Sewing machines have had a short but significant place in history. They led to career changes for some people as well as to creating clothing made for the masses. Learn about the features of antique sewing machines as well as the different types.
- Sewing has been done for over 20,000 years, but it was only a little over 200 years ago that the sewing machine was invented. In 1790, Thomas Saint earned the first sewing machine patent. Building a machine that actually worked took place in 1830 by Barthelemy Thimonnier. Isaac Singer invented the first mass-produced sewing machine, but even these machines were not commonly available until the late nineteenth century.
- Before the sewing machine, sewing was done by hand. This took a lot of time and kept many people from buying premade clothes; instead they would make them themselves. The sewing machine changed many aspects of society. Producing clothing and linens with a machine was much faster than with hand-sewing. Seamstresses and tailors were no longer in high demand since the commercial machines could make items much faster. The sewing machine brought about clothing that was more like the general sizes we have now, instead of clothing made to fit a specific body.
- Hand-sewing was a time-consuming activity and having an item hand-sewn was expensive. The general population could not afford it. The function of the sewing machine was to speed up the process. The first application of the sewing machine was a commercial one. The purpose of the sewing machine was to mass-produce items for use by more people, such as clothing or shoes.
- Antique sewing machines used a needle with a curve that pushed through fabric and grabbed a loop of thread from underneath. This led to machines that could create other styles of stitch that would hold fabric together in a sturdier fashion. Run by a hand crank or a foot pedal, the first machines did not use electricity. Built into cabinets, sewing machines were not electric until the early twentieth century.
- Perhaps the most well known of all sewing machines are the Singer machines, but there were other types of sewing machines that helped lead to the machines we have today. Invented by Gibbs in 1857 was the chain-stitch machine, and in 1873 Helen Augusta Blanchard invented the first zigzag stitch machine. Named for the stitches they made, these machines invented stronger stitches. While these were separate machines, you can now find all these stitches in one machine.