This week (July 2016) I had the opportunity to try out the Bernina Q Series Long Arm Quilting Machine at Cupcake Fabrics & Quilts in Old Town Spring. As a professional quilter and teacher, since 1994 I have owned and used various configurations of different brands of quilting systems. All the major brands perform well and have plenty of options so what I look for in a long arm quilting system is ease of function. This review focuses on the time-saving and ease of use features of the Bernina system.
The first word that came to mind when I saw the Bernina long arm system was streamlined. It looks sturdy, modern and easy to use. It is all of those things and more.
There is one machine available in two throat sizes: 20″ or 24″. The color touch screen display is built into the machine. Everything you need is accessed from this screen including video tutorials.
- Adjustable handles with programmable buttons.
- If more than one person will use the machine, there is a way to set personal settings for up to five users.
- All of the sensors and motors are located within the machine itself. There are no rollers, motors, wires or other gizmos coming out of the machine or attached to the frame.
Both sizes of machine will stitch in manual mode (motor runs at a constant speed) and in stitch regulated mode (you set the stitch length). You can switch from one mode to the other.
Threading the machine is fast and easy with the thread holders placed at the front of the machine, no need to run around to the back to change thread.
- Digital thread tension adjusting so no knobs to turn.
- Uses a standard sewing machine needle.
- A hopping foot for using templates and rulers is available.
- Has a needle threader! I think this is my favorite feature.
- Independent bobbin winder and low bobbin indicator. Size M bobbin.
The Sit Down Model
You can put the 20″ machine into a table designed specifically for it. In this configuration you sit down to move the quilt under the needle. I am not a sit down quilter so I did not test drive this model.
Even though the frame is the last feature discussed last in this review, it was the first thing that caught my eye because it didn't look like a big, massive piece of machinery from the industrial age.
The frame is aluminum and available in three sizes: Small-9′, Classic-12′ and Large-13′. The Small size has 4 legs and the Classic and Large sizes have 6 legs to give it added stability. There are tons of standard and optional features of this frame but I will list my favorites.
Inside the throat of the machine the take up roller is positioned above a dead bar. This means no adjusting of the take up roller as you quilt. The heavy duty canvas leaders are marked for loading accuracy.
4 bungee clamps means no more sound of Velcro® each time a clamp is adjusted.
You can clamp then adjust the tension with one hand.
Build in accessory trays on each side of the frame. Legs and rollers are fully adjustable. Heavy duty canvas leaders with positioning marks really help when loading the fabric.
Easy-to-turn hand wheel on take up roller.
Smooth riding wheels on an easy to clean track.
Download the brochure – Bernina Q Series Long Arm Quilting Machines.
Q-matic Compterized System
Sometime in the very near future Bernina will release the Q-matic computer system for the Q Series frame models. A touch screen tablet will be mounted to the frame. Stay tuned.
Download the brochure – Q-matic Computer System
This system seems like a winner to me. Because of the streamlined look and functionality of both machine and frame, it's not as imposing as other systems. I believe this will entice more quilters to enter the long arm quilting world with confidence. Bernina owners especially will enjoy a shorter learning curve since they are already familiar with operation of the basic machine and accessories.
Don't be fooled by this lighter, modern version of the long arm quilting system. The table and rollers are sturdy enough for any professional. Simple changes made by Bernina designers to locate the thread cones and bobbin winder at the front of the machine and to use bungee instead of hook and loop tape, are innovations that bring the long arm quilting system into the 21st century. Why didn't anyone think of this before? The Bernina band has been around for over 100 years and has dealers all over the world so support is not a problem.
Visit your Bernina dealer today to find out more about their long arm quilting systems. If you are in the Houston area, visit Carla at Cupcake Fabrics & Quilts in Old Town Spring. She is happy to show you the system I tested and to answer any questions you have.