines. The 5.5mm width Bernina machines do not need the dual feed because the feed dogs are fairly close together. When a machine gets a larger stitch width, 7mm or 9mm, you really do need the dual feed or your stitching will be compromised on the more difficult fabrics. The Bernina walking foot #50 is by far the best on the market if you need further help on sewing fur or with quilting lofty projects. I presently have a Bernina 475 and a Bernina 790+, in addition to Bernina 1090s and 1260s in the sewing studios. I have tried other brands of machines, but nothing is more reliable or works as smoothly or stitches as well as the Bernina machines. A real workhorse in a studio with constant use by differently skilled sewists.

    1. I love your comment, explanation, as I am after years deciding to buy myself a good sewing machine, and one of the things I love is getting better at making my quilt(s).
      You could not have given me a better idea about the 475Q, as I am in that stage thinking/buying a Bernina 475Q, but with your perfect description of this machine, I will look further. I am not in the financial circumstances to swap or add another machine. THANK YOU!!
      Christine de Jong, Greece

  5. I purchased the 880 a few years back. It’s phenomenal! It has so much more than I thought I needed. Purchased mine from a dealer going out of business and got thousands off. New dealer I found has a July sale every year, accessories 40% off. I now have all the accessories. Getting ready for retirement.

  6. I also bought a 475QE! I so wish that I had seen your article before I did! The year that the 475 QE came out, there were no reviews. Because I am a beginner, the 475QE turned out to be the perfect machine. I wish I had the 800 series but since I needed to buy all sewing tools from scratch, I needed the extra money that buying a 475 QE allowed me to have. I loved buying professional tailor scissors, etc.

  7. I am a quilter and need to upgrade. I started looking today and from the brands I checked out the Bernini is a winner. I’ve zeroed in on the 475 but will consider your suggestions before I take the plunge!

  8. My Mom & I are each looking to purchase a new, long term machine. I would like to start quilting more as well so this review was invaluable. Great considerations, Thank you!

    1. Hi Kelly,
      I am so glad this article helped you! Thank you so much for letting me know. 🙂

  9. This is one of the best reviews I have read. Thank you! I sincerely hope you get the machine of your dreams soon. I will certainly think about the next machine from a different perspective before I buy.

    1. Hi Carol,
      Thank you so much for your kind words! I am glad the points in the review have given you some food for thought for your own purchase.

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