Sewing machines! What would the world be like without them? “Invented” by Thomas Saint during the first wave of Industrial Revolution to hit the world in 1790, they have gone some way to drastically improving the ease of sewing and stitching cloth pieces together.
Since those heady days when sewing machines were first introduced to relieve the difficulty of hand-stitching materials from start to finish, they have come a long way. Without them, it’s hard to say just how many of your fancy wears you’d have at your disposal right now. We can also only imagine just how expensive the available few will be, and perhaps how stylistically bland they would be.
So, what is a sewing machine? How does it operate? What features should you look out for when trying to get one for yourself? Let’s delve deeper!
Sewing Machines – What are they?
Sewing machines are an essential tool in most homes, so the answer to this question shouldn’t be too difficult. The simple – and obvious – answer to the above question is that sewing machines are machines that sew. For quite a long time, sewing machines were largely mechanical in nature. These machines were based on the combination of components like cranks and cams, gears, and wheels.
Over time, in the 19th century, the machines shifted from mechanical operation to electrical power, while maintaining largely the same operational structure. Today, modern sewing machines are much more advanced, with electronic and computerized sewing machines which run on microchips more readily available.
Sewing machines make it easier for individuals to craft their own products from fabric. From clothing to home décor items like curtains, decorative pillows, beddings, napkins, furniture covers, etc. everything that requires stitched seams goes under a sewing machine. As much as they could be used for “creation”, they could also be used to mend cloth items, embroidery, and quilting.
While the invention of sewing machines is sometimes credited to the Englishman Thomas Saint, they have a more complex history than that would suggest. Like cars and computers, they have received various notable inputs over the years from many different individuals.
How do Sewing Machines Work?
Sewing machines are rather complex, despite their small frames. With so many moving parts cramped into the tiny space afforded, they have a complex operational mechanism that many have struggled to illustrate. To keep it simple, though, a sewing machine is built around an electric motor – the size of which may be similar to the one found in your lawn mower. This motor works in your place to push a tiny needle through the complex layers of fabric.
The electric motor in a modern sewing machine drives three mechanisms that all work together. A mixture of cranks and cams power the “feed dog”, a set of teeth that move up and down beneath the needle and the “presser foot” which holds the material in position. While one of these mechanisms pushes the feed dog up and down, the other slides it back and forth. Another mechanism entirely keeps the needle moving back and forth, while the last mechanism turns the “shuttle” and “hook”.
Typically, the sewing machine is run based on the combination of all four mechanisms which work to keep the threaded needle moving and your material sliding firmly across the sewing area. With each needle puncture, the thread is fed through the fabric, creating a loop for the next stitch. With each movement, the needle tightens the thread around the loop, and creates another – to make for a firm, sturdy stitch.
Benefits of Sewing Machine
Whether you are a professional tailor or not, there are many reasons why you may want to keep a sewing machine in your home. Some include,
- Sew your own clothes to your taste
- Repair worn out or torn clothes
- Re-design old wears
- Save money that would otherwise be spent on the tailor
Enjoy the therapeutic and relaxing benefits of sewing
Types of Sewing Machines
Answering the question of the available types of sewing machine will largely depend on context. While it is mostly categorized based on their mode of operation, it is sometimes also categorized based on its functionality. Here we try to form a slight merger of both characteristics to create a sort of balance – meaning some sewing machines may belong to more than one category.
- Mechanical/Manual: Mechanical sewing machines are so known for the role of human effort in their operation. You would have to control most of its parts by yourself, from threading all needles, to actually engaging the stitching process through the foot pedal or hand control.
- Electronic: While beginners may love the manual system, expert tailor would much prefer the electronic machine. It boasts more features than its manual counterpart – combining some mechanical characteristics with some computerized features – including a built-in needle threader, auto tripping bobbin, at least 7 in-built stitch functions, etc.
- Computerized: For a much larger design option pool (with internet connectivity) and in-built stitch capability (between 50 and 200), you would have to turn to the computerized sewing machine. It features multiple needles and multiple spinners for different thread colors, and can be used for sewing, embroidering, quilting, etc. They are mostly industrial grade machines for expert use.
- Embroidery: Embroidery sewing machines are used specifically to design embroidery patterns on fabrics. These machines feature a variety of patterns which can be sewed into a fabric, and are mostly computerized or electronic in nature.
Overlocker: An “overlocker” or overlock sewing machine is used to stitch the edge of one or more pieces of clothing. It is basically applied on the seams of clothing to make sure they are smooth and professional. The machine is mostly used in the professional world for edging fabrics like clothing, napkins, curtains, etc., and can be used to create single or multi-threaded overlock stitches.