Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sewing machines are too loud.

This post is a little different than my usual ones. I just want to rant a little about how loud sewing machines are.

I like sewing when I visit my boyfriend because there is less distractions than if I am in my room. Unfortunately I don't have a separate space to sew at his place and my sewing machine (1960s Kenmore) is crazy loud. It keeps him from getting work done. It bothers me too. I've noticed that when I sew at home (1990s Kenmore), my ears begin to hurt after a while. I wear earplugs sometimes, but then I can't watch tv or listen to music at the same time. Headphones are cool but get tangled up and also start hurting my head after a while because they press my eyeglasses into my temples.

I tried searching for solutions to make a machine quieter. All the suggestions are to get it serviced (why does servicing a machine cost $100? My machines didn't cost that much), oil it, and put it on a foam mat. I went as far as checking the sound levels of the machines with a decibel meter, placed on the table next to the machine. I realize this is checking very close to the source, but while I'm sewing, my head is pretty much on top of the source too. The 1960s machine got 97 decibels, and the 1990s machine 98. This is far too loud. Prolonged exposure to sound levels like this damages hearing. I already have the hearing of someone much older than me (don't go to concerts/raves without ear plugs kids!), I don't need it to get worse.

I know there are some machines that are quieter, sometimes, maybe. The ones I used in college were eerily quiet unless you were sewing full speed. That's great and all but I sew at full speed really often. People would give me strange looks in the school's costume shop when I'd go off, pedal pressed all the way to the floor. Still, perhaps they were somewhat quieter. The problem is that these were $1500 computerized machines. I don't want to spend so much on a machine that frustrates me constantly because it has a mind of it's own and too many ways to mess it up. If I take my foot off the pedal on a mechanical machine it'll stop instantly, none of this taking another stitch business, for example, or sewing at half the speed when in reverse.

Another option that someone has suggested is an industrial machine with a servo motor. I haven't had the chance to try one so I can't say how loud they are. I could use an industrial machine, but again they're a bit pricey. I guess that's worth it to save my hearing, but with these machines the other issue is portability... and where in the world do I put this tank of a machine?? I definitely can't lug it back and forth to my boyfriend's house.

One day, I went to a sewing machine store, decibel meter in hand, and asked to try out a bunch of their machines. Some seemed quieter than others, but all ended up about the same, ranging from 95 to 100 decibels. We tried some with and without foam mats underneath. The mat made a decibel or two difference. Perhaps the difference is more noticeable from further away. In any case, my $15 Kenmore, $100 Kenmore, and all these machines ranging from $200 to $1600 reached about the same volume at full speed.

I oiled my machine because it wasn't running as smoothly as usual, and I hoped it would help some with the sound. I am assuming error in measurement, but funny that it registered a decibel louder than when I measured before oiling.

I haven't found a solution. I don't know if there is one, short of covering the machine in soundproofing materials. It'll probably overheat.

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