|What SoWalQuilter likes about this machine|
This is my third Bernina - my first "good" machine was a used 1090, I upgraded later to the 153QE and sold that about four years ago (never bonded with it). My main focus is quilting, with a tiny bit of home dec. My main quilting machine since I sold the 153QE has been a Janome MC6600P, which is a wide-harp machine. I have been piecing on an old Singer 301a because the wide feed dogs on the 6600 made it almost impossible to get a consistent 1/4" seam. The 301 is straight stitch only, and is perfect for quilt piecing.
Why I bought the 710 and what I wanted it to do:
Mostly, I wanted a better free-motion quilting stitch, the reliability of a Bernina, and the wider harp. I was not interested in embroidery, so I ruled out the 750 and 780. I didn't purchase the BSR, I had tried it once on a 440 and thought it would take a good bit of practice to get the results I wanted.
I took delivery of the 710 on November 10th - I had put down a deposit at the end of September, and so I think I have one of the first ones delivered. I was in the middle of making 20 small (10") Lone Stars for a sofa quilt, so I decided to try to finish piecing them on the 710, and then I used it to assemble and FMQ the quilt. Not quite done yet, but I have done enough to be able to judge the 710's merits.
Andů.I love it. I did not expect it to be great at piecing, especially diamonds that finish to 1" wide and the y-seams need for finishing a Lone Star, but it was great, I mean Perfect. I had to practice with the feet supplied (more on that later) and the needle position, but once I figured it out the seams were consistent and straight, which I didn't expect on a 9mm machine. I had forgotten how much faster it is to piece on a machine with needle up-down and the presser foot lifter - I was buzzing through those stars like greased lightning.
The FMQ, which was the reason I bought the machine, is the best I have ever experienced. I have had no tension problems (I always start with a practice piece, of course, and adjust everything before I start, but there was not much adjusting to be done).
So, specifically, the issues I have found and have heard about:
Feet: There is a severe paucity of feet/extras included with this machine. I was sort of shocked at the entire buying process (and this might just be my dealer): I literally got the call, drove over a few days later, and they took my credit card and loaded the two boxes into my car. Period. The boxes include the machine and the basics - four feet plus the buttonhole foot, a screwdriver, an oiler, a pack of needles, and the only "freebie" is a package of four small spools of Mettler thread. So, if you buy the machine, spend some time with the dealer talking about your sewing needs and making sure you buy the feet you need. I got an FMQ aftermarket foot off of eBay, it's working fine, but I think I will end up going back and getting the #9 and #37D feet.
Dual Feed: It feels oddly flimsy after using the Janome dual feed, but it works really well. Two of the included feet can use the dual feed, and so I tried piecing with and without it. It's unobtrusive, so you can use it for normal piecing and it doesn't get in the way. It's the reason I want the 37D foot, I think it want to use it for all piecing. I did some straight line quilting with it, worked great.
Free-motion quilting: I had to switch to a size 70 needle, but when I did, the FMQ was perfect. I tried a variety of threads (King Tut 40wt cotton, Aurafil 50 wt cotton, Sulky 40wt rayon - I even ran out of good bobbin thread and loaded the bobbin with some polyester Coats and Clarks that I've had for about 8 years) and it never had an issue. I did not have to adjust the tension much (always had it within .75 of "normal", and only had to adjust it when the top and bobbin threads were different weights). I will warn you - before you start fmq-ing, GET COMFORTABLE - you will not need to get up or stop sewing for quite a while. The big bobbin, the wide harp, the smooth stitching mean that you can hit that "go" button and keep going until you want to stop. I loved the stop/start button for meandering. I had a little problem with the Sulky rayon breaking during FMQ, but I used to have the same problem with my 153QE and remembered that if you skip the last thread guide, the problem goes away. Tried that, it worked, and I was able to sew non-stop without the rayon thread breaking.
Noise: When I was running the machine through all of the decorative stitches when it was brand new, I did hear the whine. Nothing awful. This machine does beep and boop every time it does something (presser foot up beep, needle down boop, cut the thread beep-boop-boop, you know what I mean) so I didn't really appreciate how quiet it was until I started quilting.
Decorative stitches: I tried a lot of them, they all looked great, much better than my old 153.
Size: This is a big girl. When I got it, I had to use it on a tabletop with the extension table in place - if you do this, you will need a chair with height adjustment, because I ended up with a sore neck and shoulders from working at that level. I got the Arrow Gidget II table and the Sew Steady insert from Alllbrands, and they work wonderfully. For around $250, you get a real custom solution, the table is sturdy and not wobbly and the insert fits perfectly. I recommend that you get some sort of table/cabinet for this machine, I found it awkward to work with the machine sitting on a table - for one thing, I had to stand up to thread it!
Miscellaneous: The buttons above the needle do tend to "disappear" from sight because of the angle of the front. There are only four buttons there, and you just have to learn where they are, or lean back when you want to see them. This is a beautiful machine, by the way. The front is clean looking - the beauty of the design is that although you have the touch screen and folders of options, the options you want most often - needle up/down, stitch length and stitch width - are controlled by the knobs on the front, so you really only need to use the touch screen to change stitches, tension, foot pressure, etc.
I used the memory function to create a "french knot" version of the straight stitch, to begin and end my y-seams on the Lone Star blocks, and it was nice that you can leave the personal stitches folder open and just switch back and forth between the stitches you have programmed. It made starting and stopping a seam a one-hand, one-step process. (The built in tie-off/french knot only works on decorative stitches, which was a little annoying). I also liked the "permanent" memory function on the standard stitches - I modified the straight stitch to always use needle position +3 for piecing, and never had to change it when I turned the machine off and back on. You can "erase" the changes to the stitch anytime.
The ECO mode is nice, you can put the machine to "sleep" when you have to be away for a few minutes, it turns off the lights and then is ready to start right back up when you take it out of ECO mode.
The bobbin is indeed huge. It will almost hold an entire small spool of Mettler.
So, in short, I am loving it and bonding more every day. I find that since I got it, I can work for hours at a time again - no problems, everything seems to go very quickly.
What SoWalQuilter does not like about this machine
Not much! I wish it had come with more feet!