Tuesday, 11 February 2014

I bought a Bernina B380

Dear Sewists,

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!

Here's Bernie....

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..

After I had watched the YouTube videos it all made more sense. For the standard buttonhole you have to move the little red slide on the buttonhole foot 3A to the desired length, press 0 (the preset for basic buttonhole) stitch until the red marks match then press the Reverse arrow ONCE and the machine will do a straight stitch reverse to the beginning then finish the buttonhole completely and remember the size of it for as many as you want to do. Nifty.

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....

There are a lot more gorgeous stitches. Those faint lines showing through is the print of my scrap of curtain material.

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.

Happy Sewing,



  1. Well done! I have a 380 too and I love it.

  2. Enjoy the machine! Thanks for explaining why you chose what you did. I love reading about these decisions. It's all grist to the mill for me. (I, too, bought my machine from a more distant dealer because my local one was a bit offhand and a new purchase should be a joy and fun.)

  3. I have a 330. It's been a fantastic machine. I don't think you'll regret this purchase for a second. Enjoy!

  4. I hope you have many years of sewing enjoyment from your new machine. I am amazed at the rudeness of that saleslady.
    I have had a Janome for 16 years and never knew the needles were a different length. With the exception of Janome blue tipped needles I have always used Schmetz or Klasse with no noticeable trouble. You learn something new every day. :)

  5. Oh my. What a lovely machine, I now have a serious case of sewing machine envy. Enjoy!

    And I would contact that sewing machine shop and share with them why you purchased a machine from a different shop. No small business owner can afford to lose business because of a rude salesperson, I am sure the owner would like to know about it. I don't reward bad behaviour with my business either.

  6. Oh good for you! Thanks for the tip re the needles... I have had Janomes for 25 years and never knew that although when I first started you could only buy the branded needles anyway! I've had similar (but not as bad) reactions to questions about buying some bits for a 2nd hand coverstitch machine - no I don't go back. I'll buy them online. Have fun with your new friend and generous you for passing your other machines on.

  7. Congratulation on your new machine! Looks like a Winner!!

  8. Love your new machine!! Can't wait to see all the fabulous creations to come.

  9. oh, I am jealous! I only have an old Bernina (bought last year via Ebay), but it sews better than any machine I have ever had before. And you know what: you got yours cheaper in Australia than I could have done in Germany, so congratulations on a great deal. Keep in touch with that dealer!

  10. Wow, Val, a fabulous machine and a fabulous post. Congratulations on your purchase and on your great explanation of the hows and whys. I never knew that about Janome needles and I have had Janome machines since the 80s. Might explain a few things. I am keeping this post for reference, and love your systematic approach. Sewing machine sales staff need to realise we will only purchase from somebody interested, sympathetic and helpful. xx

  11. Val, I am so happy for you.. The stitches looks so pretty and fun.. Can't wait to see , all the pretty things you will be making..COngrats.

  12. I have a Bernina 440 and have had many happy years stitching with it. Enjoy your new machine!

  13. Thanks everyone. I love my Bernina. I have become a fan.

  14. I love Bernina - you are so lucky!!! Two years ago, I took my Singer to a local sewing machine shop for repairs. They let me borrow one of their used (very basic & very old) Bernina's while my machine was being fixed. After sewing on it for not more than an hour, I had to call them to let them know I was not bringing it back!! It was only $450, and is the best machine I have ever used. I sew for hours a day because I have an online business and do craft shows, and it has held up beautifully. My dream is to someday have a new Bernina, but for now, I am totally content with mine! Enjoy sewing!!! Jean, www.shopjkstitches.com

  15. Fainting away with jealousy...enjoy enjoy

  16. Congrats on your new machine! My first sewing machine was a generic Bernina (I guess it was made for the Japanese market) -- it has been a solid and reliable machine (still works!) for 30 years. Have fun!

  17. Congratulations on your new machine! I bought my machine half way through a project and the stitch quality was evident, at least to me. It is so much fun trying all of the stitches and trying out the goodies.

  18. Congratulations on your Bernina. You won't regret it! Mine is 26 years old now and from evening wear, baby clothes, upholstering the family couch, it never ever let me down!

  19. "I tried not to jump up and down in glee but coolly said I would like to try it." I love it. :)

    I have the same machine, and it's fabulous, although the accessories are very pricey.

  20. jai besoin dun logiciel bernina B380 svp