Saturday, November 25, 2017
News Roundup

Bernina sewing machines are a highlight of these classes


TEMPLE TERRACE — When Margaret Stephens was a teenager in the late 1950s, her mother made a deal with her.

"She said, 'If you make your own clothes, you won't have to do any housework,' " Stephens recalled.

It was an offer Stephens couldn't refuse. She had already taken her first sewing class in eighth grade. And if she could choose between sewing and cleaning, she would always pick sewing.

When Stephens graduated Chamberlain High School in 1960, she married a soldier and had her own children. She made a similar deal with her husband.

"I told him, 'If you buy me a sewing machine, I'll make it pay for itself,' " she said. "And it did because I made everything that me and the boys wore."

More than 50 years later, Stephens is still sewing, but her motivation has changed.

"It used to be an economical thing," she said. "Now, it's more fun."

• • •

Stephens and dozens of others take sewing classes at Bernina Sewing Center in Temple Terrace.

The center teaches sewing basics, embroidery, quilting, clothing construction and more. Classes run between $10 and $60 depending on the type of project.

On a recent Friday, Stephens and eight other women brought their own machines to an embroidery class during which they learned how to make a wall hanging.

Bernina is an international manufacturer of sewing and embroidery machines with individual dealers all over the world. Husband-and-wife team Gregor and Debra Sidler own the store.

In addition to the classes, the Sidlers offer fabric, notions and space for customers to work on projects. Their main focus, though, is selling and servicing Bernina sewing machines, and Gregor, 53, said customers travel from as far away as Tallahassee to seek his expertise.

"I'm a unique guy when it comes to the mechanics of Bernina sewing machines," he said.

Gregor grew up in his family's Bernina sewing store in Switzerland, and that shop is now the oldest Bernina store in the world. He's been working with Bernina sewing machines his entire adult life and spent time building and testing new Bernina machines.

Bernina sewing machines range in price from $849 to $10,000, and the fancier ones have touch screens, fully automatic threading, a library of stitches, and the option to load personally digitized designs directly onto the machines. Basic lessons are included with a machine purchase, and most customers buy these types of machines to facilitate their sewing hobby, Gregor said.

"It's all fun," he said. "That's the beauty of it. It's completely different from years ago when we sold for necessity."

• • •

Before the class began, Debra Sidler, who was teaching, loaded a digitized embroidery design onto each machine via a USB drive.

Class members picked out cut fabric strips in various colors and started the project.

Retired teacher Karen Waechter, 60, of Lutz, lined up her fabric inside a hoop and made sure she was stitching in the right spot.

Waechter began sewing when she was 14 or 15, and she has been quilting for 20 years. She prefers quilting to garmentmaking.

"I like the creativity," she said. "I like working with color, and I like that it doesn't have to fit."

When Jean Harrison heard other class members talking about why they like to sew, she spoke up.

"It keeps us off the street and out of bars," she said with a laugh.

Harrison, 66, of Valrico, got her first sewing machine when she was in high school. A neighbor taught her how to make a skirt when she was 9 years old.

After a stint in the Air Force, time spent running marathons, and a battle with cancer, Harrison has found herself back at the sewing machine.

She showed off a quilt with a pig on it that she had made out of various pink fabrics.

"No one's sewing to save money anymore," she said. "It's gone to a hobby is what has happened. You sew to play."

• • •

Stephens, 70, said she has used her sewing skills over the years to make baby pillows and blankets, a wedding dress for her daughter-in-law, purses, and various other items.

She took her first quilting class from Debra in 1998, and she's now leading a group effort of the Quilter's Workshop of Tampa Bay to create an opportunity quilt. The project has taken hundreds of thousands of hours to make over the past six months, she said, and it will be showcased and raffled off next year.

Though she has been sewing for more than 50 years, Stephens said she still enjoys discovering state-of-the-art techniques. Most recently, Gregor taught her how to digitize her designs using computer software to make projects like the opportunity quilt easier.

"Debra and Gregor are the best teachers in the world," she said. "Even at my age, technology is changing and everything changes. You're always learning something new."

Ashley Reams can be reached at [email protected]


No. 7 Florida finishes No. 17 Gonzaga in 2OT; No. 1 Duke up next for Gators

PORTLAND, Ore. — Jalen Hudson scored a career-high 35, including eight 3-pointers, and No. 7 Florida downed No. 17 Gonzaga 111-105 in double overtime Friday night at the PK80 Invitational. Senior point guard Chris Chiozza added a career-high 26 poin...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Region football: Plant 13, Lakeland 10

Region football: Plant 13, Lakeland 10

LAKELAND — The game — and the season — were supposed to be over.Lakeland was set to exact revenge. The Dreadnaughts had the lead and the ball in the final three minutes and were heading for a field goal. Then it happened. The magic continued.Plant’s ...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Region football: Venice 48, Tampa Bay Tech 17

VENICE — Tampa Bay Tech not only had to stop a hot receiver in Friday night’s Class 7A region final against Venice, but a hot running back as well. That proved to be too much.Indians receiver Jaivon Heiligh caught 14 passes for 193 yards and three to...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Region football: Armwood 31, Ocala Vanguard 17

SEFFNER — Armwood appeared to be on its way to yet another rout through the first 24 minutes of football Friday night.James Miller delivered a crunching hit on the opening kickoff. The defense looked suffocating, holding Ocala Vanguard to a mere 23 y...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Region football: Immokalee 42, Lakewood 14

IMMOKALEE — The final score wasn’t truly indicative of what transpired on Friday night.Lakewood fell to a dynamic Immokalee squad 42-14 in a tough environment in a Class 5A region final.The Spartans (9-2) forced three turnovers and held Immokalee (12...
Updated: 6 hours ago
State semifinal football: Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna 49, Clearwater Central Catholic 3

State semifinal football: Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna 49, Clearwater Central Catholic 3

CLEARWATER — Stocked with a wealth of Division I-A commits and prepared by a heavy-duty schedule, Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna spent three months building for Friday night’s Class 3A state semifinal game.The Lions played at another level against top-s...
Updated: 6 hours ago

State semifinal football: Hialeah Champagnat Catholic 38, Cambridge Christian 0

TAMPA — Hialeah Champagnat Catholic was well on its way to a third unanswered touchdown, but the Lions just couldn’t stop blocking their own path. In one second-quarter drive during Friday’s 2A state semifinal against Cambridge Christian, Champagnat ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Lightning attitude under fire after loss to Capitals

Lightning attitude under fire after loss to Capitals

WASHINGTON — You don’t often sense frustration in captain Steven Stamkos’ voice, at least not this season. With the Lightning off to its best start in franchise history, there haven’t been many reasons to chide. Every criticism seems nitpicky. But af...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Bucs-Falcons: Tampa Bay Times staff predictions for Sunday’s 1 p.m. game

Bucs-Falcons: Tampa Bay Times staff predictions for Sunday’s 1 p.m. game

The Bucs face the defending NFC champion in its new home Sunday in Atlanta.Here’s the Times’ Bucs coverage team’s predictions for Tampa Bay’s 1 p.m. game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium:MATTY ICE-FOLLIESRick Stroud, @NFLStroud: T...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Freshman quarterback leads Pitt to 24-14 upset over No. 2 Miami

Freshman quarterback leads Pitt to 24-14 upset over No. 2 Miami

PITTSBURGH — Miami spent the better part of 13 months cultivating the nation’s longest winning streak behind a series of comebacks that returned the swagger to "The U" in all of its "Turnover Chain" glory. Sluggish through the first half against Pitt...
Updated: 7 hours ago