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Lifestyle: Life in the Sew Lane

Insights by Cyndy Kitt Vogelsang fromAnne Bonny’s Locker, 392 Burwood Road, Hawthorn

Seamstressing was once seen as survival job, often taken by unmarried women at a time when their career options were miniscule. Nowadays, a growing number of crafty types like local enthusiast, Cyndy Kitt Vogelsang, are reframing needlecraft as a holistic hobby with many benefits including social connectivity, sustainability and good old fashioned fun.

Do many people still sew?

Yes, but it is far more a pleasure and leisure activity than it was in the 20th century when sewing was considered a basic life skill. In the 21st century patchwork quilting and costume making (cosplay) are popular hobbies, but there are a growing number of people who want to learn to sew and mend clothes because they want to free themselves from “fast fashion” for ethical or aesthetic reasons. Other people are more interested in the mental health benefits of needle craft and creative mending of clothes. I am a passionate supporter of the make & mend movement and love sharing my passion and knowledge with others. I offer individualised tutoring in basic sewing through to advanced garment making. I facilitate “Make & Mend” sessions for small groups so they can be assisted to finish projects they may have started in formal classes or on their own.

What is the appeal of a vintage sewing machine?

Simple mechanics built from solid cast iron and steel that has stood the test of time. If a machine is still working after over half a century, then it is not going to break down anytime soon and they are relatively easy to service or repair; many people love to service their own machines, and I offer basic tutorials in vintage sewing machine care, but there is a sewing machine technician who runs his own business from the rear of my shop. Sadly very few of the light weight plastic domestic sewing machines of this century were made for durability. Very few people will ever need all the fancy stitches, 95% of the sewing most people will do, will be straight stitch.

What are some of the advantages of sewing on a hand crank or treadle powered machine?

Treadle powered sewing is a far more mindful way to sew, the rhythm and sound is very calming. I started my working life on high speed industrial sewing machines over 40 years ago, and I still use them when I have to but I enjoy sewing with treadle power far more and find it is far more creatively rewarding; I do all my free motion embroidery on a 90 year old treadle powered sewing machine. Although you may think you don’t have space for a treadle sewing machine, many enclosed treadle cabinets are quite compact when the machine is packed away, and with the treadle action hidden away inside the cabinet it can double as an attractive bedside table or writing desk when not in use. Hand crank allows for more precision and provides extra torque when sewing items that may be technically too heavy for the machine.

Other people like the ability to take a smaller hand crank sewing machine with them when camping or caravanning, or even when attending some quilting retreats. But most importantly, learning to sew on a hand cranked machine is far more intuitive than one with a motor, so novices find that while sewing at a slower pace they learn faster; when I teach novices to sew, I start them on a cranked machine for that reason.

Since 2008, artist, poet and seamstress, Cyndy has been collecting and researching sewing machines made prior to 1960 and has a mini sewing machine museum at Anne Bonny’s Locker. She also uses this space as a workshop, as well as to educate people about the machines and offers the opportunity to use a hand crank or treadle sewing machine.

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