Saturday, July 27, 2019

Sewing Machine Review: Meet Goldilocks, My Bernina 475QE!

Well, she's not brand-new anymore -- I bought this machine five months ago but I wanted to sew on it for awhile before posting a review.  I LOVE this little cutie!  I brought 'Nina, my 7-year-old 750QE to the Bernina dealer to have a minor part replaced back in February, and was the first person to play with their demo B 475QE sewing machine that they had just barely unpacked and set up on the sales floor.  By the time they had finished working on my 750 I had made up my mind to purchase this one.  I've been sewing on this machine for five months now, and it just might be one of the best machines I've ever owned.

Meet Goldilocks, My Bernina 475QE

My B 475QE is named Goldilocks because she's not too big to take to a class/bee/sit-and-sew, but she's not too small for large-scale paper piecing (like Lars's graduation quilt -- those foundation patterns would have to be rolled up inside the tiny throat of my Featherweights).  She has the same color touch screen, familiar interface, and all of the bells and whistles of my big 7 Series Bernina -- including the JUMBO BOBBIN, y'all! -- but no embroidery capability to jack the price up into the stratosphere.  I'd looked for a more portable "baby sister" machine before, but the 5 Series Berninas were priced beyond what I wanted to pay for a secondary machine and the 3 Series machines were a bit too small and were missing too many features that I use regularly.  Goldilocks is not too hard, not too soft, not too hot and not too cold -- she's the machine in the middle that was just right for me!  Here are my favorite features:

  • She weighs in at a reasonable 21 pounds (whereas my 750QE weighs 30 pounds)
  • This is a full-sized machine rather than a 3/4 compact size, so it doesn't feel cramped the way that the 3 Series machines did when I test sewed on them
  • She uses the same Bernina Hook system with Jumbo bobbins as my 7 Series machine, with the same exact INTERCHANGEABLE bobbins.  I can wind a bunch of bobbins for a project on one machine, and grab those bobbins when I switch to the other machine.  That is SO convenient!
  • The 475QE is a 5.5 mm machine, so the feed dogs are closer together for better control when piecing intricate patchwork than they are on my 9 mm machine.  Yet, unlike my straight stitch Featherweights, the 475QE can also do zigzag, blanket stitch, and invisible appliqué stitches
  • The 475QE has the Adaptive Thread Tension feature that was added to the 2nd generation 7 Series machines for even better stitch quality
  • This machine has the tie-off stitching and automatic thread cutter (love that feature when paper piecing)
  • It comes with the Bernina FHS Free Hands System, the knee lift bar to raise and lower the presser foot so I can keep both hands on what I'm sewing
  • Unlike the 3 Series machines, the 475QE has adjustable presser foot pressure
  • There are a total of 840 stitches in this machine, even more than the 837 stitches in my 750QE, and 40 quilting stitches (compared to 33 quilting stitches in the 750 machine).  The ones I'll use most often are the piecing straight stitch (#1303 on this machine), the invisible appliqué stitch, and the beautiful blanketstitch appliqué stitches
  • She comes with full size presser feet, not the snap-on soles, and Patchwork Foot #37 is included
  • Even though I have a longarm machine for quilting, it's nice to know that I can grab the BSR foot that came with my 750QE machine if I want to do free-motion quilting on something small on my 475QE.  The BSR foot is an optional accessory for this machine that I already own.
  • She has the same bright, cool LED lights for excellent visibility that I love on my 750 machine
  • The 475QE comes with the coolest zippered canvas accessory bag!!!  None of that silly Barbie Doll closet nonsense -- this accessory case is rugged, functional, and perfect for sewing on-the-go:
Bernina 475 QE with Zippered Canvas Accessory Bag
Interior Compartments of Zippered Accessory Bag
All of the accessories that came with the machine fit in the accessory case, with room for additional accessories as well (the above photo shows a couple of additional items that were not included with the machine).  I did purchase a few additional accessories for my new sewbaby up-front:
  • I bought the upgraded Bernina Foot Control that has the heel tap feature to raise and lower the needle.  That foot control comes standard on the 480 machine, but is an optional upgrade on the 475QE and the soon to be released 435 machine.  
  • I also purchased a Patchwork Seam Guide that screws into the bed of the machine (shown in the case in the photo above).  It's just like the one that came with the 97D Patchwork Foot for my 750QE, and just like the vintage seam guide that I use on my Singer Featherweight 221, and it's my tried-and-true favorite for maintaining a consistent, accurate 1/4" seam no matter which machine I'm using.  On the 475QE,  I'll use the seam guide in conjunction with the #37 Patchwork Foot that came with my 475QE.
  • I bought a straight stitch plate.  Did I NEED it?  Probably not -- but I'm in the habit to switching to the straight stitch plate for piecing on my 9 mm machine and I wanted one for this machine, too.  I've put my straight stitch plate on my 475QE, so the stitch plate shown in the photo above is the 5.5 mm plate that came with the machine.  
  • I also purchased Open Embroidery Foot #20 because I like to have maximum visibility when I’m sewing decorative stitches or doing machine applique, and I do have some machine applique planned for the imminent future.

As of this writing, MSRP for the Bernina 475QE is $2,399.  Compared to the other machines in the Bernina lineup, that is an amazingly affordable price for a brand new Bernina that comes with so many bells and whistles.  My dealer offered me a great deal on the machine at $1,899 but by the time I added on my personal "must-have" accessories and North Carolina sales tax, I ended up around $2,300 anyway.  Having sewn on this machine for five months now, I'm really happy with the purchase.  In fact, if I decided to give up machine embroidery, I would consider parting with my 750QE because the 475QE does absolutely everything else that I need it to do, stitches beautifully and reliably with any thread (including 50/2 cotton Aurifil and monofilament thread), and can handle everything from garments to fussy little quilt blocks to machine appliqué.  

After shopping around, I bought this DeNOA wheeled trolley case for transporting my Goldilocks 475QE:



Although the 475QE is light enough to carry by the handle, the rolling bag provides a little additional protection during transit.  The real advantage to the trolley is all of the other stuff that can be packed in there along with the machine -- threads, notions, fabrics, projects in progress, etc.

I've taken this machine to my quilting bee and to Karen Kay Buckley's machine applique class.  I also had it set up in a little SewEzi table downstairs by the TV for a few weeks when I was piecing the blocks for Lars's Mission Impossible quilt.  And now I have her set up in my studio at my secondary workstation, because I've discovered that it's really convenient to have multiple sewing machines when you're toggling between different types of projects.  Goldilocks is all threaded up with monofilament thread, a size 60 Microtex needle, and her Open Embroidery foot so I can work on my block from Karen's machine applique workshop, while my Big 'Nina 750 is threaded up with cotton piecing thread, a size 75 Quilting needle and foot 97D for piecing quilt backings and other odd jobs.  

Anyway, I highly recommend any of the 4 Series machines, either as a secondary machine like mine or as your One and Only, if you aren't interested in machine embroidery.  I'm definitely glad I got mine!

8 comments:

Ramona said...

Thanks for the great review on the Bernina 475QE. My Bernina is about 13 years old and still humming along, but it's helpful to hear what an actual quilter thinks about a new machine. Love the tote, too!

MissPat said...

Thanks for your very thorough review. This sounds like a great machine. I have a 30 year-old mechanical Bernina, which I love, but I hate carting it around given it's age and weight. Three years ago I bought a low-end Baby Lock and let's just say, I should have kept looking. I'd really consider the 475QE, but at my age (71), I'm not sure I want to invest that much in a new machine. One question I do have is can you use the ruler foot on the 475QE? I'd love to be able to do simple ruler work, but my Bernina is too old to use the ruler foot for the newer machines. Thanks again for your review.
Pat

KaHolly said...

Jumbo bobbins? I’m sold!

Kate said...

Thanks for the review. I'd like to replace my 20 year old machine, but have not been able to decide on a reasonable replacement. It's nice to hear that one of the lower end machines is just as nice as the stratospherically priced upper level machines.

Michelle Wallace said...

Good to know, Rebecca! This may be just what I need to go with my 750+. I may be swinging by my Bernina dealer tomorrow. Great price, too! I'm going to look for the 97D, or at least the seam guide - it looks like a must have.

Unknown said...

Thorough informative review!
Just put a deposit on a 475QE with the July bonus purchase items.
Your review helped reinforce my decision.
Thanks for posting!

Digitizing said...

Bernina 475QE is of the best machine. Great review. Thanks.

Carmen said...

Rebecca, You are an angel. This post was soooo helpful, I can hug you if you were not in the States and I in the Netherlands... Thank you, thank you.... Carmen

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