Monday, December 3, 2012

First Impressions of an obsolete embroidery machine

Are you thinking of getting into machine embroidery?  The top of the line machines for Bernina, Pfaff and Babylock can run you into the $1,000's of dollars with the embroidery units.  I thought about dipping my toe in what was considered a top of the line machine in 2000.

The Bernina Artista 185 (pictured without the embroidery attachment).

Here's what I learned....

If you want the machine to work with just the pre loaded designs you can do that (but where's the fun in that?).
If you want the machine to embroider designs purchased online, you can do that provided you have their proprietary software to do that.... but that's not all.... because these machines have a computerized component (insert obsolete here), they use cables that would now be considered outdated.

The Bernina Artista 185 uses a serial port
There is an actual serial port built into the side of the machine and the cable runs from it to the back of your computer.  Since I've never owned a computerized machine before I found this fascinating.

All is not lost yet..... You can buy a serial port to USB adapter to connect the serial port to the machine and the USB end to your computer.  Bernina actually recommends a brand that works for this on their website.

Think you are ready now?  Think again.

The Bernina PC Embroidery software v4.1 (which is what I received) is compatible with Microsoft
 Windows 95Windows 98, and Windows ME  , that was a long time ago.  I happened to have Windows ME still in it's package, and an old lap top to plug everything in.

Think you are ready?  Think again.

There's a dongle involved.  Yeah I didn't know what this was either, but it's a way for Bernina to ensure that the software is being used by one user at a time.  So how do they do this?

I'm still unsure that the v4.1 requires a dongle, but Bernina customer service says that it does.

"Dongles" can either be the CD itself, or a USB stick, which has to remain in the computer somewhere while you are using the software.  If you ever played early versions of some gaming programs, you might remember where it asks you to insert disc "x" before you can go on, or you have to play with a CD installed on your computer otherwise the program won't run.  Even operating systems with multiple discs have this feature when you are loading the software onto your computer.  It's the manufacturer's security that you aren't running off copies for all of your friends, he who has the dongle runs the program.

So you have the dongle....

Think you are ready?  Think again.
Some dongles can be disabled by Bernina if the previous owner had an upgrade at some point.
If the dongle is damaged and does not work, you have the option of going back to your dealer to buy another one, which might mean buying another software package (about $1,000 more) to replace it.  From what I've read Bernina is very rigid in this regard, and I've only read of instances where owners were able to purchase another dongle for a fee ($200) on current machines, with their receipts in their hands.

You have a question about the 4.1 software, send Bernina's customer  service an email.
They will send you a nice prompt email saying "We no longer support that software, buy v. 5, or use the free software with limited functionality on our site".

Did you say you bought that Bernina Artista 185 on ebay?
Pray that your seller knows how to pack a computerized sewing machine, and that they know enough about the machine to let you know that the software they are selling you is still valid, what operating system it works with, what cables are required and finally that the dongle is still valid and functional, make sure they have a return policy.

A dear friend of mine recommended I just hit the local dealers and look for trade in machines.  I think this is sound advice, maybe I can find a machine that I won't need a mortgage for, get some free classes and start a relationship with a local dealer who will support me through the process.

Here's what I liked about the machine, the light around the needle area, the bobbin under the arm, which faces forward, the stainless bit on the arm (purely cosmetics here I know).

I don't like the drop in bobbins, I imagine it being cumbersome to load a bobbin mid project.

When I tried to run the machine without thread, it wouldn't let me.  A machine that talks back, I don't think so!!  From what I've read, they recommend that you clean the machine after each use.  It beeped and shuddered like a wee robot.  I also liked that the buttonhole stitches were at the ready just a poke away, instead of having to hunt down an attachment and it's templates, I would just have to hit a button.

I'm warming up to the idea of a computerized machine, but won't be giving up my mechanicals anytime soon.

Also if I'm wrong  about anything in this post and you are a Bernina user let me know, these are just first impressions and I wanted to put it in writing in case there are people out there looking to buy this machine for embroidery.


MAD14kt said...

I started embroidering in 2007 and let me tell you. You will get hooked. I don't embroider much but I love having my machine when I want too. It's also a costly hobby. However; wanting to try it out I purchased a Brother Embroidery machine. I own (2) but I have a dream machine in mind but I can't justify it yet, LOL Enjoy your machine when you get it :)

ELMO said...

Thanks MAD14kt! Decisions, decisions, too many options in the market now.

MAD14kt said...

YES, there are a lot of options. Enjoy your journey. Technology changes so rapidly. :)

I have a 3-ring notebook I keep info in about dream machines I like, IHTH :)

Leslie said...

I'm so glad I discovered your blog! I see you have a lot of post about things I've wondered about myself. My mom bought a Bernina Artista (don't know which model) many years ago and then upgraded (and traded in the older one) a few years ago. At first I wondered why she traded it in if her old one was fine but I can see why through the years an older model will become obsolete as it's computer connections/software becomes outdated. I suppose those machines still work fine for sewing though, right?

ELMO said...

They do still work for sewing, but here's another kink in the armor. Bernina's warranty is not transferable, only the original owner of the machine has that right, the rest of us will have to open our wallets to have these machines serviced and maintained.