I never even knew that there was such thing as the Sewing Machine Museum, but after hearing that the London Dressmaker’s Meetup Group was going along, I had to see for myself
The museum is part of the Wimbledon Sewing Machine Company premises on Balham High Street, about a 5 minute walk from Tooting Bec underground station. It was begun by the then Managing Director Ray Rushton over fifty years ago, and now has over 600 machines in it’s collection. It is only open between 2 and 5pm on the first Saturday of each month – so mark your calendars because you don’t want to miss this!
To be honest I wasn’t expecting what I found there. I thought it might be one nice little room connected to a larger business, but in reality the museum covers three rooms, and is nicely laid out. One room is for industrial machines and another holds the domestic machines. There is also a faux shop front set up, looking like a sewing machine supplier from the 1940’s or 50’s. At first it is kind of overwhelming, there is so much to look at, so I would really recommend walking around each room more than once.
Some of my favourite pieces were a statue of a lion which opens up to reveal a sewing machine, and some beautiful little carved sewing tables in which everything has it’s place. Pride of place in the museum goes to a sewing machine that was a wedding gift to Queen Victoria’s daughter. It is stunning – carved tops to the thread holders, and rich decoration all over the machine
Fittingly, shortly after this visit I ‘won’ an item on EBay, which I have been chasing for a long time. I have long wanted a Singer 201. These are the workhorses of sewing machines, probably the closest thing to an industrial machine while still being a domestic piece, and some would say even better than an industrial machine! Many were supplied as treadle machines, but with the optional motor attached these machines can stitch over 1,100 stitches per minute. Singer started manufacturing the 201 in the late 1920’s. The model I now own is probably from 1939, and would have been one of the last ones produced before Singer turned their factories over to the war effort. The Singer 201 was manufactured again after the war, and had very few design changes up until the 1950’s when the construction was changed from cast iron to lighter aluminium.
What I love about it is that it is a workhorse and yet is absolutely beautiful! The curved lines, the engraved plates, the gold decoration – everything about it is lovely to look at, and lovely to use! And what better machine for whipping up those vintage inspired pieces I so love?
For more historical information on the 201 take a look at Alex Askaroff’s article here: The Singer 201
For directions and information on the Sewing Machines Museum: