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Sewing Machine Turned Musical Instrument

Today, I’m taking a departure from lingerie to share a cool, sewing related invention. Maybe it’s been done before, but I’ve never heard of it, so I’m giving the “inventor” full credit as being the first. Philip is a 28-year-old musician from Helsinki, Finland who got the idea to make a musical instrument out of a sewing machine. He’s a musician, playing double bass most of the time and has recently been focusing on folk music. So, it makes sense that he would do this. He had the idea for a long time, and when he found an old Jones sewing machine at a yard sale, he decided make it a reality. His vision was that it would function like a hurdy-gurdy, a medieval string instrument where instead of a bow, a cranked wheel “bows” the strings continuously (On bowed string instruments like the violin, the sound is created by bowing, that is “rubbing” the bow against the string. With the hurdy-gurdy or räätäliira, the turning wheel functions as the bow. In the simplest case, it is just continuously turning in one direction. The strings press against the wheel and start to vibrate by the motion of the wheel). Not handy himself, he asked two luthiers, Lauri and Mayim, to build it for him. Together, they tried out different designs and strings, and ultimately, opted for a violin fingerboard instead of the key system of a hurdy-gurdy. The instrument still lacks a proper name in English. In Finnish, they call it the Räätäliira, which is a combination of the words räätäli (tailor) and liira (lyre).

Right now, Philip is studying the instrument. Since it’s unique, he’s slowly developing a playing technique and getting to know its possibilities and restrictions. He has some ideas for improvement and even has an idea to convert other machines into music instruments. He might even for a band using these vintage machines.

Philip wants to know more about the machine. It says “Jones’ Family C.S” and “As supplied to Her Majesty Queen Alexandra” on it. Under that, it says “Factory Nr Manchester” and the serial number 140883. Can anyone help? Maybe clarify or give direction on where the machine came from?

3 Comments

  1. Reply

    Sofía

    What a great idea! My boyfriend is a musician and our house is full of strange instruments, but this one is definitely the strangest one by far! (I really hope that my boyfriend never finds out about this, otherwise he’ll run to Finland to buy it! Lol!)
    I’ve found some information about the Jones Sewing machine company here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jones_Sewing_Machine_Company It says that the machines had the sentence “As supplied to Her Majesty Queen Alexandra” on them, so I think they may be the ones that manufactured this machine! The Queen Alexandra might be Alexandra of Denmark, who married the King-Emperor Edward VII on 1863. (Yes, I’m a total nerd when it comes to History. I hope it could be of help!)

  2. Reply

    Karen

    This is a Jones cylindrical shuttle family sewing machine. If I were more computer savvy, I would share a link, but all I can do is direct you and Philip to the ISMACS website. (International Sewing Machine Association) Go to the section specifying manuals. There is a PDF for the manual of his machine. Sewing machine collectors are partial to Jones sewing machines. If you look at the some of the details on the Jones area, you will be amazed at the age of the company. The original serpentine machines are so primitive but elegant looking. Philip’s model was made in England sometime after the death of Queen Victoria. Queen Alexandra was her daughter in law and the Royal Family endorsement was very sought after in any business venture. I believe Alexandra was the great grandmother of the present Queen. That machine is about a hundred years old.
    I hope this is useful to you and Philip.

    • Reply

      Philip

      Thank you Karen! I downloaded the manual and will look into it!

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