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. 😉
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. 😊
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! 😆