If you need speed, reliability and versatility, read all the way through this review. You’ll be glad you did. The Bernina/Tacsew 950 is classified as a “professional” or “commercial” grade sewing machine because it’s not quite up to full-industrial specs. But that’s just fine for most self-employed home sewers, costume shops, upholsterers or cottage industries. If you just want to sew lots and lots of projects and never have to worry about a breakdown, this is your machine.
When I was a baby sewer just starting out, I got lucky and was able to sew on a Bernina right away. I learned a lot of my sewing skills in the costume shop of my college theater department, so I have to say I was a little spoiled. But I always aspired to own a Bernina like the 950 model. Engineered for high-volume sewing, this is a great multi-purpose machine if you’re short on time, have schedules to meet and don’t have time to mess around with a problem child.
Need Speed and Variety? Bernina 950 combines the best of both worlds
First of all, you should know that the Bernina 950 and the Tacsew 950 are identical machines made in the same factory. The Bernina brand is sold to home-based sewers. And the Tacsew brand is targeted to factories and more industrial facilities. Basically a high speed, flat bed home sewing machine, it’s designed to handle production runs of costumes, fashion, or upholstery work. And while it can handle a variety of lightweight and heavy fabrics, it’s not really designed for extra heavy-duty projects like thick leather or sewing multiple layers of canvas. You will get lots of stitches, including zigzag in a variety of widths. This machine is used widely in theater costume shops, upholstery shops, as well as by production home sewers.
Features You’ll Love in the Bernina 950 Tacsew 950
- 2000 Stitches per Minute–That’s more than double the speed of your typical household machine. Faster projects = more time and better money (if you sell your creations.)
- Large Fabric Passage Space–I hate wrestling fabric through a tiny window between the needle and the right side of the machine. Quilts, tents, large costumes–if you need extra space, this machine has a fair amount.
- High Quality Rotary Hook–This means you get great stitch quality (even at top speed) and no oil pan to mess with.
- 5 Needle Positions–You can move any stitch to five different positions without moving the fabric.
- 20 Decorative & Practical Stitches–I do most of my embroidery and embellishing by hand, but for the rest of you, the 950 lets you select from a wide variety of built-in utility and decorative stitches. And obviously, this one sews forward and backward.
- 5 Step Buttonhole–Get perfect buttonholes on any fabric. The 5-step semiautomatic buttonhole delivers even, adjustable density on both forward and reverse beads.
- Feed Dog Drop–Free motion quilting, needle felting and embroidery is a breeze with the easy-to-access switch. Lowering the feed dogs allows you to move your fabric any which way you like.
- Stitch Pattern Indicator–Speaking of decorative stitches, the stitch pattern indicator lets you know exactly where you are in the stitch sequence by indicating the beginning, middle and end of a pattern. So, if you need to start up a repeat, you’ll get it right every time.
- Rigidly-Guided Needle Bar–This feature is usually reserved for super-high quality industrial machines. The guided needle bar keeps stitches on a perfect course. So, no matter how thick your fabric, you’ll have the truest straight and zigzag stitches.
- One-piece Metal Presser Feet–The 950 comes with seven presser feet, but most of Bernina’s extensive foot collection can be used with this machine as well. The ones you get with the machine include a zipper foot, blind stitch, embroidery, zig-zag, darning and buttonhole.
- Hands-Free Presser Foot Lifter–Sometimes I wish I had three hands when I’m sewing (okay, maybe four). But I don’t think my husband would take kindly to that idea. So, being able to raise the presser foot with my knee is the next best thing. No more holding fabric down with my shoulder or forehead while wrestling pins and trying to get the foot in just the right place. Phew!
- Separate Bobbin Winder–One feature I think is so cool is that you can wind bobbins while you sew. How awesome is that?! I’ll often spend an entire hour just winding bobbins for a project so I don’t have to stop and start every time I have to change an empty. This feature totally eliminates that time-consuming step.
A few minor things to be aware of…
If you’re used to a standard home machine, you will have a few things to get used to. In order to generate the speed to sew 2000 stitches a minute, this machine has to use a belt-driven clutch motor. Which means it’s a bit noisy. Personally, I like a powerful sounding machine (maybe it’s the Tim-the tool man-Taylor coming out in me). You won’t need earplugs, but it’s not your whisper-quiet home model, either.
Here’s a helpful hint about belt-driven machines. If you’re having trouble with the stitch quality, check to see if the belt is too loose. Sometimes you need to tighten it a little to get the regularity you’re looking for.
This machine is also heavy. Metal parts are a good thing in a sewing machine (that’s why the early-20th century Singers are still so popular), but it does add to the weight. The only reason to worry about that, though, is when you’re considering the shipping costs. You’ll want to look for free or reduced shipping when ordering your machine online.
Here’s a run-down of all the technical specs:
- Maximum sewing speed up to 2,000 stitches per minute
- 21 utility and satin stitches(36 stitch repeat)
- 5 needle positions
- 5-step built-in bar tack buttonhole
- Full rotary all-metal industrial style hook
- Locked in needle bar for straight stitch
- Rigidly guided needle bar on zigzag
- Built-in bobbin winder when not sewing or during sewing
- Built-in hopper mechanism (darning device)
- Special Darning foot for Free Motion work
- Built-in drop feed-dog control
- Automatic button hole with built in decorative, utility stitches, zigzag and straight stitch
- Universal foot pressure for all fabrics from sheer to thick
- Presser feet included: zipper, blind stitch, embroidery, zigzag, darning and buttonhole
- Hand wheel clutch release for bobbin winder built in
- Mounted presser foot lifter – knee operated lifter for raising and lowering the presser foot. Also has a raised stop position.
- Belt guard on the hand wheel
- Universal tension setting
- Stitch length: forward and reverse up to 6mm
- Uses Organ 16×231 and 16×257 needles
- Base Plate: 373 x 178 mm
- Arm Space: 210 x 104 mm
- Hook: double rotation, transverse
- Compatible with most Bernina feet
- Stitch width: up to 4.5mm
- Presser foot lift: 7.5 mm
- Handwheel belt track: approx. 80 m
Bernina is a Top Brand in the Industry:
If you’ve never had the pleasure of sewing on a Bernina, don’t deny yourself any longer. Founded in Switzerland more than 100 years ago, they are a premier manufacturer with a reputation for offering state-of-the-art sewing and embroidery systems, sergers and embroidery software.
Here’s what one reviewer said about her Bernina 950:
I am nuts about my machine! I prefer using industrial machines and this one is unusual in that it offers more than one function. Typically an industrial machine only does one thing, like sew forward, so it’s exciting (and expensive) that can do reverse. The Bernina 950 offers the variety that you get in a domestic machine while also providing more power, higher quality stitches, more speed and the awesome table.
This machine has the easiest foot system I have ever encountered (attention industrial users: you don’t need a screwdriver to change feet!), and there are about a zillion different feet available. You can wind the bobbin while sewing, or you can easily take the machine out of gear and wind a bobbin and the needle won’t move (this is not typical in an industrial machine). It’s big and heavy, but I knew it would be.
It was expensive, but I knew it would be.
It doesn’t do the dishes, but neither does my cat.
(source: Sewing Pattern Review.com)
How much should you expect to pay for the Bernina 950?
Any commercial grade sewing machine is going to be a significant investment—usually around $2500 to $3,000 for this model. You can order the 950 quickly and easily from Amazon.com. But you should know Amazon ships from AllBrands.com and you can often get it cheaper by going straight to AllBrands.
They usually have the lowest prices on any site and if you find a lower price online, AllBrands will do their best to match it. Best of all, they have excellent customer service. Sometimes you can find refurbished machines like hemmers, blindstitch, post and cylinder bed, cutting equipment and hardware at a good discount. It’s where I buy my machines, accessories, supplies, replacement parts and more. Whenever I have questions, it’s easy to contact a real person by phone or email. They sometimes offer special sales and free shipping promotions, too.
Here’s what one customer said about her Bernina 950 from AllBrands:
I just wanted to write to you all to thank you so much for the wonderful service and products you have! I purchased the Bernina 950 Industrial from you back in December, and I would’ve written much sooner, but my business has absolutely BOOMED since buying this machine! I haven’t had time for anything but making money! But I wanted to thank your support staff so much for all their help over the phone, telling us how to set the machine up and get the belt on. I don’t know what we would’ve done without them. And there is no need for anyone to feel skittish about buying from AllBrands over the Internet. (source, AllBrands.com)
Dont be fooled. While the AllBrands website does carry related categories of general household appliances items like irons, lamps, dress forms, sewing cabinets, even vacuums. (I’ve always wondered why sewing machines and vacuums always seem to go together.) These folks know their sewing machines.
No matter where you order from, be sure to calculate the shipping into your final purchase price. The machines and tables are heavy, and the most obvious low price may not be the best bargain. (I believe this item ships on a pallet at the 200 pound rate.)
Two ways to save big bucks on this machine. (so you can spend more on fabric and notions!)
As I mentioned earlier, the Bernina 950 and the Tacsew 950 are identical high speed sewing machines. And there are a couple of ways you can save major money and still get this amazing machine delivered to your door.
Option 1: Purchase just the head. You don’t get the table or power stand, so you’ll need to get one somewhere (or have someone build you a custom table, lucky you!) You’ll also have to purchase a clutch motor separately, but those only run about $150 brand new. Allbrands.com offers this head-only deal with free shipping, which saves you even more money.
Option 2: Purchase the Tacsew version instead of the Bernina and you’ll knock about $600 off the price! If you’re more into sewing than prestige, consider how much fabric, thread and needles you can buy with $600.