by Laurel Parrish, a theatrical costumer (i.e., heavy sewing machine user) who blogs at Yarn Therapy about knitting and other crafty and lifestyle topics
Love it, hate it, or something in between? Unconditional love!
When did you buy this sewing machine? It was a gift – my high school graduation present from my grandparents in 1983. I had my heart set on a Viking like we had at school – I thought they were very fancy and exotic compared to the little Kenmore I had at home. My dad, however, did the research and discovered that Berninas were less expensive and (this is what really sold him!) far sturdier due to their all-metal construction. He shopped around and got a good deal on a slightly used Bernina 830 Record, which has served me like a champ ever since.
When was it manufactured? I believe it was a year old when they bought it, so it’s a 1982 model.
Where did you buy it? I don’t remember the name of the place, but it was a store in Ventura, California. It came with a free lesson, where the owner showed me the bells and whistles like the automatic tension and the buttonhole.
How much did you pay for it? No idea – my dad thinks maybe around $300. I’ve been trying to find out what the original retail price was, with no luck.
How many projects have you done on this machine? Wow – 20 plus years worth of projects! I guess the answer is “lots and lots!”
Describe the kind of work you've done with it. What haven’t I done with it? I work in theatrical costuming, and for ten years I made costumes freelance in my living room. My Bernina has cranked out lots of theatrical and dance costumes, countless alterations, and three wedding gowns (so far). I’m just getting back into making clothes for myself, and I’m doing a little quilting.
It’s also been a great machine to have in a costume shop because it’s so sturdy and holds up to many different people using it. I even hauled it out to the Hamptons once to do alterations for a catalog shoot!
What do you like and what do you hate about it? I love pretty much everything about it – it’s an all-metal super sturdy workhorse that handles all weights of fabrics equally well. I’ve used it on everything from heavy upholstery to delicate silks to ultrasuede and leather. It’s particularly good with stretch fabrics, which was very useful when I was making dance costumes.
It has a knee attachment for the presser foot lifter, which is invaluable for speed and precision work. The flat bed is nice and wide and easy to remove to access the free arm.
The best thing about this machine is its simplicity. It has a wide variety of stitches, but they’re all very straightforward and easy to use. Threading is a breeze – no funky wire loop thingie for tension; the thread just slides through a groove. You can’t wind a bobbin while it’s threaded, which doesn’t bother me – it does have two thread holders so you can wind bobbins from a second spool if you want.
I’m searching for something not to like ….. I guess the buttonhole could be a little more refined – they don’t look as nice on very lightweight fabrics. It’s really heavy – I consider it portable, but only with the aid of my luggage cart. It’s so heavy that I know if my apartment ever gets broken into no burglar would ever bother trying to steal it.
My foot pedal cracked in half years ago – I epoxied it back together which held for a few years but then it broke again. Since it still works just fine, I haven’t bothered to replace it. Ebay has made it so much easier to find parts, though, that I will probably look for a new one soon.
I could go on and on and on about this fabulous machine….. I know the 830 is a popular machine these days, and I know how lucky I am to have one! If anyone has any specific questions about my machine, leave it in the comments!