Sewing 'rock star' visits Renton shop

Sharon Kirry gets her sewing accessory kit signed by the
Sharon Kirry gets her sewing accessory kit signed by the 'rock star of the sewing industry,' Hanspeter Ueltschi at Renton's The Sewing Machine Company, Tuesday.
— image credit: Tracey Compton, Renton Reporter

A roomful of sewing enthusiasts turned out Tuesday morning to see Hanspeter Ueltschi, fourth-generation owner of the sewing company BERNINA International, at The Sewing Machine Company in downtown Renton.

Ueltschi has been described as “the rock star of the sewing world” for his family’s machines and business, which began in Switzerland more than 100 years ago. He’s on a world tour and prior to his Renton stop, he was in Australia and California and plans to continue on to Seattle, Portland and Chicago this week.

On this tour, Ueltschi is explaining the principles upon which the company was founded, talk about the different company sewing models and how he hopes to reach out to the next generation of sewers.

“I always like to see the excitement of our dealers and our consumers,” Ueltschi said. “They all love BERNINAs. They think we’re the Rolls Royce or Mercedes and it’s nice to hear that, to get a pat on the shoulder.”

A few of the women in attendance brought their own sewing materials for Ueltschi to sign. He offered to sign whatever machines people bought that day.

“I’m a BERNINA owner; I have a BERNINA sewing machine and I was just interested in coming and meeting the head honcho,” said Barbee Stevens, laughing.

She wasn’t alone in that regard. Barbara Smith had her own questions about technique she wanted to ask the company representatives.

“This is my favorite place to come for BERNINA stuff…it’s kind of exciting, fun and you get to see new things,” Smith said.

The Renton shop hosts classes for the sewing community, which Cevin Waffle, store manager, said is pretty strong.

“Generally we have a pretty wide range of sewers, from people who are just doing basic home sewing for themselves to pretty elaborate crafters, quilters and embroiders,” Waffle said. “Today’s machine is pretty elaborate, with the ability to connect directly to your PC and download information from the internet and send it right into your machine. Then have the machine embroider it out.”

The demographics are what you might expect for the hobby: middle-aged and older women.

One of the attendees shed some light on the demographics of today’s quilters. Kristen Ballou of the Seattle Modern Quilt Guild said the sewing groups she’s familiar with average between the ages of 30 to 40.

“I think maybe we don’t do a good enough job in telling the world or the younger generation how cool (sewing) is,” said Ueltschi. “Schools don’t offer a lot of sewing lessons anymore. Maybe the press, tell the world that sewing is cool.”


-Reporter Tracey Compton can be reached at 425-255-3484, ext. 5052.


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