Sew Handy has been operating a sewing machine business in Toowoomba since 30th October, 1970 (45+ years)- originally as SINGER only and later as a multi brand dealer. The business was started by Michelle Huth’s father, Alvin Huth, who has been working in the sewing machine industry since 1952.
Alvin reluctantly completed his school education in 1951 because of a need to support his family. In 1952 getting a job was just as difficult and competitive as it is today and although he applied for work in many fields he was unsuccessful in gaining the type of work he thought he wanted. He applied for and was successful in obtaining a position with Singer Sewing Machine Co. in Rockhampton as a sewing machine assembler and trainee mechanic.
The wage for a 17 yr old was 4 pound 2 shillings ($8.20). His job was to unpack and assemble new sewing machines, mostly treadle machines, for the Singer shops at Maryborough, Bundaberg, Rockhampton and Mackay and Sales and Service Reps at Monto, Biloela, Gladstone, Emerald, Barcaldine and Sarina.
New stock was ordered every 3 months from the Singer factory at Clydebank, Scotland for delivery 12 months later.
The ordering would take into account, 1 machine in 4 to be damaged in transit and unsaleable. Sometimes the 4 machines in one box were damaged. Learning the repair work was fitted in when there were no orders for new machines to be assembled and despatched.
The main repairs were the complete overhauls on old, badly worn, Singer 127K (long bobbin) ,
66K (top loading bobbin) and 15K (underneath centre bobbin). The K means the Singer machine was manufactured in KILBOWIE, a suburb of Clydebank in SCOTLAND.
The latest innovations for sewing machines in 1952 were:
- Hinged presser foot on some models
- Dialed tensions – on some models
- Reverse sewing stitch – on some models.
In 1952 Alvin thought that Singer sewing machine was a product not a Brand name. It was about 6 months after starting work that a sewing machine came in for repair that did not have SINGER on it. It was marked NEW HOME.
In 1952 the only zigzag machine available was a Singer Model 206K10 on an industrial bench with a ¼ HP motor under the bench. When the mechanic left in 1954 Alvin had to do mechanical work full time as well as supervise the assembly of new machines and give mechanical training to the new Sales and Service Reps.
1953-1958 saw the introduction of a lot of new innovations-
- Introduction of fancy disk machines
- Aluminium castings – lighter weight
- First coloured machines – green and brown
- Foot controls instead of knee controls
- First free arm machines- Singer 222K Feather weight and 320K with pattern stitches
- Removal of fancy gold and coloured decals from bases and heads of machines.
Alvin later became a Sales and Service Rep. in Rockhampton and later, all the country areas from Biloela, Theodore, Taroom, Emerald to St. Lawrence, doing sales, repairs, problem solving and tuition.
On the move
In 1958, Bill Davis, the Singer Supervisor for North Qld. who resided in Rockhampton was appointed to supervise South Australia and offered Alvin a job in Adelaide. To increase his knowledge and experience, Alvin went to SA and worked in Adelaide and surrounding areas for 4 years, managing 3 different SINGER shops. He then returned to QLD to manage 2 different SINGER shops in Brisbane. He was later transferred to Townsville to manage the shop there and later appointed Supervisor for North Queensland.
In 1970, Singer started the process of offering their shops for independent dealership. Alvin then moved to Toowoomba and took over the Singer shop as an independent business.
During the 45 years that SEW HANDY has operated in Toowoomba the business has occupied 5 different premises, the latest being the present address of Shop 11, Northlands Shopping Centre, 8 Hume St, Toowoomba. Q. 4350. Over the years, because of changes in the economy and distribution and marketing of sewing machines, many sewing machine businesses have closed and SEW HANDY has been offered the dealership of other brands.
For many years SEW HANDY has had the dealership of the following brands – Singer, Brother, Bernina, Elna, Babylock, Husqvarna and Janome, plus a range of industrial machines. This has been a continual learning curve for all of our staff who have offered demonstrations, tuition for customers, sewing classes, spare parts and accessories, minor adjustments to basic machines and major service and adjustments for the top of the range electronic embroidery and quilting machines.
As a result of the experience and training we have on all brands of sewing machines and overlockers over the last 63 years, we feel confident that we can help and advise customers with most of their sewing problems, no matter what brand or model they may have.
Always remember – we are SEW HANDY.
Alvin Huth retired from full time work in July 2015 and the SEW HANDY business is now being operated by his daughter, Michelle Huth, who has over 40 years’ experience and knowledge on all aspects of sewing machines, dressmaking and embroidery. Michelle was using her first sewing machine in Adelaide, SA at the age of three. She was given a very old sewing machine to keep and use later on but lost the long shuttle and shuttle slide plate IN THE SANDPIT. Michelle still has that sewing machine today (minus the long shuttle and shuttle slideplate.) She has always been interested in sewing, sewing machines, crochet, fancy work, dressmaking and design, patchwork and quilting.
After high school Michelle did a three year Fashion Studies course in Brisbane and then worked with a dress designer for 12 months before returning to Toowoomba. Michelle worked full time at SEW HANDY from 1981-1989, attending to all aspects of the business. In 1989 she was offered the position of Manageress in the sewing, sewing machines and knitting departments at Myer, Toowoomba.
Michelle accepted this position to gain further knowledge and experience for her passion of sewing. She returned to SEW HANDY in 1991 and has been working as Manageress until she took over the business herself in August, 2015.
Michelle has a vast knowledge of all types, brands and models of sewing machines and overlockers from the top of the range quilting and embroidery machines that will do everything (except make good coffee) to that low priced machine with the brand name that no one has heard of or is willing to repair.
Whatever the brand of machine or problem, Michelle may be able to help you –
she is SEW HANDY.