In the early 1970’s I was interested enough in sewing to take a high school course. However, I was so beaten down by my mother’s home sewing machine that I thought I would never sew again. By the mid-1970’s, my mother told me that the only way I would ever own a halter top was if I could make it myself…and I beat the machine!
It was the early 1980’s. By then I had two small daughters (twins) and there were many things that I wanted to buy, decorate their room, etc. but could not afford. I started asking other sewers about their opinions on sewing machines and researched the Library for information (no internet!). I travelled hundreds of miles (no local sewing center in our county) in different directions looking and attending machine demos for “the one.” There was one name that kept popping up but I could never find the dealership…Bernina. I remember talking to my mother in law, Ginnie and saying “I think I need to find a Bernina, a lot of the sewers keep telling me that this machine or that machine runs almost as good.” Why should I buy something like a Bernina…Why not buy a Bernina? Ginnie said that Bernina was her dream machine, pricey but worth every penny and she encouraged me to find a dealership. How did one find a Bernina in those days? I hit the Library and looked into neighboring county phone books.
So on a Saturday morning, I headed out with a map of the big city. With only two wrong turns onto one-way streets, I found my way to a small upholstery warehouse in the older section of Fresno Calif. Along with upholstery machines, material sales and service, the female owner carried a small number of Berninas. We talked through each machine; what they could do, their reputation, and I sewed a little on a couple of the models. And then I saw the 830. I knew it was a match, we were made for each other.
Let’s talk about the shop owner. I am sorry that I can’t remember her name; she was a small woman with a strong European accent. I am also sorry that I didn’t understand every word she spoke, but I knew she had a formable personality when she said “no, not that machine…it’s not for you.” Was that the best sales job ever? Not me? Why not me? She went on to explain that for what type of sewing I had talked about, the machine was way more than I needed and it didn’t justify the purchase price of $999.99. I explained further that just because I was thinking curtains and toys today, did not mean that I wasn’t thinking clothes and quilts later. I needed to plan for future uses, not just limited to what I could do today? I planned on one machine to last a long time. She sent me home, told me to think about it. I talked to my spouse and his opinion was; a sewing machine was a tool and you just didn’t skimp when buying tools. Or you end up buying a bucket of trash, spending twice as much and end up buying the one you wanted in the first place. (Note to self; then why does he have so many toolchests?)
I called her later in the week and we reached an agreement. I drove back up to Fresno, put down $200 on the 830. She agreed to hold the machine as I would continue to send her payments every two weeks. When the machine was paid for, she would release the machine to me. However, I had to agree to attend a three hour class, on the use of the 830. Contract was verbal, and that’s how it was done. Every two weeks, I sent a check to Fresno. There was no set amount of payment, just an agreement between two women. Two months later, I got a call from the store…I could pick up the machine early. I made the appointment for training, took notes, again assuring the owner that I would take good care of the Bernina. I came home with the machine and continued payments until it was paid in full.
I never had a problem with my 830 until after it was 20 years old. I never returned to the store; I know now that I was afraid that I would not live up to her standards and she would take back the machine! The owners passed on and the store was sold or closed. I hope that I exceeded her imagination as I went on from creating curtains, little girls’ clothes to small upholstery projects, car head liners, purses, wallets, Halloween costumes, formal dresses, toys, crafts, and retired the machine last year making grandchild quilts. The old 830 survived through three daughters, all having their first sewing lessons on the machine. I never thought I would own another machine and couldn’t justify another purchase …until the last visit to the repair shop showed the machine was showing a lot of wear and there was few parts left in the world. Someday, when my grandchildren are ready, I will pull the old 830 out for their first lessons.
By 2012, we moved from Central California to the Oregon Coast. By this time, Ginnie has owned, traded in, kept or sold at least six Berninas. Through my mother in law, I kept up on all the changes in the Bernina machines. It took a while to find a dealership. At this point, I realized that the relationship you build with the store you buy from, is almost as important as the purchase. My husband said that whatever machine I buy next, make sure that he can use it! In 2016 I bought a 790 and a 350. Husband uses the 350, but I use it as a backup machine or when the 790 is set up for embroidery. We drive 75 miles, each way to take classes. I bought the V8 software and I am learning to build my own files. I believe that owning a Bernina is just a beginning of the journey. As long as Bernina keeps up with changing technology, so will I.