See Part 1 of this series here: Bernina Aurora 440 QE: Free-motion Quilting – Part 1 of 2: Free-motion quilting basics without the BSR.
So yeah, I know… it’s taken me forEVER to finally post about the one part of the Bernina 440 QE that is probably the biggest selling point for this machine; the feature that makes people go nuts, shell out the big bucks; the feature that is apparently life-changing, amazing, and worth your first-born child, if not your entire precious quarter collection. I personally have neither a first-born child nor a quarter collection, but given my limited experience so far with this glowing-red accessory, I might just be tempted. Yes, I’m talking (finally!) about the Bernina Stitch Regulator, or BSR for short.
Of course, you can surely do free-motion quilting without this fancy little device… For basics on free-motion quilting and to see how it’s done without the BSR, see part one of this two-part series. For those of you interested in learning specifically about the BSR, I’ve documented my exploration of this clever little piece of machinery. I’m no pro yet, but hopefully my experience can help you if you’re considering this machine, the BSR, or just learning more about free-motion quilting! Let’s get started to see how to make it all work.
What is it?
The BSR is an attachment to your Bernina sewing machine that will automatically regulate the distance between stitches while free-motion quilting. It attaches just like any other presser foot, but plugs into the back of the machine for power. It senses the motion of the fabric underneath to know when to trigger the needle to go. Not sure what free-motion quilting is? To get some basics on the technique, see part 1 of this series.
The BSR comes standard on the Aurora 440 QE and the Artista 730. You can use it on the Aurora 430, and Artista models 630, 640, 200 as well, but you have to pay extra for it. All Artista models support zig-zag with the BSR, but the Auroras don’t.
Woah… it costs HOW much?
Yes, well, let’s just get this out of the way now. This guy is expensive! The going price for the BSR appears to be about 900 bucks/quid/greenbacks/big ones/buckeroos (yes, that much!) when not purchased with a machine. Yikes! That’s 3600 quarters, for those of you thinking about parting with your stash. If you’re already starting to rationalize this purchase in your head, come talk to me. I’ve got a lot of great reasons I can give you to convince yourself/your significant other about why you will deduct such funds from your bank account/your 401-K/your first-born’s second-born’s college fund, I’m a pro at such things. Maybe seeing it in action here will be enough to convince you it’s worth it.
How do you use it?
Step one: Remove from adorable foam housing.
Behold the BSR in its natural habitat:
The BSR comes with three soles. On the left is the open-toed sole. Looks just like the darning foot, but offers an unobstructed view of the needle. On the right is the transparent plastic sole that is good for smooth sailing over thicker quilts (the disc actually compresses the batting surrounding the needle and allows for smoother stitching in tough, bulkier projects). The sole that is currently on the BSR is the closed-toe metal sole . It looks just like the darning foot’s sole, but instead is attached to an insanely expensive white box + wire combo. We’ll see the magic of it in a moment!
Step two: Lower the feed dogs.
Lower the feed dogs by pressing the feed dog button on the side of the machine, like so:
You need to do this to ensure free movement of the fabric while quilting. It will feel hugely weird if this is your first time free-motioning, but once you get past the slippery slidey feeling, it’ll become old hat. If you forget to put the feed dogs down, the BSR will beep at you and you won’t be able to sew, so don’t forget!
Step three: Attach BSR to machine
It’s just like a normal Bernina foot, but with a bit of extra stuff in the way. It’s a bit on the wonky side to get it on the first time (though not as difficult to put on as the walking foot!), but once you get it on there, it looks like this:
But what to do with that dangly cord? Ah, no worries! There’s a spot for everything! Here is the underside of the machine, where the socket lives. For some perspective, at the bottom-left is the BSR’s body.
Once you plug this bad boy in, you’ll see your display change. It will start blinking BSR in the middle, just below the needle up/down indicator:
Step 4: Press the BSR button.
Then you need to actually press the BSR button, with the little scales beneath it to get the BSR 1 to appear:
The scales have nothing to do with the BSR. If you press this button when the BSR is not plugged in, it is supposed to provide stitch balancing – a feature even the woman that sold me this machine was not able to explain clearly or convince me that it did anything useful. That button, however, is your ticket into the world of BSR when this guy is plugged in. Once you press it, the BSR1 text comes up on the machine. This means you’ve entered into the exciting land of Mode 1. Now you can start BSRing!
Wait a Sec -What’s This About Modes? How Complex Is This Thing?
Mode 1: This mode lets you use the foot pedal to stitch. Also, if you leave the fabric in place but keep pressing the foot pedal, it will continue stitching. If you want to be able to stitch in place, you should use this mode.
Mode 2: This mode lets you sew feet-free! That is, without the feet attached to your legs, not the feet attached to the BSR. Stitching is triggered by the movement of the fabric. It’s pretty swanky! First, let’s finish exploring Mode 1, which I’ll call “traditional” mode, since most of us are used to sewing with both hands AND feet involved.
OK, now you’re ready to start quilting! Take your fabric sandwich, place it under the foot, and press down on the foot pedal. You should see the red glowing light turn on while stitching, like so:
Troubleshooting tip: If the red light isn’t on, the BSR is not active! Double-check to see that the BSR 1 is displaying on the machine, that the feed dogs are down, and that the device is properly plugged in to the back underside of the machine. If not, go back to step 1.
Now, if you’re playing along at home, you can see that if you press the foot pedal a certain amount and leave the fabric in place, the BSR will just slowly stitch in place. The fun starts, though, when you start moving the fabric around. Leaving the foot pedal speed the same, try moving the fabric around at different speeds. The needle speed will change based on the speed that the fabric underneath moves. I imagine the red glowing light has something to do with this. Either way, it’s a lot of fun!
Let’s move on to setting up mode 2 before we dive into results! If you are feeling impatient, you can jump down to the results section to see the difference between BSR and regular FMQ.
Setting up Mode Two
For those of you interested in using the fewest appendages possible while BSRing, this is the mode for you! Mode 2 is also quite useful if you have a large project (like a quilt) and you think you will be starting and stopping often. BSR mode 2 will not stitch in place when the fabric stops. Instead, it will just stop sewing. To get feet-free BSRing to work, here’s what you do:
Step 1: Unplug foot pedal
As I was trying for the first couple of times to get into Mode 2, I could never get it to work! Finally, I realized that I was forgetting to unplug the foot pedal. Apparently the 440 needs to make sure you’re committed to foot-free FMQ. Otherwise you’re not allowed to play!
Step 2: Press the BSR button, and then the “2” button to enter into BSR Mode 2
Once you press the BSR button, then the 2 button, the BSR 2 indicator will appear on the screen.
Step 3: Press the stop/start button
Pressing the stop/start button will tell the machine that you are ready to go! The minute you start moving the fabric, the BSR will take off.
Step 4: Behold the Running Guy
Running guy? YES! Aside from the amazing stitch quality, the running guy is my favorite part. Behold!
When the feet-free BSR mode is in progress (i.e., your stitching has begun!) the little running man appears on the screen. Someday we will all look at this little pixelated graphic and declare it “vintage” and “retro” and “full of awesomeness.” It already feels that way, but I have no doubt it will look even more old skool in several years.
So now what you’ve all been wondering. Does the BSR really make a difference? Here’s a picture of free-motion quilting without the BSR. Below that is a picture with the BSR so you can compare for yourself:
Wow! For my very first attempt, it looks pretty good, all thanks to the BSR! Notice how the stitches are equidistantly spaced and look clean. I love the puffy little pillows it makes between each area of stitching. Compared to my plain old darning foot stitches, I think it’s a big improvement. It feels as if there is much more control when using the BSR, but I can’t decide if that’s my rationalization superpowers talking. Here is a picture of my random squiggles in all different modes so you can compare No BSR, BSR mode 1 and BSR mode 2:
And a closeup so you can see the stitches:
I think this difference is hugely noticeable. Free-motion quilting with the BSR makes a much neater, more professional-looking finished product.
What’s the verdict? Should I get one?
Ahh, well, that’s for you to decide, isn’t it? My first foray into using it was fun and really produced noticeable results. I am happy I got it with my machine and I have no doubt that it will help me get the right finished look for quilts going forward. My crafty roots do not lie in quilting at all, never mind the free-motion variety, but I can tell you that if you’re not much of a free-motion quilter yet, being the proud owner of this shiny little number will make you want to be! The BSR was a major reason I decided on the 440 instead of the 430, and I plan to use this thing a ton!
So there you have it! Hope you enjoyed this post if you made it this far.
Please feel free to post any links to finished products you’ve made using the BSR! I’d love to see what else this baby can do!Posted by robyn on August 15th, 2008 under bernina 440 qe, crafts, sewing, sewing machines, tutorials
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I'm Robyn. Thanks for stopping by! This is my craft blog.
Contact me at robyn [at] dognamedbanjo [dot] com.