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Bernina:801 (Sewing Machine)
Viewed 1346 time(s)
2 more reviews for this machine
Review rated Helpful by 1 people   Very Helpful by 11 people   
Reviewed by:Terri A
Friend of PR
About Terri Astarstarstar
Member since: 1/16/08
Reviews written: 98
Sewing skills:Intermediate
Favored by: 67 people
sewing machines reviewed: 1
Bio: more...
Report a problem with this review
Posted on:11/15/13 1:04 AM
Approx price paid:$25
Had this machine for:About two months give or take.
Recommended? Yes
Bernina :801 (Sewing Machine) by Terri A

Bernina :801 (Sewing Machine) by Terri A  Bernina :801 (Sewing Machine) by Terri A  
  • Free Arm
  • Adjustable Stitch Length and Width
  • Adjustable Needle Position
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I have many sewing machines, both classic and modern and so far the 801, (not the 801 Sport, which is so similar I am told, that this review likely covers it as well!) is a favorite. (The Sport reportedly has a slightly different sized table as well.)

The projects I have sewn so far were delightful to sew with this machine.
I had fairly thick layers of bamboo heavy fleece and bamboo velour and it sewed them with ease and no sign of strain.

I found this at a thrift store with extension table, manual, original case and foot controller. The feet that came with it were actually for other sewing machines, but just the one original all purpose Bernina foot was on the machine. I bought a walking foot on eBay, an original Bernina buttonhole foot, and an adaptor for all the snap on type feet.

The machine works perfectly but the controller would run it too fast and needed a capacitor replaced, which I was able to do for $2 and now it works like a dream at any speed.

I love that the 801 is sleek, trim and uncomplicated.
Threading is a breeze and so is cleaning and oiling thanks to the handy little levers you press to pop open any metal body parts. No screwdrivers or prying necessary for the main areas that need to be accessed.

The manual is very clear with black and white photo illustrations and well written.

I know this is a lot of technical information, but a lot of times these vintage or classic machines are bought, as was mine, at a thrift store and have no info with them. When I get a machine I want to know everything - more than just a threading guide, so here goes:

Max zigzag width 4.5 mm
Stitch Position: far left - left of center - center - right of center - far right
Max forward stitch length 4mm
Max reverse stitch length 2mm
Presser foot lift 6,5 mm

Passage space 110x200mm (this is about the size and shape of the top of the free arm when the attachment table is removed)

Size of baseplate 355x182 mm (801, 802)
Shuttle system non-stick central bobbin shuttle.

Bobbin capacity 75m cotton yarn
Needle System 705B (takes needle sizes 60-100 for normal sewing)
A quoted explanation from Bill Holman here shows that you can use "modern" (elongated scarf) 705H needles just fine.

Thread Tension incorporated in frame cover.

Winder self-releasing
Motor 90 watts 1A
Sewing Lamp (built in) 15 watts
Number of stitches approx 1100 stitches/min
Weight of machine 8.1 kg (just under 18 lbs)

Free Arm
Automatic Buttonholer
Built in plain and utility stitching
Drop feed control


0 Straight stitch
1 Zigzag stitch
2 Blind stitch
3 Running Stitch
4 Universal Stitch
5 Stretch Stitch
6 Overlock
7 Scallop Stitch

The buttonhole is a five step

Step one: left side
Step two: lower bartack
Step three: right side
Step four: upper bartack
Step five: makes a few securing stitches to lock them in place at the upper left side.

For Reverse Sewing, move the stitch length lever upwards (where there are no numbers). The lever is spring loaded. When you release the lever back down, the machine resumes normal sewing.

You need a small screwdriver, preferably the inexpensive Bernina original, still available in stores. It has a magnet on one end and is used to change the needle.

A note on old style presser feet. You need to find the old ones, usually listed on eBay as Old Style, or ones with no cut out notch at the back of the top of the foot. It is rounded at the back. The new current ones will not fit.

I highly recommend you buy an original vintage walking foot because they fit perfectly and do not bind anywhere in operation.
There HAS to be a cutout on the left side of the walking foot, as it faces you, for the presser foot clamping lever to rest in. If it doesn't have this it will not work.

It is personal preference, but the original vintage, super sturdy feet seem to be more stable in use than the adaptor with snap on feet.

Examples of a few presser feet (the original numbers) that came with or were available for the 801.

Zigzag 000
Overlock 470
Embroidery 030
Blindstitch 016
Buttonhole 452
Buttonhole corded 033
Darning 285
Wool Darning Foot 272
Button Presser foot 152
Tailor tacking 419
Hemmer 003
Shell Hemmer 168
Lap Hemmer 174
Gatherer 179
Pintuck 028
Monogramming or embroidery frame

Love and adore this machine! Can't say enough...

As a side note, it does have a couple of nylon gears (preferable in some applications believe it or not) and the rest are metal.
It is an 801 Matic Electronic, because the foot controller had an early attempt at electronics in it. The machine itself is mechanical and not electronic in any way.

Replace the capacitor if you get a vintage foot or have your tech do it. There is more info on this on the BerninaThirtySomethings Yahoo group, although a PR member actually helped me out before I joined their group. I love the wide spacious controller. My whole foot seems to rest comfortably on it, which is great when you are sewing for hours. No clutch ankle happening...

No pressure adjustment.

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11 Comments      Login to Add a Comment
KPM said...
Very fine review of a machine I've yet to meet, so thank you. Not many people can say they paid less for their Bernina than they did for its walking foot - which must have been true for you! Hope it continues to please.
11/15/13 2:49 AM
Terri A said...
Thank you so much for the nice comment. I really love this machine to bits!!! Yes, I absolutely paid twice as much for the foot!!! LOL - Worth every penny though!
11/15/13 3:03 AM
RynV said...
This was my first sewing machine, the 801 Sport, which looks identical to yours. I bought it around 1985 or so. A few summers ago I took it to my parents' house and sewed up a heavy duty woollen jacket for my husband on it. The machine did a really good job and didn't mind the thick seams at all. Like you, I'm fond of the 801 and intend to keep it even though I've upgraded twice since then. I can see why you're so fond of it.
11/15/13 4:17 AM
SewBusy63 said...
Great review! You certainly can't beat that price! Happy sewing!!!
11/15/13 8:45 AM
annenet said...
Wonderful review and very comprehensive! Sound like a wonderful machine. Those mechanical Berninas can't be beat!
11/15/13 9:22 AM
SouthernStitch said...
Awesome detailed review, thanks!
11/15/13 9:27 AM
Michele Lommasson said...
Very nice, very well thought out and delivered review, Terri. I am so glad you love your beautiful machine. It is a great machine, I love mine. The difference between the Sport version, and your 801, is the case and the lack of a carrying handle, as well as the more refined taupe coloration. Otherwise, they are identical. And, I might add, fabulous. I hope you get as many years of enjoyment from yours as I have from mine.
11/15/13 10:25 AM
Maia B said...
Awesome find, super review! Enjoy your treasure!
11/15/13 12:20 PM
Mufffet said...
Sigh...where DO these good deals exist?! :) Bless you heart - what a nice machine. What a wonderful find!
11/15/13 5:26 PM
Artsewer said...
Thanks for a great review. If ever I come across one in good condition and a great price I wont hesitate to snatch it up!
11/16/13 11:06 AM
PattyGee said...
Fantastic review and what a buy. One sweet machine. Thank you for doing such a thorough review.
11/16/13 6:12 PM
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