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!


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.

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.

Jkwnorth 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

Anonymous said...

I am new to quilting world looking at buying a machine and found that Babylocks are 7mm machines whereas Bernina are mostly 5.5. Naively I would think 7 mm is "better" but now I am wondering about your comment comparing a 9 mm to a 5.5 mm machine and the feed dogs being closer together for better control when piecing intricate patchwork -- do you think there would be a noteably difference in a 5.5 mm versus a 7 mm?

Any comments folks have on Babylock 7 mm machines? Looking at the Brillant and the Lyric versus a used Bernina 475 QE. The babylocks are about $500-$900 less and come with more features, but ...

thank you.

Rebecca Grace said...

Don't know whether you'll see this response or not, Anonymous, but I couldn't reply to your comment directly due to your No Reply privacy settings. It's not true that "most" Berninas are 5.5 mm. All of the top-of-the-line Berninas have 9 mm stitch width capability. But the only advantage to a wider maximum stitch width is when you are actually sewing those wide decorative stitches, and it does come with a disadvantage for "regular" sewing and patchwork situations. If what you are primarily wanting to do is patchwork and quilting, I would absolutely have zero qualms telling to to go for that used Bernina 750QE over a new Babylock with more "frills." Babylock isn't a bad machine, but there is no comparison to Bernina in my opinion. It's like choosing between a two-year-old Mercedes versus brand-new Honda loaded with bells and whistles that sound so cool at the dealership, but will you really use them? My experience has been that a less expensive machine that has more "extra features" is not going to perform as well with the basics that are going to be really important for you as a quilter. I know several other quilters who own the 475QE and none of them are unhappy with it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the prompt reply on my question of 9mm vs 5.5 and 7 and Babylock new vs a preowned 475QE . I didn't realize I had a no reply setting ... to clarify it is a used Bernina 475QE I am looking at (not a 750 as mentioned in one part of your reply) but glad to hear you know others with the 475QE who are happy with it. thanks for clarifying about the top end Bernina being 9mm versus the balance of the models.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for such a comprehensive review. I’m due to pick up my new 475qe this afternoon and I can’t wait to get sewing! I’m fairly new to patchwork and quilting, and although I have a good Janome machine already, it can’t hold a candle to the Bernina. I like the idea of giving it a name... maybe I’ll borrow one of yours and call it Nina😁

Patty said...

Thanks for your great review, very helpful!I have the Bernina 770QE and love it but am looking for a more portable option for classes and to take when we head south for the winter. I mainly do piecing and now send my quilts out to be done by the talented long armers so this sounds perfect. I know the 475 does not have dual feed but can I use my dual feed feet on the 475 knowing that they will work as non dual feed feet? Someone told me that is possible but thought I'd ask you since you have a similar situation with machines. I think I have found my little sister machine and maybe it will end up being all I really need. Thanks so much!!

Rebecca Grace said...

Hi, Patty. The 475QE would be perfect for what you are looking for but I am in 💯 percent disagreement with using 9 mm Dual Feed feet on a 5.5 mm machine. You might as well try to sew without any presser foot at all, because Dual Feed feet have that big cutout at the back of the foot to accommodate the dual feed mechanism and without dual feed engaged, the cutout severely compromises the foot’s performance. Add to that the fact that the wider, thicker presser feet designed for a 9 mm machine are not ideally aligned with the feed dogs on a 5.5 mm 475QE. As a Quilter’s Edition, the 475QE comes standard with Patchwork foot #37 that works much better for piecing on the 475 than any of the D feet would do. Your dealer can get you the accessory seam guide that screws into the bed of the machine to make piecing on your 475 with foot 37 just like piecing on your big machine with 97D, and you’ll love the greater symmetry and more unobstructed view of the smaller foot. If you prefer a foot with an attached guide like 57 or you have other favorites from your big machine that aren’t standard accessories with the 475, now is the perfect time to buy the correct ones for your 475 during Bernina’s September Buy One, Get One 50% off sale on all presser feet. Happy quilting!

JKW said...

Helpful comprehensive review!
I read this via the link on Pattern Review when you posted your review on that site.
Read it again yesterday.

And today, a Kaffe edition 475 followed me home from my wonderful LQS!

Can't wait to get things rearranged so it can have a proper home in it's own sewing table. And I can fire it up and get to sewing!

Please don't tell me your opinion of this machine has changed ;)

Rebecca Grace said...

JKW: Ooh, lucky YOU!! Yes, I still love my 475QE but I would love it EVEN MORE if it was a Kaffe Fassett special edition! They are adorable!!

Anonymous said...

Just picked up my KF B475QE. Can anyone share their settings for patchwork/piecing? Trying to learn new to me features - automatic tension and custom setting for fabric type. I’m used to manual tension on bobbin and upper thread. Thanks

Rebecca Grace said...

Hey, Anonymous -- Congrats on your new Kaffe Fassett Limited Edition 475QE!!! For patchwork piecing, I recommend that you use Piecing Straight Stitch #1303 on your B 475QE, found under the Quilting Stitches menu. When you first turn on your 475QE it will default to Straight Stitch #1 that has a stitch length and tension setting more appropriate for seaming medium weight fabrics. Stitch #1303 will shorten the stitch length and reduce the upper thread tension simultaneously for a secure patchwork seam on lightweight quilting cottons that will not pucker the fabric. Everyone has their own favorite recipe for getting their patchwork seam allowance to be an exact or scant quarter inch, but my own favorite is using foot #37 with a straight stitch plate and the accessory seam guide that screws into the bed of the machine. Happy quilting!