Introduction: Pier 9 Guides: Bernina 950 Semi Industrial Sewing Machine BASIC USE

This Instructable is written for Workshop Users at Pier 9.

Requirements for using the Bernina 950 Semi-industrial sewing machine.

  • Take General workshop safety for Pier 9 to gain access to the shop
  • Read through the Bernina 950 in the textiles area


This instructable will walk you through the basic use of the Bernina 950 sewing machine in the Textiles area at Pier 9. The Bernina has a wide range of uses, this initial instructable will walk you through basic set up and use including

  • Winding a bobbin.
  • Putting the bobbin into the machine.
  • Threading the machine.
  • Basic use for straight stitching.

The additional capabilities of this machine will be covered in subsequent instructables.

Required Tools:

  • Bernina 950 manual
  • Suitable thread
  • Scrap fabric or other fabric for sewing
  • Small flat blade screw driver
  • 16x231 aka 287 WH needles of the correct size and type (see image of needle selection chart).
  • Left twist thread smaller than T69 in size of the appropriate type for your project.

Step 1: Step 1: Winding a Bobbin.

The Bernina 950 is a lock stitch machine, meaning it uses a top and a bottom thread to create a stitch. The top thread comes off of a spool at the top of machine, and the bottom thread gets wound onto a bobbin and put into the under side of the machine.

The 950 has some of the best features of both home and industrial sewing machines, and one of the benefits here is that the set-up is very user friendly.

  • To wind a bobbin, first thing to do is take a look at the diagram in the manual, this should show you what we are looking to do.
  • Place your spool of thread on the thread stand to the right of the machine (when you're facing the machine).
  • Place your bobbin on the bobbin winder spindle, but don't lock it in place by pressing it down yet.
  • Run thread off spool to the left and to the underside of the tension discs. Wrap around clockwise until thread is pointing back towards the right side of the machine and then run thread to the bobbin.
  • Starting at the top of the bobbin, wrap the thread clockwise around the bobbin a few times. Push down on the bobbin and spindle until bobbin locks into place.
  • Lastly, turn the center portion of the handwheel on the right side counter clockwise 1/2 turn to loosen it and disengage the hand wheel. You'll need to hold the outer portion of the handwheel steady when you do this to stop the whole thing from just turning.
  • Now turn on the machine, and press the foot pedal. The bobbin should wind and the winder will disengage when the bobbin is full.

Step 2: Loading the Bobbin Into the Machine.

Much like any other lockstitch machine, once the bobbin is wound it needs to get put into the machine. The Bernina bobbin case is a little different that some you may have seen, but in general it works in the same way.

  • First take the bobbin and hold it with the thread coming off to the top left (opposite direction of many bobbin cases. Think a p not a q). You can also do it by having the thread pointing back towards you with the bobbin in your right hand, and the case in your left.
  • If oriented correctly, you should be able to put the bobbin into the case and pull the thread off the bobbin and into the slot that will take into the thread tension mechanism. The thread will pop through a little hole when loaded correctly.
  • Once the bobbin is in the case, test the tension of the bobbin thread by holding the thread and letting go of the bobbin. There should be enough tension to hold the weight of the bobbin and case, it should drop an inch or two if you give the thread a slight tug. If it won't drop with a small tug, it's too tight, if it free falls as soon as you let go of the case, it's too loose. Adjust this tension with the small flat head screw attached to the tension mechanism.
  • We're now ready to put the bobbin into the machine. This is tricky on this machine as you need to first open the cover on the throat plate of the machine, and open a cover on the under side of the machine. Once you've done this, you have to hold the bobbin case by it's pop out lever, the case front (lever side) should face away from you and the bobbin itself should face towards you, it takes some serious bending of the wrist to do this. Now reach under the machine and place the bobbin onto the post directly under the needle. It's a tight fit, and will only go in if you have it oriented just right. The bobbin case should pop into place and lock in as soon as you let go of the little latch.
  • It's a little more difficult to load this bobbin into the machine, but it has the added benefit of only going in if done just right, so if you get it in there, you know you've done it right.

Step 3: Thread the Machine.

If it's a little harder to load the bobbin into this machine, it is WAY easier than usual to thread this machine. If you consult the diagram in the manual it will show you pretty clearly how to do it.

    • First the thread runs off the spool, and through the loop on the rear of the machine.
    • Now run it through the channel that runs towards the front of the machine, this is where the tension discs are.
    • Next up, down and under the hook on the front.
    • From the hook, through the take up lever
    • Now down through to the needle area and through the eye of the needle. It is super important to note that eye of the needle on this machine needs to be oriented between 6 o'clock and 7 o'clock as you face the machine, slightly off from center, for the thread to not break, and the machine to work properly.
    • Once the needle is threaded, go back to the hand wheel on the side, and turn the center knob clockwise a half turn or so to re-engage the hand wheel and take the machine out of bobbin winding mode.

    Once you've got the machine threaded, go ahead and hand crank the needle through a full stroke, holding the top thread tail, to bring the bottom thread up. Now you're ready to sew.

    Step 4: Sewing.

    This machine is capable of performing a large number of different stitches, but for basic use we will only talk about straight sewing.

    There are two levers at the top of the machine, one specifies either "0" or "1-20". "0" is to select zig-zag only, with the ability to set no width and effectively create a straight stitch. "1-20" allows you to select any of various other specialty stitches this machine is capable of.

    Set the right hand lever to "0", then set the stitch selector lever to 0 for straight or zig zag stitch.

    On the front of the machine, there is a knob which allows you to specify the width of the zig zag, set this to straight stitch, or zero. The center of this knob is a switch that moves independent from the outer ring, and allows you to set the needle position. Set this to the center, so the nob is straight up and down.

    You should now be able to sew a straight stitch without problem. Stitch length selection and backstitching are done in the same manor as any industrial machine, with the small spring loaded nob under the stitch width and need position nobs serving to both adjust the stitch length, and serve as the spring loaded lever you hold down to backstitch.

    The foot pedal engages the machine and allows you to moderate the machine speed. Pressing the foot pedal back, towards the heel will brake the machine and stop the feed. The knee lever on the right side under the table will lift and lower the presser foot so both hands can be kept on the work piece.

    Lastly, there is a clear plastic door, or cover for the needle area of this machine. If this door is not all the way, 180 degrees, open, or completely closed and directly covering the needle area, the feed dogs will not fully engage and the machine will not sew correctly. Make sure to close this door at all time while sewing.