Friday, October 11, 2013

My Sewing Machine Review: Bernina Activa 125

The ladies over at Sew Mama Sew are compiling a list of sewing machine reviews from their readers.  Here is my contribution.  I am probably going to upgrade in the next year or two so I'm looking forward to reading their results.

Here is my machine:

Ancient photo from when I used to sew on a footstool
and iron on the floor. Don't judge me.

Sewing Machine Reviews

What brand and model do you have? Bernina Activa 125
How long have you had it? I inherited it when my grandma passed in early 2009.  I believe it was originally purchased in 2002(?)
How much does that machine cost (approximately)? Dunno.  Inherited. 
What types of things do you sew? Lots and lots of box bags.  Quilts, home accessories, and I attempt some clothing. 
How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get?  I sew in spurts.  Lately, I sew for a few hours a couple nights a week, and twice a month I have all weekend sewing marathons.  
Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name?  I love my machine.  It is my sturdy friend.  She/it/he does not have a name. (I lean towards boy names for my inanimate objects for no reason)
What features does your machine have that work well for you? My machine is sturdy, and loyal.  I refer to it frequently as a truck.  Its loud, noisy, but I don't think you could kill it if you tried. I have never had any maintenance issues with it, and to be perfectly honest I don't know the first thing about adjusting my tension because I have never, ever in my life had to adjust mine.  No, really.  There's a knob on top where I can adjust, and I probably could figure it out if I needed to, but that knob just stays where it is.  
I recently added a walking foot.  I never needed one until I started quilting.  The first few quilts I made, the straight lines pulled.  I made sure to alternate the direction, but my straight line quilts made little chevron lines.  At least chevrons are trendy right now, right?  I don't know how I survived without a walking foot.  Unfortunately the off brand feet do not fit on a Bernina, and I had to buy the name-brand foot.   It was ungodly expensive but so worth it.
don't use many stitches other than straight.  Its easy to adjust stitch length and needle position using the screen.  I bought a free motion foot, and you can drop the feed dogs on this machine, I just haven't tried that yet. It also has a spot for 2 spools of yearn ( I don't know if that's standard, really), so I can easily use a double needle.  But that's another item on the to-do list.
Unlike some machines, the accessories and feet pack up in a separate box, but it latches onto the machine, and packs up nice and tightly when i have to take ti somewhere.  My goodness, it is heavy though.
Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?  It's loud, like a truck.  And when I sew at fast speeds, it seems to make the room vibrate.  I don't sew at top speed often, but when you do, it drowns out anything else in the house. I'm taking my machine in to have that looked at, but it has always been this loud.
I am looking at purchasing a new machine in the near feature, but my Bernina is blameless in this.  I think I have outgrown its size and speed.  I still love the machine, and I will probably keep it when I buy new because I cant bear to get rid of it. You cannot quilt anything bigger than a large throw in the neck/throat/space on this machine.
Would you recommend the machine to others? Why?  Definitely.  I love this machine.  It just works.  Its not made anymore, so anyone looking at this model would be buying used.  I would definitely recommend it to someone looking for a good used machine.  Its a good step up for anyone who has outgrown their I-bought-this-at-Target-'cause-I-wanted-to-learn-to-sew-machine. There are some newer features that it doesn't have, but I don't think self threading needles and automatic thread cutters should be a deal breaker for anyone looking for a machine in this range.
What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine? I'm looking for durability and consistency in my new machine.  This machine has been so consistent, and I'm worried a new machine will be more fiddly or troublesome.  I think I have been spoiled.  A larger space to maneuver is what I NEED in a new machine, and a larger surface will be nice. The automatic thread cutters are kinda awesome, but I really should not be basing decisions on those.
Do you have a dream machine? I sewed on a Pfaff quilting expression 4.2 at a local quilt shop, and it started the dream of a new machine.  I don't know if it's my dream machine yet, but I would not be disappointed if it showed up under the Christmas tree.  I'd like to stay with Bernina, but the machines with the longer arms are the fanciest ones and they cost what I put down on my car.


  1. Hi! Just wanted to let you know that you won the giveaway over at my blog - lbg studio - and was hoping you could contact me so we can get your prizes to you :)


    sevan76dress {at} gmail

  2. I like your post and it is so good and I am definetly going to save it. One thing to say the In depth analysis this blog has is trully remarkable.

  3. I have had Bernina's for years and it sounds like your machine needs more personal attention. It should not sound like a truck. It needs oil. Be sure to sew on any new machine you buy don't let them just demonstrate. When you buy Bernina you buy quality, that is why they cost more.

  4. I have the same machine and I love it, it's not loud at all. You might need to have yours serviced. Great review!

  5. I also have a 125 Activa, bought when my husband was working at repairing Bernina machines in a local shop, part time. He got it in 2004 for about $800. I've made many lap quilts on it, and only a few larger quilts; I agree, the harp, or throat space, limits what can be 'stuffed' through it. But I now have plans to do free motion quilting of larger quilts on my 1904 Singer Treadle machine! It has a wonderfully-large space for quilting!

  6. Has anyone ever had to have it repaired say the motherboard I want it fixed but don't want to pay a pretty penny for it as we'll

  7. The electric foot pedal is notorious for failing though the motor seems to hum softly.