A Modern Day Sewing Machine King

Though our latest issue (May/June 2017) is barely off the presses, we’ve already received numerous comments from our readers who have enjoyed part one of Alex Askaroff’s two part series, The Sewing Machine Kings.

Alex Askaroff
Alex Askaroff with his latest book

Alex is a man of many talents, including but not limited to being an author, a sewing machine engineer, and a photographer. His fascinating retelling of the history behind what is arguable my favorite type of machine is quite the page turner. Who knew??

The beautiful Wheeler & Wilson Model 8, photo by Alex Askaroff
The beautiful Wheeler & Wilson Model 8, photo by Alex Askaroff

While we all wait for the second installment of Alex’s history of The Sewing Machine Kings, I asked him a few questions about the machines he is so expert at restoring and repairing.

Diane: What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of restoring and or repairing sewing machines?
Alex: The most challenging aspect of restoring a sewing machine usually in my ‘man cave’ is that with sewing machines there is no 99%. If a machine is not perfect it will always be a problem for its operator. It is one of the reasons why it took so long to invent the sewing machine. The tolerances that you are working to are about 1000th of an inch (the thickness of a human hair). It is also one of the reasons that there are not many sewing machine engineers around.
Alex in his man cave
Alex in his man cave
Diane: What is your most treasured machine?
Alex: My most treasured machine is a Dolly Varden, made in America during the 19th Century and named after a character created by Charles Dickens. It’s not worth a fortune but the story behind it is priceless (see my blog for more info and pictures).

Diane: What is, in your opinion, the most beautiful machine you’ve encountered?
Alex: By far the most beautiful sewing machine I have encountered is which ever one my wife is holding. Failing that I would have to go for the Agenoria (see my blog on it for more info and pictures).

Diane: And finally, is there a machine that you’ve always wanted to have but is “the one that got away”?
Alex: I have always yearned after the French made Hurtu sewing machine called L’Abeille (the bee). They are super rare but oh so beautiful. When they come up for auction they always shoot way above what I have in the bank at the time. Still one day I may win the lottery and then it will be at the top of my shopping list after our trip to Venice.

Alex resides in beautiful Eastbourne on the South Coast of England, and frequently shares photos of the lovely countryside.
Eastbourne Promenade ©Alex Askaroff
Eastbourne Promenade ©Alex Askaroff
Glynde with Mount Caburn ©Alex Askaroff
Glynde with Mount Caburn ©Alex Askaroff
Alex has certainly inspired me to a new found interest in vintage sewing machines. It never occurred to me what an impact the advent of the sewing machine had on so many aspects of our daily lives. Stay tuned, part two of Alex’s article will be in our next issue!

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