100 machines spanning 100 years of history.

Behind a shopfront in Darwen Street, Blackburn, lies a mini museum capturing 100 years of textile history.

Hobkirk Sewing Machines is home to over 100 hand operated and treadle sewing machines, dated between 1850 and 1950.

The collection belongs to Peter Hobkirk, chair of the family-run Blackburn business. The one stop shop for sewing enthusiasts was founded in 1903 by Peter’s grandfather William.

Peter said: “It’s great for Blackburn to have something so unique. I don’t think there’s anything like it outside of London and some of them are quite valuable.”

Peter started collecting the decorative machines in the 1950s while working in sales and admits that it was a lot more difficult before the introduction of the internet and online auction sites.

He said: “Old machines would be traded in and I’d keep my favourites. I have also been to auctions here and overseas.

“The oldest machine in the museum is an antique Grover and Baker American machine with two spools dating back to 1850.

“People were sewing by hand right up until about 1850 so this was one of the first domestic sewing machines. The latest machine in the museum is a Jones Sewing Machine dating back to 1960 before they were taken over by Brother.” 

The Hobkirk sewing machine museum was opened in 2015 by Great British Sewing Bee host Patrick Grant but Peter is keen to show more people his treasured collection.

Peter added: “The machines were easy to sell, but there was a lot of competition. A lot of the machines were emblazoned with quite interesting design and they are all different in terms of design and pattern.

“The hand cranked sewing machine and treadle machines were revolutionary – saving hours compared to hand sewing. All the machines in the museum only sew straight stitches.”

Peter said trends have changes a lot over the past six decades. It’s quite a vibrant market at the moment. When the Great British Sewing Bee was on television last year people were queuing out of the door. Programmes like that are great because of the interest it generates. It makes sewing and creating your own garments more accessible.

“People like the fact that they can buy a pattern they like the look of, choose one of the 2,400 fabrics we sell, and then personalise it with accessories,” admits Peter.

The shop runs sewing classes and people travel from all over to visit.

Peter said: “We have a personal approach when it comes to customers. All our staff are trained and know about the products we sell and no one else sells the range that we offer. It really is a one stop shop for sewing equipment.”

©2023 Blackburn BID

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