Crew

My sewing space

By popular request, here is how my sewing space is organised.

My “sewing room” is really a bay window space of our living room / kitchen combo. My main sewing table is the left triangular surface with the green machine sunk into the table. Here is a close-up of that space showing the hole:

That magazine is slightly larger than an A4, so that’s how big my actual sewing table is. Note that there is no room behind the machine or to the right of it. This is why I couldn’t have a treadle or a standard sewing cabinet – half of it would have to protrude through the wall, and I would never get it past the landlord. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The table top is made of two layers 18mm thick MDF, so it can take 20kg of a cast iron sewing machine lowered into it, with all the vibrations of the moving parts. As you see, the front ledge is also quite narrow – only 6cm – a fraction of what you get in a treadle.

This hole takes full size machines like Singer 27, 66 or 15, in standard plastic cases that measure 44cm in length, not including the ledge (there are some similarly looking cases that are longer). The cases have a ledge that keeps them firmly in their place.

I equip all my machines with the same type of motor: Sew-Tric with a 4-pin connector, so that swapping out machines is really just a matter of unplugging and lifting out.

These motors also can have a light mounted onto them – very useful. They take standard B15 fitting bulbs, and I buy super bright LED corn bulbs.

Some of these motors are rated for 220V rather than the modern 240V AC current. It’s ok, they still work fine, but they run a bit faster than expected – the pedal feels a little too sensitive. To remedy this situation, and to introduce a way to slow down the motor further, I got a variable voltage reducer:

It is a simple household unit, but it does the trick. The numbers on the display only really make sense when you are pulling current through it. Note that the knob doesn’t go beyond 220V which is ideal for my old motors – they run just that little bit smoother. The LED light appears to be rated for 110V-240V because it keeps shining at the same intensity at all these voltages. Below 110V the motor is not getting enough juice to rotate.

I found 180V-190V to be a good setting for going slow but not really at a crawl, and 130V-150V works well for stitch-for-stitch sewing – very slow even with the pedal pressed firmly. At such speeds the motor may struggle to start sewing though, if the machine is a bit stiff going.

So, this is the space and provisions for flat bed machines, and what about free arm? I hardly ever need a free arm, is the answer. It is really not difficult to sew sleeves on a flat bed machine. In tight places you would really rather need a vertical post, not a transverse arm.

However, in some very rare cases a free arm can be useful. And more importantly, it was so very popular in 1960s, that most machines had it. Of course you also needed an extension table for regular sewing, so in 99.9999% of cases you were fiddling with it rather than using the free arm.

I was lucky to find a table especially designed for free arm machines – making them into flat bed machines again.

I have two free arm machines that fit here, and I keep them for their capabilities, not for the free arm. So now they are flat bed machines again. ๐Ÿ˜Š

In late 1970s the free arm became lower and wider (and completely useless), so the space around it was now filled with a storage compartment making the machine into a portable flat bed – the same design as we see today.

This is still not that good for serious sewing though because of the 10cm drop from the sewing platform to the table. You cannot lay flat your work, it pulls and interferes with the stitching. Free arm was actually better. So of course we see sewing cabinets with especially shaped extension tables that allow you to convert your machine into a proper flat bed. I haven’t got any of those – no room.

To the right of my main sewing table is the overlocking table. It is a narrow desk – only 60cm deep. There is just enough room to the left of the overlocker to put down the work.

I also use this space for special purpose machines, like when making buttonholes.

To the right of the overlockers is the second triangular surface running along the bay window. Next to it is our dining and general purpose table – it gets used for everything.

It has extendable leaves – I usually open one for cutting material, but both can be used for particularly large projects.

As you see, things are changing here all the time, it is very much a chair dance! ๐Ÿ˜†

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11 thoughts on “My sewing space

  1. Elena,

    Thanks for all the details. I now understand how that corner is trouble for treadle machines and can see how standardising motors on the flat bed machines allows a quick change-over. I like your standard plastic bases – presumably you just have to keep a look-out for old used ones? Some machines – Jones’ Spool and Necchi Julia for example are a bit odd, so don’t fit a “normal” full size cut-out My home made sewing table has all sorts of cut-outs in odd places to accommodate those machines, but I can see your method can overcome that issue by modding just the plastic base.

    I didn’t appreciate quite how multi-functional your space has to be. You’ve worked wonders and I realise I’m very lucky to have space for a big, square sewing table. Still, until I get rid of some machines it still has to have a load of stuff under it!
    Dan H

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    1. Dan, the standard plastic bases are very easy to find – usually with a machine in them. ๐Ÿ™‚ They were very common here in 1960s and 1970s – all those Merritts and Janomes came in them, but Jones and Brother used a different base without ledges. Riccar had a similar ledged base but slightly longer, so no good, but Singer 300 through 700 series and even Futura all had shorter plastic cases – the bed of the machine was longer, so they sacrificed the storage compartment to fit it in. Those bases work too, but as they are shorter, there’s a hole to the right of the machine – not a big deal. (Not all Singers came in plastic cases, some had better wooden cases but often still with the same plastic base.)

      So these “Janome” plastic cases that I use, came in two types: hard plastic and soft resin. Hard plastic ones have a traditional rotating clip to hold the machine in place, so they never damage the paint. I prefer them for all properly standard machines based on Singer full size. However, they are fragile and when sent with a heavy machine in them and not properly secured, they often arrive damaged, sometimes beyond repair. So I prefer to buy them separately when I see them.

      The soft resin cases are of the same size but the clip is just a moulded thing that fits very snugly against the edge of the bed and slightly over it. It works fine to keep the base fixed to the machine, but when you want to flip the machine back for oiling, you have to forcefully tilt it back and the clip scrapes against the paint – not great. :-p However, because this is resin, they survive postage quite well, and most importantly – they can be easily modified. My Jones Spool, Necchi Supernova and German VS2 machines are all slightly too large, but I could adapt the resin cases for them, and now they all quite happily fit into the cut-out in the table.

      Another nice property of these cases (of both types, and also the smaller Singer ones) is that they have good solid lids with fairly flat tops – not like the bentwood cases, so these plastic ones can be stacked. And yes, the lids take another 20kg on top of them easily.

      I also have a couple of transverse shuttle machines that don’t fit into these bases – the beds are much too small. But those machines come in their own wooden bases that have a comparatively large footprint, in fact they fit over the hole in the table with a few centimetres to spare. TS mechanism is flat, they only rise 4.5cm from the desktop, and that’s good enough for sewing. So I mount the same Sew-Tric motors on them so as to use the same pedal in the main space. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  2. That is certainly one very organised space! Nice to be able to glance out of the window occasionally perhaps, and to have the natural light from it.

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    1. Yes, the window and the light are fantastic! It is North-facing, so I don’t get baked in the summer. As for the organisation, it is rarely that neat! I tidied up for the camera. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Tierney, but I don’t think of my machines as “antique” although some of them technically are (over 100 years old). But they are not here to be on display, they are here because they work well – better than the modern ones, even from the Professional range at ยฃ6,000 straight stitch only.

      Liked by 1 person

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