Home Various Alto Sewing Machine by Sarah Dickins.

Alto Sewing Machine by Sarah Dickins.

by Andreas Rekopoulos
Alto Sewing machine Sarah Dickins

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.”

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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!

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Nancy Avena 30/09/2014 - 19:03

The sewing machine is absolutely awesome. If you need to have a tester I. Sure will volunteer.

Brenda 01/10/2014 - 22:17

Very interesting machine, I have collected sewing machines for years and this is very exciting. Would love to see this in person. I have been sewing and quilting for years

Shelly 02/10/2014 - 06:56

Beautiful design. I sew on a home sewing machine nearly everyday and I would love to try this machine.

Jean 02/10/2014 - 14:16

I would love this machine! Beauty and practicality in one simple, ingenious design.

Marjorie 02/10/2014 - 16:29

I love this machine. I own many machines from the 1940’s to the most modern computerized and robotic machines. I spend hours daily stitching and watching my machines stitch. This is truly everything one needs. It is delightful ergonomically, functionally, and aesthetically.

Terri 02/10/2014 - 16:55

The sewing machine is a beauty! I have been sewing for 40 plus years and have a few machines. One machine I use and the others because I like the machines, but nothing is like this beauty. I would love to own one of these machines.

Gail 02/10/2014 - 19:07

Can u buy this and how much. Love the looks of it.

Alexander Grace 03/10/2014 - 02:07

Wonderful design. Simple, clean and beautiful. I’d love to test one!
This looks like it could be the solution to some of the more difficult
small curves I sew so often.
Can’t wait for the machine to be available to we sewers!

Christina 03/10/2014 - 05:11

Love this machine! I sew heirloom garments and make quilts and this would be wonderful for classes and retreats. It’s simplicity reminds me of the Singer featherweight.
My 12 year old daughter loves it too and wants one! She has made several large quilts and loves making clothes.
When is it going to be in the market place?

Chris Weiland 03/10/2014 - 06:03

Does it do other stitches besides straight stitch? Where are the controls for stitch length/width?/tension? Where are any of the controls? It’s a lovely looking machine, and I like the idea of pressure sensitive stitching as well as the increased space to the right of the needle, but designing a machine based on the assumption that it’s too hard (for women, presumably) to learn how to use a standard sewing machine is absolutely absurd! If you have a manual and you can read, you can learn how to use a sewing machine or most any other machine for that matter! If this machine is only for beginners and doesn’t “grow” with its user, then once it goes on the market, you’ll see a hell of a lot of them on eBay for re-sell eventually.

Joyce Freeman 03/10/2014 - 07:47

As I get older the space I live in gets smaller. This would sure solve the problem for me. I’ve always loved making quilt tops and have just about given up. Why? No room to leave my sewing machine out!

Melanie Rivers 03/10/2014 - 16:49

I have been ‘eyeballing’ this machine for months,but couldn’t find any information on availability. I think It is Beautiful! And if I could afford it, would love to own one….I know it’s from Australia, so not sure it’s available in the states…So sleek in texture and design and simple artist friendly…I think will be a big hit, especially with the quilting community…Bravo!

Catherine Kelly 04/10/2014 - 03:59

I would love to own such a beautifully designed and crafted sewing machine – bravo.

Judith 04/10/2014 - 07:13

I’m one who finds other machine intimidating. I’d love to see this one in the U.S. market at an affordable price. Any chance of that happening?

maxine 04/10/2014 - 11:38

Looks stunning but Iam aweful for get my head to close when sewing and that arm at the front would be a bit dangerous if I got to close.

Maria 22/09/2022 - 16:21

I’ve has a sewing machine since I was 15, this Alto looked very exciting, love to see it in action

Jasmine 04/10/2014 - 20:34

When will Dyson make this available for pre-order?…I’d like to get one for my non-sewing daughter….

Jasmine 04/10/2014 - 20:38

From the look of the plate and foot, it appears to be straight stitch, I think the purpose of this machine is to transition non-sewers into sewers…I’m sure they’ll start working in the goodies one the base model has had some public test time and feedback…It might pry me from being a Husqvarna (Viking) loyalist……

Peggy L 08/10/2014 - 06:39

Congrats! What a machine, beautiful to look at, easy to thread and easy to control. Absolutely fantastic design. I hope it gets past the prototype phase soon!

Bobbie Andrews 12/10/2014 - 03:03

I would love to give one of these machines a test drive! Let me know I you need someone to test it out! Love it!

Melissa Soto 12/10/2014 - 08:04

I really like the no nonsense design of this machine. I would love to own one and would love to be one of the first testers it not one of the first owners of this machine. Does it have other feet that comes with it?? Let me know when you put it on the market. Thank you for a new design that is innovative and neat.

Lynn 13/10/2014 - 15:26

It looks great . How do add bobbins or wind them?
I also would like to be a tester. I have been sewing since I learned how to in Home Ec class back in the day..

laurelcollier 14/10/2014 - 03:56

Absolutely LOVE! I would love to play with that machine! I wonder if free motion quilting would be a possibility.

Lesley Thomas 16/10/2014 - 03:23

Where can I get one?

Alice Posey 19/10/2014 - 09:35

So interesting!! I would love to test it!! I love the simple elegant design.. looks like it would work wonderfully in thread painting and free motion quilting designs! I have sewn with machines for over 70 years and this looks like a great machine.

Josie-Anne 02/11/2014 - 20:13

Wow! This inspires me to sew.. I love the design!.. As for comments on this not “growing” .. That suits me fine. Some of us just want the basics! Easy to use machine. Ready to go when you are! Interested in knowing the price of such a beauty though?

chris attwell 03/11/2014 - 15:04

where can you se this machine its great

Virginia Duppenthaler 14/12/2014 - 17:35

Form follows function here with state of the art beauty. I want this for my son’s homes. I am too far gone with Baby Lock machines, but men re-purposing garments in a family is so cool.

Janelle Chapman 02/05/2015 - 10:23

When and where can I get one… It looks beautiful and I love the sewing space.

Viking Mom 02/11/2015 - 18:12

I really hope this is available soon! It is just beautiful in every way.

Danielle Puentedura 14/11/2015 - 16:32

I love it and want one!

Grace Bachmann 17/01/2016 - 23:00

Where can I find one of these machines? I want one

Sarah 25/02/2016 - 07:21

Where do you buy the Alto?

Lynne 16/05/2016 - 12:48

When and where may I purchase this lovely machine? As a person with compromised ablilties I believe this machine is perfect! What a great design!

Lynne 16/05/2016 - 12:49

When.and where may I purchase this machine?

Jill 25/04/2017 - 07:30

Is this machine coming out anytime soon? I’d love to try it out. The style is so beautiful.

Kim Elliott 29/06/2017 - 08:30

Is this machine available to buy now? If not, when shall we expect it’s arrival? How exciting, much anticipation from me.

Leah 30/07/2017 - 22:50

Are these machines available for purchase? Can one get some info on it?

Rain 03/08/2017 - 09:10

It’s been over three years since this article, so I’m guessing this isn’t going to make it out the gate. Too bad, nice concept.

Sree Bhavani 23/02/2018 - 06:17

I have to know all the details of the alto Sewing Machines. Cost and where to purchase this machine

Wendy West 04/01/2019 - 18:56

Where are these machines available to see and purchase. I’ve never seen a machine like it. I would like more information. I have been sewing and quilting for years.

Heather corr 18/03/2019 - 03:08

What a wonderful machine I would love one not complicated just what I need well done

Judi Small 03/05/2019 - 14:25

Please tell me how to get this this is amazing I have several antique machines not the least of which one is dated 1887 I must have this to go with my collection and to help modernize my sewing

Mary Eckersley-Fielding 09/06/2020 - 12:53

What a beautiful piece of design …..Would love to be a machine tester for one of these.

helena 09/06/2020 - 14:45

bardzo cenie estetyke,ale rowniezfunkcjonalnosc. najwazniejsza bedzie ilosc najrozmajtszych stopek do szycia,ktore beda sterowac jak komputer szwami nie tylko w prostej linii ale rowniez w okraglych liniach do samodzielnego obszywania dziurek i roznych zaokraglen do haftow.jeszcze z dodatkiem do komputerowego sterowania .wowczas bwdzie to wspanialy fenomen pod kazdym wzgledem doskonalosci estetycznej,funkcjonalnosci bezblednej i szybkosci.

Pauline Taylor 16/01/2021 - 09:17

I think you’ve nailed it with your research, I’m a teacher and almost six weeks of our course is threading and re-threading machines. Home sewers will love it, as it’s much less clunky than a typical design, it’s shape has made a natural handle to lift and move it around as a lot of sewing at home means machines are stored due to space issues, but you probably wouldn’t want to hide this….it’s beautiful.
My dad was a manufacturer and Pattern Maker and I’m a pattern maker, I’ve been around the rag trade all of my life and seen loads of machinery, aside from some vintage singers they never seem to design anything pretty, this is lovely! I hope it gets to market

Sarah 29/05/2021 - 12:19

I want to buy it. How do I go about it


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