Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Bernina 1230 (aka Riccar RCM 1230) : World Traveler - Born in Switzerland, lived in Japan, now a US resident

I introduced my Riccar 888 just the other day.  I have another "Riccar".  But it's really a Bernina.
Not sure if she qualifies as a 'vintage machine'. She has a computer inside. It's from the 80's. That's about 30 years old. Is that vintage?!

Many of us, vintage sewing machine lovers, know that there are many "badged" Japanese machines sold in the US. For example, ever popular and cute Kenmore 158.1030~1050 series sold in the US was actually made by Jaguar, a Japanese sewing machine manufacturer, and this model was sold as Jaguarmate Mark II (or III, etc.) in Japan.  Michelle at Life with Lou has a Kenmore 158.1050 (jealous).

Here is what Kenmore 158.1040 looks like.

And, JaguarMate MarkII.

Anyway, back to my Bernina 1230.  Bernina 1230 was sold in Japan through Riccar in the 80's. With "RICCAR" badge. Complete opposite of the above Kenmore/Jaguar example. Did you know Bernina was doing this for the Japanese market?

Besides the badge, RICCAR, everything else is exactly the same as the original Bernina 1230. Made in Switzerland. It's the same model.  Riccar eventually went out of business. One of the last models they sold was Bernina machines, from 1988 to 1992, Bernina 1120, 1130, 1230, 1090, 1021, & 1530. They even made a model specifically for the Japanese market, 1240, which was essentially the same as 1230 but with Japanese character embroidery stitch capability.

The cord on the machine, as well as the cord of the foot controller are retractable. I read somewhere that this was a Riccar specific detail. I wonder if that's true. Any Bernina 1230 owners out there who also has this retractable cord feature?? It's super handy for storage. I love the feature.

This was my first Bernina. I'm SO impressed with all the features and the design. Everything is located where it should be, and as I use this sewing machine, I go "uh, ha. that's why it's there. totally makes sense. genius." Thread cutter is located at the left back corner of the machine itself rather than on the needle bar. It took some getting used to. After using it for a while, I now know why it's there. After cutting the threads, both the upper and the lower threads stay there, keeping the feed dogs plate area free and clear for next stitch so that the upper thread won't get caught in your next stitch.

On the attachment extension table, there is a little peek-a-boo window so that you can open and change the bobbin without having to detach the extension table.
I just love working with her.

Accessory storage is also impressive.
There is the accessory box attached on the back of the machine which can be detached.

Opening it, you are greeted by an assortment of feet and bobbins, each of which has its own place.

It's a double decker! The upper caddy lifts up to line up on the open lid. 
This sewing machine came with absolutely EVERYTHING.  In fact, it was either never or barely used. All the accessories were intact. Oil bottle spout has never been cut open, the seam ripper was as sharp as it could be, i.e. new. Two packets of Bernina needles were there, only one was missing in the packet - because it was on the machine.  Bernina did not customize the accessories to have "Riccar" label on them. They are Bernina originals with "Bernina" name on them. There were a total of 10 presser feet, 6 bobbins, an extension table, a knee lifter, and the original Bernina manual (in Japanese), and in a giant sturdy plastic case to fit it all.

Knee lifter is handy. It lifts the presser foot, hands-free.

I test sewed all the different stitches onto a piece of fabric.
So I have stitch samples I can refer to. Much clearer than photos in the manual.

This was a birthday present from my mother. I was wanting to upgrade my sewing machine which I've had for over 20 years, which never really cooperated with me. In fact, it was so fussy that I eventually stopped sewing and it just sat on a desk for mending purposes only for a long time. I didn't know that I had a crappy plastic sewing machine....

Prompted by my mother's offer to get me a good sewing machine, I began researching for a new sewing machine. OMG! That's when I woke up. The sewing machines have evolved while I was out of the Land of Sewing. I didn't know they come computerized these days. I also learned the value of all metal vintage machines.

I eventually set my heart on Bernina 1230.

Guess where I found mine? A Japanese auction site. I ended up finding one sold by a sewing machine tech who shipped it to my mother's in Osaka, Japan.

When the package arrived at my mother's, she opened it (amazingly carefully and meticulously packaged - kinda Japanese way), played with  test drove it. She immediately fell in love with it, and contacted the seller right away, asking if there was another one!!  She already had a couple of mechanical machines, but she was SO IMPRESSED that she bought one for her right away although she knew she was going to be visiting me in Seattle for a month and wouldn't be able to 'play with' her machine in Japan for a while. Hahaha!

She repacked my machine, and brought it over with her on her flight from Osaka, Japan, to Seattle!  My very heavy Bernina 1230 was hand-delivered by my mother. Bless her heart!

Here is my mother, Tamiko.

One of the best birthday presents EVER. This has quickly become my main machine. So reliable, so quiet, so considerate. I love all of my vintage machines and I do use them. But I go to my Bernina 1230 when I make garments. Just so smooth and reliable. 

Look at that big foot controller.  Love it.

What do you think? Machines of this age, early computerized sewing machine. The machine is nearly 30 years old. Is it too new to be called "vintage"?  Well, it's computerized..... so it isn't so vintage? Do you consider them "vintage", or just "older"?

One other thing. A strange thing but I'm not feeling any name for her yet. Unlike my other vintage machines, for this one, a name hasn't come to me. Is this a all-metal vintage machine vs. modern computerized machine thing? I feel a different kind of connection with her. Thoughts?


  1. Replies
    1. It is usually me drooling over your sweet machines!

  2. Wow! I wish your mom could bring me a sewing machine! I live in Seattle, too... :) Enjoy your new machine!! And, I do hope you'll post more about what it's like sewing with it.

    1. Yes, I will be talking more about her. I've made a few things with her, and she is fantastic. I hope to meet you one of these days, perhaps on a local meetup, or maybe we will run into each other at a fabric store!

  3. Wow, it really is a bernina 1230 with another label. What a beautifully preserved machine. I recently found a 1230 in a charity shop (goodwill store) for £50 and bought it on the spot, didn't know if it worked, didn't know it was such an iconic machine, but saw Bernina and knew I had to have it. It was so grimy, and the case covered in brown tape, but I cleaned it up, rewired the plug and it works! You're right, it sews beautifully and all the fancy stitches are fun. The foot pedal does have a retractable cord - such a nifty feature. Enjoy your lovely machine, I really enjoyed reading about it!

  4. Hi Bess, Congrats on your 1230! What a lucky find - at a charity shop?! And it worked! Hooray! Yes, I have come to rely on it so much especially when I sew garments. My other machines must be jealous. Thanks for stopping by! Enjoy your machine. (I know you already are!)

  5. i have a jaguar mark 3

  6. Hey Bess, I'm living in Japan now and would love to order one for myself. Do you know the site where your mother purchased this Riccar 1230?
    I bought one recently from a second hand shop and it's broken so I was hoping to find one in working condition.

    1. Hi Ryan - these machines are usually listed on Yahoo Japan auction site. That's where my mother found it. I hope you'll find yours soon!

  7. I was wondering - did you need an adaptor for this machine? Thanks!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. No, you don't need an adaptor for Japanese electronics to use in the US. The Japanese plug works in the US as is. You don't need a converter for an appliance of this size either.
      Mine has been working like a champ.