I just got home from a fabulous week in Chicago, attending the 125th Anniversary of BERNINA. What a legacy for this fantastic company!! Each year, BERNINA hosts an industry only event exclusively for BERNINA dealers, select quilting industry vendors, and BERNINA owned companies (Brewer Sewing, Benartex Fabrics and OESD embroidery.)
The Main Event
BERNINA University (BU for short) kicks off with an opening reception and announcement of new products. A new 4 Series was introduced this year, aimed at making BERNINAs more affordable to the “casual” quilter with many of the same bells and whistles of the high-end machines.
Beautiful 125th Anniversary quilts on display made by Amanda Murphy
BERNINA dealers and their employees attend four days of classes aimed at getting them familiar with the new product line as well as supplemental classes taught by industry experts, ambassadors, and BERNINA educators. During the time between classes, they get an opportunity to shop the vendor mall, full of booths aimed at helping them bring fresh, new products to their stores. Think of it as a mini-version of quilt market that’s more focused and engaged.
Lisa H. Calle is such a ham!! I met her at BU last year (in Las Vegas) and got to know her better over dinner this year. She’s as kind and generous as she is talented.
Ricky Tims entertained us with his beautiful musical talent at the closing gala.
(Spoiler alert!! I’m heading to Colorado later this summer to do a taping with him and Alex Andersen for The Quilt Show – can’t wait!!)
I was able to set up a booth at BU to show shop owners my brand new Fandangle Fabric collection with Benartex, along with new quilt patterns to help support the line. I was very pleased with the reception that I received. Although I had attended quilt market back in May, many of the quilt shops and dealers who attend BU don’t actually make it to market so most of them were seeing it for the first time.
As a designer, one of the best things about attending BU is getting to engage more with the shops and dealers one-on-one. Because it is a much smaller event than quilt market, there’s enough time to talk with them in-depth to explain how my new products will help their quilt shops be more successful (and of course sell more sewing machines!)
It’s All About the Education!
Everyone attending at BU is either a serious buyer, seller, or educator. Although there’s certainly nothing wrong with the more casual, social environment of quilt market, BERNINA University is a different type of industry trade show. It’s much more focused and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I sold more books, fabrics, and patterns there than at quilt market.
Workshop attendees got to practice free-motion quilting on either the Q20 sit-down longarm or the B770 QE (which is my personal machine of choice.)
I also taught a couple of workshops while I was there: two sessions of my 3 hour class, “ Conquer Your Fear of Free-Motion.” It was a little different than my regular classes that I teach for shops, guilds, and at quilt shows because I was basically teaching other teachers and shop owners how to teach my techniques from my books.
Sharing my teaching methods with shop owners at BU had two main purposes:
- It allows my methods to reach a larger audience. Since there’s no possible way I can travel to every quilt shop, the dealers can share my methods and get their own rock-star staff to share them with their customers instead.
- It helps me sell more books. Although it’s exciting for me to meet enthusiastic students when I travel or interacting with them online, there are plenty of quilters out there excited to learn how to machine quilt that haven’t yet been introduced to my easier, stress free (and fun!) way of doing things.
Student work quilted on the BERNINA 770 QE. My designs work well on any machine!
One of the best things about having a professional quilting career is getting to make new friends and solidfy relationships with people you only see at industry events. Once such person is Cherry Guidry from Cherry Blossoms Quilting Studio, a fellow Benartex Contempo designer.
Cherry been a fabric designer with the company since about 2014 I think and her style is simply adorable. It’s much different than mine but many of our colors and fabrics are very compatible. We are both passionate about business and quilting and started hatching plans for ways that we can work together in the future so stay tuned for more on that front!!
The Big BERNINA
And you thought YOUR BERNINA was big??
It wouldn’t be a BERNINA event without fun props! This larger than life BERNINA was on display in downtown Chicago as well as at the closing reception. Although I did not take any pics with it, you can check out the hashtag #BU2018 on Instagram for many hilarious and animated candids of folks with the machine!
I love wearing clothing made from my fabric and pairing it with fun matching shoes. Now it’s time to work on more fabulous fabric designs and quilt patterns to go along with them!
Since I know you’ll ask – the shoes are Fluevogs – my favorites!!
Next Year’s Show
I had a fabulous time teaching and sharing my work with fellow BERNINA enthusiasts at BU and am pleased to share that I’ve already been invited back to next year’s show. BERNINA University is an annual event that will take place again next June in Jacksonville, Florida. So stay tuned for more great things from BERNINA in the future!