Creative and Handcrafted

Patchwork, quilting, dressmaking, knitting and more …

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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