Creative and Handcrafted

Patchwork, quilting, dressmaking, knitting and more …

Magnifying lens set for my Bernina Aurora 440 QE March 20, 2011

While  sewing with a tiny 1.3 mm wide satin stitch for appliqué, I noticed how difficult it was for me to see clearly if the border of the fabric was enclosed by the zigzag stitches or not. It put a lot of strain to my eyes and I had to interrupt my work frequently. My sewing table is well lit with two additional daylight lamps besides the bright light from my sewing machine, but I still had problems to see where I was going with my needle, because the stitches were so tiny. I decided to buy the magnifying lens set for my Bernina Aurora 440 Quilters Edition. It cost me 59 AUD$ and it is one of the best investments in accessories I’ve ever made.

The little box contains assembly instructions, three different lens holders that work with different sewing machine models, three magnifying lenses in different strengths and one magnifying glass holder (to use the lens manually, without the machine).

The lens holder for the Bernina Aurora 440 QE works also for the Aurora models 430, 435 and 450, as well as for the Bernina Artista models 630 and 640.

A different lens holder to fit the Bernina Activa models 125, 125s, 135, 135s, 145, 145s, 220, 230, 230PE and 240 is also included, as well as another lens holder for the Bernina Virtuosa models 150, 153, 153QE, 155, 160 and 163 that fits as well the Bernina Artista models 165, 170, 180, 185, 200 and 730.

Installing the lens holder on the Bernina Aurora 440 QE is very easy, but it should only be installed by an authorised Bernina dealer. There was a warning note in my package, printed on red paper, advising that the lens holder set should not be installed by the consumer. Even though the installation of the lens holder is simple, straight forward and easy, it is understandable that Bernina doesn’t want the consumer to install it as once the head cover has been removed, the electronic parts are exposed.

What can I say? I simply love the lens set. Since I bought it, I have used it often. The lenses are easy and quick to change and if you decide to sew without a magnifying lens, there is a lens holder cover made from rubber-like material.

Nothing is perfect so don’t try to thread your needle while having one of the lenses mounted. I wasn’t able to thread my machine with the lens on and made it a habit to quickly unmount the lens before I thread my machine. It doesn’t make any difference if you use the needle threader or if you thread the needle manually, the lens is exactly in the spot where your hand uses to be when threading the machine. Maybe if one has very small hands, that isn’t an issue, but I don’t have overly big hands and it is extremely uncomfortable to use the needle threader or thread the machine by hand when the lens is on, let alone being successful at it.

Still, this is the best accessory I’ve ever bought for my Bernina. I don’t have to hunch up in front of my machine to see the needle area more clearly when precision is a must, I can see the needle area just fine from where I am sitting. I love it. The lens set is a very well thought out accessory that makes my sewing experience a pleasure. I use it for appliqué a lot and I imagine it could also be very helpful for stitch in the ditch quilting or binding.

Bernina Magnifying Glass

Bernina Magnifying Lens Set

Only to be installed by an authorised Bernina dealer

Only to be installed by an authorised Bernina dealer

Sewing with the Bernina magnifying lens

Sewing with the Bernina magnifying lens gives you better visibility

The manual Bernina magnifying lens holder

The lens set comes with a manual magnifying lens holder


Cleaning and Oiling the Bernina Aurora 440 QE February 18, 2011

I clean and oil my machine regularly for best performance, but I had trouble to find out from the photo in the manual as to where exactly my Bernina Aurora 440 QE needs to be oiled. So I went back to the shop from where I bought my Bernina and they were so kind to indicate how to clean and to oil the machine correctly. So here it goes:

  1. Turn the machine off and unplug it
  2. Unthread the machine and remove the bobbin case. To remove the top thread, cut the thread somewhere between the tension disks and the spool, raise the presser foot and then pull the thread through the machine. Pulling the thread backward through the tension disks is not recommended.
  3. Remove the presser foot and the needle
  4. Remove the stitch plate by pressing the stitch plate down at the back right corner (where the circles are), lift it and remove it
  5. Clean the area with a lint brush and take good care to remove all threads and lint that might have got caught under the feed dogs as well
  6. Once you have removed the lint, replace the stitch plate
  7. To clean the hook area, open the cover if it is not open yet and push the release lever to the left
  8. Let down the black hook race cover
  9. Remove the hook
  10. Clean the hook and the hook race from lint with a lint brush
  11. Replace the hook (you might have to turn your handwheel so that the hook driver is on the left)
  12. Close the hook race cover, making sure that the locking pin is engaged
  13. Check by turning the handwheel
  14. After cleaning the bobbin area, squeeze one drop of oil into the hook race. You can also apply a drop of oil on the outer border of your hook before inserting it. Where metal moves against metal, you should oil.
  15. I let my machine run for a few stitches to distribute the oil in the hook area and to prevent the oil soiling the fabric.
Remove the stitch plate

Remove the stitch plate

Remove the lint with a lint brush

Remove the lint with a lint brush

Push the release lever to the left

Push the release lever to the left

The hook can now be removed

The hook can now be removed

Clean the hook area with a lint brush

Clean the hook area with a lint brush

Apply a drop of oil the hook race

Apply a drop of oil to the hook race

Cleaning notification showing in the display

Cleaning notification showing in the display

That’s it. It is not as difficult as it sounds.

The Bernina will display a little oil can on the display when it needs to be cleaned and oiled (after 180,000 stitches approximately), but I have the habit to clean and oil my machine more frequently than that. After every project or a long day of sewing, I remove the lint and check for caught up threads and I usually also apply a drop of oil to the hook race. To clear the notification in your display, you need to to press the hash button (#) twice. The display can also be cleared temporarily by pressing the “clr” button. Once you restart your sewing machine, the notification with be displayed again. If you have cleared the notification with the “clr” button three times, the notification will only appear again after a further approximate 180,000 stitches.

The display of the Bernina Aurora 440 QE will show a service notification after approximately 2,000,000 stitches. It’s a little icon of two crossed tools. You should bring your machine to your Bernina technician for a check up, servicing and re-adjusting. The technician will reset the stitch count to “0” again. The service notification can be cleared temporarily the same way as the cleaning notification described above, by pressing the “clr” button. After clearing the notification for the third time it will only re-appear after a further 2,000,000 stitches approximately.


Library Tote from “The Crafter’s Companion” February 14, 2011

The new school year has started and I wanted my daughter to have a new nice library bag for school. My shelfs are filled with craft and sewing books and The Crafter’s Companion had the perfect project: the Library Tote by Fiona Dalton.

I used heavy denim for the outside of the bag, printed cotton fabric for the pocket and a a red and white fine striped cotton fabric for the lining. It took me only a few hours to make and was a fairly easy project. I like how it turned out.

Katharina's new library bag

Katharina's new library bag.

My fabric choice

My fabric choice

A 100% cotton fabric in red and white stripes has been used for the lining

A 100% cotton fabric in red and white stripes has been used for the lining

Boxed corners for more space and stability

Boxed corners for more space and stability


Plaids, plaids, plaids January 3, 2011

Filed under: Fabric Stash,Sewing — Nelly @ 4:11 pm
Tags: , , ,


A new addition to my fabric stash: plaids

A new addition to my fabric stash: plaids

Besides colourful stripes and polka dots, I love plaids. While there is a wide range of stripes and dots available at local stores and online fabric stores, I have never been lucky finding plaids. I have a book called All Through the Woods: Quilted Projects from the North Country by Cori Derksen and Myra Harder and I’ve never made a project from this book, because I was unable to find nice plaids that would match the theme.


All Through the Woods: Quilted Projects from the North Country

All Through the Woods: Quilted Projects from the North Country by Cori Derksen & Myra Harder

At the end of last year, I went to Spotlight and I was absolutely delighted to find – to my surprise – a wide range of plaids. I had never seen plaids at that store before. Of course I loaded as many bolts with plaids in my shopping cart as it could possibly hold. The vendor at the cutting table looked startled at me when she said “Oh, you are going to be very busy.” I bought half a meter of each and now I have my first fabric stash of plaids. I am still looking for a few blue coloured fabrics appropriate for the sky and the lake, a few different neutrals and different shades of yellow for the stars and the moon. Then I can get started with one of the projects from the book.


"Black Bear Pillow" from the book "All Through the Woods: Quilted Projects from the North Country"

"Black Bear Pillow" from the book "All Through the Woods: Quilted Projects from the North Country"

"Moose Pillow" from the book "All Through the Woods: Quilted Projects from the North Country"

"Moose Pillow" from the book "All Through the Woods: Quilted Projects from the North Country"


Plaids, plaids, plaids

Fabric I found at Spotlight

Plaids, plaids, plaids

I love plaids.

I prefer to buy fabric having a project in mind, instead of buying everything I like and storing it for an indefinite time. I do have fabrics I bought years ago, because they were so nice and cute, but then I was unable to find a suitable project for these fabrics. Maybe I lack imagination, but I think it is easier the other way around. I just bought dozens of plastic storage boxes to keep my fabrics and wool from dust. I remodelled our study room into a sewing studio and I like everything to be organised and within reach. It is amazing how quick these boxes fill up!


Spring Wheels Quilt (WIP) June 7, 2010

I am a huge fan of Piece O’Cake Designs and I have almost all of their books. Some that were out of print, I could successfully hunt down on ebay. One of them being the book Once upon a season. Since I had this book, I fastened my eyes on the Spring Wheels pattern on page 30. This quilt is sewn together using the machine paper piecing method. I’ve never tried that before, it seemed difficult to me, but the opposite is true. After trying it, I must say that it is much easier to sew smaller pieces together using the paper piecing method than sewing it together “free-style”, because the paper provides stability. It prevents the fabric from stretching in the wrong places and it makes matching the seams easier.

Printing and cutting the foundation paper is extra work (for this particular pattern I had to cut 762 pieces), but on the other hand you save work as you don’t have to cut the fabric pieces out in their exact shape which is very time consuming as well. For paper piecing the fabric is cut to an approximate size and later trimmed accordingly to its correct size plus 1/4″ seam allowance. Works for me. The downside of this method is obvious: you will need more fabric, you will have more waste and you have to incur in additional costs for buying foundation paper which is expensive. This pattern has 127 blocks. Each block has 6 parts and each part consists of 3 pieces of fabric. With the traditional method, I would have to cut out 2286 pieces of fabric . With the paper piecing method, I only have to cut strips which is easy and fast done, plus cutting 762 pieces of foundation paper. It seems less work to me.

Spring Wheels pattern by Piece O'Cake Designs

On the left the Spring Wheels quilt and on the right the printed foundation paper sheets

Machine paper piecing method

It is easier than I thought it would be. I use the 1/4" patchwork foot instead of the often recommended open-toe foot, because it helps me sew straight as I am always looking at the line for the seam allowance which is 1/4" away from the seam line. With the open-toe foot I was a bit lost.

So a few days ago I began to wash all the fabric I wanted to use in my new quilt, Spring Wheels from Piece O’Cake Designs. I chose polka dots and striped fabrics, together with floral prints and solid colours from my stash. For the background I chose a selection of off-white and natural beige coloured fabrics.

I use a 100% cotton sewing thread that matches the light background colour for piecing. I decided to use a size 90/14 quilting needle, as it has a sharper point than universal needles and I thought that could be an advantage for piercing the paper. Later I might try Microtex needles as well to see how it goes. Normal 80g photocopy paper will make your needles dull, so I am using Carol Doak’s foundation paper for now. I already found out that it is important to use a press cloth when pressing your blocks, because the ink transfers to your fabric and stains your iron. It is recommended to sew with a short stitch, in order to perforate the paper effectively. I am using 1.60mm long stitch, which is approximately 15-20 stitches per inch.

Pre-washed and cut fabric stripes

Pre-washed and cut fabric stripes, ready to be sewn together.

Half-finished block.

This is a half-finished block: off-white background, green wheel spokes and red wheel center.

One finished piece.

One finished piece. Six of them make one block.

Unfortunately, I am one of those quilters who needs to work on more than one project at a time: if I get bored, I can switch to another project. I still have an unfinished Denyse Schmidt quilt in one of my project boxes, I love it, but from time to time I need a change. I am reconsidering my work method though, because fact is that my stash grows with every nice pattern I lay my eyes on and nothing gets finished. Talk about chaos! Please don’t count on seeing this quilt finished any time soon. All my projects are “long-term” projects and I don’t like to be rushed. I would love to see one of my quilts finished though ;-D. Hope dies last.


Look what I’ve got! My new Bernina Aurora 440 Quilter’s Edition May 2, 2010

Finally, I did it. Since months I was lurking around the Bernina Aurora 440 QE and since last week Friday, I am a happy new owner of one. To make sure this was the machine I would be happy with, I test sewed the model twice before deciding to buy it. I made a list of all features I wanted in a machine. My list included the following:

  • adjustable presser foot pressure
  • walking foot
  • free arm
  • quilting stitches
  • very narrow blind hem stitch for invisible appliqué
  • lower feed dogs
  • Parisian hem stitch and Venetian hem stitch for fine machine sewing
  • portable (in other words the machine should be less heavy than my vintage Singer 401 Slant-O-Matic)
  • easy to use
  • lots of useful presser feet that make my life easier
  • nice buttonholes

The Bernina Aurora 440 QE has all that and much more. I am so happy I bought it. I am thrilled with the many nice decorative stitches the machine offers (and I am actually for the first time in my life considering of using one in a project) and how neatly they are stitched out. I feel a bit bad for my faithful Singer 401, because the machine sews well and smooth, she just lacks a few stitches I desperately wanted to have. She is going to become my backup machine, as I have replaced her with a newer model. It’s kind of sad, I feel a bit like a traitor. These vintage machines were built to last and work after years like the first day they left the factory. But back to my new Bernina. What I especially like about this machine is the following:

  • It has a needle threader that actually works and is easy to use.
  • A walking foot with two soles (regular and quilting sole) comes as standard with the 440 model, as well as a nice selection of feet for quilters: the 1/4 inch (6mm) patchwork foot, open toe foot, BSR (Bernina Stitch Regulator) with three different soles (open, closed, clear with guidelines). Besides these feet the normal straight stitch / reverse foot, blind hem foot and zipper foot are included.
  • The machine has a transparent slide-on table that is easy to put on and to take off. The slide-on table has markings for inches and cm which is very practical. It comes with a long plastic ruler for even seam allowances. The ruler can be taken off if not needed.
  • The Bernina offers three thread cutters: one at the side of the machine head, one for the bobbin winder and one in the bobbin area. All three are super sharp and make a clean cut – just like sharp scissors.
  • The machine is equipped with a bobbin winder that has a separate motor. This means you can fill bobbins while sewing or embroidering.
  • Adjustable presser foot pressure: I personally believe this is a basic feature and should be included even in basic models, but many machines these days lack a manually adjustable presser foot pressure.
  • FHS (Free Hand System): this is actually a simple knee lifter, a feature well known among those familiar with industrial sewing machines. There are not many home sewing machines that offer a knee lifter. You use the knee lifter to raise the presser foot and this way you don’t have to take your hands off the fabric. Very practical.
  • This machine comes equipped with a manual sewing speed adjustment. You can sew from slow to fast. I need to say that for those used to industrial sewing machines, all home sewing machines are slow, it doesn’t matter what speed. Nonetheless I like “fine-tuning” my speed sometimes when sewing delicate things or using decorative stitches.
  • A push button to lower the feed dogs: I’ve never lowered the feed dogs on any machine as fast as with the Bernina Aurora 440 QE. You only have to push the right button!
  • Stitch Memory for programming up to 90 stitches, numbers and letters. I love it.
  • The machine has a stitch selection card that can be mounted into a holder on top of the machine, so it’s always visible. You can refer to it any time and there is no need to thumb through the manual in search for a summary of all available stitches: again very practical.
  • Talking about manual: the Bernina Aurora 440 QE comes with a nice and easy understandable manual. It is spiral bound, so you can lay it flat. It is printed on very thick paper with a smooth finish.
  • I like the cold and bright sewing light. Your eyes will appreciate it.
  • For those of us whose eyes are getting older, there is a lens set available from Bernina that can be mounted on the front of the machine, above the needle. I have heard lots of positive opinions about this accessory and as my eyes are getting tired easily, I am thinking of ordering it. It is an optional accessory and not included in the standard equipment of the machine.
  • The Bernina comes with a nice padded bag for storage.
  • The foot pedal of the machine has a cord wrapper. This again is a nice little feature to make your life easier. Remember storing your machine and coiling the cable from the foot pedal around the pedal, then trying to fit it in the space between the needle and the base of your machine? These times are over for me now.
  • The machine comes with a nice accessory box that can be mounted at the back of the machine for storage. It has plastic racks for sewing feet and bobbins. You can buy those racks separately to add more to your accessory box. Everything is visible and easy accessible.
  • There is an embroidery unit available as optional accessory for this machine. I already have a separate machine for embroidery, but it is good to know that if you would like to embroider with the Bernina, you have that option.
  • I love the stitches the Bernina Aurora 440 QE offers: 31 practical stitches, over 100 decorative stitches and 31 quilt stitches.
  • The machine makes some really nice buttonholes. Making buttonholes was never so easy. They are stitched out very neat.
  • The machine has a needle up/down feature. It can be programmed to leave the needle in the up position after finishing a seam or in the down position. You can change the needle from the up to down position or vice versa in a breeze by pushing a button OR by tapping on the foot control with your heel – again a feature that those of us used to industrial sewing machines will be familiar with.
  • I like the ease of changing feet on this machine. You don’t need a screwdriver to do that. For changing the feet you only need to raise the needle and presser foot and raise the little clamping lever on the left side to disengage the foot. To attach the new presser foot you place the opening of the foot over the metal cone and press the clamping lever down to engage the foot. That’s it. It’s fast and easy.
  • Again, you don’t need a screwdriver for changing the needle on the Bernina Aurora 440 QE. There is a clamp screw that you can loosen or tighten with your hand. That is really a relief for me, so I cannot scratch the surface of my new sewing machine by  accidentally dropping the screwdriver, something I did a lot in the past.
  • Another thing I like about my new sewing machine is the large offer of sewing feet that are available for this machine as are other accessories as well. I will buy the roller foot to sew leather and vinyl in the near future, the circle stitcher and the needle punching tool. I love the many quilting and free motion embroidery feet available for this machine. There is something for every technique and every taste.
  • What I also noticed as very pleasant is that the machine doesn’t move on the table. Not one bit. To reposition the machine on your table, you need to lift it with both hands and put it down on your sewing table again. That is excellent when sewing bigger and heavier items.
  • The first time I saw the size of the bobbin, I was stunned. It is noticeably bigger than my Singer bobbins. That is very handy for quilting.
  • Another nice feature to have is the cleaning and service notification of the Bernina Aurora 440 QE. A little oil can becomes visible on the display of the machine after approximately 180,000 stitches. To point out that your machine is due for a service, a little screwdriver and a spanner will become visible in the display, after approximately 2,000,000 stitches.
  • The bobbin case from the Bernina has a “finger”. If you thread your bobbin thread through the finger, it will raise the tension on the bobbin thread without having to modify the tension. This feature works like a charm for buttonholes, decorative stitches and satin stitching.

After raving so much about the Bernina Aurora 440 QE, I might add that even though this machine is aimed for quilters, quilting a big quilt under this machine must be challenging, because of the relatively short arm. The throat opening size (the distance from the needle to the body of the machine) is 7 3/8″ or 18.7 cm, which is neither small nor big. The larger the opening, the easier it will be to manoeuvre the three layers from the quilt sandwich through the machine, but other quilters don’t seem to have any problems finishing their quilts with this machine, so I am confident. Another nice feature to have would have been a warning in the display when you run low on bobbin thread. I know this feature is reserved for mostly the high-end embroidery machines, but quilters would appreciate this feature too, I am sure. That is all I can say for now. I am looking forward to keep you all posted about the features I discover and my experiences with my new Bernina Aurora 440 Quilters Edition.

Here a few photos from my new treasure:

My new Bernina Aurora 440 QE still in its original box.

My new Bernina Aurora 440 QE on my sewing table

The front side of the stitch card selector.

The back side of the stitch card selector.

The Bernina Aurora 440 QE accessory box.

The Bernina Stitch Regulator (BSR), unused, still in its original box.

The BSR with its three different soles: open, closed and clear with guide lines.

The Bernina walking foot with left and right guide and two soles.

The Bernina walking foot in all its glory

The Bernina walking foot in all its glory

Two soles for the Bernina walking foot: left the sole for regular sewing, right the sole for quilting.

Adjustable presser foot pressure.

The slide-on table for the Bernina Aurora 440 QE has markings for inches and cm.

The Bernina Aurora 440 QE adjustable speed control slider.

The Bernina Aurora 440 QE bobbin case, threaded through the finger.

The Bernina bobbins are slightly wider than my Singer bobbins.



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