Bernina 1008 Status Update: Taffeta, Chiffon, and Cotton

As with cars, while a test drive can give you a sense of how the sewing machine functions, the time you spend “test driving” is a mere fraction of the time you will ultimately spend sewing on the machine.

I was immediately taken by the Bernina 1008 during the in-store test drive. Essentially, that test drive reinforced a decision I had already made before I even walked into the sewing machine store.

I blog because I want to document my sewing adventures and because I want to share my experience, hard lessons, and knowledge with the rest of the community. If I am going to write about my sewing machine and possibly influence another sewist’s choice, I want to be honest about the pros and cons. So, this is hopefully the first of a periodic series of status updates and reviews about my Bernina 1008.

What did I make? 

Project: My Wedding Dress
Material: Taffeta
Stitches used: Straight, overlock (for finishing seam edges) & blind hem,
Feet used: #1 standard foot, #2 overlock foot, #5 blind hem foot.
Description: Using Simplicity 1418 and leftover fabric from an Assassins Creed costume, I made a wedding dress that I can reuse for years to come.

Project: Refashioned Maxi Skirt
Material: Silk chiffon & elastic
Stitches used: straight, zig-zag, overlock
Feet used: #1 standard foot, #2 overlock foot
Description: I have seen a number of long chiffon skirts and this is my attempt to jump onto the fashion-trend train.

Project: Altering a me-made cotton blouse
Material: cotton bedsheet
Stitches used: Straight and overlock
Feet used: #1 standard foot, #2 overlock foot
Description: This was a shirt I made two years ago from New Look 6104 and only now figured out why it doesn’t fit well.

I will blog about each of these projects in more detail later this month.

Getting a feel for the machine

Let’s use that car analogy again. When you drive a car for the first time, you have to adjust to the gas and break pedal sensitivity. There was a lot of stuttering initially when sewing the rough draft of my wedding dress. Even three months in, there is still a “jack rabbit start” feeling when I start a seam, or resume after pausing to remove a pin. I either apply too much pressure and the seam is sewn really fast (too fast even), or I don’t press hard enough to start the motor.

One day soon I’ll make time to just play with the pedal and hopefully I can learn to find that sweet spot that enables me to sew at a steady pace and slow enough to take out pins without having to stop sewing altogether.

Stitching the night away

One of the greatest forces behind my decision to upgrade sewing machines was the limited number of stitch options on my Singer 1507 and the consistent lack of bobbin tension.

Bobbin tension on the 1008 has been steady. I did adjust it slightly while stay-stitching the thin muslin for my wedding dress. For all other seams and projects it has remained at the center mark, regardless of fabric type or stitch. I did realize that I had been inserting my bobbin backwards for 3 years in my Singer. Now I wonder if this was the source of some of my bobbin cluster-knots and insufficient bobbin tension…

A feature I had not noticed when I bought the machine, but I really appreciate, is the presence of seam allowance markings on both sides of the needle. Most machines assume you will place the raw edge of the seam allowance pointing to the right, so the 1/4″ increments are only marked on the right side of the needle. But sometimes it is more important for me to sew a seam in a specific direction. For example, I always like to sew from the armhole down to the hem. But on my Singer there were some situations when I was forced to sew bottom to top because I needed to keep the seam allowance on the right side. (Keep in mind that with that previous machine, the bobbin stitch looked less clean, so I preferred to keep those stitches on the inside of garments.)

This feature was very helpful when I was altering my bed sheet blouse. I needed to top stitch a portion of the neck binding, and it was important to start from the center back.

Seam allowance measurements on Bernina 1008
Seam allowance measurements on Bernina 1008

Straight Stitch—This basis stitch functions like one would expect it to. Because of the faster speed of my machine I had some difficulty smoothly navigating curved seams, like the princess seams on my wedding dress bodice.

The variety of range of stitch length option on the 1008 is impressive. My longest stitch (4) on the Singer is close to the 3.5 stitch length on the 1008 and the Bernina goes all the way up to 5. Occasionally I have selected a stitch length that is beautifully short, but then realized that it was so short that it make seam ripping more annoying. My wedding dress fabric had a bit of a sideways stretch to it, which forced me to redo side seams a couple times…after I had used a very small stitch length.

Overlock Stitch—This stitch is my savior! Zig-zag stitches worked for seam binding on my old machine, but the overlock stitch feels less stiff than the zig-zag, particularly where thinner fabrics are concerned. This stitch also takes the guess work out of what seam length or stitch width I need. My zig-zag seam bindings varied between projects. I like the cleaner look inside my me-made garments. There are still benefits to having serger, but I think this overlock stitch will help.

Blind Hem Stitch—I have used blind hem stitches before, but this was the first time I had a designated blind hem foot. The foot has a guide agains which you place the folded part of the blind hem. Some of my stitches were more visible than I wanted, but overall the blind hem foot gave me greater control over the stitches.

Tolerance for different fabrics 

The silk chiffon and its lining were not sucked into the bobbin housing. That alone is a huge victory for me. Much of my past sewing rage came from delicate projects getting knotted and twisted in the bobbin housing.

For all the fabrics, the machine seems to work best when it is sewing pieces of fabric together. Single-layer stay-stitching did require some bobbin tension adjustment, but there was not a problem with fabric being chewed up or mangled by the dog feed. On the other end of the spectrum, my Singer 1507 used to have trouble with very thick seams. While these projects have average seam thicknesses, it was nice to never feel the needle hesitate before penetrating the fabric layers.

I don’t have too much specifically to say about the taffeta or the cotton bed sheet. There were not any problems sewing those materials. So far, my projects have used woven materials.

Still to come: 

  • The Bernina 1008 has about 16 different stitches described in the user manual. This does not include the variations of stitch width, stitch length, or needle placement. I have only used a small fraction of these stitches. So far I have been working with the green options. The red zone is still undiscovered territory.

Bernina Double Spools


  • I plan to make a jersey maxi dress, which will require the used of a double needle. Look for the recap of that project before the summer ends.
  • PAX, Geek Girl Con, and Halloween are on the horizon. Costumes will be coming soon to the Bernina 1008.

4 thoughts on “Bernina 1008 Status Update: Taffeta, Chiffon, and Cotton

  1. Good point on the seam allowance markings on both sides of the presser foot – I can see that being super useful. Will have to make a mental note to look for that when I pull the trigger on a new machine. Also, I totally feel your pain on the bobbin housing trying to steal away my fabrics! This happens a lot of knits for me, and there is always so much cursing involved!

  2. Get that front table attachment that Benina likes to sell separately and you will have a much easier time with the speed and curves. Trust me, I’m using this model of machine at my current job without the stupid table and it makes me nuts. I can deal, but I’ve been sewing for close to 30 years. The table surface solves so many problems!

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