Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Sewing Machine Adultery: My Bernina Activa 130

Welcome back to another installment of Sewing Machine Adultery!
Sewing Machine Adultery
My sewing machine, a Bernina Activa 130, was given to me as a gift from my parents while I was in college studying Fiber Arts.  It was a very big gift that I was crazy for and very top of the line in its time.  At the time I was obsessed with creating garments and fashion, this was the perfect machine in every way.  I recall my Professor raising her eyebrows when she saw it for the first time.  I also had a wedding dress designer ask to borrow it for awhile during my internship.  It was quite the luxury sewing machine back in its day!

As I said in my previous post, until recently I didn't think I was missing anything in my sewing machine.  Which, for a machine that has been owned for 12+ years, is really saying something!  I am still not convinced that I necessarily need a new machine.  As someone who emailed with me after my last post, we agreed that it can be hard to explain that while there isn't anything WRONG with my machine it is just that there are some things that I now know are MISSING...

Before I jump ahead to that let me just list some pros and cons of my Bernina Activa 130.

- solid construction
- I've never had a problem with her that hasn't been resolved with a cleaning (knock on wood)
- metal bobbins
- computerized but not overly so
- basic stitches (straight stitch, zig zag, overlock, button hole, triple straight stitch, double overlock)
- I own most of the accessories (feet, plates, screwdriver, cover, etc.)
- she's simple and you don't get lost in the options
- option to have the free hand system (knee lift thingamabob)

In fact I recently uncovered her Instruction Manual and refreshed my memory on exactly how useful/versatile a machine my Activa 130 is!
- approximate 7" throat space is no longer sufficient when it comes to quilting.  for garments this was fine but for quilting it has begun to bother me 
- no start/stop button
- loud like a jet engine while sewing!
- FHS was never installed because I didn't need it as a garment sewer
- no automatic thread cutting
- no automatic buttonholes let alone multiple kinds of buttonholes!
- no alphabet
- many of the things that are basics in most machines today are just not included in her repertoire because of her age

Bottom line?  
There is nothing wrong with my machine, I just want more.

Which leads me to the the title of this whole series...Sewing Machine Adultery.  I feel guilty for even thinking of betraying my sewing machine.  She has been there for me, loyal, useful, a constant in my life, for over a decade.  She hasn't done anything wrong but stayed the same while technology and new sewing machines armed with that technology developed around her.  

Only other people who sew could understand the sentiment that exists between a sewer and their machine.  I have successfully explained it to other people by making an analogy to their car.

The real question is...
How much more do I need?

Do I need a machine with 270 stitches most of which I probably won't use?  11 buttonholes - who in the hell knew there were 11 different kinds of buttonholes?  The 3 alphabets which...admittedly I have ideas for so I probably would use?  Do I really want to invest so much money in a top of the line computerized machine?  Or, do I stay loyal to my Bernina Activa 130 and supplement her with something like a *non-computerized* straight stitch machine just for quilting?

Without a doubt, at a minimum, what I want is:
- more throat space for quilting
- a machine I can really cut my teeth on to improve my FMQ skills
- yes, I want the damn automatic thread cutting thingy

The debate continues!  This weekend I am off to a sewing shop that sells Janome.  I am dying to try out the Horizon MC8900.  Not convinced I need a 4K sewing machine that could basically do it all and apparently fold my laundry too...but I won't know until I try it now will I?

All of last week's comments were so awesome!  Nothing like a sewing machine chat amongst friends!  Please do let me know if I am missing something crucial in my "minimum needs" and don't forget to tell me what kind of machine you use - I've been researching them all online with every new comment I receive!

- rebecca lynne


Katie said...

I can relate to your adultry as I want additional machines. Though my lusting is after vintage models.

For the record, my machine is an older Husqvarna. One of my favorite things about it is that it doesn't have to be oiled. It is a workhorse that makes fmq'ing a dream.

Please keep us up on your explorations. Even though my interest isn't in a newer machine, there may be one that I can't resist someday.

Dora, the Quilter said...

Katie, Old Vikings definitely do need to be oiled. That "no oiling needed" was a marketing ploy that has led to a lot of old Vikings biting the dust. (You can probably guess how I know.)
Rebecca, I'm quilting on two Vintage machines that I love: a 1936 Singer 88 and a Necchi BU from the late 40's--both great machines, both with a lot more throat space, albeit a lot less than a mid- or long-arm.

Kelli said...

I'm loving following along with your research! :)

Archie the wonder dog said...

My instinct says that a straight stitch machine for quilting might be the best option - I know things like the alphabet and the automatic buttonholes are nice to have but, for me, that's what they are - nice but not essential. I have a basic alphabet on my machine but prefer to hand embroider names, etc. (and there's always appliqué!) and buttonholes (one type) are really easy, as long as I've measured the button and added a little bit on for luck! Do you have any friends who have a fancy pants machine that you could borrow when you wanted to use decorative stitches, etc? That way you could get a second machine which meets all your essential quilting needs and still have the option of the fancy things, just at someone else's house ;o)

Ann said...

Oh No!! You are on a slippery slope!! You are actually taking test drives! :)
My bottom line when contemplating upgrading my machine is this: Are the thready cutting thingy, the alphabet, and throat space (the 3 things my machine is missing) worth the price tag of the new machine?? And really, would I use the alphabet? My machine has 12 stitches and I only use the straight line and one other.
Then again... if you are test driving, maybe I... No! NO! I will not follow you down this slippery slope! lol :)

linda said...

let us know how the test driving is going !!

Donna said...

I really like my 13-yr old Viking Lily 545 but the 7" throat space makes me dream of having a Sweet 16. I've talked myself out of it because I mostly make baby quilts, but I know if I had more throat space I would enjoy making (and quilting) bigger quilts. I haven't contemplated sewing machine adultery lately, so I'll be following your wandering eye!

Monique Noonan said...

If your machine sounds like a jet engine, it needs to be cleaned thoroughly, oiled, and/or serviced. I grew up using Berninas. I currently own 4 of them. One of the magic points is how quietly they run. My husband used to say a baby could sleep with the machine running. Our bedroom doubled as sewing room for years. My husband could sleep no matter how long into the night I sewed. As for the gimmicky add ons. I rather not have them. Just another thing that can go wrong. Alphabet? How often do you really need that? Just adds to the cost. I don't sew garments anymore, so the automatic buttonhole is dormant.

NostalgicKnot said...

Guess what! Try a vintage singer 15-91, 15-90, or 201. They are cheap, but solid, produce fantastic free motion stitches, and have a large throat space!

Bebe said...

I have a Bernina 180--Love it- since year 2000. It's frankly the best sewing machine I've ever owned. (have used Universal- very old machine, Sears Kenmores, Pfaff). I use this one for all my picky- detailed work and for all quality sewing. This is the one I depend on, and am most comfortable with. It's the most versatile as well. I also Own a Bernina Activa 210. I love that little machine! It's fun and more basic than the 180, so I use it to do mundane piecing tasks, but it's great for buttonholes and has a neat attachment I bought for needlefelting.
ONE thing that is GREAT about owning two Berninas- is that the feet are interchangeable between my two machines- so I don't have to buy separate feet for it-- I love this fact, as it saves me money. That's one thing you might want to consider for a second machine.
I also own an antique Singer Featherweight- sews a great straight stitch which I will also use for mundane piecing tasks.

SavageInsight said...

Hey Rebecca!

I just found an old activa 130 for about $50 - but I need to know if given the right needle size, can it handle sailing canvas, leather, denim and upholstery?


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your sewing machine adultery series! A machine is SUCH an INVESTMENT any more and it is hard to find objective reviews. Thanks so much! Mary ZippyQuilts[at]

Anonymous said...

I have a Bernina 130 and just started "serious" sewing to make things to stock my Etsy shop. Does anyone know how the buttonhole function works? I've ruined a few pieces of test fabric and the printed instructions are like, "Select buttonhole stitch. Make buttonhole." Thanks!

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