|What knit techie likes about this machine|
There has been some interest in this machine on the Message Boards here, so I thought an early review might be helpful. I decided to buy this machine after a two-year search for the right new machine for me to replace or augment my Bernina 435 Anniversary Edition (450), which had replaced my Pfaff 1475. I was never completely happy with the Bernina. I missed the Pfaff IDT dual feed terribly, and I wanted pivot and automatic thread cutting and excellent lighting, but didn't need embroidery. Also, I didn't want to pay more than $2500-$3000. I almost bought the Pfaff Quilt Expression 4, but I read here about the problems with that machine. I took a look at Janome machines, but the ones I looked at didn't have the pivot feature, and the dual feed foot was more awkward and less elegant than the Pfaff design. I tried the new Bernina 7 series, but found the pivot feature to be very slow and it interrupted the rhythm of the sewing instead of enhancing the experience (and the machines were above my budget, though had the machine been perfect I might have bought it.) But glad I waited, because this Pfaff Performance 5.0 has all of the features I wanted within my budget and they work very well. When I went to the dealer to test it, I had the dealer also set up the new Quilt Expression 4.2. But once I saw the two machines side by side, I was taken by the 5's color touch screen and didn't even test the 4.2. That may have been a mistake, because it may have been better for me in some of the What I Don't Like features of the 5.0. The cost difference ended up being only about $300, because there was a $125 rebate on the 5.0 and the dealer was offering 30% off MSRP. Overall I am very happy with my new machine!
So far I've made heavy cotton curtains with ball fringe trim, pieced a wall quilt top (more about that below), mended, added binding to pot holders (see below), and tested free motion work. Most of my sewing is quilting, home dec, bags and accessories, crafts, dog costumes, and occasional garments. I used to sew a lot of garments but now make only one or two a year.
It would be hard to write a comprehensive review of all features, but I'll cover a few that I think are important. Things I like:
• IDT. What can I say? After working with this my expectations for dual feed are very high. Here is a picture [Hmm, can't seem to post the pictures here. I'll post them on the Message Board if I can in the Performance 5.o thread.] of two potholders with bias binding attached, the one on top done with my new Pfaff, the one underneath done with my Bernina. There is no comparison. I probably could have improved the Bernina example, but the point for me is that the Pfaff example was nearly perfect using almost no pins or machine adjustments, no basting, no glue. (The free motion was not done on the Pfaff and was done as a learning piece.)
• When a stitch is selected, the DISPLAY shows the stitch in actual size, which foot to use, whether or not IDT can be used, and whether stabilizer is recommended. A lot of the included feet look similar, and I wouldn't necessarily know which to use without the display. When you adjust the stitch length or width, this is reflected in the display.
• The PIVOT FEATURE works perfectly. When you stop sewing, the presser foot automatically raises just enough to allow you to adjust the fabric, then when you start to sew again, the foot automatically lowers. In combination with the needle down feature, this makes sewing curves and appliqués easy and fun.
• The AUTOMATIC THREAD CUTTER is such a convenience! I don't think I'll ever have a machine without it. The threads are cut and the top thread pulled to the back. At least one poster here has said it doesn't save much time because the ends must be trimmed again anyway and the side cutter on the machine is just as fast. I don't find that to be the case in piecing or working with seams that will be enclosed or with stitching that ends somewhere other than on the edge of the fabric. Below is a picture [I'll try to post on the Performance 5.0 thread] of a project I was working on, a wall hanging using a technique somewhat like cathedral windows, where a bias edge is formed into a curve and stitched down. Each block in the quilt had five of these edges to sew. I sewed each curve with a locking stitch at the beginning, used the pivot as needed around the curve, and ended with a locking stitch and automatic cutting of the threads. I could move from curve to curve quickly without removing the fabric from the machine and without wasting time or thread. Plus, the IDT really helped. I used a single pin on each curve. Any wonkyness is due to user carelessness, not the machine, because I didn't have a stiletto!
• FLEXIBILITY. There are so many options and features, for example:
o User-set defaults. You can easily set defaults for needle down, lock stitch at beginning and/or end of seam, and auto thread cutting at end.
o Three modes of free-motion work, using different feet (only the Sensor-matic foot comes standard.) I've only tried the "sensor-matic" mode. I'm not very good at free-motion work. I don't really understand the difference between the other two modes.
o Sequencing, allowing you to program a series of stitches or actions in a series to perform over and over. The sequence can be stored permanently. (haven't tried yet)
o Stitch Creator. You can modify the stitches provided or create other ones and store your work permanently. (haven't tried yet)
o Maxi stitches including large letters wider than the 9mm stitch width. I haven't used these but plan to add monograms to some items soon.
• This machined fits into my old-style Horn cabinet (model 2040A). I didn't think it would because machines have gotten so much bigger than when I bought the cabinet, so this was a pleasant surprise. But when the machine is in the cabinet, the accessory bin won't be attached to the machine, which is an inconvenience. (The Bernina accessory holder is external to the machine and can sit on top of the cabinet very conveniently.) BTW, with the Pfaff on top of the cabinet, I have to stand up to thread the machine or wind a bobbin. With the machine lowered in the cabinet, I will be able to do those things while seated.
• It's elegant and minimal in design, though some of the screen icons are so minimal I couldn't figure out what they mean.
• Lighting is good
What knit techie does not like about this machine
• NO MANUAL PRESSER FOOT LEVER. I'm having a hard time adjusting to not having a manual lever for the presser foot. It was really difficult for me to get the needle in exactly the right spot to start the curved seams on the wall hanging. The sewing had to start at the exact point where the bias fold begins. With a lever, I could ease the foot down while manipulating the fabric. Without the lever, it's trial and error, trial and error again. The foot-down button does toggle between full up and pivot height, but it still takes several tries to get right. I find myself frequently resting my right hand on the top of the machine within easy reach of the foot up-down buttons. The machine is going to get very dirty where I rest my hand, so I'm trying now to use the knee lift for this.
• STITCH SELECTION. The only way to select a stitch is to use arrow keys to move through the menus, first through the category menu, then the subcategories, then through the stitches in the category. This is fine for browsing through the stitches but very inconvenient when you know which stitch number you want. I would like an alternative method of just entering the stitch number on the screen. All of the stitches are displayed on the lid, so finding the number is very easy.
• NO "CLEAR". There is no "clear" button, which the Bernina has, to restore all stitch selections to the default. So to go from a utility or decorative stitch back to straight stitch you have to navigate back through the menus to stitch 1.1.1. This is pretty irritating and I would think it would be easy to remedy via a software update. I've checked the manual to verify that this feature is not provided.
Those are the things I don't like that affect how I work. Here are other things that are less significant.
• The color screen is pretty, but the software doesn't make much use of the color possibilities. Each main function uses a different background color on the screen, but that's about it for color.
• The blind hem foot is kind of flimsy, and the default stitch width and length for the blind hem don't work for me.
• The basting stitch isn't what I expected. It takes one stitch and stops.