A woman like no other! Sybille Clesle, who works with us at the BERNINA Creative Center in Steckborn, is an embroidery expert and the life and soul of the party – and the type of person you don’t run into everyday. In her courses, you can learn the A to Z of embroidery, add special presser feet to your circle of friends, or familiarize yourself with BERNINA overlockers. Sybille always delivers plenty of motivation and lots of fun. It goes without saying that, in what is the year of embroidery, a blog interview with her is an absolute must!
When has Sybille had to step out of her comfort zone, how many times has she sewn her favorite shift dress, and why was her introduction to embroidery by no means frustration-free? And which embroidery hoop does she just happen to invent during the conversation? It’s best to read it yourself!
Interview with Sybille Clesle
Sybille, tell us who you are and what you do.
I am Sybille, I’m 52 years old, I’m married and a mother to three adult children. I am a qualified structural engineer and a passionate sewer and embroiderer. I work at the BERNINA Creative Center in Steckborn, where I provide classes, among other things.
Why the transition from your career as a structural engineer to this creative role?
Having launched into my career as a structural engineer, I took an extended maternity break. At a birthday party, a friend told me that there was a job advertised at BERNINA that would suit me. Sewing and embroidery have always been my thing. I then contacted BERNINA and applied for the position in the Creative Center – and they pretty much had to take me. 🙂
That’s true actually – we couldn’t find another like you! In the Creative Center, you also provide courses. What can you learn in these courses?
With me, you can learn the A to Z of embroidery, from the first steps to the finishing touches with which you can achieve perfect results. I run the “embroidery tips” and “taster day” classes. At the taster days, for example, you can learn to overlock, familiarize yourself with special presser feet – or even start embroidering for the first time. The courses always last one day. My aim as a course leader is to have fun and teach the material in equal measure. We always adopt a very energetic and humorous approach – this makes teaching and learning easy.
What do you like best about teaching?
At the end of the day, if participants are happy with the Creative Center and leave holding a home-made textile project, I have achieved my goal. This is always a really nice, satisfying experience for me. In my courses, participants often experience ‘Aha’ moments: “Oh, that ’s how!” – sometimes seemingly challenging tasks are simpler than you think. If I can help someone get it right on the twentieth attempt, then I’m really happy.
Who taught you to sew? Maybe I have it in my blood.
My grandma was a seamstress. However, when I got into sewing, she was no longer able. Therefore, to a large extent, I taught myself to sew. I sewed many pieces based on Burda patterns, especially dresses, skirts, and jackets. I had learned the most important hand movements at school, in Home Ec class. My mother-in-law also taught me a few tricks – for example, I learned how to sew pants.
How did things progress in your sewing career?
After the birth of my children, I mainly sewed children’s things. Later, I trained at the Migros club school and also attended a school for professional sewing methods. This primarily involved the technical methods for applying details such as collars or pockets. I was simply interested in how to do it “right”. It was also an opportunity to enjoy a day out. 🙂
How did you get into embroidery?
I initially had a simple sewing machine from the local major distributor. I was given this for my 18th birthday. I later saw the BERNINA artista 180 performing embroidery at a trade fair. I think that was in 1999. The machine worked all by itself. That fascinated me. I thought about it and researched it for a year before arriving at the conclusion: BERNINA is the best product. So I settled on the artista and began embroidering with it. My first design was a card for the birth of my second daughter: an Uli Stein mouse that crept out of her hole.
What do you find so fascinating about embroidery?
It’s sitting in front of the machine and watching how something unfolds in such a precise way. I can still watch for hours when my machine is embroidering. Embroidery can be used to enhance and customize items of clothing. You can create the same dress pattern ten times – if you embroider the dress and change the embroidery design, the piece will look different all ten times.
Which BERNINA machine do you prefer to embroider on and why?
At the moment it’s the BERNINA 790 PLUS. I particularly appreciate the precise positioning function. This allows me to precisely position large borders that I’m attaching at the side. On the B 790 PLUS, I also like the large embroidery hoops, which allow you to create large patterns very quickly. And, of course, I like the precision when embroidering at a high speed. For me, it has to be fast.
How would you describe your style?
I like to use OESD Designs – this is a subsidiary of BERNINA. You can buy the designs at embroidery-online.com. I particularly like the delicate designs, especially floral patterns. I’m not so fond of the dense embroidery designs, that often sit on the fabric like blocks. Last but not least, I just fell for the OESD wall hangings. In this method, tiles are embroidered, which are then assembled into large pictures.
I also really like 3D patterns. These can be implemented using the freestanding lace technique or using appliqué. For example, I have embroidered cacti that are pieced together from appliqué shapes.
What does your home look like?
I live in an old farmhouse. Unfortunately, there is not as much space there as I would like. But I can let loose in the dining room. This is where I go all out decorating with embroidery, including five murals, which I switch around on a seasonal basis. My house also usually has something embroidered in the window.
Where do the embroidered images go when a new season starts?
Into my second sewing room.
You have two sewing rooms?
Yes. 🙂 I always sew in one of the two rooms. In this room I have the BERNINA 790 PLUS, BERNINA L 890 and the BERNINA L 860. In the other there are computers, ironing stations, and some retired machines.
What does your husband say about the rooms being used for sewing?
He’s happy enough. If it’s good for me, it’s also good for him.
What is your tip for anyone who wants to start embroidering?
The pattern, the stabilizer and the fabric must be matched – the importance of this point cannot be underestimated. It’s best to pay a visit to your BERNINA dealer and get advice. You should also definitely attend a course at the Creative Center! Of course, you can also find lots of information online. However, receiving support from an experienced person when you’re just getting started is another thing altogether.
You not only know your way around the machine, but also the embroidery software. Do you need embroidery software if you want to embroider?
If you want to be creative yourself when developing the designs, then go for it. If you’re happy working with purchased patterns, then you don’t need any software. For me, embroidery and software-based digitalization have always gone hand in hand. With my structural engineering background, I was already familiar with CAD, so I quickly and easily found my way around the software. In the case of one update, I was even able to teach my retailer a few things.
Do you have a favorite accessory?
I’m currently in a love affair with the BERNINA CutWork Tool. I work on appliqués, which are intended for use on a runner or on a cushion Because I am relatively lazy, I need CutWork to cut out the appliqués for me. That is much more precise than I could ever do by hand. My second big love is the Maxi embroidery hoop. I also like to use the Jumbo hoop – even though I can’t make full use of its embroidery area on the 7 Series machine. For me, it simply always has to be the largest possible frame. I am also a fan of the twist lock on the new BERNINA frame. Bada bing, bada boom – and you’re clamped in place in an instant!
You are considered a cross-stitch expert. How did you come to this technique?
As I already mentioned, I don’t like rigid embroidery designs. Cross stitches can be used to create large designs without them becoming heavy and stiff as a board. They remain fine and soft. My only problem: with cross-stitch designs, you can only work with the simple hoop, as it’s very difficult to position. For this reason I actually need an even larger frame than the Jumbo Hoop.
Have you also embroidered by hand in the past?
Yes, we did a lot of manual work at home, especially before Christmas when treating relatives to presents. For my godmother, I embroidered a cross stitch wall hanging, featuring in larger letters: “Geduld bringt Rosen” (patience is a virtue). I worked on it for two years – and back then I was no more patient than I am today! Which is, not at all. Luckily, it’s much quicker with the machine today.
What embroidery tricks can you share with us for instant success?
Don’t scrimp on stabilizer!
I am sure things sometimes go awry, even for a professional like you. What has been your biggest sewing or embroidery disaster?
Right at the start, when I started embroidering, I had a few frustrating experiences. Stabilizer wasn’t readily available in this country at the time. Machine embroidery was too new – we weren’t familiar with the necessary accessories and equipment. I asked about it and this was the answer I received: “Just put a piece of cotton underneath it.” Thanks for the great tip! Of course, this looked wonderful with jersey.
And when sewing?
As a young sewer, I launched myself head-first into clothing – only to discover time and again that the clothes didn’t fit when I tried them on. Over time, I learned where to add a little to a pattern and where to take some away. I think that this process is one that all sewers go through. Despite all my experience, even today items occasionally may not fit. That’s why I like to go back to my tried and tested favorites.
What do you prefer to sew and embroider?
I often wear a jersey shift dress that I vary with different sleeves, collars, necklines and, of course, embroidery designs. I switch up the fabric for a little bit of variation. As a rule of thumb, I keep around forty of these dresses in my wardrobe.
How much time do you spend working on your own sewing and embroidery?
Since I began working in the Creative Center, I have been sewing more than ever before. Because I have more opportunity to make the dresses. Self-sewn and embroidered items make a good icebreaker and provide conversation material. However, I work quite a lot, so I don’t find time to sit down at the machine every day.
Do you have any other passions? What do you do when you are not sewing?
I am a social creature. From time to time, we meet in a women’s group and have fun together. I also like to exercise. I am part of a women’s gymnastics club and participate in gymnastics festivals.
Do you have an absolute favorite sewing or embroidery project?
My final project at the school for professional sewing in St. Gallen. I sewed a really colorful skirt with a large embroidered parrot on a side panel. Prior to that I leaned more towards tone-on-tone. Had it been up to me, I would have made the skirt in gray. However, it was recommended to be more daring in my color selection. I took a lot of convincing – and I’m now really proud that I stepped out of my comfort zone.
What do you wear when sewing?
Whatever I happen to have on.
Sewing in shoes or barefoot?
Soundtrack when sewing?
Radio Top, quite loud.
Life or sewing motto?
Just for fun.
Which accessory still needs to be invented?
A huge dress-width embroidery hoop.
Where do you find inspiration?
Shopping tip for sewing fans (offline)?
The Dutch fabric market in Villingen or Freiburg.
Never again will I repeat this mistake when sewing or embroidering:
Never say never. I know myself.
Your favorite outfit right now and your favorite all-time item?
Same for both: one of my shift dresses.
What can you never be without in your fridge?
White wine and “Scharfer Max” cheese.
Favorite gadget (a sewing machine doesn’t count)?
My Thermomix. To the displeasure of my family, everything is chopped up.
Do you talk to your sewing machine?
Order or chaos in the sewing room?
Ordered chaos. When I tidy up, I can no longer find anything.
Sewing perfectionist or “that’ll do”?
That’ll do! The stitch ripper is no friend of mine.