Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Bernina 114

Goodwill knows what I like.  Here is quite a find, a machine that's rare in my part of the world: the elusive Bernina 114, the straight stitch version of the 117 models of which I own two, the K and the L.

I think I'm probably too practical for Bernina machines.  Participating in several machine and sewing forums, I often see them praised to the skies, dismissing all other brands as decidedly inferior.  Phrases like "I would never consider sewing on anything else" are things I often read and while I have owned enough of them to concur that they are indeed fine machines, were you to place lines of stitches sewn by different machines (same needles, same thread, etc., same width/length settings, etc.), you'd not be able to tell the difference between them.  I have a Bernina 730 Record that indeed sews a very nice zig-zag stitch.  These machines regularly sell for well over $250.  I also have a $8 Kenmore 158.1913 that also sews a very nice zig-zag stitch, is easier to use, is faster, and has a more useful selection of built-in utility stitches besides taking 30 cams for decorative stitching should I feel the need (and I never do).

An online friend of mine is considering a current Bernina model that costs $12,000.  I asked him if it makes coffee.  Really, isn't that a bit much for a machine that an $8 machine can do just as well except without the convenience of yearly maintenance trips to the dealer, expensive fixes to sensors and the mother board, etc.?  This is not jealousy of either people who have such money to spend or people who scrimp and splurge; really, if it makes your sewing experience wonderful, go for it.  However, I have to wonder if among all the effusive, flowery praise these machines garner I don't detect just the slightest bit of defensiveness, as if to say "I don't want to consider that I spent way, way too much on this thing; I want to tell everyone I have the best and the best is defined by price, right?  RIGHT?"  The sewing machine manufacturing and marketing world is filled with a lot of bullshit and you can really get had if you don't keep calm about what you need to accomplish your goals, what features are necessary and which aren't.  Bernina's bullshit is very, very expensive.  

Anyway, there was a time when Bernina machines were truly the best and I think the late 1930s was that time, the 114 being an excellent example.

The smoothness and tightness of this machine's construction are difficult to describe.  When you turn the hand wheel, there is simply no hint of obstruction or difficulty yet it has a heaviness, a weighted quality that I only find in industrial machines.  Every control from the length lever and limiter screw to the upper tension assembly to the bobbin winder tab is really about as fine as it gets in vintage machinery.  It's beyond solid; there's an unearthly smoothness that one simply has to experience.

And, needless to say, the color and condition are exemplary.  The wooden base is in fairly terrible condition and I'll either fix this one by stripping off the old (but excruciatingly lovely) veneer and reapplying with something tasteful or have one custom made by a woodworker friend of mind who can basically make anything.  See the hole on the nose side of the base?  That is for the pin on an a base extension.  I'd love to have one so I'll be searching or have one made as well.

So, I'm happy to have snagged yet another of these fantastic vintage Berninas.  If you find one, they are worth a bit more than a standard machine -- within reason.