Let’s be frank, how many sewing machines are currently languishing in long dusty forgotten corners of home cupboards? Not so here. In a quiet corner of Tooting Bec, perched atop an industrial sewing machine re-fitter, a collection of the quirkiest mechanical curios await the inquisitive.
By coincidence our visit was hot on the heels of the popular Great British Sewing Bee featuring the museum. With around 600 machines of historical or design interest, the rooms are a fascinating treasure trove of beautiful machines, assorted sewing paraphernalia and various Victoriana oddities.
Perfect for spending a quiet, unusual Saturday afternoon.
The collection has been put together by Ray Rushton, whose Father began selling second-hand sewing machines shortly after the Second World War. Ray began helping to transport & repair the machines, and thus his interest was born.
“Among more than 600 machines on display are the first Singer machine, a unique machine originally owned by Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, and a patent machine sent from America for the Great Exhibition.”
There are so many people whose jobs are merely a means to an end, and to see someone who loves their career this much is fantastic.
The walls seem to have inspired the shop windows of High Street brand All Saints; and our passionate guide told us that the Wimbledon Sewing Machine company (downstairs to the museum) actually supplied many of the machines to the chain.
These aren’t quite the plastic 70’s knock-offs like the one in my cupboard – the level of attention, and design evident in the machines is fascinating.
This is our guide’s, and definitely my favourite machine – a rare Lion shaped machine.
Function meets aesthetics indeed!
My thanks and hat go off to the lovely Emm in London discovering and organising our wander through – what a fantastic place off the beaten tourist track.
Put best by Caroline’s Miscellany, the “feature attraction is a machine which was given to Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter as a wedding present in 1854. Even back then, no expense was spared in its construction. The machine is covered with ornamental engraving under a silver gilt finish. It has a cut glass cover with Prussian and British royal coats of arms. The oak treadle is carved with Imperial eagles and, as a reminder of home, the stitch plate is engraved with a view of Windsor Castle. The accessory boxes and instruction manual are bound in blue velvet with gilt brass monograms and even the ivory cotton reels are carved with a crown motif”
Then, to top it off as we walked out, Madonna’s Material Girl floated out of the downstairs workshop radio.
The museum is free (they only ask that you make a small donation to the charity boxes dotted around if you can) and is currently opening the first Saturday of each month, 2-5pm. It’s perched atop the London Sewing Machine Museum, Wimbledon Sewing Machine Co, 292-312 Balham High Road, SW17 7AA, conveniently a few doors down from one of the best (unrelated) Craft/Sewing shops I’ve seen in London.