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By Alex I Askaroff

 

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Mother of Pearl sewing machines

Japanning

 

  Main Index                           Skylark Country                   Books by Alex Askaroff

 

 

 Alex I Askaroff

 

 

 

Alex has spent a lifetime in the sewing industry and is considered one of the foremost experts of pioneering machines and their inventors. He has written extensively for trade magazines, radio, television, books and publications worldwide.

 

Over the last few decades Alex has been painstakingly building this website to encourage enthusiasts around around the Globe.

 

 

See Alex Askaroff on Youtube   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-NVWFkm0sA&list=UL

Most of us know the name Singer but few are aware of his amazing life story, his rags to riches journey from a little runaway to one of the richest men of his age. The story of Isaac Merritt Singer will blow your mind, his wives and lovers his castles and palaces all built on the back of one of the greatest inventions of the 19th century. For the first time the most complete story of a forgotten giant is brought to you by Alex Askaroff.

 
 

Mother of Pearl sewing machines

Japanning

Many early sewing machines were covered in a tough black gloss, a process known as japanning. A black liquid was applied to all the surfaces of the sewing machine then baked in an oven to harden. Japanning has proved to be one of the best ways of protecting the cast iron sewing machines with a luxurious and hard wearing surface.

Guess where Japanning originated? If you did not guess Japan go and sit in the back of the class for a hour! Actually although the Japanese perfected the black shiny coating it was popular in Asia and China for centuries, basically as decoration for pots and other objects. Even the Egyptians used a form of japanning for preservation of bodies.

Recipe for Japanning

Originally Japanning was a mixture of naturally occurring substances such as turpentine oil and Ashphaltum but a petroleum based coating soon took over in the sewing industry.

Early mixtures were not all the same but here is one recipe, Naples Asphaltum, Gum Anime (from the Jatoba tree) and linseed oil. Basically you boil the lot up for a few hours then dip the item (you want covered in it) and allow it to dry. Sometimes the mixture was darkened with finely ground charcoal or something similar. Sewing machines needed several coats of Japanning to give them hardwearing protection and each coat was baked in an oven for hours before repeating.

Mother of Pearl

Now, after japanning sewing machines were decorated, some with gold leaf, some hand-painted, some with transfers and decals. But also some had Mother of Pearl, which was hard wearing and looks beautiful. It made the few sewing machines that were chosen for 'pearling' more a thing of beauty than just an object of work.

The Mother of Pearl was mainly made from several natural shells such as Abalone, edible sea snails, oyster shells, Nautilus shells, nacre and many more. They have a similar makeup to oyster pearls and shimmer with an iridescent light. Mother of Pearl is also extremely hard wearing.

The Superba High Arm sewing machine circa 1890


The main bed display was Mother of Pear and gold decoration. Nearly all the early sewing machine manufacturers used MOP for their best machines.

 


Even on this worn bed you can get an idea of how the Mother of Pearl shines through lifting the black of the Japanning

Craftsmen cut out delicate shapes in the pearl shells and stuck them, in many designs, onto the sewing machines. Then several coats of japanning are added, completely covering the Mother of Pearl.

After baking and cooling several times the laborious task of scraping and polishing down the japanning took place, until the Mother of Pearl was revealed. This task can take up to 20 hours of polishing but leaves the Mother of Pearl and the black japanning perfectly level. The Mother of Pearl shines out of the blackness like stars in the night sky.


Singer did not get left behind with Mother of Pearl and if you paid the price you could have one of their model 12 machines beautifully decorated.

The whole machine is then decorated with gold, (around the Mother of Pearl). The result is a stunning piece of work looking more like jewellery than a machine meant for use. Only the most expensive sewing machines had Mother of Pearl added as the time, work and cost was enormous.

By the 1890's with labour costs rising it became uneconomical to add MOP to sewing machines and the decoration slowly faded out in the sewing machine industry. The heyday was 1870-1899.

Today you get plastic. What a difference.

 

 

 Books by Alex Askaroff

Most of us know the name Singer but few are aware of his amazing life story, his rags to riches journey from a little runaway to one of the richest men of his age. The story of Isaac Merritt Singer will blow your mind, his wives and lovers his castles and palaces all built on the back of one of the greatest inventions of the 19th century. For the first time the most complete story of a forgotten giant is brought to you by Alex Askaroff.

News Flash!

Alex's books are now on: www.crowsbooks.com

Both books, Sussex Born and Bred, and Corner of the Kingdom
 are now available instantly on Kindle and iPad.

      

 

               Paperback copy UK                   Europe & UK Amazon digital download         US Amazon digital download   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the digital instant download via Amazon click on the books above, the left book is the hard copy UK.

 

 

Well that's it, I do hope you enjoyed my work. I have spent a lifetime collecting, researching and writing these pages and I love to hear from people so drop me a line and let me know what you thought: alexsussex@aol.com.

Also if you have any information to add I would love to put it on my site.

 

 

 

 

All Alex's books are on: www.crowsbooks.com

Alex's latest Book: Tales from the Coast

Fancy a funny read: Ena Wilf  & The One-Armed Machinist

A brilliant slice of 1940's life: Spies & Spitfires


Alex's stories are now available to keep. Click on the picture for more information.

 

 Skylark Country

See Alex Askaroff on Youtube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-NVWFkm0sA&list=UL

 

Sir Sewlot, protector of the Sewalot Site

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CONTACT: alexsussex@aol.com  Copyright   

As a new collector I have found your site has increased my knowledge in a short time to a degree that I couldn't have imagined.
Thank you again for all the useful information you give freely to us.
Kind regards
Brenda P