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Forum > Sewing Machines > Bernina Virtuosa 160 - owner's opinions wanted ( Moderated by Sharon1952, EleanorSews)

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Bernina Virtuosa 160 - owner's opinions wanted
Twinset
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Twinset  Friend of PR
Intermediate
Quebec Canada
Member since 9/15/07
Posts: 551
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Date: 11/14/09 1:13 PM

Hi,

I'm considering upgrading (I have a mechanical Singer that has some problems), and I'm not into bells & whistles. I'm looking for superior stitch quality, good looking buttonholes (need the keyhole too), ability to sew delicate and thick fabrics (from silk chiffon to denim). I don't quilt, I don't embroider, I don't do upholstery or home dec.

My dealer has this 'new - old' Bernina Virtuosa 160 that he could sell me for a fair price, a demo from 5 years ago that never left his shop. It comes with all the standard accessories and he would also drop the authentic Bernina walking foot that sells for $150 in Canada I'm told.

I've done some research on this machine here on PR but only found one review, with the 'would not recommend' rating. I briefly tested the Virtuosa 160 and liked the appearance of the straight stitch in delicate fabrics as well as in denim. I liked that it could sew fast (I'm frustrated with my Singer as I would sometimes like to go faster but it can't), really liked the appearance of the bobbins, and really liked that it is quiet. The machine seems to be strongly built.

I didn't find the basting stitch - is there one? We couldn't test the automatic buttonhole as the dealer couldn't find foot no 3 (he would have to order one for me).

I'd like to have some opinions from the owners of this model. I do a lot of garment sewing and I want a machine that will handle all tasks, will work with precision and won't let me down. Do you like the buttonholes? Do you have tension problems? Do you like the feet? All specific or general input on this machine would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for your time.


-- Edited on 11/14/09 1:28 PM --

------
http://www.jazz-couture.blogspot.com/
Before joining PR: 1 sewing machine
Since joining PR: 6 sewing machines, kilometers of stash and tons of fun

Donna H
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Donna H
Washington USA
Member since 9/29/05
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In reply to Twinset


Date: 11/14/09 2:55 PM

I have the 150 and the 160 is a great machine but it all depends on what it's costing you.

Buttonholes are great.
No tension problems ever.
Love the feet.

This machine should not cost you more than $800 and that includes the walking foot.

Question: Does it have the built in ottlight (wrap around flourescent light) or a light bulb? I upgraded my 150 to have this ottlight and it makes all the difference in the world.

Basting stitch....set stitch length selector to 4...voila basting stitch.

Make him throw in the 3A auto buttonhole foot.

------
The single most important discovery made by a group of women? The Empty Tomb!

http://www.donnahodgson.blogspot.com/

Twinset
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Twinset  Friend of PR
Intermediate
Quebec Canada
Member since 9/15/07
Posts: 551
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In reply to Donna H


Date: 11/14/09 3:05 PM

Thanks so much for your input, Donna.

Ott light? I didn't notice what kind of light bulb it had, but will make sure to ask.

I also checked the Virtuosa 150 reviews, but I wasn't sure what was the difference between the two models. Anyone knows?

As for the basting stitch, I did try to increase the straight stich on the 160 to its maximum length, but it didn't produce the same effect as the basting stitch of my mechanical Singer, which I really love. On the Bernina it was just a regular long stitch, while on the Singer it's a much looser/longer stitch that is really easy to unpick after you've tried your garment. But I could do without, it's minor.

Is the foot 3A different than the 3?

------
http://www.jazz-couture.blogspot.com/
Before joining PR: 1 sewing machine
Since joining PR: 6 sewing machines, kilometers of stash and tons of fun

servantofclio
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servantofclio
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Massachusetts USA
Member since 3/20/08
Posts: 68
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Date: 11/14/09 4:33 PM

I have a Virtuosa 160 which was my mother's machine. I like it a lot, and use it as my main sewing machine. It sews a nice stitch and has behaved very reliably for me over the last couple of years. I have not had great luck with the automatic buttonhole, but I'm not sure whether that's the machine's fault or mine.

Donna H
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Donna H
Washington USA
Member since 9/29/05
Posts: 2054
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In reply to Twinset


Date: 11/14/09 5:42 PM

Ott light: Look under the "hood" where the needle bar is. You will either see a "U" curved light or a light bulb up inside the side arm. You WANT to see the curved light. That's the ott light.

I believe the main difference between the 150 and the 160 is that the 160 has more decorative stitches. The 150 was made with quilters in mind, so less decorative stitches.

The 3A is the automatic foot. The 3 foot is just a regular buttonhole foot. Get the automatic one and make your dealer show you how to use it.

------
The single most important discovery made by a group of women? The Empty Tomb!

http://www.donnahodgson.blogspot.com/

Ripple Dandelion
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Ripple Dandelion
Intermediate
North Carolina USA
Member since 9/23/06
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In reply to Twinset


Date: 11/15/09 6:41 AM

I had a 160 for eleven years and have just sold it. The 150 is very similar but has fewer stitches and fewer buttonhole options. Based on my experience, I think the 160 would fit most of your criteria except for good buttonhole performance. I bought the 160 particularly for the keyhole buttonhole and then never once used it on a project. The auto buttonhole programming does not work properly, and I have heard from a dealer (not the one I purchased from, as I have since moved) that this is a known issue for Bernina. It seems to me there should have been a recall or fix of some kind. I tried the buttonhole 3A foot instead of the 3 which was included with the machine and that did not help my problems.

I also found the stitch balance to be tricky and making buttonholes always required many, many samples, marking each buttonhole, clearing the memory after each buttonhole and then holding my breath.

Now I use a vintage buttonholer on a vintage machine and I am a happy buttonhole maker!

The circuit board went out on my machine at the 10 year mark. Since it was lightly used for much of its life, that was a disappointment as well. The repair was $250.

Stitch quality, precision, power and bobbin performance are all very good on my ex-machine! I feel it could be quieter and even faster, though.

Hope this helps rather than confuses!

------
Virginia
http://asewinglife.blogspot.com

CathrynR
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CathrynR  Friend of PR
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New Hampshire USA
Member since 6/26/08
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Subject: Bernina Virtuosa 160 - owners opinions wanted Date: 11/15/09 8:43 AM

I have a Bernina153 which I am VERY happy with. The only thing I did not like about it were the buttonholes (not giving me the option for the type I particularly want). So I bought a Singer 503A and the professional buttonholer to go with it for buttonholes. ---As for tension when you are basting, you could try just loosening the upper thread tension. My Bernina has never let me down, sews consistently great quality stitches, any stitch, and I had absolutely no repairs in the 8 years that I have had it.

Soolip
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Soolip
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California USA
Member since 6/18/08
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Subject: Bernina Virtuosa 160 - owners opinions wanted Date: 11/15/09 12:11 PM

Make sure you can adjust the presser foot pressure on the 150 or 160, especially if you are "sewing everything from denim to chiffon". My past experience with Bernina (a 930 that did not have this feature) showed how crucial this feature is. The 930 left feed dog marks on some taffeta bridesmaids dresses I was making. I switched to a machine that I could lighten the pressure on, and the problem went away. It also occasionally marked up some acetate linings (though not all).

Twinset
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Twinset  Friend of PR
Intermediate
Quebec Canada
Member since 9/15/07
Posts: 551
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Date: 11/15/09 12:19 PM

Mmm, it's disappointing to hear that the buttonholes seem to be an issue with the 160 for some of you. This is the main reason I want to upgrade - I don't want to fuss with them and I need to have the keyhole buttonhole. I also want a machine that is more quiet than the one I'm sewing on (Singer 1425N) and can handle well delicate silk or coating fabric.

My dealer also has a used Bernina 930 and a used 830, I think, as well as an old Singer 191 from 1956 that he could sell me with the buttonhole attachment.

As I don't want trouble with the buttonholes, maybe I should go with the vintage Singer with the buttonhole attachment and invest in either the 930 or the 830 for the stitch quality I'm looking for. I don't really need all the decorative stitches of the 160. But, refurbishing the 930 could be quite costly as he needs to replace the circuit board.

Honestly, I would be disappointed to have a nice electronic machine that has trouble with the buttonholes.

Please share what you like and don't like about your Bernina 160, your opinions are welcomed as I'm trying to make a decision!


-- Edited on 11/15/09 12:29 PM --

------
http://www.jazz-couture.blogspot.com/
Before joining PR: 1 sewing machine
Since joining PR: 6 sewing machines, kilometers of stash and tons of fun

Soolip
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Soolip
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California USA
Member since 6/18/08
Posts: 2236
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In reply to Twinset
thumbsup 1 member likes this.


Date: 11/15/09 12:53 PM

The 930 makes beautiful satin stitches, and that's about it. The straight stitch is not so great -- it doesn't look quite the same on both sides. No presser foot adjustment either, so it's something of a doorstop.

But why do you want a Bernina? They make wonderful machines for crafters and quilters, but I don't think they are necessarily the best machines for garment sewers (if that's the type of sewing you do). Berninas are overpriced for what they deliver, though this is just a matter of opinion.

If you want a good modern machine that makes good buttonholes, check out Janome, Elna, and the new Juki F600 (which seems to be the current favorite here).

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