The priceless collection of sewing machines are mostly vintage editions.
It would be an understatement to describe homemaker Joanne Lim Lung Ching, 58, as someone who likes to collect vintage sewing machines. Judging from the impressive 15 antique sewing machines in her collection, with models from different decades and manufacturers, it is safe to say her priceless collection marks historic milestones in the sewing machine industry.
“The sewing machine has evolved since its commercial appearance in the late 18th century. From its humble beginnings where sewing machines could only sew chain stitches, it has now become one of the most sought-after items in the clothing business. It fascinates me how sewing machines have evolved over the years in terms of design, mechanism and beauty,” said Lim.
The machines – neatly displayed in her spacious living room – make beautiful pieces of memorabilia. Most are vintage hand crank and treadle models, from manufacturers such as Singer (United States), Juki (Japan), and Seidel Naumann, Mercedes and Titan Winselman (Germany). They make ornamental pieces with their intricate designs in gold, silver, red and green, resembling the Victorian era. There are also matching suitcases to hold the machines and instruction booklets, with the date of manufacture.
“The vintage machines are kept in mint condition. They are polished and oiled regularly to prevent rust and keep them in working condition. Out of the collection, nine are in working condition,” said Lim, proudly.
Lim’s interest in sewing machines dates back to over half a century ago. As a young girl, she helped her mother to stitch buttons and hem dresses. Eventually, she developed an interest in sewing and haberdashery.
“We grew up in a poor family in Jelebu, Negri Sembilan. And to save money, my mother stitched dresses for my siblings and we planted our own vegetables. From young, my mother taught me hemming and embroidery.
“Although she never went for sewing classes, my mother had a creative way of turning lovely dresses out of pieces of cloth. Her passion inspired me and eventually I moved on to cross stitch, patchwork, and quilting,” said Lim, who inherited her mother’s trusty sewing machine in the early 1970s.
Her collection comes from friends and antique shops in Malacca, Singapore, the United States and Canada. Some arrived in good condition while others were in bad shape and needed restoration. A couple of sewing machines were picked up from dump sites.
“Luckily I managed to find people who specialise in repairing sewing machines. They managed to restore the pieces to working condition,” disclosed Lim.
Lim points proudly to a vintage Singer machine – the oldest in her collection – which dates back to the early 1900s.
“It was purchased in Vancouver, Canada, in 2010. I chanced upon the magnificent piece at a second-hand store and didn’t think twice about buying it. My husband and I disassembled the machine and transported it to Kuala Lumpur in two suitcases. It was a tedious process taking the machine apart as it was very old. We had to gently remove the bracket, screws and motor pulley to avoid any damage,” recalled Lim.
Among her collection, Lim is most comfortable with her mother’s sewing machine.
“It has a sentimental feel to it and brings back good memories,” said Lim who stitches casserole carrier bags, table runners, batik patchwork dresses and patchwork pieces. Most items are given away as birthday gifts or festive presents.
Lim is planning to put her skills to good use, by teaching sewing to teenage girls at a home for underprivileged children in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur. To kick-start her charity project, Lim plans to donate one of her sewing machines to the home.
“The sewing lessons will provide the girls with an opportunity to learn a skill to help them gain employment,” said Lim.
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