Sunday, June 1, 2014

Bernina Record 830 - My Foster Machine

I was once a kitty foster parent for a non-profit cat shelter. My son and I took in abandoned or given up kittens and adult cats and socialized them until they were healthy and friendly, ready for adoption. 

This time, I'm fostering this sewing machine, Bernina Record 830, except that this is no abandoned machine!  I'm getting it ready for a grand presentation for a good friend, as her 50th birthday present from a group of us. So, this is not mine, it's not staying with me.....

It has just the right number of decorative stitches, not too many, not too few, as well as utility stitches built in. This machine is in excellent shape, inside and out.

My friend, Mako, affectionately talked about remembering learning to sew on her mother's sewing machine. This was shortly after I had gotten into vintage sewing machines, and by hearing her story I slowly figured out that she was talking about Bernina Record 830. Her late mother ended up passing it on to her sister, and that's where it is. Mako has an O. K. Singer from the 80s. I mean, her machine is O. K.  Like me, in the 80's, she grabbed an easily affordable plasticky machine that wasn't all that great. (we didn't know better at the time!)

Bernina Record 830 was produced between 1971 to 1982.  Made in Switzerland.  Bernina machines currently are no longer made in Switzerland. Bernina has moved their factory to Thailand.
Almost every time Mako and I got together, she talked about remembering her mother's sewing machine. How it was handy to have a knee lifter for the presser foot, how it came in a lovely red box, how she missed the heavy utilitarian weight of the sewing machine.

Soon she began looking in the local Craigslist. She'd email me whenever she found one from that era of Bernina. She's found a 730, 810, etc., in addition to 830. When she became aware that her mother's sewing machine was the top of the line Bernina at the time, and that the Bernina Record 830 was still quite expensive, she resorted to making peace with her "ok" Singer from the 80's, which wasn't broken and it still sewed ok.

 I think her machine looked like this. 

A group of us, eight great friends including the birthday girl's niece whose mother has the family's 830 now, decided to get the birthday girl her own 830. The hunt began approximately 5 months prior to her birthday.

It took a good four months until we found the "right" one. I, being the VSM enthusiast, took the lead and looked at the machines we found, but everyone was checking the craigslist, eBay, etc., and basically keeping our antennas up at all times.  

Once I saw a machine that was so-so. The price was also so-so.  I called Mako's niece and asked what she thought of the possibility of getting a so-so machine.  She asked one question. "Would you buy that machine for yourself?"  I had to think for a second, and my answer was "no".  If it were for me, I'd wait a bit longer and even if I had to pay a little more, I would not have settled for a so-so machine.  She agreed. She contacted her parents (the birthday girl's sister and her husband) and got them in with us, as well as the birthday girl's husband.

After a few misses, there was this machine that was listed for a few weeks unsold.  For some reason, I kept forgetting to contact the seller to go see the machine.  It did make me wonder why the machine wasn't selling. The price seemed reasonable. The photos of the machine looked fine. I would just have to see it.  One of us in the group called me eventually to say that she'd go look at it with me. That was the final nudge, I got up to look up the listing. Lo and behold, however, there was a newly listed 830 that day. It looked super nice, and I thought the price was reasonable. I called right away and my friend and I went to look at it the same afternoon.

The machine seemed to be in impeccable condition, only a few minor scuff marks here and there cosmetically. All the accessories were intact. The seller even had the machine recently serviced. We could tell by looking at her house, she was meticulous in many ways (a good sign!) She said that her father bought her, her mother, and her sister a Bernina Record 830 each back in the 70s. (This dad was into Q U A L I T Y!) She went on sewing and she still loves her 830 even though she also has a newer machine. She said she'd never part with her 830.  Her sister, on the other hand, wasn't sewing and needed to sell her machine.  So, it was the seller's sister's machine. 

We tested the machine, the motor sounded so quiet and smooth, everything worked as it's supposed to. We could not have asked for a better machine. It was perfect!

Here is the original red accessory box.  It's full of accessories including an old oil bottle. 12 presser feet. Old style, with old numbering system.  

Bernina basically has two types of presser feet.  The old style, and the new style.  My Bernina 1230 uses the "old style", so does this 830.  Newer Berninas, can only fit the "new style" presser feet.  The accessory box contained an adapter for generic presser feet -- which can be handy at times. Since Bernina presser feet are rather expensive and you may need a particular presser foot that you don't have in your Bernina accessory box but you may have one from your old vintage Singer machine, for example. The adapter makes it possible for you to use non-Bernina feet.  On the other hand, many Bernina users and enthusiasts will testify that the value and the secret of Bernina is all about its presser feet. Bernina presser feet make the difference. I agree. It is so true.

This is the button hole foot. I didn't know! I had to look it up. #452 in the old numbering system.

These are the Roll & Shell hemmer foot and the Lap Seam foot. Again, I knew they were for hemming but I didn't know exactly what the difference was. Now I know!

For a quick reference, I wrote down the number of each foot and what they are for on a few sticky notes for her.

One of the great things about these older sewing machines is that you can get into the machine easily.  For this model, you don't even have to unscrew anything. It has the hinged top and the top opens up easily.  Inside was clean, and recently oiled.

The faceplate is also hinged and opens up easily. Again, it's nice to be able to get inside so easily. You can keep the inside clean, free of lint, and oil as necessary to keep the machine running at its optimal condition.

Although the machine has recently been serviced, it still hasn't been used recently. I decided to test sew. Right off the bat, it sewed beautifully. It makes a beautiful stitch.  The machine was rather over oiled. The oil was dripping out of the machine! I had to wipe off the excess oil as I sewed. I wiped off the oil some more, and more, and more. I ran the machine more, and more, and more to be sure that the oil penetrated into the machine where needed. 

Nice straight stitch. Check.

The bobbin winder worked well. Check.

Now, I noticed this little window on the right, right above the letter "A" of BERNINA.  As the machine sewed, this band inside the window rotated, spinning like a vinyl record. Is this why the machine is called "Record"???  I didn't look in the manual to see if there was a specific function for this, but it didn't seem to be for anything other than to show that the machine was functioning, the parts were moving, and the "record" kept on spinning - you could see through the window.
When I was testing the machine, the birthday girl called and asked if I'd make a few pillows for chairs she was making out of tree stumps so that she'd have extra seating for the party guests to sit on out in the backyard. I thought that would be an excellent project to test sew on this machine.

I pulled out from my fabric stash four different cotton fabrics - two of which are vintage pattern - and made four "Tushi-Cushi's".
It sews SO smoothly. The sound of the motor is quiet, very soothing. It really purrs. Well, I love my Bernina 1230, don't get me wrong. But this 830 was REALLY nice. I had to try hard not to fall in love with it! The bells and whistles that a computerized machine offers (my 1230 is Bernina's first generation of computerized machines) are really nice, but there is something about a well-made mechanical machine that really connects with you. One of these days, I'd like to own a 830 -- or better yet, I should have my Bernina 801 Sport restored.

The ruler printed on the bottom of this sewing machine is very handy. In inches and in metric. It's so nice to have it right there.

The sewing area is brightly lit. I think it's even brighter than my 1230 light.

The birthday girl requested 12" diameter pillows.  I had fun making these. Since I have been primarily sewing garments lately, it was nice to do some improv sewing. I just made up the design as I went. By the time I made the fourth one, I had the system down.

Another friend who saw the pillows asked how I made them.  I think I will do another post for a  Tushi-Cushi tutorial. I think they are perfect for padding kitchen stools.

Test sewing was complete. Excess oil oozing out of the machine was wiped off for the most part. There was some dust here and there that wasn't caught by the servicing (they did an ok job - wasn't completely meticulous unfortunately), so I cleaned it all.

The machine is ready to go back into the case.  Here is the knee lifter bar stored inside the case cover, and the extension table.

Here, again, inside the accessory box. Of course the sewing machine tech didn't clean inside the accessory box. It was quite dusty, so I cleaned it and reorganized it.

Underneath the double-decker tray, I sneaked in a note. I was telling Mako that eventually the right machine will find her. It sure did.

The accessory box is stored vertically inside the sewing machine case.  I placed a piece of flannel cloth over the presser feet so they won't rattle and go all over the place. The flannel cloth can also be used to wipe off dust, lint, excess oil, etc. Very handy.

Finally, I placed a piece of cloth over the whole thing. This piece of fabric is from the Zero Landfil event I went to last year. A piece of sample upholstery fabric.

Here is the tag of the recent service. The seller said that she had been taking her machines in to this shop for a long time and that the shop offered a one year warranty on all services. She told me to keep the tag and bring the machine in if there were any issues. The machine was serviced, un-gummed (so it really wasn't used for a long time), and the nylon gears were replaced.

There is a foot pedal caddy box that hooks onto the machine for storage.

And, here was a surprise. I've seen several Bernina Record 830, both owned by someone and ones for sale. I've seen a number of other vintage sewing machines.  But I've never come across one that still had the styrofoam padding inside the case. I think this machine was well cared for. It was "babied."

I put it back how it came in.  It's complete with the original manual, nesting by the accessory box.

Some scuff marks outside, but nothing broken, nothing missing.

Ok, now, how are we going to wrap this up?  Found a box, but it wasn't exactly tall enough.  I also found some home deco fabric in my stash that I wasn't using. I used it to pad the machine inside the box. Don't worry, I am not shipping the machine. We are going to hand carry it!

More fabric! Wrapped it all up, and the red bow on top.

She's ready to go. Two more days until the birthday party.

It's from all 11 of us with love. We hope the birthday girl will love it.

For now, I called the birthday girl and told her I had four pillows for the chairs and that I'd bring them over.


  1. That is so cool. I bet there will be tears to wipe!

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