Sewing Machine Review: Bernina 380

As the 1 year anniversary of getting my own sewing machine approaches, I want to write a review for the Bernina 380 to help any others who are making up their minds about buying one.

The Bernina 380

First, a bit of background about my experiences with sewing machines. I've been sewing since I was very young, mostly by hand but when I did start to use a machine in high school it was my mom's Bernina Activa 130. In college, I used my roommates vintage Singer (from the 60's), a basic modern Singer, a miniature travel machine, the mechanical Bernina 1008.

When deciding on a sewing machine, I went and tested out a bunch of them by bringing scraps of my usual fabrics in all thicknesses and layers and I also asked about sales, as there was no way I wanted to pay full price for any machine when I could wait for a sale. Here's the reasoning why I picked the machine I did:

Why a Bernina:
  • If you sew regularly (at least an hour a week), you need the reliability of a machine with solid metal insides, which many modern machines don't have. Also, in my case, I make some money off of commissions and the knowledge that my machine will last for years and years with heavy use is awesome.
  • Quality of stitches - compared to many modern inexpensive machines, the stitches are always consistent even at high speeds.
  • The warranty - Extremely generous! (2 year warranty on electrical, 5 year warranty on boards, 20 year warranty on parts). All you have to do is make sure it's serviced by a certified Bernina technician.
  • Free classes - Even though I have been sewing for years, taken classes, and worked in a costume shop, the woman who taught the free class that came with my machine was extremely knowledgeable and taught me specific tips and techniques to use for the machine.
  • Free 1 year checkup - A $100 value!
  • Free help! - At the GStreet I bought my machine at, the Bernina specialist is happy to answer questions on the phone or in person at the store. She even helped me troubleshoot a problem I was having my first month.
  • Left handed machine- I am left handed and Berninas still have the presser foot lever is on the left hand side of the machine. Many of the modern machines and other companies try to move it closer to the center/right side, which is awkward for me to use.
  • Many different feet options - I have the choice of over 70 different feet, including the awesome ruffler and hemmer foot.

In the end, certain features really sold me on the Bernina 300 line (although I really considered the 200 line and the 1008). The entire 300 line:
  • Small sized machines - As a recent graduate with only an internship, I had no idea where I was going next, so a smaller, portable machine appealed to me.
  • The stitches and monograms - I really liked the mechanical 1008, but I knew the ability for decorative stitches and monograms would be useful for hobby sewing, even if not my usual clothing/costume commissions.
  • Extra features - The higher end of the 200 line was no longer available in my area (except used) and if I was going to pay that much, I wanted to have the full warranty.
  • Within my price limit - All of these machines ranged from $700-1400, not on sale. And there was an excellent sale going on at GStreet for these machines.
  • Autopilot! (as a friend of mine calls it) - these machines sew by themselves in straight lines with minimal guidance and with a speed adjusting slide. This means I can sew decorative stitches with no worry about consistency.

What sold me on the 380:
  • The free hand system - While I was skeptical in the store of why I'd need it, it was invaluable while working on the Tree of Gondor coat and I'm sure will be on many other projects.
  • Top of the line - My dad recommended I get the highest grade machine I could afford so that I could grow into it over many years. He's usually right about these sorts of things.
  • Tonnes of stitches - 20 practical stitches, 12 patchwork stitches, 4 buttonholes, 79 decorative stitches, 2 alphabets. It's pretty neat.
  • Luggage quality carrier - A really nice padded, rolling case that fits the machine and all my accessories. Another plus for a travelling student.
  • Lots of feet - The 380 came with most of the feet I wanted, besides specialty feet like the ruffler and hemmer.
  • Geared for general sewing - Unlike the 350 Patchwork Edition, which had many features geared towards quilters, the 380 had more features/stitches geared towards general sewing.

Review of Performance:

As a seamstress/costumer, the Bernina 380 is almost perfect for me. It's a smaller machine, but as a travelling student I don't need a large complicated one that does embroidery right now. Also, the smaller throat on the machine hasn't been a problem. It can power through many layers of thick fabric (corsets and heavy upholstery) and it also sews thin fabrics well (such as sheers and light cotton) with just some tension adjustments. One of the criticisms I read about the 300 series is there is no physical adjustment for presser foot pressure but it seems to adjust well on its own and I've had no problems with it so far. However, I don't really quilt though fiddly layers and I don't usually work with extremely thin fabrics, so I don't know about how it would work with those consistently. Also, on average I sew 3 hours a week but if I have a costuming deadline or commission, I have been known to sew over 10 hours a week. And my sewing machine works just the same as it did when I first bought it.

So, if you're in the same situation as I am: a travelling student who needs a reliable, all purpose machine, then a Bernina 380 is an excellent choice.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. It has been extremely helpful to me in learning about what types of fabrics it can sew. You've really covered all your bases and my questions. Thanks!

Tee said...

Thanks the review, it was very helpful!

Ptinutz Noisette said...

Excellent review, I was already rooting for this one, but now I really have two spare...

vahesa said...

Thanks for your review, I hesitated between pfaff and bernina, but now I'm sure about a bernina 380. Thanks for the clear explanation!!

Alexandra said...

Thank you! I'm glad my review was helpful for everyone. :)

Neil Johsnon said...

This is much better than manual system i am waiting for a long time to this technology now i will sew my clothes in less time with minor effort. It look nice and comfortable as well read more . Thank you for the post.

Daivd Lyod said...

These days, this is only available in top quality gadgets, though. This is a very amazing function that helps you to save persistence of reducing the discussions clean. With just the breeze of a handy, the discussions may be snipped. You just have to force the key to stimulate this function and the product will cut the line at the end of the stitching.

Pinelands craft said...

Thank you for the info. I feel so relieved now. I bought a B380 yesterday. Still haven't received it as they had no stock. I also started with a old hand Singer and then used my mom's Bernina Activa which I made my wedding dress on and I loved but believing I need to upgrade traded it in for a small Elna which I loath but have been sewing on for 20 years. I had a bit of buyers remorse this morning because I felt like I didn't do enough research before buying. But you have made me very excited now!

Anonymous said...

I, too, am considering this machine for purchase. What do you think of the buttonholes that it makes? I currently have a 30+ year old Riccar and the buttonholes have never been what I like, the reverse stitching mode is inconsistent.
I really appreciate your post and find that it covers many of the questions that I had, thank you!

Damon Daniel said...


Damon Daniel said...

Home sewing machines are designed for one person to sew individual items while using a single stitch type. In a modern sewing machine the fabric easily glides in and out of the machine without the inconvenience of needles and thimbles and other such tools used in hand sewing, automating the process of stitching and saving go here

Anonymous said...

I don't see that Bernina is offering the 380 any longer. At least it's not on the main web site. My husband gave me a new 380 in 2012 to replace an old Kenmore that never worked well and we were finally told "it's not repairable". Even for a "beginner" machine, it's better than anything I have ever owned (I learned to sew at 10 and now 62). I sew mostly clothes but am interested in quilting more.
I wondered if others any any issues with theirs. Curious.

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