Bernina 830 Record (circa 1980s)

I chose my vintage Bernina 830 Record because it offered exceptionally good value for money. It dates from around the late 1970s/early 1980s and I have had it about four months. Bought to replace my faithful, metal-bodied, 25-year-old Brother Compal Ace whose circuit board had become corrupted I had a clear view of my needs and wants but despite trying quite a few modern machines I was not satisfied with the quality of either the machine or the stitch. Even the Bernina 220 did not offer, in my opinion, the stitch quality I expected from that name so I decided to follow the vintage route and buy a Bernina whose stitch I could trust to be exceptional.

I was not disappointed. For £200 less than a new 220 and half the price of a new 1008, I got exactly what I expected: an enormously satisfying attention to detail with the build quality – smooth lever action in attaching the flatbed, a ball bearing snap-fastening for the bobbin cover and absolutely no sign of a plastic presser foot lever. There is a metal knee-lift lever too, which slots into a hole below the bottom of the pillar. The machine is mainly metal bodied; the cover for the motor (which is mounted at the back of the pillar) is plastic, as is the end plate, the fly wheel, the knobs and the section at the back holding the spool pins but in all the parts which are functional rather than decorative, this machine is cast metal which gives both longevity and stability when sewing. This machine won’t judder off the table when you’re sewing a fast seam.

Extremely intuitive to thread and to use, the controls are simple and self-explanatory. Stitch length (0-4mm) is controlled by sliding a lever on the pillar and then twisting the lever knob to secure it in position. Above this are twin dials; one for selecting the zigzag width (0-4mm) and the other for choosing the appropriate stage on the five-step button hole. There are five different needle positions (chosen via an inner knob on the zigzag dial). Tension is self-adjusting but may be manually overridden using a wheel on the top of the machine. The feed dogs are dropped by simply switching a dial at the base of the pillar. The harp measures 4 ½ “ high by 7 ¼ “ long.

As well as the usual straight zigzag and buttonhole, the 830 offers 5 utility stitches, named “overlock”, “stretch”, “universal”, “running” and “blind”. Universal and running are both a variation on a zigzag. In addition to these, there are 15 decorative satin stitches which may be worked in a continuous row or else as single motifs. There is a small window in the machine body which displays the point in the stitch cycle so one can get ready to stop when the cycle (and thus the motif) is complete. The switch between straight and decorative stitch is made by pushing a lever on the top of the machine next to which is a second lever which switches between the different pattern cams by pushing the lever to the right to release it, sliding it up or down before releasing it to spring into position alongside the appropriate pattern icon.

The stitch quality is exceptional; neat, well-formed and perfectly straight. The machine takes standard, domestic needles and as it is a zigzag machine is also capable of heirloom-style stitching using twin and also wing needles.

There is a small hole in the needle bed through which may be drawn up a cord (or gimp) for corded pintucks, and also the twin screw holes to the right of the needle which allow industrial hemmers, folders and binder attachments to be used. These give a much better finish than the foot versions and are easier to control.

On the subject of feet, the authentic ones are indeed expensive but are very good quality and it is usual for these machines to be sold with a good few feet along with it: 7 is usual; 9 a real bonus. In any case, it is possible to re-use existing feet you may possess simply by purchasing a shank adapter for about £7. This will allow you to use both screw-on and snap-on feet. I believe that both high and low shank versions are available. Care should be taken when buying new Bernina feet to be certain that those purchased are compatible with the vintage Berninas. The newer models take a different foot but a good stockist such as Bambers will always be happy to advise and offer support.

This is the machine I use for fine finishing on my baby and toddler wear garments as the stitch quality is fantastic.

Dimensions: 388L x 182W x 315H mm. Weight 20lb (9.15kg). 1200 spm. 85W motor.


The straight stitches on the Bernina 830 are consistently even-tensioned, well-formed and (most important of all) straight.


The range of stitches for the Bernina 830 is just right for the serious sewist.


The satin stitches are extremely nicely formed.


Copyright of the blog owner 2010

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Evy Bertie
    Nov 28, 2018 @ 20:46:33

    Bought mine in 1974 and still love it. What few people realise is that it can linked to an old treadle table (to be used without electric). The cable slips up underneath and taken over the drive cog.


  2. Diane Hegsted Clements
    Jan 17, 2018 @ 23:54:41

    I recently purchased the “Big Quilting” foot #29 for my vintage Bernina. I’m trying to do free form quilting with it, but with that foot on it just doesn’t lock stitches. I make sure the pressure foot is down, stitch length set to 0. All works fine with the regular foot. When I put that new foot on it doesn’t work. Dosen’t make sense to me. Have you ever had this problem, or do you have any ideas?


    • Offspring
      Jan 18, 2018 @ 08:24:02

      Hi Diane, I’m afraid that I have no experience with that foot but it sounds as if the foot is not making sufficient contact with the fabric. It looks as though it works very much like the Singer darning foot #121094, which is spring-loaded and lightly skims the surface of the fabric but which is height-adjustable to suit different fabric thicknesses. I’m assuming that this foot is spring-loaded too, in some way, so I’d be looking carefully at that part and making sure that it is working correctly. Another idea might be to use a feed cover (rather than dropping the feed) which would lessen the gap between the machine bed and the fabric.


  3. Michelle Morris Rich Chapman
    Mar 12, 2014 @ 06:37:35

    Hi, I just purchased this 830 used with a #30 foot only. I can’t get the decorative stitches to work. Does it have to have another specific foot? I saw a #6, would that work?


    • Offspring
      Mar 12, 2014 @ 10:57:38

      Hi, I’m not familar with foot #6 so not sure about that, I’m afraid. Foot #030 is the right one for the decorative stitches though. The regular zigzag foot is #000. Mine came with feet numbers 000, 030, 470, 452, 285, 007, 419, 016 and 028. Other ones mentioned in the manual are 272, 152, 003, 166, 168, 174, 179 and the eyelet embroidery set 194. I bought the eyelet embroidery set separately and also a low shank adapter. I’d say you could get by pretty well just with 030 and 007 (the zipper foot) but it might be wise to look for a standard 000 too. I also use the pintuck one a lot (028) but that’s just the work I do…others might not use it ever!


  4. hollyrr
    Feb 01, 2014 @ 22:40:59

    how do you change it to a zig zag stitch? the link of the manual you posted doesnt show up ro pg 13 which explains zig zag stitching


    • Offspring
      Feb 02, 2014 @ 12:50:24

      Hi Holly and thanks for pointing this out! To do zigzag, make sure you are using the zigzag foot (000) and use the zigzag dial to whichever width you want. Remember to have the needle set in its central position or you risk hitting the foot and/or needle plate. Set the stitch selection levers to zigzag. This means pushing the right hand lever into the VVVV position (as opposed to the —-) and the decorative stitches lever needs to be set at 0 for plain zigzag.


  5. Sandy Procter Lyons
    Jan 29, 2013 @ 03:15:45

    I have an 830 from about 30 years ago. I no longer have the direction book. I can’t remember how to set the decorative stitches. I want to be able to use stitch #4. Can someone tell me know to do this? Thanks! Sandy


  6. Brad Sawatwipachai
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 04:40:27

    when you reverse, do you need to hold the lever? Does it hold its position?


  7. Offspring
    Feb 03, 2012 @ 09:17:56

    To sew in reverse, the stitch length lever is pushed upwards, beyond the zero. It’s similar to some of the old Singers in this respect.


  8. Carma Chase
    Feb 02, 2012 @ 23:26:22

    How do you reverse or back stitch on this machine?


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