Another sewing machine design concept
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I love product design almost as much as I love sewing and fashion design-and when those topics dovetail, the love-fest is all the more intense. A few weeks ago we looked at a design concept and prototype for a sewing machine called Sue. Now, there’s another unique and spiffy sewing machine design concept–called Alto–from another industrial designer in the United Kingdom. The Alto has been entered into the 2012 James Dyson Award program (the challenge: design something that solves a problem). It is now among more than 500 other entries from 18 countries that are being reviewed by Dyson engineers.
Like Sue, the Alto is designed to make learning how to sew and use a machine easier for beginners, but it approaches this goal in a different way. The designer, Sarah Dickins, set out to simplify sewing machine use for beginners by making operation more intuitive. For example, instead of controlling the needle’s speed through a foot pedal, the user places more or less pressure on the surface around the throat plate; a touch-sensitive sensor speeds up or slows down the needle action accordingly. So the fabric’s movement through the needle and the needle’s speed are controlled in one motion. The Alto’s thread path is also much simplified; the user follows a straight, metal-outlined path from the spool up the machine’s arm and through a loop, then down to the needle. Sarah tested her prototype’s mechanism with inexperienced sewers, and she found that 50 percent of them threaded the machine correctly the first time.
Perhaps designers who do not sew lack a deep understanding of the kind of features and operation a serious sewer needs from a workhorse sewing machine, but I think the Alto is another interesting concept for a sewing machine geared specifically to the barest of beginners who may find lots of stitch options and multitudes of electronic controls overwhelming. And of course, from an aesthetic standpoint, the Alto is simply gorgeous. Its form is sleek and contemporary, but this modern element of its design is balanced by the use of natural materials such as wood (for the base) and a leather (or perhaps faux leather) veneer. New ideas are always interesting-not because they’re new, but because they present different perspectives on solving old problems.
What do you think of the Alto? What do you think of industrial designers’ attempts to redesign and simplify sewing machines for beginning sewers? Do any of these concepts have legs, or do they fall short of the mark?
The Alto has a sleek, simplified design geared toward the beginning sewer who finds other feature-rich sewing machines overwhelming and confusing. Shown here, Alto's thread path runs from the spool near the base of the arm, up a metal-lined channel on the arm's arch, through a loop, and down to the needle.
This is Alto--a prototype for a new sewing machine design entered into the 2012 James Dyson award program, created by industrial designer Sarah Dickins.
A view of Alto's inner workings. A small sensor embedded in the left-most rubber foot on the machine's base detects pressure exerted by the user on the throat plate pad and increases or decreases the sewing speed accordingly.
Simplified threading, intuitive sewing speed control, and lots of room under the arm are Alto's main attractions.