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It’s A Sewing Machine

A review of
Artista 165E Sewing and Embroidery Machine

from Bernina

Click the picture to visit the Artista 165E Sewing Machine page

Welcome to part two of my review of the Bernina Artista 165E, an electronic sewing machine and embroidery machine. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $3,599 includes both the sewing machine and a completely separate embroidery unit.

Read my review of the Artista 165E’s sewing features

Unlike other brands of embroidery machines, Bernina kept the embroidery functions out of the sewing machine itself and put them into the separate embroidery unit which holds the hoops, the stored patterns, and the embroidery card-reader unit.

Without the embroidery functions, the sewing machine itself is lighter and smaller than a sewing/embroidery machine, so it is easy to transport. And if you have trouble with your embroidery unit, you can still sew, which isn’t always the case with a combined unit.

Making The Switch

With the power off, the 165E converts to an embroidery machine simply by sliding the embroidery unit onto the base of the sewing machine, locking it into place, and plugging a cable into a slot on the side of the sewing machine.

To do embroidery, you have to drop the sewing machine’s feed dogs. Just below the connector plug is a push button to drop the feed dogs. This is great to have access to this button externally instead of having to remove the embroidery unit to get to the drop button.

With the embroidery unit hooked up, you can turn on the power. The menu that appears offers two choices. One will use the built-in and stored embroidery designs. The other reads designs off the embroidery card that you insert into the reader on the end of the embroidery unit.

What, No Color?!

Even though I’d spent about a day and a half testing the sewing machine by itself, I was surprised to “discover” when I turned on the machine in embroidery mode that the screen is black and white. Machines that have color screens don’t show much color in sewing mode, so the missing color didn’t mean anything to me until I switched to embroidery.

I’d never worked without color on an embroidery machine before. While I couldn’t see how the finished design would look in full color, the screen was clear and easy to see and understand.

The quality of the shades of black and white is very good. I had no trouble picking patterns to embroider.

When I selected a pattern, the screen told me how many colors of thread would be used to create the selected design. When I selected a thread color, the screen grayed down the image of the stitches that were not the selected color. I could page through all the colors to see which sections would be stitched with each color.

Line Up The Thread And Go

With my design selected, I selected my thread, lined it up in color number order, and started embroidering. Each time the machine stopped and prompted for another color, the screen would show the area of the design that would use that color.

One of the really nice features of the 165E is the automatic resizing of designs. I was able to substantially reduce or increase a design with the press of a button. I could even stretch the pattern.

The 165E calculates the number of stitches for producing the design in the new size. This feature increases or decreases the number of stitches in the chosen design so it maintains an optimum look.

In addition you can rotate, change positioning, and mirror the designs at the touch of a button. And you can change the stitch length and density of the designs to accommodate decorative thread.

Bobbin Empty

One missing feature that would be nice to have is an empty-bobbin warning system.

If the top thread runs out, the machine will warn you with an error message. But not so with the bobbin. If the bobbin runs out of thread, the machine keeps sewing until you notice there is something wrong.

But the consequences aren’t very severe. I was able to move the embroidery design back to where the bobbin ran out and begin again in that spot. I had to do it one little bit at a time, but that gives me tight control of my designs.

You can change the bobbin while a hoop is attached without losing any information, so wind lots of bobbins with light-weight bobbin thread before you begin embroidering.

Adjusting Bobbin Tension

I did all my testing on my friend Mary Rosenthall’s 165E. When Mary first began embroidering with her 165E, her stitches didn’t look too good. The dealer showed her that the bobbin tension needed to be adjusted when moving from sewing to embroidery.

Since she didn’t want to fuss with that adjustment, Mary bought two bobbin cases and set the tension on one for sewing and on the other for embroidery.

I recommend purchasing a second bobbin case anyway, as a backup. If you are going to have trouble with a removable bobbin case while at class or in the middle of the night while you rush to finish a project, it’s nice to have a spare, even if you do have to change the tension setting.

To give the ability to combine letters with pictures, the 165E has five alphabet designs built into the embroidery unit. I could change and resize the letters just like other designs, so it seems like more than five alphabets. This method makes nice quilt labels.

If you don’t have enough extra cash to make a big investment in additional embroidery design cards, you can hook your sewing machine to your computer and take advantage of lots of free designs on the Internet.

Embroidery Designs On Your Computer

And if you want to have more capabilities to design your own patterns, change stitch patterns, do cross stitch or change photos into embroidery designs, you can purchase Designer Plus software, which sells for about $2,000.

If you want some of the special editing features but not all of them, Bernina breaks out features into less-expensive software packages called Editor, Auto Designer, and Designer.

Download a PDF document from Bernina that compares features of Editor, Auto Designer, and Designer

If you happen to have your machine upstairs in your sewing room and your computer downstairs in the den, you may find that hooking the two together is too much work. But you can still move designs from your computer to the 165E.

Bernina sells a card reader/writer drive to attach to your computer. You can do all the work you want on designs in the computer then save your work to a card that you can take upstairs to use on your sewing machine.

Easy To Use, Easy To Own

I enjoyed using the Bernina Artista 165E. It has many of the features of the more expensive models and all the quality of a Bernina.

I found it easy to use in embroidery mode. And I found the sewing options flexible and powerful at the same time. This machine is definitely worth a test drive next time you want to upgrade.

Thank You

I’d like to thank my friend, Mary Rosenthall, who let me use her machine for two days while she fed me lunch and snacks. I enjoyed our time together and using her machine.

And thanks, too, to Nancy Barr of Country Quilters Emporium in White River Junction, Vermont for her help with the technical details of the Bernina Artista 165E. Nancy’s shop not only sells Bernina sewing machines, it also sells fabric and other quilting items. I love her choice of fabrics!

Country Quilters Emporium
1011 N. Main Street
White River Junction, Vermont
802 295-1375


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One Response to It’s A Sewing Machine

  1. While i am late to the party, this review really is wonderful. I am looking forward to my ‘new to me’ entry into machine embroidery

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