Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Song of Frustration

I take back every nice thing I ever said or wrote about Bernina sewing machines. I'm trying to use  a sewing and embroidery machine and it takes getting used to. That notebook in the background is the manual.

 A man designed the Bernina Artista 180. Not only did a man design this machine, but it was a man who had no contact with any other sewing machine technology. He and his team had a list of requirements and rather than see what had been done before, they winged it.  

The self-threading needle feature takes longer than doing it yourself, but if you poke the thread through the eye of the needle yourself, the machine stops after 4 stitches and nags until you rethread it by machine. You can start stitching at the very edge -- no need for stitching backward 6 stitches and then going forward. Good thing, because it won't go in reverse. Not a major headache unless you need your edges to be ultra secure. But wait! You can switch to triple stitch just before the end of the piece.  Takes longer than pushing a button to go in reverse, but what the heck. There IS a button that indicates reverse, but the first 40 times I pushed it, the machine zoomed ahead. The button has decided to work after several hours of sewing. PBfffft!

Yes, you CAN make umpteen buttonholes all exactly the same if you spend the time you would have spend making 6 buttonholes to set up the machine. I will do all my buttonholes on some other machine. Or by hand. This machine will sew on buttons, and earlier Berninas lacked that option.

All those wonderful embroidery stitches they talk about require add-on pieces, which I got with my slightly used 2nd hand machine, from a Bernina store. The Artista 180 also requires Bernina software,  and a cable to attach it to your computer. These were missing, along with the bobbins. Perhaps the cable that came with my Canon camera will work with it. Bernina has dealt with the software and cable problem by making newer models work with USB sticks.

The threading path requires one to loop the thread around hidden obstacles, but unlike the Bernina 1230, the Artista's obstacles don't reach out and make life easy. No. There is a mechanical threading device that takes about 6 times longer than poking the thread through the needle yourself, but if you do it yourself, the computer nags until you use the mechanical thing. There is the bobbin itself, which is unlike any other bobbin in the Bernina oeuvre. No doubt these problems have been addressed  in the 10 years since this one was built.

What I liked about sewing machines: you could get parts for them for at least 20 years. Accessories and attachments designed in 1910 still work, and will work on most brands of sewing machines. A woman could use her library of special presser feet on Singer, Janome, White, and many more. The Greist company used to make boxes of attachments that worked on all machines. Singer made buttonholer devices that worked on many machines, even machines that were not zigzaggers. Sadly, Berninas require special presser feet. Bernina presser feet only work on Berninas, and only certain Berninas. The cost of Bernina presser feet makes  this appalling.

A friend's Bernina 707 needs a new foot control. Bernina no longer supplies them. An enterprising repair shop either created one or found one that works, for a lot less than the Bernina one. A needle bar is a fairly standard thing, but a Bernina with a bent  needle bar might as well be sold for parts, because Bernina doesn't have them.

If it weren't for the neatness of Bernina stitching, I'd be angry instead of annoyed. There are good things about this machine. You can increase the pressure for flimsy fabrics, decrease it for fleece and denim. Handy. Some computerized machines claim they will automatically adjust the pressure to  suit your fabric, but I find that hard to believe. Machine speed is a feature that has not proved its value to me. You can regulate how fast the machine will sew when the foot controller is depressed all the way-- handy if you are teaching a child to sew, or if you like the speed of industrial sewing machines. Faster stitching means faster and larger mistakes sometimes. And who permits a child near a machine costing several thousand dollars? Not I.

It has a touch screen panel showing fancy stitches and telling you what fancy presser foot to use to do them. This is, I guess, easier to deal with than a complex control panel accompanied by a manual. It has videos. The one I watched was so stultifying that I tried to return the machine. New models have the same information on disks.

Costly computerized sewing machines can enable a beginner to sew like an intermediate seamster. I personally don't know of any beginners who would be willing to spend the money or the time to learn to use this machine. It's not a terrible machine. It produces neat stitching on fabrics that some machines eat up. It allows me to sew while my 1230 is away from home.

 But if my Bernina 1230 weren't on its annual tuneup, I wouldn't try the Artista 180. The 1230 spoiled me for other machines, even for the Singer 328K.