22 October, 2004
MAHWAH, N.J. – Irish Dancing burst onto the scene in the late 1990s when Michael Flatley thrilled audiences with his lightning footwork in Riverdance. Now another star is making a name for itself in Irish Dancing circles, and like Flatley, its performance is being noted for speed and precision. The Janome Sewing Machine Company recently discovered that its Memory Craft 6500 Professional model is becoming the machine of choice among Irish Dance dressmakers around the globe. The machine, which was designed to bring professional sewing speed, power and precision to the home user, turns out to have the ideal characteristics for making the labor-intensive solo dance dresses of Irish Dance competitions.
The incredible dresses used in competition Irish Dance cost from $1,200 up to $2,000 and require weeks of intricate appliqué along with intensive sewing on heavily stiffened material. Soon after its release, news of the MC6500P spread quickly through Irish Dance chat groups on the Internet. The word was out regarding the machine’s speed (up to 1,000 stitches per minute), quiet power and extra large sewing bed. Learning of this phenomenon, Janome contacted dressmakers in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia to feature their handiwork in issue number 25 of Janome Digest magazine. (Back issues of this magazine can be ordered here.)
Susan Gowin, who had been running a busy Irish Dancing dressmaking business in Virginia, still remembers the phone call from her Janome dealer, Patty Whitmore who runs Fairfax Sewing Center along with her husband Skip. "She said, 'I have a new machine to show you. You are going to want this one.'" Gowin had been sewing dresses on a Memory Craft 8000 embroidery machine and had been thinking of upgrading. When she saw the MC6500P she knew immediately it was the machine she'd been waiting for.
"Patty was right. From the moment I took it home, I loved it. It's powerful and smooth and so much quieter than an industrial machine." Gowin says the machine has cut the time it takes to complete a dress, while still making sewing a relaxing activity.
Irish Dancing dresses are stiffened to the extreme to ensure the ornate appliqué does not become hidden by wrinkles or folds during a performance. A complete girl's costume includes a heavily appliquéd dress, small attached cape, and crown. In most cases a full wig is also worn. (Boys, on the other hand wear a very simple dark shirt and slacks for their competitions.) Irish Dancing is performed with the dancer’s arms held to the sides of their bodies while their feet perform intricate moves.
The origins of Irish Dance are lost in the mists of time. It's old enough that it might have been practiced by the Druids. It gradually grew out of informal village celebrations to become a carefully judged competition. About two hundred years ago, traveling dance masters introduced many of the steps used today. Irish Dancing is now more popular than ever with dance schools and competitions springing up around the world. This year the U.S. championships will attract nearly 3,000 dancers.
More information on the Memory Craft 6500 Professional, as well as a list of all available accessories, is available online at www.janome.com.
Janome Digest covers projects and techniques from all over the world for owners of Janome sewing machines, embroidery machines and sergers. Plus, subscribers find out early about new Janome products and accessories and the creative ways to use them. Quarterly issues of Janome Digest are available at participating Janome dealers or by subscribing online.
Janome America is the largest subsidiary of Janome Sewing Machine Company of Tokyo, which produces more than one million sewing machines annually as well as a line of related sewing products and embroidery software. It is a category leader in innovation, and Janome sewing machines are recognized throughout the industry for their ease-of-use and unsurpassed stitch quality.