Old sewing machines and new business opportunitiesReturn
TELDAP e-Newsletter (April, 2012)
Old sewing machines and new business opportunities
e-Culture worker/PENG, Wei-Hao
Smart phones have become popular overnight and are at the center of attention, with many people believing that this technology can create limitless business opportunities and allow more money to be made. However, just how lasting are the products of technology? Products start to depreciate as soon as they are sold and are soon followed by the next product, making lots of money for the company that makes the product but emptying the wallet of the consumer who is willing to keep buying because they always want the own the latest products.
Old things can only become antiques that can’t be innovated and don’t create business opportunities. Here we will see is a film that will provide food for thought for people who like to keep up with the changing times. This is the film:
In the film the two protagonists see a bicycle and an old sewing machine in an old shop in Madrid and come up with an idea to combine these two unremarkable old things by using the bicycle to power the sewing machine, a way that is both green and provides good exercise. They draw the design drawings of the products they want to make and sew customized products according to the drawings. The products needs distribution channels, however, so the pair want to cooperate with a museum.
Actually, in earlier Taiwan every household had a sewing machine, with the “Zheng Zhuang Ba Wang Hao” the most famous brand. A sewing machine was often given as a dowry when a girl married, allowing clothes to be mended and it could also be used as a tool to add to the family’s income. In fact, it can be said that sewing machines helped create the Taiwanese economic miracle. After electric sewing machines appeared on the market, traditional manual ones faded, the main reason being was that it required a lot of effort to press the foot pedal to power the needle to use the latter type, the way not being very ergonomic and also slower than electric machines. However, old-style machine might have been slow but they were able to sew with high precision and works of art could be created by adjusting machine speed according to the desire of the operator. Many people were unable to appreciate this advantage so this skill became a dying art. Another reason for the decline of the old style sewing machines was that learning to use them was also hard and young women preferred to work in air conditioned factories, an option they didn’t have previously. In the Japanese TV drama Gegege's Wife, highly popular last year, one of the characters, Iida Fumie, is seen using a manual sewing machine, the scene reminding many older women of their youth and becoming the topic of conversation.
Have manual sewing machines really disappeared from Taiwan? Actually, they haven’t and today many older master machinists are still using them, and their relative rareness makes the works of art that are made using them expensive. Both electric and manual sewing machines depend on the experience of the machinist to create a work of beauty. Although computer sewing machines are widely used, the finished products made using them seem rigid and without any life, the main differences between computer and manual sewing machines being that using a manual sewing machine to good effect requires a high level of skill, use of the hands and produces more attractive color combinations, and also the that the special sewing machine compass rings, that can be described as the soul of the craft of sewing, are used with manual machines. Lesser skilled machinists are limited to darning so don’t need to use a compass ring. However, skilled machinists can produce a wide variety of products and even use the machine to sew a pattern, the difference being computer sewing machines need a template to be made while manual ones follows the pattern in the mind of the master machinist. Computer sewing machines are faster and can be used for mass production but making a template is expensive and products look coarse and don’t really appeal to the customer;for their part, manual sewing machine are much slower, however, the products made using them far outstrip those made using computer sewing machines in terms of color combination and freshness and appeal more to the customer. Needles and thread purchasing also requires knowledge, the choice of thin or thick needles depending on the fabric to be sewn; the thicker the fabric the bigger the needle that is used. In Taiwan all types of needle are copper needles imported from Japan and with quality that can be trusted. A good needle needs to be used with good thread and there are many types of thread, separated by thickness and material. The most common thread is made from cotton while semi-gelatin thread is only used for special uses. Cotton thread passes smoothly through the needle hole and stitches stay tight;the quality of thread material is decided by its durability when washed, poor quality dyed thread fading easily when washed and good quality thread retaining its color for a long time.
These seemingly simple things are actually a branch of knowledge. The sewing process has to be brought to life if a product is to be lifelike.
To creatively combine old and new things and interconnect needle and thread we need to consider what we have missed. In today’s information rich society in which people always pursue new things at the expense of old it isn’t easy search through our drawers and cupboards for materials that can be reused but they can be found if we look and we can also make use of old things and create new business opportunities like the Spanish designers who made the best use of an old sewing machine by playing.
Publisher：Fan-Sen Wang, Vice President of Academia Sinica Editor-in-Chief：Zong-Kun Li Publishing Department：Taiwan e-Learning and Digital Archives Program, TELDAP Executive Editor：Sub-project: Digital Information - the New and Creative Way of Communicating Mailing Address：The Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica
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Issue：TELDAP e-Newsletter (April, 2012) Publish Date：04/15 /2012 First Issue：02/15 /2007（Published on 15th every 2 months）
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