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How to shop for your first (or next) Bernina


The last time I posted about how much I love my Bernina, I got this question: what should I look for when shopping for one?

It is tricky to know where to start when the options (and price points) are so vast. Bernina offers everything from the cute little Bernette line to full size machines, from a totally mechanical model to enormous pieces of advanced technology that can do everything but make you a cup of tea.

To help navigate the terrain, I took a visit to Modern Domestic, a fantastic sewing studio, fabric shop, and Bernina dealer here in Portland. I followed around my friend Meredith, who seems to know just about all there is to know about each and every model. This is one of the ways Bernina stands apart from a lot of other companies. Their sales folks really know their stuff.



I’d like to talk about the machines I saw in a little more detail another day, because there were some impressive options. But today, I just want to help you with the basic question of where to start.

Start at the bottom

The first thing you should know is that the models build on each other. So the features that are included in the lower and less expensive models will be included in the higher models.

Meredith walked me through the machines starting at the lowest model number and price point and moving up, explaining all of the features added along the way. I found this incredibly enlightening, because it forces you to ask “would I want / need / use that feature?” You’ll encounter features you’d never thought of but might find very useful.

If you don’t know where to start, I’d recommend starting at the bottom and asking your dealer to give you a walkthrough just like this. You’ll learn a lot.


Questions to ask yourself (and your dealer):

So based on Meredith’s experience talking to hundreds of customers, and my own notes on the major differences I noticed between models, I came up with this list of questions to ask yourself before you fall in love with a particular machine.

  • What kind of things do you like to sew? If you’re into quilting, you may want some of the extra features and accessories built specifically for quilters. If you do a lot of garment sewing, you may want certain specialty stitches, buttonholes, and a freehand system.
  • What would you like to sew in the future? Are there types of sewing you might do in the future? Or do you plan to do more of one particular kind of sewing? What about machine embroidery?
  • How often do you sew? If you sew constantly, it will probably be worth it to invest in a machine with more capabilities. If it’s a once in a while activity, or you just want to make curtains and hem pants occasionally, a bare bones machine could be just fine.
  • Are you new to sewing, or more experienced? This is an interesting question because, as Meredith pointed out, beginners may appreciate more automation with their machines. She likened it to a car transmission. If you’re just learning, it’s much easier to focus on just driving if you don’t have to worry about switching gears.
  • What features do you like about the machine you currently have? What do you dislike? If you’re like I was before buying my first Bernina, this could actually be a little tricky. Back then, a machine was a machine to me. It worked or it didn’t. But I knew I didn’t like the horrid noises it would make, or the fact that the handwheel would sometimes fly off for no reason.
  • How do you feel about the size of your current machine? Would you like something more compact on your sewing table? Or do you need more room for large projects?

Nifty features to consider

Based on all the machines Meredith showed me, I noted a long list of possible features you might think about before walking into a dealer. This is the kind of list I wished I’d had to help me decide on my model, so hopefully it helps you too.

It may not be exhaustive, but should cover many of the differentiating features. Check off what you want, what might be “nice to haves”, then talk to a dealer about your dream machine. I ordered these generally going from the most common features up to the most specialized ones.

  • Computerized (vs. mechanical)
  • Simple to use (without extraneous features)
  • Automatic buttonhole
  • Decorative stitches (decide which ones are important to you)
  • Alphabets
  • Memory function (so it will remember your stitch settings)
  • Quilting feet, like the walking foot and 1/4 inch foot. These come with some machines.
  • Freehand system for less reaching
  • Fancy buttonholes, like the keyhole buttonhole
  • Mirror image functions (so you can flip a stitch to go the other way)
  • Full shank foot (as opposed to just snap-on feet. Highly recommended!)
  • Compact size (some machines are 3/4 size, others are full size)
  • Knot tie feature
  • Advanced foot control (lets you raise and lower the needle with your foot!)
  • Extra wide stitch width
  • Touch screen
  • Embroidery capabilities (some come with the embroidery module, with others you can add it on)
  • Automatic thread cutter
  • 9 hook oscillating bobbin (which can hold up to 100 yards of thread)
  • Extended arm
  • Automatic needle lowering (you start to sew, and the needle lowers automatically)
  • Dual feed (great for slippery fabrics)
  • Large screen
  • Stitch designer (you can actually draw your own stitches on the touch screen!)
  • Shape designer (you can design shapes as well!)


(In this photo, Meredith has just drawn a stitch with her finger on the touch screen of the Bernina 880, and on the left, you can see the stitch previewed in repeat. Amazing!)

If you have a Bernina, please chime in! Are there features a new owner might not think about but you can no longer live without? Other questions she should consider before purchase?

Sarai Mitnick


Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.



January 15, 2014 #

Thanks for the fabulous post – it must have been a bit of work to put together! I have a bog standard Brother, which really is my workhorse since I sew every day. I would love a Bernina though, since everyone I know who has one loves it! For me, buttonholes are paramount. If I could find a machine that does a beautiful buttonhole and preferably a key hole buttonhole, I’d part with my money on the spot! :)

Leann McClain

January 21, 2014 #

You’d better be ready to part with your money, then, because the Bernina will do a fabulous keyhole buttonhole! Just bought an 830 last weekend. In heaven now!!!!!

Emmie B

January 15, 2014 #

I just bought a Bernina 380 last weekend!! I adore it, the stitch quality and control is amazing – I wrote a blog about my un boxing of it with lots of pictures and tips!


January 15, 2014 #

I have a very basic Bernina (the Activa 210), and although it has very few of the nifty features on your list, I find that it has everything I need for garment sewing! It’s a durable and reliable machine, computerized, with some basic stitches and an automatic buttonhole, and I am totally in love with it. It works like a dream 100% of the time. If you want a fabulous Bernina but don’t have a large budget, I would highly recommend this model. Bernina quality with an affordable pricetag!


January 15, 2014 #

If you’re into embroidery, it’s a good question to ask how big of a hoop you want. Those mega hoops only come on certain machines. Also, for quilting, you may want to consider getting a machine with the stitch regulator which helps with even stitches in free motion quilting. The stitch regulator can be retrofitted in done of the older machines. I love my used artista 200, but i do wish for the megahoop. But that’s a lot of money for one feature.


January 15, 2014 #

I bought the Bernina 350 PE last fall. Sadly I’m still bonding with her because she’s in Jersey and I spend most of my life in the Alaskan bush.

However, when I went shopping I went fairly well prepped. I’d read about all of the models and watched the company website’s videos about them. I downloaded manuals of the most likely contenders and read them. For me, one of the most important decisions was buttonholes. I wanted a keyhole style as well as a standard buttonhole. The 350 PE had just that. I wanted a few bells and whistles, but not so many I’d feel intimidated. I’d never owned computerized before.

That said, I then emailed a couple of local shops and only one responded in a timely fashion. I’d already purchased my sewing machine by the time the other one answered my query.

When I went to the store, I had a pretty good idea that the 350 PE was what I wanted, but asked questions of the most helpful sales person I’d met in a while. She was very knowledgeable regarding the features of each model. She also asked me some questions about how I intended to use it, how much did I sew, etc. After agreeing with me that the 350 PE was my best option, she informed me it was on sale and came along with a few trinkets and beads. The sale price included a knee lift (I think there’s another name for this feature, like Hands Free Sewing, HFS, or something like that), a walking foot with 3 soles (sweet!), and a roller bag (very cheap and not very helpful BUT included).

The sales associate then said that she typically recommends the 350 PE to people who are either new to sewing or returning to sewing as I was.

My fleeting moments with Barbara (or Babs Bernina when she’s feeling sporty) have been amazing. The stitches are amazingly even. The knotting of thread is unheard of. The smoothness of her little motor warms my heart. She promises to be a permanent fixture in my family and I have to say, she has been quite the charmer, living up to her reputation as a fine instrument. I think my husband has figured out that my tears of sadness when I return to Alaska aren’t for him, but for . . . Babs.


January 15, 2014 #

Great post! I just got my first Bernina this past Christmas. I’m so in love it’s sickening! I chose the 560 because I liked that it has the embroidery module that I could add on later when I was ready for it. I was in awe at how knowledgeable my dealer was and was pretty much sold (as well as the hubs) when we seen the insides of the machine, all metal!! I didn’t realize how much of a difference that would make until I used it the first time, NO shaking! It doesn’t budge! My Singer shook constantly and made it hard to sew a straight line, (I’m a little jittery anyway and don’t need the extra help) Anyhoo I’m now a Bernina girl for life!

Fiona McAndrew

January 15, 2014 #

I have a Bernina 1008. Its their basic machine, but it is a workhorse and does everything I need it too.

Bernina machines are more expensive than other machines however they have a great resell value (here in Europe anyway). Sewing on other machines now make me feel sad.

French Toast Tasha

January 15, 2014 #

I have this machine too, and it’s totally perfect for me! I’m all about simple, quality tools and knowing how to use them, so a mechanical machine does everything I want and need. My 1008 has taken on everything I’ve thrown at it, which has been a lot! Every time I think, maybe this will be the project where I throw in the towel and get a serger, I figure it out on this machine.
I thought that I would never be jealous of anyone else’s sewing machine again, but then I met a sewist in town who has the industrial version mechanical Bernina . . . if I ever get a new machine it would be that one, no question!

Jill Collins

January 15, 2014 #

One of the most important items to check when buying your Bernina, or any other brand, is to only buy from a good dealer. Sadly, there are Bernina dealers out there who should not be allowed to sell anything. So you need to ask, “what happens if the machine has problems?” Bernina makes the best machines, I believe, on the market, but they also can make some lemons (computer models). You need to know that they will work with you on any problems. Yes, this is the voice of experience speaking. Do I sew on a Bernina even after an absolutely horrible experience–yes. I love my new Bernina. I did opt for the 750QE, but if I were only sewing garments, I would have chosen the 380.

Linda McCormick

January 15, 2014 #

I have a Bernina 830 and love it but I have to say I don’t completely agree that Bernina dealers know their machines better than other brand dealers – I have another brand’s TOL also, and I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly dealers. The most important thing in my opinion when looking for a machine is the dealer, even over the brand. When you’re asking questions, get a feel for the dealer and the types of classes they offer, whether the shop is clean, etc., and find out if more than one employee is knowledgeable. Of course, see if you can get recommendations from other people.


February 22, 2014 #

I couldn’t agree more. If a dealer wants to sell a machine the price of a car then they need to be subject matter experts and offer in depth training classes on the machine itself not just here’s the basics and I’d you want to learn more take our project classes so you can pick up a couple tidbits in each class. We want boot cameo without having to fly to Illinois

Lisa M.

January 15, 2014 #

I currently have a Huskystar 214 but have been eyeing up the Berninas a the local shop for about a year now. Two of the things I do like about my machine is that it has an automatic up-down button and a variable speed adjustment, very nice to be able to sew slowly if you’re topstitching. One of the things that I don’t like about my machine is that the light is feeble. The older you get the more light you need to see what you’re sewing, especially with dark fabrics. To me that should be a consideration when buying a machine because we’re all getting older. When I looked at the Bernina in the shop and the salesperson turned on the light it was like someone had turned on stadium lights, the difference was that dramatic.


January 15, 2014 #

If you are getting your first machine, go simple. It’s hard to know what features will mean the most to you when they all sound foreign. I have never found a real use for any of the computerized functions, I don’t do embroidery on my machine, I do a lot of mending and alteration. At 55, I’d be very happy with dual feed, a walking foot, a bobbin the size of the spool with better tension control, extra wide stitch width. Another blind hem stitch would be useful. Hell, I need a Juki.


January 15, 2014 #

This is perfectly timed for me. . .I am starting to shop for a Bernina!! Thank you!

Alice Elliot

January 15, 2014 #

I have an older Bernina Record 930 Electronic. It was actually given to me when I left my job at our local ballet costume shop. After I had it cleaned out (probably had been used to sew mud cloth!) and tuned up, it’s been the best machine I’ve ever used. It’s solid metal, has all the features I need, and I can still buy specialty feet for it. My favorite thing about it is the blind hem stitch foot that can be used for edge stitching, makes life so very easy. My local Bernina dealer is highly skilled and knowledgeable about her Berninas, and is happy to take you through every machine in her shop. Sew Images on Piedmont Ave. in Oakland, CA.


January 15, 2014 #

I don’t have a Bernina, but I’m in the market for one – a serger. I’ve heard great things about the 1150MD, but before I buy, I’m researching, researching, researching, because just like you said, there is a machine for every kind of sewer. I just have to find my machine.

Alyson Clair

January 15, 2014 #

If in the market, this was my first serger:

I LOVE it. If I ever had to purchase a home machine again, I would totally get this. Good value and it works great with lots of features.

Virginia Duppenthaler

January 15, 2014 #

I have a Bernina Serger 1300MDC (with overlock) that has been recently serviced and has nothing wrong with it. I want to sell everything Bernina with it because the local dealer in Seattle has an owner that is not fair. She overcharges and misrepresents. Have bought a Baby Lock Ovation from a better store. Will sell the trolley, extra feet, extra books and machine just back from servicing for $1000. If you want I will deliver to Portland. My lost will become your find. Call 206-940-9182

Jane Billington

May 20, 2014 #

I traded my Bernina overlocker/serger last year for a Babylock Imagine Overlocker/serger.
It’s the best money I’ve spent as its a joy to use. No fussing over threading or setting tensions and the quality is great. It took me 18 months to save for but I’m so glad I did

Ruthann Jagge

January 15, 2014 #

Long time Bernina owner,learned to sew on what is the Artista 200/730 which I still have for “backup”
Husband got me an 830 last Fall after I took a bit of a hiatus from sewing…it is a remarkable machine and I have yet to scratch the surface of what it can do!
Here’s my take: be sure your dealer is know for service,it can make all the difference particularly on the high end machines!
These machines can be picky and absolutely require instruction and service along the way.
Also,if you get into embroidery ( not really my thing) be prepared to spend on your software,setup,instruction,and updates…it can get pricey and there is a pretty steep learning curve sometimes:)
They are truly beautiful machines,I wouldn’t own anything else!
A solid dealer that stands behind the service and offers lots of classes and support is everything!

gabriel ratchet

January 15, 2014 #

great post for approaching this kind of investment purchase. i have a mid-level viking i bought almost twenty years ago, and we’re still madly in love. she has every foot you can get for her, and i use them.
things you missed on your list:
needle stop down: when you stop stitching, the machine stops with the needle in the down position. makes pivoting corners easier, and keeps me from shifting off the stitch line if i pause. i just tap the foot pedal to lift the needle. i always sew this way, as i was taught to do in 4H, even with an old mechanical white.
variable speed: it’s like being able to downshift on a slippery highway.
stitch quality on both sides of the seam: one of the things i like best about my machine is that the stitch is so well balanced that i can do “topstitching” from the underside of the surface, and it looks as good as the “top” . this can make it much easier to manipulate a garment and sew directionally.

the one thing i wish the viking had is dual feed. i do have a walking foot attachment, but it’s not the greatest in tight maneuvers.

as to light, as someone mentioned above, i have a full spectrum easel light that i got from an art supply shop, and i can direct it to throw the light where i want it, depending on what i’m doing.


January 15, 2014 #

My advice is to compare interfaces. The Bernina interface to program in letters/writing is TERRIBLE. I have an Aurora QE (a mid-line ~$2500 machine). I have to cycle through every letter in alphabetical order in several fonts just to select the one I want. With my Janome Memorycraft 4000, I just programmed in the # code of each letter directly. The net result when I “upgraded” my machine was that I stopped incorporating words into my quilts. Really sad and limiting.

Bernina really, really needs to work on their UI. I wouldn’t have realized how bad it is if I hadn’t been a Janome owner previously.

Explore the Bernina website and view some of their user tutorial content. Do the way they explain things make sense to you? The website is rich with content, but difficult to navigate. Now try the websites of their competitors.

That said, the Bernina stitch quality is fantastic. Bernina owner training at the dealer is legendary for a good reason. The purchase price of new Berninas include a series of classes at the dealer that will really up your sewing game.

When I was a graduate student on a small budget, I purchased a top of the line Bernette, which gave me access to the Bernina dealer sewing classes at a bargain price. That may be a good entry way to learn how to use any sewing machine effectively.

Later, I purchased a used Janome MC 4000 (midline but discontinued). The Bernina training helped me use the Janome’s features. The Janome horizontal full rotary hook also produces a great stitch. (A great stitch is balanced, right to left, and looks almost as good on the back as on the front.)

When you purchase a Bernina, you have to remember that the machine price is just a down payment. You may need to spent $$$ on Bernina accessories/sewing machine feet to do all the things you want to do.

The Bernina engineering philosophy is to do something the best it can possibly be done. That means they make a specialty foot ($$ to $$$) for every task. So many times, I asked my dealer how I can do something with my Bernina only to be told I needed to buy yet another foot. Budget 20-25% of your machine purchase price for add-ons within the first 2-3 years.

In contrast, Janome does everything competently with 6-8 different feet. I tell people Janome is like a Toyota and Bernina is like a BMW. You need to have a bigger budget to own a Bernina b/c it will cost you more along the way, too.

Most advanced seamsters own Janome, Bernina, Pfaff or Viking. Each has their merits. None of them are cheap, but you will enjoy your hobby more with good tools.


January 15, 2014 #

Thank you so much for this timely post! I’m beginning my search and Bernina is at the top of my list. Most of the posts include model names but can anyone give a sense of the price ranges (US$)?


January 15, 2014 #

Nice post. It is hard when you don’t own a machine to know what to look for.
My additional item to consider is sitting down at the dealership and sewing on the machine. When I went to buy a new machine I took swatches with me to sew on. I rough cut 3 inch squares of all kinds of fabric (from very light weight shirting fabric to denim) and sewed them end to end. I sat at every machine I was interested in and sewed through every piece of fabric. It gave me an ideas of how the machine handled the change in fabric, how the presser foot lifter felt, and how the control foot felt under my foot. Give that sewing machine a test drive just like you would a car. Get a feel for changing gears so to speak.


January 15, 2014 #

Yes! Best advice ever!


January 15, 2014 #

Most of this stuff is worth remembering whatever company you’re buying from.


January 15, 2014 #

Great post! I have a 25-year-old 1020 mechanical Bernina and don’t see ever needing to upgrade. I love my machine, even after all these years. I use it primarily for garment sewing, sometimes simple quilts, and mending/alterations.

The only feature that’s sometimes annoying is the needle stopping position. This machine always stops with the needle in the up position. You can tap the foot pedal to make it go down, but I’d love to be able to choose to stop in the down position.

I’d probably also like to have an auto buttonholer, but I long ago mastered the 6-step buttonhole and don’t have a problem with it.


January 15, 2014 #

I have the 330 and I love it. And I agree about the fact that you need to find a really good Bernina dealer who knows its machines inside and out and knows how to help you chose the right one for you. Mine is great and travels every year to Switzerland in order to learn how to service the latest models. And I know I can stop by anytime I need some advice on a sewing matter.
The day I got my machine, I think I spenp at least 2-3 hours in his shop :-)


January 15, 2014 #

I got my first Bernina last year. After a few hours in the shop I left happy with a B330. It replaced a 21 year old Jenome machine which had served me well.
That said I love the new features – wonderful to choose which position the needle should stop in. Basic alphabet is ideal for fun words on kids things. I’ve used the machine every week since I bought it.

Dawn Redmond

January 15, 2014 #

I learned to sew on a singer, got a Kenmore for graduation, inherited a Pfaff, bought a Babylock when I turned 40. 11 years ago I bought an Bernina Artista 200 which at the time was top of the line. The pleasure I get from it has been worth every penny. About 5 years ago, a board had to be replaced but Bernina picked up the tab for that. Never any other problems and sews the most beautiful straight stitches, buttonholes, embroidery, and on and on. A few months ago I took advantage of Bernina ‘s 48 month no interest financing and bought the beautiful 830. I am in heaven! I can’t believe what delights they have come up with in the last 10 years. My advise is to get the most you can afford and start saving to get another in the future. Having two machines so that you can multitask with different threads or sew while the other is embroidering doubles the fun.


January 15, 2014 #

Wonderful article! I might add one of the other considerations is ease of cleaning and oiling when contemplating a machine purchase. I’ve watched sewers become quite frustrated when trying to clean or oil a machine desperately needing it, or attempting to untangle a thread nest, especially in the bobbin area or thread uptake arm.

I do agree with many other posters that a dealer is everything. A new machine has a learning curve no matter how long one has been sewing, and classes as well as personal contact is critical. The more pleasurable the experience with a dealer, the more likely a sewer is to persist through the challenges.

Having been on both sides, one with a mediocre dealer, and another with superb service, I know when I was facing repeated trips for unsuccessful repairs, my tolerance and interest were limited.

Sewing groups, no matter what machine you may be using, really spark creativity, exploration, problem solving, and more productive project outcomes.

I sew with Bernina machines, and absolutely love them. While there may be lots of feet to help with specific sewing projects, I find that experience can replace the need to buy some specialized feet. To me, some specialized feet can help reduce frustration for less experienced sewers who want a more “professional” appearance without having to practice or spend a whole lot of time preparing for a brief sewing moment, and perhaps be discouraged with a less than tidy finish.

It’s just wonderful to have so many options, such a wide range of tools, and a renewed interest in individualizing creative expression with pride when saying: I made it myself.


January 15, 2014 #

Thank you so much for this great guide! Could you possibly do something similar for sergers/overlockers please? I’m happy with my functional sewing machine but am just about ready to take the plunge into serging – I am building my own ‘uniform’ wardrobe and this includes quite a few knits that would really benefit from the addition of a serger to my kit… Thanks!


January 16, 2014 #

I am in love with Bernina 1008, too bad they don’t sell it in my country.

Brian Foster

January 16, 2014 #

Although i have a Husqvarna Viking (and love it), the list of features is good. When I took my machine to show my mom, who taught sewing for decades, she nodded at all the fancy features, but when she tried it, the ones she raved over were the most basic:
1) Does it sew a beautiful straight stitch?
2) Can you control it when headed into a tight spot, like a collar point (speed/agility)?
3) Can you set it to always stop Needle Down?
4) Can it sew a good buttonhole? (The balanced automatic buttonhole made both of us squee)
Mostly, HAVE FUN shopping! It’s your decision, there are a LOT of machines at a given price point. And I guarantee a machine that doesn’t fight and produces beautiful stitches in what YOU sew will be one that you will use much more often.

Lisa M.

January 17, 2014 #

Your comment about buttonholes on your Husqvarna Viking machine reminded me that I don’t like about the buttonhole attachment on my Huskystar 214 and that I didn’t put in my comment made on Jan. 15. I dislike the attachment and I don’t think the buttonholes are all that great. Prior to buying the Huskystar 214, I used a Singer Stylist 513 that I received as a wedding present. I bought the aftermarket buttonhole attachment which, although clunky, made great buttonholes in any fabric. In a fit of downsizing and getting rid of ‘stuff you don’t need’, I got rid of the Singer machine shortly after buying the Huskystar and now regret it. I am currently searching on the used classified ad websites for a Singer Stylist 513 or similar so that I can use the buttonhole attachment that I never got rid of (a testament to my lack of proficiency at purging ‘stuff you don’t need’.

All this to say, make some buttonholes in different fabrics and with different machines when shopping for a machine.

Brian Foster

January 16, 2014 #

For the person looking for sergers, I did a lot of research and decided on the Babylock Imagine. Spendy, but Autothreading the Loopers, No Thread Tension, and a built in Needle Threader ensure that I use it a LOT! My mom had a lovely serger, but it was so complex and threading a pain, that it was a rare occasion that she actually would use it.


January 21, 2014 #

Yes. I love my Imagine so, so much as well. The auto threading and auto tension are definitely worth the dough!


January 16, 2014 #

Give the simple ones a chance – the more basic lines (Activa, 1008) do what’s commonly needed for garment sewing, and the more expensive machines mainly add features for embroidery and quilting. Simpler also means cheaper to buy and service and less stuff to break.

I have an activa 230, and it has every type of stitch I want to sew garments (straight, zig-zag, buttonholes, a few overlock and stretch stitches) and it’s super sturdy and sews great even stitches. I do want to buy a few more feet to increase my machine’s ease of performing certain things, but I’ve never felt the need for a more complex machine. I have a few friends who sew theater costumes professionally and they have mechanical 1008s.

The two nifty features my machine has that I love are the button to set whether needle stops up or down, and being able to set it to reverse stitch without holding the button down.

Lady ID

January 16, 2014 #

I just got a great deal on an Artista 170 and it comes with a walking foot!!! Everything was in there including the manual and embroidery module which is super old but works. The model is not new but it’ll be great for me to enter the Bernina world. I’m going to pick it up today.

Lady ID

January 20, 2014 #

Ok so they were mistaken, it’s not a walking foot – it’s a magnifier which is still cool. So far I like how quiet the Bernina is and how many more options are available to me/


January 16, 2014 #

I have an old Bernina 1260 – a top model of it’s time (15 years ago). I bought it used from a dealer at a very good price – about the same as the price of a new entry-level Brother or Janome. I love it! It has just enough, easy auto buttonholes, true basting stitch (LOVE THAT!) and a small range of decorative stitches.

So you might guess my advice: If budget is an issue, look into used top level machines. Mine came with a full accessory box, walking foot, knee lift and extension table and it has served me soooo well! The dealer I bought from gives a 2 year warranty on all old Berninas, that says a lot about the reliability of these machines.

The only drawback is it uses older shank type feet, so if I ever need to upgrade I would have to buy feet all over again, but that’s a minor detail since most Berninas come with a nice set of feet.


January 16, 2014 #

Forgot to mention the knee lift. Don’t think I’ll ever get a machine without it. Would like to have the advanced foot control, though. Someday…


January 16, 2014 #

Like others have said, you must shop for dealer before brand. The closest Bernina dealer to me is HORRIBLE, so if I want to buy Bernina, I drive a half hour to an hour further, depending on which of the other two good dealers I want to do business with.

My next piece of advice is to visit the forums at Pattern Review and read the sewing machine reviews. You never know when a manufacturer is going to put out a dud or put something out that has a few bugs that need to be worked out. The incredible amount of knowledge and experience at PR will help guide you in deciding which machine is best. They have reviews and information on all brands of sewing machines there, so you can learn about all your options before shopping.

My final piece of advice is to be aware that Bernina’s basic machines are considered “3/4 size” and the presser foot doesn’t raise as high as the “full size” machines, so you can’t fit as much bulk under the foot. I ended up upgrading from a 350PE to a 430 because of this. If you don’t sew bulk, the 350PE is an amazing machine. If you do, you might be too limited with it. Bernina no longer makes the 430, so you’d have to look at the 5 series.


January 16, 2014 #

I just got my first Bernina this Christmas and went through the exact steps described. I started at the bottom with Bernina 290…I think. I test drove 3 machines 2 Berninas and a Janome. I was all set to purchase the Bernina 310 and as we were getting ready to write it up they told me they had an open box 380 from a show. My husband said there was no decision for $100 more I got the 380. My first project was the Cooper bag v3 for my son and it was a dream to sew!


January 16, 2014 #

I have a basic Bernina 1001, and have used it hard for over 20 years. I also teach a sewing class, at high school, so now it lives there as I bought a Pfaff as my new machine. We only buy Berninas at my school because they are basically maintenance free. We were spending more repairing old singers, every year, than the purchase cost of new machines. You can’t go wrong with a Bernina – even a basic one is a workhorse that you can’t stop, and you can’t break.


January 17, 2014 #

Why do you recommend a full shank over snap on feet? Thanks

Lynn Mally

January 20, 2014 #

Sorry to be jumping in late here. I have 3 Berninas! I bought the first one, the entry level Bernina 1008, at a dealer about ten years ago. The other two–an Activa 140 and most recently the 1260–I bought on eBay. Berninas are very expensive; buying them used is a good option. I have decided I like the older models better, so used is the only way to go for me. You can buy the feet on eBay as well. Bernina dealer are happy to service the older models.

Sheila Walker

January 21, 2014 #

My only additional suggestion to this great article would be to make an appointment with the dealer before doing your shopping. That way you will be assured they will be able to give you their undivided attention. Buying a new Bernina (especially top of the line) is a huge investment, and you want to be sure you have all the facts to make your decision. I totally agree with finding a good dealer. Buying online might be cheaper at the start, but I wouldn’t give up the support from a local dealer for anything. I have a Bernina 930 (my first “real” machine), a 170, and an 830. If not for the dealer, I would have given up after buying the 1st one.

Lorna Penner

January 21, 2014 #

I learnt to sew on a Bernina, and always aspired to own one. I finally bought a 153 QE. I loved it. She sewed a lot of quilts and garments for me. I was fortunate enough to then purchase a 440QE. I love it. I have the embrodiery attachment as well and I use her daily.

I also have my mothers 830 from 1974. I put many miles on this machine in high school and am very proud to say after 40 years it still purrs away. It doesn’t have the new features like thread cutters ( on the side not automatic). I use her once a week and I still love her and I am proud to say she was my moms.

I will never own another brand do sewing machine. I aspire to own a 780.


January 21, 2014 #

I have the Bernina Aurora 440 (I think its 440 maybe its 430, I really don’t know for sure, and too lazy to go look) with the Embroidery Module. When I purchased my machine I didn’t think I was going to be interested in quilting, so I didn’t get the QE model. Turns out that one of the first things I made was a quilt! HAHA…wishing now I had gotten the Quilting model, because I’ve only used the embroidery module once in 7 years. BUT…having said that, I love my Bernina she is a great machine!! You cannot go wrong with a Bernina…I promise. But do be sure to make sure your Dealer is knowledgeable and reputable…and DO take advantage of all the special classes they’ll offer you. That’s my biggest disappointment, that I didn’t take advantage of everything…I couldn’t because of my weird work schedule. But it would have made everything easier. I just purchased an older model 800DL (I think) Serger used and its fabulous as well. I’m a Bernina girl for life.


January 24, 2014 #

I love Bernina. It is my next sewing machine – I only have to save some money first (get few orders, customers).
I would go for 530 or 580 – which are semiprofessional with metal parts – real bobbing (LOVE IT). I mostly sew and I need sewing machin which could sew all sorts of fabric + a little embroidery – for fun.


February 22, 2014 #

Anybody have the scoop on how well the bernina 880 is performing? Any glitches?

alecu geanina

March 5, 2014 #

If you know anything about BERNINA 880 or B880: buttonholes quality ,any error etc.
I watched almost all the videos and I could not convince myself of quality buttenholes, for example.


April 7, 2014 #

Oh you hit it spot on!!!!! When getting my first bernina I came home with middle artista series bottom on 630!!!! It’s my dream machine and a fabulous fit. Couldn’t ask for the most perfect machine for me. Lesson learned – don’t need top of the line to have the best machine. Just the one that’s perfect for you. I highly recommend taking a day and sewing in them with the fabrics threads that you typically use to get a feel. Enjoy!


April 7, 2014 #

I got the Embroidery attachment at that time to an absolute love it perfect. That started my BERNINA love affair even more I got a 215 for classes when I just need simple basics and I have a 1008 because there’s always a lot of bad weather and I like to make sure I can continue to so despite what electrical currents are going around. All of them are wonderful and workhorses perfect for me.


April 8, 2014 #

My first Bernina was a 180E. Watching it embroider was mesmerizing. The support I’ve gotten from my dealer has been so thorough that all my subsequent Berninas have been purchased from them (730E, 1300 serger, 880E). Each machine includes classes relevant to the features on your specific machine. If you feel like you need a refresher course, you call the dealer and sign up again at no charge. Recently I heard of Bernina dealers charging a fee for their new machine owner classes. Make sure you ask about that aspect of dealer support, because if you find a better price on the machine, you may end up paying a lot more to get the education you need to make the most of your Bernina. Also, Bernina publishes a series of books called Feetures. These manuals explain the use for each of the presser feet and attachments, and show different techniques you can do with them. They also cross-reference the feet, so you can see which feet will do the same jobs. It can help you figure out how to use feet you already own, without investing in a foot which might not be that useful for you.

alecu geanina

April 10, 2014 #

From the beginning I wanted Brother Innovis IE but I found Bernina 880 B and serger 1300 .
I’ve read each feature. But what is missing are tutorials live in which to hear machine, you should see how much more of techniques, be aware not only of the strengths but also the weak ones , of any “sensitivity” .
My dealer bring only to order this machines and only in the case in wich am willing to buy.
If you have time and willing to carry out such a video tutorial would be joy not only for me. Ex: 730E vs. 880 E ; serger 1300 .
Thank you for an explanation !


May 9, 2014 #

I just purchased a Bernina 750 and I hate it.


June 10, 2014 #

I was test driving the 750QE today at my Bernina dealer. I want it badly. Won’t give up my old 930. She is my best friend and has never let me down. Workhorse I say. I would love to hear why Sandra hates her 750.


May 23, 2014 #

Anyone out there have the Bernina 880? I have seen very few reviews on the web. Can anyone help with that since I am thinking of trading my Bernina 830 up for the 880. Thanks