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Bernina’s Quilter’s Edition

A review of
Bernina Aurora 440 QE

from Bernina

Bernina Aurora 440 QE
Click on the photo for more information.

Reviewed by Sharon Darling

I have spent the last six months using the Bernina Aurora 440 QE so I feel as though I know it very well. The main reason you would choose this machine over other models in its class is the Bernina Stitch Regulator (BSR), that senses how quickly you move the fabric when free-motion quilting and keeps your stitches consistently the same size.

The Stitch Regulator

Bernina BSRMy first test drive of the BSR was at a quilt show. I found that I could go too fast for this feature using my usual free-motion movements. At that time, I thought this feature would be good for someone who wasn’t very skilled at free-motion or was just learning. I wasn’t sure I’d really use it myself. I was wrong. Since then I’ve realized that this is the feature I’ll miss the most when I return the machine to Bernina.

I’ve spent lots of time working in both modes of operation of the BSR and have it down pat now. BSR1 keeps the machine running all the time and BSR2 only runs the machine when the fabric is moving. After extensive play, I realized that each of these options handles a different kind of machine quilting.

BSR1, with its constant running, works best for stipple quilting or patterns that have curvy lines and no rapid change of directions. BSR2 is great for doing more elaborate designs (like leaves and other shapes with points or corners) or echo quilting, because it gives you a moment to pause and change directions.

The BSR feature alone would make me buy this machine! There is a three-page chapter dedicated to learning to use the BSR functions. If you don’t read any more of the manual, definitely read this so you get the most out of this feature.

My Favorite Things

The Aurora 440 has so many great features that I can’t cover them all in one review. I have saved the embroidery features for the next issue. I will tell you all my favorite things that set this machine apart from others I’ve tested.

I love the Cool Fluorescent Light. It wraps around the needle end of the machine, lighting the entire bed with a bright, white light. I have never used any other brand of machine where I can see so well without auxiliary lighting.

The Snap-on Extension Table is transparent, with a clear area right over the bobbin case so you can see what you are doing without having to bend over to look under the Extension Table. The Extension Table snaps into place so there are no legs to get in the way on your sewing table. Bernina strengthened the table with a honeycomb design so legs aren’t necessary. The table is easy to put on and take off and stores in very little space with no disassembly.

The 2-inch by 3-inch black and white screen is packed with information like the command center on the Star Ship Enterprise. I can see how I have everything set with a quick glance. I can see both numerically and graphically how long and wide I have set the stitch. When I first started using the Aurora 440, the constant flashing of the graphic setting distracted me, but I don’t even notice it any more unless I’m looking at those settings.

I can see graphically where my needle position is set. This is a separate setting on the Bernina, unlike other manufacturers, and not a feature of the stitch width. This gives you extra control over your needle position for stitches that have width settings.

The screen shows whether the feed dogs are up or down, how much pressure is on the presser foot, the number of the correct foot to use for the selected stitch, and the needle position up/down setting. There are stitch memories to store stitch sequences too.

There is one feature that I haven’t seen on a sewing machine before, but that I have on my car. There is a little oilcan icon that lights up when the machine needs to be cleaned and oiled. And there is an icon of a wrench and screwdriver that lights up when the machine needs to be serviced by the dealer. These are nice features, because I have trouble remembering how much I’ve used the machine and when I did the necessary maintenance on my machines the last time.

I like the accessory cabinet that is a little smaller than the size of a sheet of computer paper and about 2-1/4 inches thick. It holds up to 10 feet hanging like glasses in a glass rack. It holds 5 bobbins in little cubbyholes that come rolling out at the press of a lever. There are slots that hold packages of needles and there are two drawers. This puts everything at my fingertips and easy to find without having to rummage on-machine storage compartments.

The only thing I don’t like about the screen is the way it displays the selected stitch. I’d prefer a stitch number to the graphic technique they use for the stitch designs. I find these clunky squares of light hard to recognize as the same stitch as the ones represented on the stitch card. When I want to find out what stitch I am using, I have to hold in the white button with the # sign on it to see stitch numbers. If I hold down the key again the stitch image appears on the screen again

The good news is that the Aurora keeps all my settings so I don’t have to figure those out, too. If there is a way to set this display to show the numbers, I haven’t found it in the manual anywhere. The display of alphabet characters is much easier to read.

A Push of the Button

The Aurora 440QE has a minimum of buttons, but they do double duty. If you select a feature to use and release the button, it returns to the previous state. If you want to lock in that selection, hold the button a little longer and the function will be set and indicated on the screen. I really like this feature a lot. The numeric buttons on the face of the machine allow you to enter the stitch number you want to use or will select the first 10 stitches.

The Bernina Aurora 440QE comes with all the feet a quilter would need, and they are great feet! These feet are easy to install and remove.

Some manufacturers put a guide edge on the quarter inch foot so you know where to line up the fabric. Bernina does not, so I took a couple of minutes to be sure that the fabric was lined up properly for the quarter inch foot by sewing and measuring the results of different alignments. I got excellent results every time as long as I used that alignment position.

Look Ma, No Hands

I use the FHS, Bernina’s Free Hands System or knee lifter, when I’m chain piecing or machine quilting with the walking foot and need to change directions. It’s like having an extra hand to help when you are moving your fabric.

I used the darning foot for manual free-motion stitching (without the BSR engaged) and found it worked easily, giving me good results. I did a commission table runner this way. The customer was very pleased with the look of the stipple quilting I did. I used the walking foot on the table runner too. The Bernina Walking Foot is larger than most others and gives you two soles for the foot. One sole is closed for working with fabric that needs more control. The other sole is open-toed so you can see your work more easily. I used the closed toe for stitch in a ditch and the open toe for sewing on binding.

Let Me Count the Ways

There are so many other features of this machine that I really like. The Aurora 440QE has lots of nice stitches for quilters, including three hand-look quilting stitches and a variety of decorative stitches for machine appliqu

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17 Responses to Bernina’s Quilter’s Edition

  1. I really enjoyed your review of the Bernina 440 QE. I haven’t had mine for 24 hours yet and am finding it to be a great machine. I’ve had a Kenmore for ages and it was time to step up….I’m a beginner and I think the QE will be the machine that I can really learn so much on. Threading it has been a road block as I can’t figure that automatic threading mechanism….thankfully my eyes are still good enough to do this manually.
    Thanks for your honest review I appreciate your time,
    Doreen

  2. This is a good machine for experienced quilters too. I use it a lot for piecing but the walking foot and the BSR are my favorite parts.

    Most needle threaders on sewing machines work the same way. The important thing to remember is to have the needle in the full up position. Do this by pressing the needle up/down button, not by turning the hand wheel. Using your left hand, pull down on the needle threader tab and swing it forward until the tiny hook is in the eye of the needle. Wrap the thread around the hook of the needle threader then in front of the needle to catch the tiny hook. When you let go of the threader, a loop of thread will be pulled through the eye of the needle.

    • Took a class….I now can thread the needle! Yea me and do I feel stupid…didn’t let go of the thread at the end and was pulling it out. I can laugh at that now. I now have my first quilt top “done”….its flannel and propably won’t ever use flannel again. Its not perfect but its my hard work and its good enough. Looking forward to putting the sandwich together and machine quilting it… Any suggestions? I’m now regretting not getting the embroidery module. I won’t get the discount now that I’ve already purchased the QE…. I appreciate your thoughts, Doreen

  3. One of the review comments about the Bernina 440QE on the consumer reports site, indicated that a new model will be coming out soon. They mentioned a 500 QE. Do you know anything about what additional feature it might have? The woman indicated that it would be out in August or September of 2011.

  4. I have had a problem with my 440 since I purchased it. Unless I pull the bobbin cotton to the side before I start stitching, (which of course I cannot do if using the BSB, because it is under a large quilt) the bobbin cotton is all knotted up under the area that I have started to sew in.
    Anyone else have this problem please?
    I rang the dealer and was told “oh yes they do that, they shouldn’t but they do” I hardly use my machine now due to this fault.

    • Maxine,
      I believe this is due to the fact that they did not include a single hole thread plate with these machines, and the thread easily catches and knots under there in the larger zig zag hole if you cannot hold it. I’m going to get a single hole throat plate and see if that does not help. I suspect it will since triangle corners are getting caught there occasionally as well. Bernina should have included one, in my opinion, as they did on my last machine.

  5. Hello ! I’m french and I’m very very interested in this BERNINA :
    could tell me more about BSR1 and BSR2 : I dont understand if one is optional ?
    thanks for all the comments, helpfull !!

  6. I’ve had my 440QE for several years. I got a thread plate with a single hole. Did they just stop sending it?

    I wouldn’t trade my 440QE for my husband! I am a sporadic quilter due to problems that pop up in our life unexpectedly. I have been VERY careful to keep it clean and oiled. Runs like a top. I have a wonderful local dealer (Santa Rosa, CA).

    I am having trouble today making smooth free-hand quilting patterns with the BSR but that is due to my lack of practice. I recently bought an AccuQuilt GO! and because of the precision of that AND my Bernina, my quilt piecing is amazingly accurate.

    You can turn BSR2 on/off by pressing the balance/BSR button on the front. I admit the manual isn’t terribly clear about this. I finally wrote my own instructions until I was able to remember it. The manual has a TERRIBLE index. Really almost not indexed. But get some scrap fabric out and play around. Don’t be afraid.

  7. Thanks so much for your review. I’m in the process of getting a new machine and I’ve heard wonders about this one. I currently own a Viking ‘Rose’, and have had it for several years and do like it, but also heard that now some parts of the Vikings are made in China. Would rather spend my $$ on US, Swiss or German made.

  8. Why are prices for Bernina machines so much more in the USA vs Great Britain? I have done a thorough study and have posted the information at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mNOoQkQ14s. This includes prices for the Bernina 550QE provided by the new president of Bernina of America, Paul Ashworth.

  9. I recently have an opportunity to purchase a 440 QE and am wondering what would be a reasonable offer. It is used and the sellers says that it has been professionally serviced. It has about 1700 hours of sewing on it. Is it worth buying? If so, what would be reasonable?

  10. hi i feel a bit silly asking this but i don’t seem to be able to use any of my fancy stitches on the card. i must have forgotten how to program them in or something but i would like some extra instruction if possible thanks lydia

  11. I purchased a bernina 440qe earlier this year. My main reason was the BSR. I had used this part about 12months before and really enjoyed using it. My only problem is the bobbin. When quilting due to the ease I very quickly cover a large are only to find I ran out of bobbin thread half way through. I wish we had either a larger bobbin or a buzzer which signalled when it was empty( like the janome I have) . Other wise a fantastic machine to update I would look for the same machine with a larger throat. How about it bernina.?

  12. Still getting to know my 440QE. I have lowered the feed dog but cannot now raise them by pressing the side button again?!

  13. Hello there! I could have sworn I’ve visited this web site
    before but after browsing through many of the articles I
    realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m definitely pleased
    I discovered it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back often!

  14. I have the bernina 440QE. From bsr usage I have been told by the service man the shaft is now 3 mm off, bowed and worn from usage. Sad that the reason I bought the machine was for the bsr feature. However, the bsr isn’t designed for extensive usage making many full, queen, and king quilts with overall stippling.

  15. i woundlike aquilter not to pricey

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