Sunday, January 12, 2020

Machine Matters ~ A Bernina 770 QE Review

One week after I began quilting, I got a Pfaff Expression 3.5. I had bought it intending to trade it in within a year (and get all my money back towards a trade-in as my dealer promised), but when I was ready to make the upgrade, my dealer reneged and I was left stuck with a machine that worked, but I was dissatisfied with.

I sewed on that machine for another two years, sometimes with a lot of frustration, but I decided it was time to make the ultimate upgrade. I had been drooling over Bernina for a few years, and I saw the Bernina 770 QE as the ultimate machine for quilters. Maybe it's all the marketing they did, but I convinced myself that I had to have it! The problem was, it cost as much as a small longarm, it was hard to justify. I finally talked myself into it because knowing me, I'd just obsess over it and eventually get it anyway, and in that case, isn't it better to get it earlier so I can enjoy it that much sooner?

That was a year ago. I've had my Bernina 770 QE for a full year now, so I can finally write a review about it. I don't even think I scratched the surface of what this machine can do, but boy, do I love this machine! It is sheer joy to use. It could explain why in the last year I've enjoyed piecing a lot more.

5 Things I Love:

1) Stitch Quality

This machine sews perfectly. Period. My main problem with my Pfaff was the inability to adjust presser foot pressure, and I think that caused a lot of issues, from wonky half-square triangles, to shrunken flying geese, to walking foot quilting that makes me cry. When I looked for a new machine, I made sure it had adjustable presser foot pressure. But I didn't even need to adjust it! It's already perfect, and my piecing comes out a lot better than when I was on the Pfaff.

2) Empty Bobbin Warning

Sometimes I find myself happily sewing away until I realize I've been sewing nothing for ... minutes. That doesn't happen on this machine as the machine recognizes when the bobbin is empty, and I barely get a few inches away before it stops sewing and warns me that my bobbin is empty. I love that!

3) Knee Lift

Before I had knee lift, I was told that once you use it, it becomes a must-have. But since I didn't have it, I couldn't understand why everybody loved it so much. As soon as I got this machine, I realized everybody was right. Now that I've had knee-lift, having to manually raise the presser foot seems so archaic! I know a lot of machines have this feature, but it's definitely one of my favorite things about my machine.

4) Dual Feed

Again, a lot of machines have dual feed. I think Pfaff invented it to begin with and its patent finally ran out and now everybody else has it. But I like the dual feed on the Bernina so much better than the one on the Pfaff. I can tell it really works. I'm not sure what was wrong with it on the Pfaff, but considering how unhappy the stitch quality was, it clearly didn't work, right? Rather, when I turn it on and off on the Pfaff, it looked the same (as in not good). I can't even tell that it's on. On the Bernina, I can tell a big difference when it's on vs off!

5) Big Bobbin

It's fair to say that a big bobbin is always better than a little bobbin. Well ... almost always. Bernina's big bobbin means that I can sew and sew and sew and the bobbin takes so much longer to run out than on most other sewing machines. That's a clear advantage! But there are downsides to this, as I will mention in the dislikes section ...


But no machine is perfect, and this would not be a proper review if I didn't mention my top dislikes of this machine.

5 Things I Don't Love:

1) $$$

Yes, the Bernina costs a lot of money to begin with. But what about afterwards? Remember those big bobbins I like so much? Well, they cost a pretty penny apiece. And then if I wanted a presser foot that didn't come with the (admittedly very nicely stocked) accessories box, well, be prepared to spend big. It's a good thing I don't need a walking foot with the dual-feed working so well, because if I did, it costs hundreds of dollars. I wouldn't dare cheap out and get some knockoff either.

2) Low Bobbin Warning

Even though I love the no-bobbin thread warning because it prevents me from sewing with nothing, I hate the low bobbin warning. Bernina's low bobbin warning comes on so early with so much thread left that it's basically useless for me. Many times after I get the low bobbin warning, I ignored it and went on to sew a whole quilt top ... and the thread still didn't run out!

3) Nannies, Nannies Everywhere

Every time I turn on the Bernina, it warns me that I need to clean my needle threader. The thing is ... I've never used the needle threader, I see no lint in that area, and I don't know what it's talking about. I cannot start sewing until I dismiss all the nannies, and that gets old really fast. On one hand, I appreciate it reminding me to oil the machine, on the other hand, the message sticks around for awhile even after I've oiled it, and at the end of the day I'd rather make my own call about that.

Update: It was not the needle threader the machine was warning me about, but the thread cutter. I'm not sure how I read it wrong for more than a year. But I stand by my comment about too many nannies.

4) The Starting Lock Stitch

Oh boy, do I hate this "feature". Is it a feature? I think it's a bug. The Bernina will always do a mini lockstitch when you start sewing, after a thread cut. It's not something I can turn off, and I've asked the factory. The only workaround seems to be to use a leader and ender and/or avoid the thread cutter. This is a shame, because I think the thread cutter on this machine works much better than the one on my Pfaff!

Update: Much thanks to Jill who showed me exactly how to disable the starting lockstitch, I'm happy to report that this complaint no longer stands!

5) Needle Positions

My Pfaff had 37 needle positions (I think), and I got used to adjusting it ever so slightly as needed to get the right seam allowance for what I was working on. For example, I know that if I plan to press a seam open, I will sew a less scant seam allowance than if I was going to press it to the side, because when I press to the side, the piece comes out a bit smaller unless I adjust by sewing a scanter seam. However, the Bernina only has a handful of needle positions, so I can't adjust it ever so slightly like that.


In conclusion ... I love this machine, because it truly sews like a dream! I've never been as happy with the quality of my piecing, my flying geese, my walking foot quilting, as I am now. I'm so glad I got it, and I really don't think I'll need another another machine for a long, long time.


  1. I love my 440 but it lacks some of the bells and whistles of the newer machines. Great review and I am surprised about the tiny lock stitch and the annoying messages! Maybe some update will correct it someday.

  2. I don't own a Bernina, but really enjoyed reading this review. I have a Janome, and one of my favorite features is the AcuFeed foot; it changed my entire view of walking foot quilting (I look for excuses to use it now). A good machine makes a huge difference in the joy of our craft!

  3. Thanks for this really detailed review. I'm sure a lot of people will find it by searching and it will give them extremely useful details about the machine. When I was looking for review of my Juki, I would have been thrilled to get a breakdown like this! Who knows? Maybe I'll want a Bernina someday :)

  4. Thanks for sharing about your machine! That was so interesting to read all the details. There are a lot of updates since I bought my Bernina 24 years ago. You're tempting me! But I do love my current Bernina and am happy to keep sewing merrily along with it. You didn't mention how beautiful it looks--love the gold!!!

  5. You really can turn off that starting lock stitch! I have friends who have that model (I have a different one), so I know it can be done -- check your manual or your dealer. As for the warning to clean the needle threader, I've never heard of that at all before this. Are you sure you aren't talking about the thread cutter? That certainly does need to be cleaned regularly.

    1. Thanks, I'll check my manual again!

    2. I completely agree with Anonymous!I have a 770 and do not use the lock stitch at the beginning of a seam (or anything else) - it can be turned off in the machine's options and then only used when wanted (turn it on temporarily in the "i" screen). I've never seen the needle-threader warning either (and I've had my machine for over 2 years now) - I suspect you mean the thread cutter, which can and must be cleaned regularly even if it never gets used because lint can accumulate down there. To clean it, you press the gear button, then the wrench, the brush and follow the instructions on the screen. Easy!

  6. I've had mine for a little over a year. I had to take it to the shop the first month I had it because the thread cutter quite working. This scared me because I thought I might have gotten a lemon, but it works fine now. I love the big bobbin, but I hate the cost of them, and I hate the cost of accessories! Mega $$. There is a chance I may not have gotten it if I had realised that. I have only bought bobbins. I can't afford the feet.

  7. I am considering a new machine, make that dreaming of a new machine. The two I am considering are the Bernina 770 and a Babylock Soprano. There is quite a price difference but I already have a Bernina (20+ years old) and I have inherited my mom's BERNINAs (she had 3) plus a lot of Bernina accessories. And the fact that I have already invested in all those accessories is making me lean toward another Bernina. Does anyone have any suggestions? It is fun to daydream but I don't want to have any regrets.

    1. I know that if I were debating between 2 machines, has my heart set on one but the other is more economical ... if I got the cheaper machine, I'd still be dreaming of the nicer machine, and eventually get it anyway. I now know to get the one I want first time around, saves money in the long run! :)

  8. I won a Bernina 230 over 10 years ago. It’s the best machine I’ve ever owned. I have managed to navigate quilting on its little 6” throat, but am looking to upgrade. I’m trading in a Babylock Ellisimo that has always had one problem after another. Thanks for the detailed review. I think you helped me make up my mind.

  9. Thank you for all of your information on the 770 QE. I have a 750 QE and I really love it. I am thinking of upgrading but I will have to study the difference to see if it would be really beneficial for me.

  10. Thank you for your great review. I have a 440QE, and want to upgrade to the 770. My big concern was wether it will fit in my Quilters Dream cabinet. I've done some research, and it will fit, so I now just need to find the best deal on one. Several shops in my area are Bernina dealers :-)

  11. I hate my 770. I can never just sit down and sew. I love technology but this machine stinks. Wish I would have bought a Juki.

    1. Would you consider selling it? Where are you located?

  12. I have a Pffaf Expression 3.5 and am very happy with it, but I am not a quilter so that may make a difference


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