The Bernina Blog recognizes tomorrow, June 13th as Sewing Machine Day, but other sources say it is September 10th, the date when a sewing machine was patented in the US in 1846. There were various patents for needles and machines in Britain and Europe well prior to that date, but they did not amount to much. The history of the development of sewing machines is far too complicated to go into here, but the first real sewing machine was invented in France in 1830, and this made a continuous chain stitch, using only one thread. In 1846, Elias Howe invented and patented a machine which used two threads and “a needle with an eye at the point. The needle was pushed through the cloth and created a loop on the other side; a shuttle on a track then slipped the second thread through the loop, creating what is called the lockstitch.” Isaac Singer is the person most of us think of when considering early machines, because he made improvements to sewing machine designs, developed treadle driven machines, began mass production, and made them affordable for the average person. At times, Isaac Singer toured as an actor, worked as an entreprenuer and had a total of 20 children by at least 4 different women – wives, mistresses and employees! A busy man indeed, but another story all together!
I have had many machines in my sewing life – they have been a mixture of makes……Singers, Elnas, and Berninas, but have collected some others out of interest, including some miniature children’s versions.
My first sewing machine was a hand cranked child’s machine which was clamped to the table, and joined fabric with a chain stitch. I was given it for Christmas in 1954 when my family lived in the US, and it was identical to this little one I have:-
I quickly moved on to using my Mother’s English Singer which had a hand crank, then her electric one when that was purchased. My first grown up one was bought when I was living in London in the 60’s and was desperate for a machine to use for dressmaking. Those were the days of little money ( my salary was 60 pounds a month) and the ability to run up a simple shift in a night to wear the next day made a difference. Thereafter followed a couple of Elnas, two Berninas, an Elna Lotus, a Singer Featherweight, an old Singer hand-crank with beautiful decoration, a 1938 Singer Treadle, which was used as a hall stand, and a 1929 Jones which was a gift from a friend who knew I loved machines. My favourite is my current Bernina, but I also have very fond memories of the last Elna which now lives with my D-in-L – it did the best buttonholes of all.
These are some of the old ones I still own. I’m considering trying to sell them……….to buy a telescopic lens! (Let me know if you are interested.)
This last one is another British brand – Jones, made in Manchester in 1929, it has a shuttle rather than a bobbin.
Even though my dressmaking days are pretty much over, and sewing is a bit less of an interest, with photography coming to the fore……there is no way I could be without a sewing machine. If you are reading this, then I expect you understand and feel the same way…..so let’s celebrate Sewing Machine Day – whichever date you choose – or even do it twice!