Saturday, 13 June 2020

Bobbin' Along...

Had you heard of National Sewing Machine Day? Each year on June 13th, National Sewing Machine Day honours this brilliant invention that’s kept us in stitches in Europe for over 200 years. Before that, professional tailors and amateur needleworkers created clothing by hand, stitch by single stitch. The invention of the sewing machine brought about revolutionary change. Not only did it boost an entire industry, but it changed the way we viewed the garments we wore. But the development of the sewing machine took time. 

Skilled cabinet-maker and English inventor, Thomas Saint, received the first patent for a design of a sewing machine in 1790. His design was intended for leather and canvas. However, he never advertised it and no evidence of the design, other than his drawings, could be found. In 1874, William Newton Wilson found Saint’s drawings in the London Patent Office. With some minor adjustments, Wilson built a working model. The London Science Museum currently owns Wilson’s model. 

In 1804, Thomas Stone and James Henderson built a working machine, and in 1814, with help from the Austrian Government, Josef Madersperger put a machine into production. In 1830 Barthelemy Thimonnier, a Frenchman, patented a chainstitch machine. Walter Hunt did not invent  the first American lockstitch sewing machine until 1832. John Greenough patented the first machine in the United States in 1842. Elias Howe developed a machine in the 1840s which contained the three features common to most modern machines: a needle with the eye at the point, a shuttle thread underneath, and an automatic fabric feed. He couldn’t get this funded in the States, so sent his brother Amasa to London. He sold the idea to a corset maker called William Thomas. In 1851, another inventor, Isaac Singer, developed a sewing machine model that would endure. Singer is the man whose name is now recognised the world over…

For the next 100 years, it was the dream of many housewives to own their own machine, and make clothing for their families. My gran, taught me to sew and use a machine at home – then I had 2 years of dressmaking lessons at Grammar School.  I borrowed Mum’s machine until Bob bought me my own Frister Rossman when we returned from honeymoon. I've been sewing for more than five decades. But I realised in the 80s that fewer of my friends used sewing machines than before. Clothes were cheap – why spend money on fabric, and hours at the worktable – when you could easily pick up a new outfit on the way home from work? I am glad home sewing has had a revival – the great British Sewing Bee has picked up on that, and more and more people [both women and men] are stitching again. So let’s celebrate this useful product, in all its forms [regular, embroidery, quilters, overlockers…] It's National Sewing Machine Day

As Jean Luc Picard often says in Star Trek…make it sew!


  1. I didn't know there was a national sewing machine day! I must sew something on the machine, tomorrow (or, rather, later, today) in celebration!

  2. I have a Singer machine that belonged to my mother. It is a 1955 model and has been in my loft since she died in 1995 and was not used for many years before that. We have started to use it again for masks and it started first time and it works great!!

  3. Well, I shall now go and pat my sewing machine! It has been working very hard lately.

  4. I suspect mask making has been a key activity for many formerly neglected machines in the past few weeks

  5. Yeah. Sewing machine day. Today I will give my trusty vintage Bernina a little clean and start a new project. A quick one I think.

    1. Your son's jacket was a stunning piece of work! But yes, definitely alternate long complex projects with quick satisfying little ones


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