The Alto sewing machine by Sarah Dickins is a revolutionary sewing machine, aiming to make sewing and mending clothes fun, easy, and stylish.
It is the result of Sarah Dickins’ participation to the design competition by the James Dyson Foundation, challenging designers to come up with innovative home appliances. The James Dyson Award is part of Dyson’s mission to encourage emerging designers to “create, challenge, and invent.” Just like James Dyson himself did many times in the past. Its brief is simple and concise: Design something that solves a problem. The Alto Sewing Machine concept received very positive reviews from the experts, and an even more overwhelmingly positive response from the end users.
Sarah Dickins took issue with her generation’s careless relationship with clothing, which is more frequently tossed than mended, and decided to come up with a sewing machine people will love using. She designed the Alto sewing machine by means of the most scientific method an industrial designer can employ. She developed her design based on the actual needs of the users, after documenting them. Prior to designing the Alto she thoroughly interview users, in order to understand the shortcomings of the current market offerings.
This study uncovered that the popularity of sewing machines is dropping mainly because inexperienced users find it hard to operate a sewing machine. The learning curve of operating such a machine efficiently is steep, thus discoursing novice users. A series of usability factors had to be taken into account in order to design an innovative product that performs well and is easy to use at the same time.
According to Sarah “Beginners often get ‘lost’ whilst threading the machine and find coordinating the foot pedal and fabric movement difficult when controlling stitch speed. A lack of room for fabric on the right of the needle and poor visibility of the sewing area were also highlighted.”
Sarah Dickins’ solution to the decreasing popularity of sewing and mending is a product that not only demands to be placed in full view but also offers ease of use and simplified manipulation for novices.
The Alto sewing machine aids the novice user with an array of innovative features. A metal guide that runs from reel to needle, for instance, makes threading a breeze. The problem of foot/pedal and fabric movement coordination gets solved with force sensor technology. Sensors in a rubber foot underneath the machine allow the beginner to control the speed from whichever hand position they find most comfortable. In addition, a flexible drive shaft replaces the traditional pulley system to create Alto’s distinctive arching form, increasing the available sewing workspace and improving visibility.
Feedback from the Alto prototype’s trial run says it all. Volunteers described the experience as “very natural,” or “doesn’t need as much coordination” most of them agreeing that “you automatically know how to use it.”
We would add that besides its functionality the Alto Sewing Machine also features exquisite aesthetics. Warm materials and a retro-modern style make this a sewing machine that you will never want to hide inside a cabinet. Instead, you will want to leave it exposed on a table so that it will compel you to create.
The Alto sewing machine by Sarah Dickins is in prototype stage for now, yet we sincerely hope to see it in production soon. Well done indeed!