I'd been thinking about buying a new machine for a couple of years. My Janome Excel Pro 5124 was fine but no longer worked well* or had all the features I wanted. It is a good machine, and one of the last really good mechanical models, in my humble opinion.
If I was going to get a new machine I wanted to treat myself. I trawled the internet. I went to a sewing machine shop that is near a Spotlight that I frequent. I spoke to a saleslady who told me that when she started work in the shop she tested every machine there and ended up buying a Bernina. On various threads and on various blogs Bernina seemed to get rapturous reviews.
* I found out later that part of the problem with the Janome was that I had been using the wrong needles. Apparently Janome needles have a slightly different length to Schmetz needles or generic machine needles from the supermarket. Shame on me... Let's not even mention generic bobbins...
It all ends well though. The Janome will be going to a grateful friend who wants to get back into sewing.
But back to how I bought the Bernina..I wanted well made, computerised machine that would sew any material from fine silk to multi layers of denim. I wanted a good quality buttonhole and a keyhole buttonhole for jackets and coats. I wanted beautiful engineering and a machine built to last.
My budget was $2000. Electrical goods and cars cost way more in Australia and New Zealand than in America or Europe. We are held to ransom here because of geographical isolation, taxes and such.
Anyway I had narrowed it down to the B350, thinking the B380 was out of my price range. I went back to the previous sewing machine dealer to pick up my Janome which I had put in for servicing thinking I would test drive a Bernina or two.
The saleslady, a different one, was showing a customer how to use a machine but she would not even look up to acknowledge me or speak to me until I stood in front of her to get her attention. She then acted quite brusque and got her nine year old to serve me and get me my Janome. I would have been happy to come back another time but as far as she was concerned I was wasting her time even being there. Needless to say I did not test drive anything but looked up other dealers and went to one on the other side of town a few days later and was treated with a bit more - what shall I say - consideration?
This shop did not have the B350 in stock and when I told the saleslady that $2000 was my absolute limit she offered to sell me the B380 for the B350 price! Both machines had gone up in price by $599 in the new year and she said she could sell me the B380 as previous year's stock at the previous year's price. I tried not to jump up and down in glee but coolly said I would like to try it. I test drove it on a little collection of horror swatches I'd brought with me - silk, fleece, horrible polyester, denim. It sewed everything beautifully, did beautiful buttonholes, had more features than I had budgeted for....love!
I knew from online discussions that the '3' series does not have a foot pressure dial but honestly it does not need it. There are balance and tension dials to use if needed.
Regarding tension, it was not smooth sailing for me at first. I am not used to vertical bobbin cages and found out the hard way that it has to be threaded clockwise and pulled through correctly.
Edit: Make sure you can swing it by the tail of thread before insertion. That way you know the bobbin is in right. Also make sure your needle is in the highest position. Hold the cage by the little lever and push it in with the little prong upright into the machine. If you are holding the lever too loosely it may not go right. Do it until it Clicks..then all is well.
B380 comes with the box of goodies that include a little set of plastic sticks for hump-jumping...oh and seven feet, a box of needles, screwdriver, oil, spool caps, an unpicker and two metal doodahs that are seam guides (I think!) It also came with an extension table and the knee lift lever. Haven't used those yet. There is a beautiful heavy canvas cover. Little touches that all say 'quality'.
The little card sitting on top of the machine in my photo comes off. It shows the 115 stitches that are programmed in and their corresponding numbers. At first I could not figure out how to make the machine do them! The manual assumes you know more about computerized machine than I did and I also found it hard to follow. How to get to the fancy stitches? I was also stumped when it came to setting up a different size of buttonhole than the 3cm one the machine does if not told where to stop. Thank goodness for the internet. I found this series on You Tube by a woman who explains all the functions step by step. She saved the day.
Heirloom Creations. She links back to Sewing Mastery.com There are videos on other machines on this site also. They are all very helpful!
the goodie box..
I watched several of the You Tube videos on the B380. I am glad I can see them again if I want to. There are also video tutorials and information on various feet on the NZ Bernina website.
Bernina New Zealand B380 Tutorials & Information
The You Tube lady recommended a number of commonsense things, like changing the feet tilted from the right. The feet are not just feet but the shank as well and go on a cone shaped prong and secure with a little lever.
She also recommends doing a swatch of all the decorative stitches to see what they are like. The machine does a lot of them with the basic no1 foot but sometimes another foot is needed. The stretch, keyhole and single straight stitch buttonholes follow the same principle as the 'O' buttonhole in that you tell the machine where to stop then press reverse once.
All the stitches have pre programmed width and length presets but these can be altered.
I only got up to testing the first 30 but oh my there are some interesting things there.
BTW to get to the stitches beyond the ten on the front keypad you have to press # then the number.
For stitches beyond 100 press # twice and '1' appears then put in the other two numbers.
I'd still be trying to figure it out if not for the internet. Maybe I am no good at reading manuals....
This is the beginning of beautiful friendship.
In the middle of all this when I had no usable sewing machine I mentioned to my daughter that Mum had given me her old Singer. Guess what? My daughter wants it and wants to take up sewing to make her own bags. So when I give her the Singer and give my girl friend the Janome three people will be sewing because of my (mis)adventures..
Edit: Jan 2016 It is almost exactly two years to the day that I wrote this and all I can say is the Bernina is still a pleasure to sew on.