Answer Man: Are Necchis still being made?

News-DemocratFebruary 26, 2014 

I am 93 years of age and have enjoyed sewing on my Necchi machine many years and still do. My question is: Are they still made? Also, where can I purchase Necchi sewing machine oil?

-- Mary Childress, of Collinsville

Here's an interesting coincidence: Did you know that you were born at the same time that Vittorio Necchi was developing his plans to make sewing machines?

He had just returned from World War I to take over his family's cast iron foundry in Pavia, Italy. But times they were a-changin' and Necchi realized he'd have to take the family business in a new direction. So in 1919 when he was unable to find his wife an Italian-made sewing machine, he discovered his answer.

When he introduced his Necchi BD in the 1920s, sales were slow. Finally, after a number of innovations, including a zig-zag stitch, sewers began snapping them up as they gained a reputation for quality with their 25-year warranty.

But Necchi's history took a radical turn last year when the Italian company was gobbled up by Janome, headquartered in Hachioji, Japan. Now, Necchi machines are produced in Janome's Asian factories.

Don't, however, think that Janome just recently started dabbling in sewing machines. It traces its history back to the 1920s when founder Yosaku Ose, a Japanese sewing machine pioneer, began to use a round, metal bobbin instead of the traditional long shuttle. The Japanese thought the new bobbin looked like a janome -- a snake's eye -- and so a company name was born.

Anyone having trouble finding a Necchi machine should call Winston's Sewing Center in St. Charles, Mo. (636-447-5554, www.sewtopia.com), which is the nearest Necchi dealer, according to necchi-usa.com. The store tells me that any brand of sewing-machine oil is fine, so you might try Jackman's Fabrics in Fairview Heights or any machine dealer.

Why does the city of Fairview Heights fail to recognize North Illinois Street? All other streets in their city have street signs but not North Illinois Street. For that matter, why does the state fail to recognize Bluff Road (Illinois 157) and North Illinois Street (Illinois 159) on I-64? Most other exits in the St. Louis area use the street name to identify the exit.

-- Corey Hudson, of Belleville

Just as the News-Democrat uses the Associated Press Stylebook for grammar and usage, the Illinois Department of Transportation has adopted its own stylebook to provide drivers with the most useful information at a glance.

It's called the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, and it covers signing, striping and other issues concerning state-maintained highways. In short, the rule is that whenever you have a marked state route like 157 or 159, the sign on the interstate will display the marked route, not the local name.

"If you're driving in an unfamiliar area, you're not going to know 157 as Bluff Road or 159 as North or South Illinois," Jeff Abel, the traffic operations engineer for District 8 in Collinsville, explained.

"And, generally, when you first bring up Google or any of the other new maps, they're going to display the marked route. Only when you zoom in do they pull up the local name. So, that is basically a design requirement."

If you travel north on I-255 near Alton, you'll see exits for Fosterburg Road or Seminary Road, because they are non-marked state routes. Similarly in St. Louis, Grand and Kingshighway are generally unknown by any other name. I think if I were traveling in a strange city, I would find a route number more helpful when available.

As for the lack of signage through the city, I had never noticed it before, but you're absolutely right. North of Swansea there are no North Illinois Street signs, only cross streets and yellow no-outlet signs for dead ends. Abel says IDOT does mark state routes with local names on traffic light mast arms if requested by the city under a new policy adopted about three years ago.

"What I need to do is raise the question with our public works director and see if, in fact, we're missing the boat," Mike Malloy, the Fairview Heights director of economic development, told me. "We all take it for granted, but, you know, maybe someone from out of town is going, 'I don't know if I'm on North Illinois or not.' Valid point."

Today's trivia

If Wichita State, now 30-0, wins the NCAA Basketball Tournament in March, it would become the eighth school in history to finish its season undefeated. Can you name the last team to achieve perfection?

Answer to Wednesday's trivia: He didn't know it then, but when Martin Van Buren was born Dec. 5, 1782, in Kinderhook, N.Y., he would become the first president who was born an official United States citizen. His great-great-great-grandfather, Cornelis Maessen Van Buren had come to the New World in 1631. Yet 150 years later, Martin grew up in a small community that still spoke Dutch. As a result, he was the first president not of British or Irish descent -- and the first for whom English was a second language.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 618-239-2465.

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