Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sewing Machine Adultery: Bernina Aurora 440 QE Review

Sewing Machine Adultery
If you have been following the Sewing Machine Adultery series at all then you know that the series is all about sharing insight, advice, and to create a resource for those of us with a wandering eye...when it comes to sewing machines of course!  When I emailed Jess of The Elven Garden to tell me more about her love for her Bernina Aurora 440QE she was so enthusiastic that I had to ask her to do a review for all of us - luckily she happily agreed!  This is a machine model I have been lusting over for awhile now.

As with all the Sewing Machine Adultery Reviews I encourage you to ask questions, leave comments, and review the comments if you have stopped in here to learn more about this sewing machine.  Some of the best insight comes in the comments following the review!  [Also, if you leave a comment, please provide your email...there is nothing more frustrating than a No-Reply Blogger!]

Now, enough from me and onto the review!

Bernina Aurora 440QE Review

Thanks so much Rebecca for inviting me to talk about my Bernina - I have quite a lot to say about her :o) 

I have had my Bernina for just over two years, and have loved every minute of her. I upgraded (from an entry level Elna machine I’d had for about 6 months, which I bought from my local Spotlight aka Joannes) when I realised I was pretty much addicted to making quilts. That hasn't changed - and I don't think it will - so it was definitely a worthwhile investment!

They have a pretty hefty price tag – the RRP in Australia is $2,999, although mine was on sale for $2300 when I bought it. The RRP in the US is around $1700 (plus sales tax depending on where you live, from what I can gather). I honestly think it is worth it though – it is a beautiful machine with a powerful motor. Bernina have an awesome reputation for a reason – the stitch quality is superb and these machines are built to last. I don’t anticipate having to replace it for a very, very long time.

The Bernina 440QE has a lot of features – some of which I haven’t touched yet (mostly the decorative stitch functions) - but most of which are things I was looking for in a machine when I bought it.

Machine Features:


The BSR Foot

The main reason I bought this machine over the other similar machines available at the time was the special free motion quilting foot it comes with. The BSR foot (Bernina Stitch Regulator foot) is a computerised foot specifically designed for free motion quilting. It senses the movement of fabric below it and automatically moves the needle up and down accordingly. What this means is that the foot itself will regulate stitch length depending on how fast the fabric is being moved. I love this feature – and it has given me the confidence to really push my free motion quilting skills beyond simple stippling. Quilting is my favourite part of the quilt making process, and I seriously thing most of that love comes from using BSR.

One of the really cool things about the BSR foot is that you can manipulate stitch length and speed when using it. This is really helpful if you’re wanting to do really intricate free motion quilting (for example the pebbles on my Aspen Grove block – these are about ¼” pebbles, so I used a really short stitch length).

BSR doesn’t work perfectly all the time – occasionally I will get really long stitches if I move the quilt jerkily (for example if the quilt gets a bit caught on my machine and moves really suddenly). This is pretty rare though – most of the time I will quilt an entire quilt without any issues. I have never had problems with getting balls of thread on the underside of the quilt either – and in the two years I've been quilting with BSR I have never had a problem with tension.

The photo above shows the clear round attachment at the bottom that I normally use when quilting - but the BSR foot also comes with two other attachments, and open toe and closed toe metal foot.

The BSR foot comes with it's very own padded tin. It's special like that ;o)

Other Accessories:

The standard accessories that come with the Bernina 440QE include:

  Accessory box – like a little sewing machine wardrobe. It’s daggy but I love this so much. The accessory box is designed so that it can be attached to the back of the machine (for example if you were taking the machine to a class), or it has two feet at the back that you can flip out so it operates as a free-standing accessory box. It has a bobbin compartment, several drawers and hanging space for all the feet that come standard with the machine (plus room for another five feet if you choose to buy others). 

  •  Reinforced soft cover/ carry case -  This has room for the machine and all the accessories that come with it.
  •      Extension table – 8.5” x 15.5”
  •      Free hand system (knee lift bar)

In terms of features, it ticked all my boxes.
  •      Automatic needle threader (which I have never actually ended up using)
  •      Three thread cutters (one on the side near the presser foot, one in the bobbin case, and one near the bobbin winder).
  •      Ability to drop the feed dogs 
  •      Start/stop button when using the BSR foot.


Height – 12”
Width (without extension table) – 15”
Depth – 7”
Throat space 7.5”

Number of Feet included:

8 feet – including
·         ¼” patchwork foot
·         Zipper foot
·         Automatic button hole foot,
·         Blindstitch foot
·         Open embroidery foot
·         Walking foot
·         BSR foot

Bobbin Type:

The Bernina 440QE has a front loading bobbin – which for me is absolutely brilliant while quilting. It means I can change an empty bobbin without having to remove the quilt to access the bobbin case. It also has a separate spool holder on the machine, so that you can wind bobbins without having to unthread the machine – again a great feature if you run out of wound bobbins half-way through quilting. It comes with five metal bobbins - although I've found extra bobbins are only about 65 cents each from an Australian supplier.

Computer Features:

This is pretty much a fully computerised machine. There are a couple of manual functions – including a hand-wheel for raising/lowering the needle manually, and a dial for raising and lowering the presser foot pressure. The thread tension can also be manually adjusted (although I have never touched this dial – I’ve never had to.)

Aside from that, this machine has a tonne of buttons on the front of the machine to adjust:
  •          Needle position (this can be moved in five increments either side of the central point)
  •          Needle up/down – this can be set to end either down or up as you’re sewing. I tend to start and end all my stitching with it set in the needle down position – and rarely get thread tangles at the beginning of my seams. It also works beautifully when chain piecing.
  •          Reverse button.
  •          Pattern begin and pattern end buttons (when using decorative stitches you have programmed into the memory)
  •          Securing function button
  •          BSR/balance button - there are a couple of different 'modes' when using BSR.
  •          Stitch width buttons (this can be adjusted up to 5.5 wide stitches for zig zag stitching etc)
  •          Stitch length buttons (up to 5mm long)
It has a huge stitch memory as well – any combination of 90 different stitch types can be saved into the memory, which is a long term memory. They remain saved until they are deleted. 

Type of Needles:

The recommended needles are Bernina needles, although I have used quite a few brands of needles in it without any problem. I’m currently using Schmetz Stepp-Nadel quilting needles simply because they are easily available locally.

Basic Setup

This is an incredibly easy machine to use. I needed to read the manual the first time I threaded it, but not since then. The machine itself has numbered diagrams on it for the various steps needed to thread it. For me, it is a really intuitive machine – it is so easy to adjust the things I often change, like stitch length. The computer screen is big enough to easily read and identify what settings are currently being used.

Types of Stitches:

It has 180 different stitches. This is one aspect of my machine I have barely touched – although I have tried out several of the quilting stitches. Most of these are decorative stitches, and it has three different alphabets.

Manufacturers Sites:

Bernina Australia:


There are a couple of things I think are a bit limiting with this machine.

  • Considering it is a purpose built quilting machine, the throat space is pretty small. I have successfully quilted some pretty big quilts (in the realm of 96” x 72”) – but a larger throat space would definitely make this easier. I think the newer 800 series Bernina models have a bigger throat space – but they also have a much bigger price tag ;o)
  • There are a tonne of embroidery stitches and alphabet functions I have never used, and will probably never use.


  • It is pretty quiet to run, considering the power of the motor. My sewing room is right next to my daughter's bedroom, and I don't wake her when I'm sewing at night. 
  • It doesn’t vibrate much at all, even when sewing at full speed (this baby can do up to 1000 stitches per minute).
  • For me the biggest pro is the BSR – but if that’s something you’re not interested in the Bernina 430 model is pretty much identical but doesn’t come with BSR.

Thanks so much to Jess for this extremely thorough and well thought out review!  Can't you just feel her love for her sewing machine?  This model is seriously droolworthy and I'm happy to learn more about the BSR I've heard so much about from someone who has used it extensively.
Don't forget to ask questions, make comments below - I will forward them to Jess for answers.  Also, if you haven't already checked out her blog then you are missing out --- go on, go over there, you'll be completely inspired!  Her work is seriously awesome.

What about you?  Do you have a love for a machine to share?  Email me and let me know...I am always interested in more reviews to share...don't be shy!

- rebecca lynne


Canadian Abroad said...

This is the same machine I have been using for five years. I lucked out and found a barely used one for half price. (Lucky me!) I would concur with the whole review, and my only complaint is the ridiculously small throat space for a quilting machine. I don't know how Bernina justify it when they put the QE label on it. But the BSR is brilliant.

Alyce @ Blossom Heart Quilts said...

Oooh, so THAT'S what the BSR does! Sounds amazing!! Add more throat space and it sounds like my dream machine.

ms lottie said...

I've had my 440 for about 8 years now, it was brand new on the market when I bought it. I moved from a 30 year old Elna and thought all my dreams had come true!

I love it. But I have a couple of additional comments.

I also bought it for the BSR, but found that it was taking just as much practice to learn to use it as it was to learn FMQ without it, so now I never use my BSR. I found that it would run a bit crazy if my fabric was highly patterned and I'd get millions of really tiny stitches as if I was moving the fabric really, really fast - frustrating!

I too find the throat space a bit small for the weight and size of the machine, but I think I'll always want more throat space no matter what machine I buy!

I find that my machine isn't that quiet compared to others when I'm in a workshop listening to them all, but it certainly isn't loud enough to wake anyone up.

They have a good warranty, so when the plug shorted out it was fixed with no problems. I've had almost 9 happy years and anticipate many more!

Spamnot Nospam said...

Just wanted to say I love this blog... and that my Bernina dealer told me that Schmetz makes Bernina needles anyway, so don't feel bad if you use Schmetz needles in your Nina!

Mary W Quilts said...

I love my Bernina 440QE, but the throat space limits the BSR. A group of my friends in our guild have this machine. We call ourselves the Bernina bitches! I have been thinking of getting the Juki 2010q for free motion quilting. The only thing holding me back is the weight. I think it weighs more than the Bernina which is a pain when taking it to classes and quilt camp which I do a lot! But I will probably get it this month.

java diva said...

I have been searching everywhere online for the measurements of this machine because I want to surprise my friend with a handmade cover for it. Would you please help me out with that? I would immensely appreciate it!!

Just Pam said...

I need some help. I have found a 440QE with the embroidery machine. They have listed the hours:
Total time of Machine being turned on is : 1906 hours
Standby Time (on, no activity) : 1891 hours.
Sewing Time : 14 hours.
Embroidery time on Machine : 0 hours.

Is this good or bad? Never been able to see how many hours so I am not sure if this is important.

mrsbosfacci said...

I have the Bernina 440 QEE with the BSR and the Embroidery Module. I've had many machines in 30 years and this one is, by far, the best machine for sewing, FMQ, and embroidery for the price. I bought this machine in November of 2007, and have been in love with it since I got it home. The narrow throat space is an issue, but one that I have conquered. I love the BSR on setting 2, it makes FMQ a breeze on small projects. But I have to tell you that the embroidery module is just so awesome! I can download .ART images from any web site, resize them as I desire, and stitch them out so easily! Bernina quality is spectacular, my dealer is awesome, and I highly recommend this model for all your sewing needs. BTW: I darn ripped jeans all the time with this machine using the darning foot and the instructions from the manual. The kids just loved ripped jeans, but cannot wear jeans with holes in them to school. So we rip them, then I darn a patch behind the hole and everyone just loves them!

Unknown said...

We have inherited a 440QE at our family center along with it's embroidery module. I downloaded Bernina Artlink 7 and get it loaded to the point of writing to the machine and pushing the needle button and get an error message about error EC to PC. Can someone advise me what the issue might be?

Lori Orthen said...