Pfaff and Bernina are two popular sewing machine brands that have been around since the 1800s. But if you’re looking at upgrading your sewing machine or buying one for the first time, how do you know which one to choose?
Both Pfaff and Bernina carry manual and computerized sewing, quilting, and embroidery machines with various features. The exact features will vary based on the machine model you choose, so it’s hard to choose a clear winner based on features alone. However, in terms of price, quality, and durability, the two brands are also similar. The only difference is that Bernina seems to have a better warranty policy.
Ultimately, the brand that you choose just depends on which one stands out to you more and meets your needs. But to help you decide, I’ll explain the similarities and differences between the two brands. I’ll also share some of the most popular models’ key features, pros, and cons.
Pfaff Sewing Machines
The first Pfaff sewing machine was invented in Germany by George Michael Pfaff in 1862. That means that the brand itself has been around for over 150 years. Ten years later, 1,000 sewing machines had been produced, a pretty impressive feat considering the times and the fact that the company didn’t even have a factory yet.
Pfaff finally opened their first sewing machine factory in 1902, and the business really took off after that. Eight years after the factory opened, the company had produced their 1 millionth sewing machine and it hadn’t even been 50 years since the first Pfaff was invented.
After their 1 millionth machine was produced, Pfaff became more innovative. Thanks to new models and the growing market for sewing machines, they produced their 5 millionth sewing machine in 1950, less than 100 years after the company was first started.
In 1968, the company reached its biggest milestone by introducing sewing machines with Integrated Dual Feed (IDT). Even today, Pfaff sewing machines still use this technology as one feature that makes this brand unique.
Pfaff released their first computerized sewing machine in 1984, which led to more innovations in their sewing machines. In 2011, their first Creative sewing machine was released. The Creative is now one of their most popular models, of which they have developed a whole Creative line of sewing and embroidery machines today.
Bernina Sewing Machines
The Bernina sewing machine company is today a 4th generation family business originally started in Switzerland in 1893, making this brand over 125 years old. This year, Karl Friedrich Gegauf invented the first hemstitch sewing machine, capable of stitching 100 stitches per minute. Due to being the first sewing machine with those capabilities, it quickly became a hit.
Seven years later, in 1900, a small factory was established with 70 to 80 workers, and more sewing machines were able to be produced. Gegauf was in charge of the technical aspects of the factory, while his brother Georg ran the business interests. Many Bernina sewing machines were being sold worldwide for commercial use.
After Gegauf died in 1928, his sons took over the company, and in 1932, the first Bernina sewing machine for home use was invented. It was the first sewing machine to bear the Bernina name and logo, which was named after the highest mountain in the eastern Alps.
Once Gegauf’s son Fritz took over, the sewing machines became more innovative. Sewing machine models with more advanced features began to be released every 5 to 10 years. Fritz Gegauf’s daughter Odette took over the leadership of Bernina in 1959, which led the way to even more innovative sewing machine models throughout the 1960s and 70s.
Bernina released its first computerized sewing machine in 1986. In 1988, Odette’s son Hanspeter took over the leadership, under which Bernina became an iconic brand among quilters. New technology led the way to advancements in Bernina’s computerized sewing machines, and in 2009 the Bernina 830 model was invented. Even with all of the new models available today, the 830 is still considered the greatest Bernina sewing machine of all time.
Pfaff vs. Bernina Sewing Machines: Key Points
Pfaff and Bernina have a long history of creating high-quality and innovative sewing machines. They both have been able to keep up with the times as far as the advancement of their models and the selection of models available to suit the needs of any sewist, quilter, or embroiderer.
With that being said, most of the differences between these two sewing machine companies lie in the features of their models. So it would be impossible to compare every single model. So instead, I’ve compiled this table of things a person might look for when buying a sewing machine so that you can compare the two companies at a glance.
|Features||Varies based on model, unique Pfaff features include IDT and Activstitch technology, and Shape and Stitch Creator||Varies based on model, unique Bernina features include DesignWorks technology, Stitch Regulator, and Bernina Hook|
|Functionality||Manual and computerized sewing, quilting, and embroidery machines||Manual and computerized sewing, quilting, and embroidery machines|
|Portability||Two portable models||Five portable models|
|Built-In Stitches||Varies, some models have over 500||Varies, some models have over 200|
|Stitches per Minute||Up to 800 SPM for some models||Up to 1,000 SPM for some models|
|Durability||Comparable to Bernina||Comparable to Pfaff|
|Quality||Comparable to Bernina||Comparable to Pfaff|
|Affordability||Prices range from hundreds to thousands of dollars||Prices range from hundreds to thousands of dollars|
|Service/Warranty||Up to 5 years||Up to 20 years|
|Experience Level||All levels||All levels|
Pfaff vs. Bernina: Similarities and Differences
Now that you’ve gotten a brief overview of the major characteristics of each of these two brands, let’s take a closer look. I’ll also judge each of the two brands against each other to determine which one is better in certain categories.
However, there will be some categories in which it is hard to pick a clear winner as the two brands are relatively comparable. Some categories will vary just depending on a particular sewing machine model.
When it comes to machine features, they vary greatly depending on what your needs are; for example, sewing vs. quilting vs. embroidery machine. Each model will also vary as far as the accessories that it comes with and what the machine itself is capable of.
Since it’s hard to compare the features of each model due to having so many models available, I thought I’d compare some of the features that are standard to all machines as well as other technologies and software that the company offers.
As previously mentioned, all Pfaff machine models have the Integrated Dual Feed System (IDT). The tagline of Pfaff is ‘Perfection’ and that is what the IDT System intends to do. This feature of Pfaff sewing machines ensures that you get perfect seams each time and that fabrics don’t pucker, stretch, or otherwise move under the needle. It’s a great feature to have for sewists who use a lot of fabrics, but quilters may enjoy it even more due to having many pieces that need to fit together perfectly.
Other features unique to Pfaff include Activstitch Technology, which ensures perfect stitches and seams, and Shape and Stitch Creator, both of which are features of their Creative line of embroidery machines.
The key unique feature of Bernina sewing machines is the Bernina Hook. The Bernina Hook is a centrally-placed driver which allows the machine to sew more precise stitches with speeds of up 1,000 stitches per minute. The bobbin also has a higher thread capacity so that you can sew for longer. Other unique features include the Stitch Regulator, which helps ensure consistent stitches and the DesignWorks software, which is great for designing and implementing your own patterns.
As far as which brand has the best features, I think it depends on your sewing needs. Quilters would benefit from Pfaff’s IDT system, while those who have a lot of sewing projects may prefer Bernina because of the Hook and the Stitch Regulator.
In terms of functionality, there is very little difference between Pfaff and Bernina. Both companies sell machines with a wide range of functions. So if you need sewing, quilting, or embroidery machine or one that serves multiple purposes, there are plenty from both brands to choose from.
They both have manual and computerized sewing machines as well. If you don’t know, the major difference is that computerized sewing machines operate off of a computer instead of you having to control everything. Of course, there are even some computerized machines that are more advanced than others. But when it comes down to it, it’s hard to determine which brand is better based on functionality alone.
If you’re short on space or need to travel with your machine, then portability should be a major consideration for you. Pfaff has two compact and portable sewing machine models, Passport 2.0 and Passport 3.0, that are designed to be carried with you.
The Passport 2.0 weighs about 14 pounds and has 70 built-in stitches. The Passport 3.0 is a little bit bigger, weighing about 15 pounds. It has 100 built-in stitches.
On the other hand, Bernina has five compact and portable models. Each compact machine varies in size and stitch count, but the maximum speed of the compact models is 900 stitches per minute. Most of their compact models are designed for sewing, but one is designed for sewing and quilting.
Overall, when it comes to portability, Bernina seems to be the better choice if you like options when choosing a portable sewing machine, especially one for quilting. But, the Pfaff portable sewing machines seem to be a bit more compact and easier to travel with.
It’s hard to compare these two sewing machine brands based on the number of built-in stitches that the machines have. The number of built-in stitches just depends on any one particular model. The machine’s functionality can also determine how many stitches a particular model has, whether it’s for sewing, embroidery, or quilting.
Some Pfaff models, such as compact machines, only have 70 to 100 built-in stitches. But the computerized Creative models can have as many as 500 to 800 built-in stitches.
Bernina sewing machines tend to have fewer built-in stitches, with the most I’ve found being about 200. So if you need a lot of stitches, then Pfaff seems to be the better choice. But if you don’t need that many stitches, then Bernina may suit your needs better.
Stitches per Minute
Stitches per minute is another category in which determining which is better depends on the particular model. But in general, Pfaff machines seem to have lower speeds than Bernina machines.
Some Pfaff models have speeds as fast as 800 stitches per minute, while some of the larger Bernina machines have speeds of up to 1,000 stitches per minute. Even some of the compact Bernina machines have speeds of up to 900 stitches per minute.
If you want a faster machine or have a lot of projects that you need to get done more quickly, Bernina seems to have the advantage as far as speed goes.
Both Pfaff and Bernina have a reputation for creating sewing machines that can last a very long time. The more expensive machines tend to be more durable, while the less expensive machines probably won’t be as durable.
Even though the compact machines are smaller and more portable, they likely won’t be as durable either, especially if you don’t protect them while traveling. But overall, it’s hard to determine which brand has better durability because they both can last for years as long as they are well taken care of.
Just like both brands are durable, they are both high-quality machines. That’s why these two brands have been able to stay in business for over 100 years. Both of these brands produce machines with many features, and they are constantly looking to evolve to create better and more innovative products.
As with durability, quality is usually equal to what you pay for it. More expensive models are likely to be made with higher-quality materials and come with more accessories and more advanced features. Overall, they are both unique and innovative in their own ways, but it’s hard to say which is better because both companies have a strong commitment to excellence and the satisfaction of their customers.
These two brands are very comparable in terms of price and neither one is necessarily more affordable than the other. Both have sewing machines that range in price from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. The price just depends on whether the machine is computerized or manual and other features and accessories that it comes with.
Computerized machines will cost more than manual ones simply because they are more high-tech. Likewise, machines designed for advanced sewists are likely to cost more. But if you’re a beginner or you have a lower budget, you’re sure to find a machine to suit your needs.
The service and warranty is one area where one of these brands is better than the other. While both are committed to ensuring their customers are satisfied and providing the resources needed to be successful with sewing, you also need to ask yourself what happens if your machine stops working.
Pfaff’s sewing machines only have a 2-year warranty or a 5-year warranty if you reside in a country in the United Kingdom, regardless of the problem that occurs with the machine. On the other hand, Bernina has a 2-year warranty for electrical parts, a five-year warranty for circuit boards, and a 20-year warranty for mechanical parts.
Of course, there are terms and conditions with each of these warranty policies. But overall, Bernina has a better warranty. So that’s something major you should consider if you want to buy a more expensive machine.
Pfaff has over 150 years of experience with sewing machines, and Bernina has over 125 years of experience. With that being said, both companies know users’ wants and needs when it comes to sewing machines.
Both companies have machines designed for beginner, intermediate, and advanced sewists. In addition, each company website provides resources, videos, and software for sewists to help them master their craft. Neither one is a clear winner here.
Popular Models: Pfaff vs Bernina
Even though I’ve compared each of these brands as far as key things you want to look for, the decision can still be overwhelming when there are so many models to choose from. So let’s look at some of the more popular models and key features of each. Maybe it will help with your decision.
Pfaff Performance Icon
The Performance Icon is one of Pfaff’s most popular sewing machine models, and it has the largest workspace of any sewing machine on the market. This computerized sewing machine is equipped with ActivStitch technology, complete with built-in sensors to help regulate your thread.
This sewing machine is also equipped with an automatic needle threader and the Pfaff IDT technology, and the touch screen computer is compatible with WiFi. The Stitch Creator feature allows you to create new stitches or edit existing ones to personalize your projects.
- Large work area
- IDT technology
- WiFi connectivity
- May take up more space
Bernina 770 QE
The 770 QE is one of Bernina’s most popular sewing machine models. This machine has both sewing and quilting functionality. It comes with a patchwork foot and can even handle large quiltmaking. It is a computerized machine equipped with the Bernina Hook and it even has a sewing and quilting tutorial.
Other features of this machine include sewing speeds of up to 1,000 stitches per minute, LED sewing lights, a color touch screen, and over 200 built-in stitches. The bobbin can hold up to 70% more thread than other sewing machines.
- Sewing and quilting
- Fast sewing speed
- The bobbin holds more thread
- More advanced features require a software upgrade
Serger Models: Bernina vs Pfaff
Pfaff Coverlock 4.0
The Coverlock 4.0 is one of Pfaff’s most advanced sergers. As far as functionality goes, it has a large sewing space to give you more room to work. The LCD touch screen makes it easy to select your stitch, then automatically sets the stitch length and thread tension with the touch of a button. This serger can up to five-thread serging and has 25 built-in stitches. It comes with a lot of accessories as well.
- LCD Touch Screen
- Up to 5-thread serging
- Large sewing space
- Only available through a sewing machine dealer
Bernina L 860
The Bernina L 860 is one of their most popular sergers. One of the key features is the Air Threader, which allows you to thread the machine in only one step. It also has a touch screen that allows for easy programming and has two different modes, Expert and Guided, depending on your experience level. For example, this serger can sew up to 1,500 stitches per minute and you can save up to 100 stitches in the machine’s memory.
- Great for knitted fabrics
- Fast sewing speed
- Easy and comfortable to use
- Only available at select stores
Pfaff Creative Icon
The Creative Icon is Pfaff’s most advanced embroidery machine to date. It has over 800 embroidery designs, with 42 of them being exclusive. The 10-inch full-color touch screen is tablet-sized and is easy to see and use. WiFi connectivity also ensures that your projects are safe. Like the other Pfaff machines, it is also equipped with the IDT system to ensure perfect stitches every time.
- 800+ designs
- Large touch screen
- Signature IDT technology
- Only a 2-year warranty
Bernina 880 Plus
The Bernina 880 Plus is a top-of-the-line embroidery machine with an incredibly large workspace and advanced embroidery features to make any project easy and convenient. Some of the embroidery features include Enhanced Editing, Total Embroidery Stitch Control, and Pinpoint Placement. This machine also has fully automatic threading with sewing speeds of up to 1,200 stitches per minute.
- Large workspace
- Enhanced embroidery features
- Up to 20-year warranty for some parts
Pfaff vs. Bernina: Which Is Better?
There is very little difference in affordability, quality, and durability of Pfaff and Bernina sewing machines. Both companies offer machines for various uses and experience levels, and individual features vary depending on the model. Of the two companies, Bernina seems to have the better warranty policy. But ultimately, the decision is up to you and your preferences and budget.