This is what Tierney called my sewing room. 😁 She’s right – I tend to collect a lot of strays. There’s a theory that vintage sewing machines broadcast to each other the locations of such safe havens, so that once you get one of them in and fix her up, she sets up a beacon and others follow. 😲
Although all are accepted for treatment, only some gain a permanent residence here. Most are fixed up and re-homed, while a few are reincarnated as something else or even scavenged and scrapped… Death is a part of life, also for sewing machines. After all, spare parts have to come from somewhere.
So what is it that makes me keep some machines but not others?
That’s the easy bit: it’s got to deliver quality sewing and it’s got to be built to last – no plastic gears, please. Plastic gears are a big no-no, although not an all-out rule.
It must offer something unique, something that my other machines don’t have or cannot do. For example, sew the thinnest stretchiest jersey with a matching flexible stitch (Jones Family TS), or sew almost anything with equally excellent stitch and minimal adjustment (Adler 87), or have the craziest wide ribbon embroidery that you’ve ever seen (Vigorelli Fantasy). There must be something to set it apart, and a different decal alone is not enough, it must be a functional feature.
The machine must be nice to work with, from my point of view. I don’t want machines that put me in a bad mood, sew through my fingers (slant needle) or make me swear because the design feels illogical. It’s a personal thing and it’s completely subjective, but hey – I’m the one sewing! Sewing is my happy place and I only want happy machines. 😊
Yes, we’re vain here! Girls will be girls even at 130, and we want our hair in curlers, our nails done and a pretty frock to wear. Elegant lines and decals, pretty colours and shiny fixtures – we care for that, too!
That is not to say that all my machines have to be in pristine condition, not at all! In fact most of them are in a rather worn condition after a life of work followed by neglect. But I clean them up, polish them up, put new decals or embellishments here and there – and we’re looking pretty again.
My sewing room is not a factory floor, and I like arts and design and probably too many knick-knacks. Who cares! It’s how I like it. Victorian shabby chique. What do you mean – there is no such style? 😆
Fit into the room
This is a tricky one – of course you can fit anything you like, but as the space is limited, you have to choose. I love those large Victorian parlour cabinets opening up to create a whole sewing studio with a large table and lots of drawers and of course a sewing machine. But I have no room for that! And I don’t find it practical to have to convert it back and forth every time. Instead, I prefer everything ready to use at any moment.
No Victorian parlour cabinets then.
Another point is that I like my machines to be flush with the table – sunk into the table. A small rise of a few centimetres is acceptable but really no more than that. Not 10cm that we find with most machines – they need that depth to accomodate the mechanism under the bed. I also like to be able to swap out machines as necessary, so I have two sewing spaces with a table top cut-out for a standard plastic case.
So every machine must fit into one of these cases.
As an exception, transverse shuttle machines are allowed to keep their own cases because they have a low rise – the mechanism is quite flat.
But Jones TS came with a whole table top, and suddenly I have a TS machine that is flush with the table!
Live in the modern world
This probably should have been at the top. My sewing room is for sewing, it is not a museum. If I cannot get needles and bobbins to use with a machine, and if I cannot mount a motor to it, I won’t be using it. This is why I adapt old machines to use modern needles – not necessarily the “standard domestic” 15×1, but anything that’s readily available. No, not as a special order in boxes of 1000, but off the shelf in boxes of 10. This is why the only way I can use Mason’s Defender is with a Jones shuttle that takes standard VS bobbins, not the super-rare ones with a hollow tube.
One exception to this rule is Adler 87. It is my main machine but it uses proprietary donut-shaped bobbins similar to Wheeler & Wilson’s D9 but larger. I’ve got some but not enough. I would normally shy away from this machine (it also uses weird needles), but the quality and performance are so good, that I found it worth while to revive it. I shall be replacing the needle bar later (I have a lot of those old needles), but for now I ordered 60 reproduction bobbins for it – 3D printed based on the original. There will be a separate post on that once they all arrive, but the trial ones were excellent.
The bottom line is: a modern solution has to be found if the machine is to be used. One needle and one bobbin is really not enough!
And the others
But sometimes I just like the look of it… 😯
Some machines are simply on display and are not being used. Usually because they haven’t been done yet. Sometimes because I just like to look at them, even though I decided I wouldn’t be using them. I try to have most of my machines on display, so that they please the eye as well as the hand.
Someone said that you should only keep things that are either useful or beautiful. Old sewing machines are both! 😃