Fashion and design teacher Amber McIntosh tells School News she has been using Bernina sewing machines since she started her teaching career more than 25 years ago, and recently had the opportunity to participate in a demonstration session.
“I am constantly amazed at how much they can take with students learning how to sew,” she quickly explained. “There are 30 Bernina sewing machines available in the fashion and design classroom at Sacred Heart College. They range in age and include models 1008 and 1011. We also have (two) electronic Bernina sewing machines – B330 and B380.
“Last year, we were lucky to purchase an embroidery sewing machine 580 model.
“I contacted Bernina to meet with Julie Veck and discuss which model would best suit our needs and I had the opportunity to participate in a demonstration session with Anna Hicks at Nancy’s Stitch Studio, giving me the confidence to introduce this machine into my senior courses. I was very excited about letting the students see what you could do on this machine to decorate garments and textile items.”
Students’ reaction to the machines
Amber told us that high schoolers prefer durable machines that aren’t too easy to break. She said: “They get worried when they break a needle in Year 9, as they are horrified that they may have seriously ’broken’ the machine! The students really appreciate how reliable the Bernina sewing machines are.
“I often have students ask me if any of the sewing machines are for sale or enquire about buying a Bernina sewing machine themselves and which model I recommend for them. Previously, I have sold school sewing machines and they sell straight away to both staff and students. I have a waiting list at the moment for the next round of sales!”
“These sewing machines are very resilient and cope with intensive daily use for sometimes up to six hours a day every day of the week. To keep them in good working order, I believe it is important to look after the machines, giving them a clean and an oil each term and then have them serviced annually.
“I also made a new set of covers for the sewing machines last year, which helps to keep the dust off and also give the classroom a whole new look. The sewing machines are all set up permanently in the classroom, so they don’t have to be carried and moved a great deal.”
The life of a sewing machine at Sacred Heart College
Every Year 9 student at Sacred Heart College participates in fashion and design for a term.
“This provides students with the basic skills to use the sewing machine and simple fabric decoration techniques, such as applique and embroidery. Students learn how to adjust the sewing machine dials to create decorative stitches to use when making simple textile items such as pencil case, lunch bag, or softie.
“From Year 10 through to Year 13, students can choose to study fashion and design and the techniques learnt increase in their degree of difficulty as the students advance through the year levels. In Year 10, students are introduced to Bernina accessories like the zipper foot and buttonhole foot. They develop the confidence to change the needle and use twin needles and ballpoint needles. The students create pyjama shorts, a small quilt, a decorated hoodie and a recycled denim item as part of the course. In Year 10, students are introduced to the overlocker and the girls are always impressed with the professional finish it gives to garments.
“Senior students have the opportunity to use the B330 and B380 model sewing machines to complete automatic buttonholes, decorative stitches when applying designs to garments and the walking foot to do quilting or sewing with heavy weight fabrics. However, they complete the majority of the construction on the 1008/1011 models. By this stage the girls are very confident in their use and knowledge of these sewing machines and have a good understanding of how the machine needs to be adjusted to complete different tasks. They also enjoy the opportunity to use new accessories such as the blind hemming foot, invisible zipper foot, presser feet with non-stick soles, different sewing machine needles and threads
“As part of the routine of my classroom environment, I encourage students to work in the same work space for the duration of the course. Students become comfortable with using a particular sewing machine and develop the self-confidence to try new techniques and enthusiastic to learn more about what the sewing machine is capable of.”
Why Bernina? and the upskilling journey
“I have taught fashion and design in the Waikato and Wellington regions in New Zealand and have developed rewarding working relationships with Bernina representatives in both locations. I have always found them to be more than happy to support the projects being offered in my courses, providing advice about suitable accessories to be used, and recommended sewing machines to purchase when updating older models.
“I have also participated in valuable professional learning opportunities facilitated by Bernina staff and have introduced the new skills and knowledge gained in my courses.
“I would love to see Bernina provide regular professional development workshops for teachers on how to use the new sewing machine models and different accessories. I often feel limited by my experience with the machines and would appreciate regular upskilling in the capabilities of both the old models and newer electronic ones.”