One of the nice things about being in Switzerland, as well as the beautiful scenery, perfect trains and wonderful cheese, is the number of Bernina stores dotted about the place. Some of them are in surprising places, it often feels like you’ll see one in every small village, but they are usually excellent haberdasheries as well as sewing machine technology wonderlands.
Switzerland is the home of the Bernina company, founded in 1893 in Steckborn. Like seemingly everything that gets produced in Switzerland, the company was named after a nearby mountain. Also in keeping with good Swiss standards, Bernina is a name synonymous with quality, innovation and being a touch on the expensive side. I, however, am definitely a fan.
A small number of Bernina machines are still being produced in Steckborn – mostly the top-of-the-range monster machines like the 8 series and long-armed quilters. I don’t know if the local retail stores are franchises or quite how they are set up but they always carry an impressive range of machines and you’ll always see the staff making something amazing. Many run workshops in store and some of the shops also organise things in more creative locations – Bernina Lausanne once ran a workshop on a boat in Lake Neuchâtel!
The Zürich Bernina store is particularly nice with sergers, overlockers and machines galore. The Bernina thread brand seems to be Mettler, so there’s an excellent choice of their threads as well as some patterns, general haberdasher-y goodness to enjoy. It is very easy to become spoilt if you like sewing in Switzerland. The Bernina shops as a rule of thumb have really extensive notions sections and Migros, Coop and Manor, some of the biggest supermarket brands nearly always have an amazingly diverse craft section where you can find wools, felting equipment and all sorts of goodies.
While we were there, there was one of the 7-series embroidery machines working away by itself on some leather, just to show off and there was an amazing collection of embroidered leather bags on display too. In terms of fabric, the Zurich shop is well-stocked. You won’t find hundreds of thousands of quilting cottons but there is a modest selection and a good variety of dressmaking materials in different weird and wacky forms.
There’s space for you to try any of the machines on request and my experience in the Lausanne store is that the staff are usually very happy for you to have an extensive test run or demo some of the different features. I’ve always been really impressed in any of the stores I’ve been to with the knowledge of the staff. While I’ve had the full gamut of customer service experiences in the Lausanne shop, from absolutely outstanding to ‘oh er… you ordered and paid for something and we said we had it? Whoops!’, the staff have always been excellent at anything and everything when it came to the machines. I can understand, I think my Bernina has sewn its way very securely into my heart.
Once you’re done ogling all the lovely technology and marvelling at the magical mystery of the Bernina Stitch Regulator and its ability to compensate for human failings and produce perfect stitching independent of the operator, it is not a long walk down to the lake front in Zurich. If you’re there are the right time of the year, this is home to the really excellent Christmas market with plenty of food or you can enjoy the beautiful sunshine if you’re there in the summer.
Address: Talacker 35, 8001 Zürich Switzerland
Phone: 044 221 00 44