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This meta question is inspired by a recent A&C question: What happened to slant-needle sewing machines?

Slant-needle sewing machines used to be all the rage, and it's easy to see why: being able to see what you're sewing better is great.

But nobody makes them anymore. Instead, most modern machines have a big chunky arm hanging right over your work area, forcing you to bend your neck down to see. Why is that? Were there problems with the slanted design? Which?

There is some precedent of closing "art history" questions, which I understand: we're about how to create arts and crafts, not stylistic choices or aesthetic analysis.

Does the same apply to "craft history", in particular tools and/or methods? What limitations or restrictions are there in discussing historical tools such as sewing machines?

I will note that has established a bit of precedent for historical inquiry. To quote from a few of those questions:

  • I was liberating some old hand tools from my grandfather's shop...
  • I found this tool in my sewing kit, and I wanted to know what it is...
  • I am trying to find a tool I had a long time ago...
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Some questions about history can have a place here

As you have mentioned questions about have already done well here. Hard to use tools when you don't know what they are and what they are used for. I personally enjoy asking about antique/vintage tools. I use some as well in crafting (at least in woodworking).

At Woodworking.SE we have a tag for traditional tools. Before the advent of power tools you needed to use your hands to get the job done. People still like the use those tools and techniques in modern work. The same thing will likely apply to Arts & Crafts.

What could be on-topic?

Questions about the use, repair, maintenance of historical tools and, by extension, their crafted items should be on topic.

What should be off-topic?

Questions about industry standards and consumer trends likely don't have a place here. While it could be good trivia.... knowing these wouldn't necessarily make you a better crafter and could be a target for opinions..


If the slanted question is to be saved you could write it instead as:

What are the difficulties / safety concerns of using a slanted sewing machine compared to a modern sewing machine?

or

What are the difficulties / safety concerns of using a slanted sewing machine?

I know nothing about it but an answer could draw parallels to the modern sewing machine to help give backround.

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  • This highlights one of my thoughts, as well, while thinking about this question. Asking about a certain feature's discontinuance could highlight scarcity issues (so stock up!) or safety issues (Wait, don't use it if you have it!). Very practical things for us to know. – user24 Dec 1 '16 at 2:02
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The subjects of art history and art appreciation are generally not within the scope of this site — but this really isn't a history question.

There's an implied practical application where the user is (presumably) wondering what, if anything, happened to this particular tool and a feature they found practical and useful.

Across the Internet, enthusiasts focused on their avocation and craft (like this one) engage in a lot of "gear talk". It is often the mainstay of many sites, so let's not be too quick to discourage these types of questions that aren't strictly about "doing crafts". Asking about a tool or feature isn't really the same as asking when and why impressionism became so prevalent, or who popularized the blanket stitch for buttonhole construction.

If you think of this as an applied, hands-on site, many of these scoping issues become a bit more self evident.

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While I agree with some of the reasons for keeping questions about tool histories around but this one does not qualify. It is an interesting question but has no applied practical value.

It solves no specific problem and can only be answered speculatively without inside knowledge from the companies that actually produced the tools as to why they stopped using them.

Sure, the question could be retooled to make it more about practical issues (for example I could see how a slanted needle would be unsafe) but then its not the same question at all.

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