Or should I say “SEW What” is inside the Flour Mill?
Because that is the name given to the extraordinary exhibit of sewing machines housed within those walls!!
This sewing machine museum is the only one of its kind in Australia and is run by the very welcoming and knowledgeable husband-and-wife team, Wayne and Judi McKail. Their enthusiasm and passion for sewing machines and their history, is contagious. Not that I need any encouragement! As many of you will know, I’m a wee bit crazy about vintage toy sewing machines – and since meeting Wayne and Judi – I’m now a whole lot more crazy about the ‘grown up’ versions as well!!
Would you like to take a tour with me? The display encapsulates a Century of sewing machines, and when you head up the stairs you are greeted with a wall of 1950s – 1970s classic gems:
Don’t you just love the colours? I especially love the green and blue Pinnock machines third shelf up from the bottom right. I had to have a giggle because my very first sewing machine is part of this exhibit. No it’s not the pretty egg-shell-blue number, it’s the ugly brown Husqvarna sitting on the floor! (A little anecdote: I took my Husqvarna machine to a workshop class given by the renowned Kellie Wulfshon of Don’t look now, having just had it serviced by an elderly gentleman who lives in the hills nearby me. He was a lovely old chap who worked out of his shed and smoked a pipe. Having retrieved my machine before heading straight to the workshop, it wasn’t until I was sat in class among all the other snazzy dazzling white sewing machines that my nose was alerted to the wafts coming from my own very brown and dank looking specimen. It stank to high heaven of tobacco! I had a little giggle to myself wondering if the ladies there had visions of me sat at home with my sewing machine in a shabby chic apron while puffing away on a pipe!)
These Singers were the workhorses of the 50s. Not industrial but still strong and sturdy enough to hold a size 20 needle and sew through leather. Do you recognise them from your childhood?
I love the Gold crinkle finish on this little beauty – a 98k produced in 1963.
This is one of my favourites! An Elna Grasshopper – and doesn’t it just look like one?! I believe that the metal arm you can see that resembles the grasshoppers legs, is a knee lift. This is a highly sought after machine today because I’ve been watching them for quite a while on eBay and they go for a pretty penny. Just love that 50s font on the logo!
Talking of 50s… how much more art nouveau can you get than this Zundapp made in Germany? How gorgeous is that colour… that shape? And the case?! Superb design! Zundapp actually specialised in manufacturing motorbikes and scooters – and as a manufacturer of sewing machines they weren’t alone – there are many that make cars or other engineering products, like Husqvarna for example.
Okay we’re heading further back in time now… we’re not talking vintage, we’re talking antique.
I just had to share this photo first because it is of my most favourite machine. It’s a New Home made in the USA, circa 1890. My friend and I were given a guided tour by Wayne – who was incredibly generous with his time and knowledge – and he also very kindly allowed us to handle the machines and turn the cranks. This cast iron babe turned over like I’d imagine a Rolls Royce would. So smooth… I fell in love instantly!
This gorgeous piece of engineering and craftsmanship is a Frister & Rossman. See the marquetry in the base and on the lid sat behind the machine? “They” (whoever ‘they’ are) really don’t make them like they used to, do they?! I was intrigued by the ornate painting and decals on these items. Wayne explained that only the really old machines (prior to and around the 1900s) were painted. Most others have decals. The way to tell the difference is to take a close look at any areas where the colour has rubbed off and worn away. If the surface is painted then the original colour paint beneath (usually black) will be evident. However, if there is a decal, there will be some silver colouring beneath the worn-out design – because a silver decal was applied prior to the colour which was adhered on top. I hope I’ve explained this clearly.
Now for ornate craftsmanship… just check out the mother of pearl inlay on the sewing bed of this old Singer (circa 1873):
There are clearer photos of this machine on the Flour Mill Gallery website.
This machine is described as a ‘Fiddlebed’ due to the shape of its base!
The Gallery is also home to a comprehensive collection of Australian-produced sewing machines, including the one above manufactured by the pioneering Ward Brothers.
I love the shape of this Duke of Wellington machine. Most of the paint has worn off but the Duke himself still sits proud as punch in the centre of his bed!
Another old relic – a Wilson & Gibbs. All of these machines are in working order, it’s amazing to see them in action. There is also an exhibit of industrial sewing machines – all in working order – together with the very oldest hand-held sewing machine, located on the ground level of the building neighbouring the antique centre. Wayne and Judi sell a few vintage and antique sewing machines in the antique centre too!
Okay, I know I’ve shown you lots of photos and I’m aware that there may be too many for one post so I shall leave you with just two more pics of my favourite toy sewing machines. The toys are located in what Judi and Wayne affectionately refer to as ‘the nursery’:
My all-time-favourite vintage toy sewing machine taking centre stage – the Palitoy - dated as you can tell my its classic art nouveau shape – 1950s! The black toy machine on the left is a Comet, manufactured in England in the 40s- 50s. I am fortunate enough to have one of these in my collection – as you can see in my birthday post, here.
However, I do not have either of these German (Muller) toy machines in my collection – and how I would love to! Dated circa 1880s, to give you an idea of scale the little machine in the background would measure approximately 4 inches high.
Well, that’s my brief tour of a splendid exhibition. If you visit Victoria and are crazy about the history of sewing machines, I just can not recommend this place highly enough! You can visit online here to get full contact details. Even if you’re not planning a visit any time soon, there are some wonderful photos on the website.
If you have any tales or memories of your first sewing machine experiences you’d like to share – then I’d love to hear about them!
I’ll leave you with this final image I’m quite fond of, having played around with photo-editing software for a while.
Till next time! Hugs! Vikki xo