Bernina 180 Is Flexible And Easy To Use
|June 5, 2000||in Product Reviews|
A review of
from Bernina Sewing Machines
If I could sum up my experience of working with the Bernina Artista 180 in just one word, it would be “WOW!” I was expecting precision and reliability in the Swiss-made Bernina, and I wasn’t disappointed. But I was completely blown away by the advanced technology in this computerized sewing and embroidery machine.
Even though this model has over 200 stitches, I didn’t get overwhelmed with buttons. I only had to deal with 14 buttons and two knobs. Everything else I controlled by a large, easy-to-read touch screen that displays a wealth of information.
I always knew exactly how I had set every stitch because the stitch, the length, the width, and the needle position appear on the touch screen along with the foot I should use to obtain best sewing results. I picked stitches I wanted to use by just touching the screen.
I found it easy to find all the features by using the buttons to select stitch categories like quilting, applique, and embroidery. Once I selected the category, the screen displayed all the possible stitches for that category. I touched the picture of the stitch I wanted and I was ready to sew.
When I wanted to change the stitch attributes, I just turned a knob until I reached the desired size. I liked the way the 180 remembered the changes I made to each stitch. I set the stitch size for the feather stitch, then changed stitches. When I returned to the feather stitch, I was able to start sewing with all the changes I’d made earlier still in place.
I appreciated not having to chase the large, stable foot pedal across the floor like most other machines I’ve used. I used a light touch sometimes and still felt as though I had power and control. And I quickly got used to using the back part of the foot pedal to raise and lower my needle.
The Quilting Features
To test the quilting features, I started with the straight stitch for piecing. I wanted to check the 1/4″ foot for accuracy but that foot does not work with this model because the feed dogs are so wide. Instead, I used the all-purpose foot. I moved my needle position and aligned my fabric with the right side of the foot. I found that this worked well for me.
I used needle position #7 for a 1/4″ seam and needle position #8 for a scant 1/4″ seam. I thought I would not be as accurate without the guide on the side of the foot, but the Bernina feeds the fabric evenly without a problem.
I tried the zigzag stitch/satin stitch using a small stitch length and everything from a very small to a very large stitch width. I liked the quality of all widths equally. I always check this stitch using a fusible web applique, a real test of the satin stitch. I believe the zigzag at any width and length will look good if it passes this test.
I sewed using the blanket stitch and the feather stitch and anything else I thought I would use to applique a design. I tried different sizes of each stitch. Again, all stitches performed well.
A Hand-Quilted Look
I tried two other stitches that I enjoyed using. The first stitch created a hand-look quilting stitch using monofilament thread on the top and a 50-weight thread in the bobbin. This stitch pulled the bottom thread up to the top so I could see the thread. The monofilament is almost invisible between the bobbin stitches. I really liked this feature.
The second stitch was an automatic stipple stitch. I fed the fabric under the needle just as though I was doing straight stitching. The machine used the built-in stipple pattern and quilted my piece. Pretty impressive!
I tried the Bernina’s knee lift (which they call the Free Hand System). By pressing the side of my right leg against the lever that protrudes from the front of the machine, I lifted the presser foot and dropped the feed dogs, enabling me to move my quilting around without have to let go of my work.
I tried stippling using the standard darning foot and the extension sewing table. The table gave me a large surface on which I moved my work. The automatic tension made the stipple quilting as easy as straight stitch sewing.
A Few Drawbacks
As impressed as I was with the Bernina 180 as a whole, it’s not without its drawbacks. My biggest complaint: I didn’t like fooling around with its removable bobbin case.
Inserting the bobbin seemed awkward and I couldn’t find a good way to hold it and get my hand into the compartment to insert the bobbin. And I had even more trouble inserting the bobbin with the extension table in place.
However, Bernina made two nice features to try make the bobbin handling better. First, a plastic window in the extension table allows a view of the bobbin compartment so I could see what I was doing.
And second, once I got the bobbin in place I just draped the bobbin thread over a hook on the side of the bobbin compartment and began sewing. The 180 automatically brought the bobbin thread up through the needle plate.
Another problem with the bobbin is that the Artista 180 uses metal bobbins unique to this machine. If I wanted to upgrade from another machine or even another model of Bernina, I’d have to get all new bobbins.
Finally, I had a small problem with the automatic tension. It did a good job for almost everything I tried, but then I wanted to change it for the metallic thread I was using.
When I tried to use the tension adjustments on the screen, it gave me every possible type of fabric from which to choose, but no thread choices. Quilters change tension because of thread types rather than because of changes in fabric, since most of the sewing is on 100% cotton.
The Bernina Web Site
If you’re interested in Bernina machines, be sure to check out their Web site. I enjoyed looking at the pictures and feature lists of the Artista 180. Bernina drew a feature summary chart to compare several of their models. I also found a dealer list by state and artist profiles about John Flynn and Libby Lehman.
During the interactive tour of the Artista, Bernina offers videos that explain some of the features. These videos are from one to four million characters each and take a few minutes to download. They are short to view and have very little information. Unless you are really interested in a feature, you may want to skip this part of the tour.
A big Quilter’s Review “Thanks!” to Country Quilter’s Emporium in White River Junction, Vermont. Nancy Barr, the owner, let me use a Bernina Artista 180 in preparing for this review, helping me with my questions and giving me plenty of space and time to work with this fine machine.
In addition to selling Bernina sewing machines, CQE offers classes by Nancy Chandler, Patti Wadsworth and other top area quilters. CQE also carries the entire line of Doreen Speckman’s brights like the ones used in her book, Travels with Peaky and Spike.
Country Quilter’s Emporium
223 Maple Street
White River Junction, VT 05001
E-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be put on their mailing list.
Similar Sewing Machines I’ve Reviewed
All my sewing machine reviews
March 6, 2002
Maryann K. writes:
You can use the 5mm plate on the machine and it makes it much easier to use the 37 foot successfully.
March 15, 2002
A Quilter’s Review reader writes:
I have had my Bernina Artista for about two years now, and I have to say
it has been something of a disappointment.
I have been unable to use the
embroidery unit due to some kind of problem with the four-directional
sewing. In addition to that issue, in the first few months that I had the
machine, the touch screen had to be replaced, as well as the sensor, I
believe. The part was covered, but the labor cost several hundred
I bought my machine from an authorized Bernina dealer, and have
only had the machine serviced by that same dealer. It spent in excess of
two and a half months being repaired in the first year I had it.
I was well
aware of how well-regarded Bernina has been, and purchased it based on its
high reviews. I would love to use the embroidery options, but thus far my
machine has been nothing but a lemon.
After having read your reviews, I
am seriously considering switching to the Janome 10000.
March 18, 2002
Carmella H. writes:
I’ve had my Bernina 180 since October 2001, and the machine hasn’t stopped
running since I got it. My daughter and I do embroidery with it and
love the quality of work.
I did have a couple of problems with the bobbin
tension, and I had a spring “pop” out of nowhere, but my dealer has been
tremendous — fixes everything almost immediately.
The lady whose machine
spent so much time in the shop needs to find a different dealer, not a new
type of machine!
March 19, 2002
Judy K. writes:
I looked at the Bernina 180 but ended up buying the 170 Quilter’s Platinum
Edition. It has many of the same features as the 180 but has the standard feed dogs,
not the extra wide ones of the 180.
I was wary of the wide feed dogs
chewing my fabric while sewing 1/4″ seams. Several other quilters had told
me this can be a problem. I decided I didn’t need the extra features of
the 180, primarily the extra-wide stitches and the multi-directional
Another benefit is that the 170 uses the standard Bernina bobbins
(but unlike the 180, it won’t warn you when the bobbin thread is low). The
170 QPE also comes with most of the feet a quilter will want, including
the walking foot (which is another $100 or so if you buy a 180). It has
the same stippling stitch and hand-look stitch you mentioned in your
I bought mine with the same embroidery unit that you can buy
for the 180, but everything cost me about $1,000 less than a 180.
By the way, there is a second stippling stitch that you can add to your
machine. Ask your dealer about adding this to the memory of your 170 or