Help right when and where you need it

May 27, 2014

I used a Bernina 750 QE sewing machine on the weekend when I was demonstrating some quilting at quilt exhibition. I’d never used this machine before, and although I was a Bernina owner for many decades, my ancient Bernina looked and played nothing like this new one. So when it came to winding and changing the bobbin I was a bit lost. No-one else on the stand could help me as none of them used Berninas (or if they did, they were much older models). So I was left to my own devices.

The supplier who lent this machine for our use at the exhibition had also supplied the manuals, but I couldn’t find them, so instead I pressed the book icon on the touchscreen display and found a world of information waiting for me!


I didn’t even think to take photos at the time, so the photo above is from one of Bernina’s YouTube videos. The book icon is on the lower (black) menu section.

When I clicked it, I was shown several boxed sections for the major functions I might want to do. I touched the box for Bobbins, then drilled down to the section I needed, which was how to remove the bobbin initially, then wind it, then thread it, then put it back in the machine. Each of these subsections had clear instructions, color photos, close-ups of the pertinent bits, and everything was scrollable by touch, just like on a smartphone or tablet. It was brilliant and I was able to solve all my problems without calling the technician over from another stand.

Help at the point of need, and for what you need… all without opening the manual.

That’s what I call helpful!

Thank you to the technical writers at Bernina who realised that getting out a manual and hunting an index takes us away from what we’re trying to so.



  1. Sewing machine manuals have been a much studied topic by technical communicators.

    Brockman wrote about Singer machine manuals in his book:

    This extended article is from the STC:


    When I bought an overlocker sewing machine many years ago I was guided by a Choice magazine article on the topic. It particularly mentioned that the Elna model had a good instruction model. These were tricky machines in the early days and this factor was important to me and I chose an Elna

  2. I love this post – it’s right up my alley because I have just started a technical writing and craft blog over at commastitcher.com. I’ve also got a Bernina and often refer to the print manual. Their index leaves a lot to be desired! I usually end up flicking through each page to find what I want. Sadly my machine doesn’t have a touchscreen display with built-in help. Happy quilting!

  3. That STC article is fascinating, Irene. I didn’t join STC until after its 1998 publication date so I missed it. I’m going to share it with some quilting buddies as the sections on the history of the sewing machine, in particular, will interest them.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. That reminds me of another good help system Winhelp! Yes, I know there will be detractors out there, BUT for all intents and purposes it was the BEST on the spot help system.

    All the glorified HTML/CSS etc. Has done little to improve on the “old” system. Yes, nice pictures and video and great fonts, sizes and colours etc. none of which really helps (pun intended).

    WInhelp provided the help you needed at the point it was needed. Now, in many cases especially with Microsoft products you are VERY LUCKY to get a suitable help “hit” when you press the help key.

    kind regards


  5. I want that job – writing manuals for sewing machines! Long time sewer of clothes (not quilting). Boy, would I have a field day.

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