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Machines and Makers

The invention of the sewing machine in the mid-19th century fundamentally transformed how we clothed ourselves. 

While the first sewing machines were designed for use by men on the factory floor, by the 1850s individuals such as Isaac Merritt Singer realised that the domestic market was where the money was to be made. Singer developed smaller and lighter machines that appealed to middle-class women, wanting to sew clothes for their families in a fraction of the time it took to hand sew items. What is more sewing machines provided a legitimate source of income for women who found themselves in straitened circumstances.


Featuring a number of sewing machines from the collection of Parkerville local, Charles Lithgow, as well as clothing items from the MHHS’s Collection, this exhibition highlighted the ‘makers’ whose extraordinary machining skills clothed not only their own families, but also other community members. ‘A Stitch in Time’ celebrated the important synergy between machine and maker throughout the 20th century.


Machines, Shops & Sewing

The 'Calico Wall'

Sewn especially for this exhibition by Fiona Bush, a local quilter, on her Pfaff 4.2 Quilt Expressions Machine, the calico wall presented some key dates and images in the development of the sewing machine and related areas. Just as Singer's sewing machine was at the cutting edge of technology in the mid-19th century, machines such as the one used by Fiona, indicate the sewing machine is still constantly evolving to meet the needs of a changing market.


Highlighting the 'Makers'

Extraordinary machining skills

Each sewing machine displayed in the exhibition was paired with a local dressmaker from a similar time period. Alongside each short biography, an example of the 'Makers' craft was exhibited.



Hannah Selkirk and Jones' Family C.S. Sewing Machine

Now part of the MHHS's Collection, the apricot coloured dress made for Hannah Selkirk's daughter, Nelly, in 1928 was almost certainly made on a treadle or crank-handle machine. Electricity only arrived in the Hills in the 1930s. 



Alice Roberts and the Singer 99K

Made from cream-embossed crepe, Nellie Roberts' wedding dress was made by her mother, Alice Roberts, for her 1941 wedding to Walter (Gil) Langley.

The Singer 99K was made in the UK from 1911 to the 1950s. At 3/4 the size of a full-sized machine, it was designed to be portable and did not require a special table. 



Paula Jamieson and the Singer 320K

The turquoise dress displayed here was made by Paula to wear at her son's wedding in 1965.  Born Politimi Mouchtoglou in Smyrna during World War 1, Politimi and her family became refugees in 1922 due to the Greco-Turkish War. The family ended up in Alexandria in Egypt where Politimi trained as a dressmaker.  After meeting her Scottish husband, Douglas, during World War 2, Paula, as she was now known, emigrated with her young family to WA, bringing her Singer treadle machine with her.

The sewing machine also has a Scottish connection. The Singer 320K was manufactured in Scotland from 1958 to 1961. It was one of Singer's first specialist embroidery machines.



Madge Sermon and the Elna Air Electronics Sewing Machine

This lovely 1980s wedding dress was made by Madge Sermon for Dianne Rhodes in 1987. Madge grew up in Parkerville and taught herself to sew at a young age. Word of Madge's sewing skills soon spread, and over the years she has made wedding dresses and ball gowns for clients from all over Australia. In 2016, at the age of 88 years, Madge was still busy sewing wedding dresses.

And the sewing machine? The Elna Air Electrics Sewing Machine (1978) was the first sewing machine with electronics operated by a pneumatic foot control.


Past Exhibitions

Click on exhibition image for more information

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