Old School field trip–sewing machines

Today we’re going on an Old School field trip. Occasionally the class will do this to learn about some fascinating thingy that makes old skills easier.

So, today’s class is on the invention of the sewing machine.

From the time people were running around in loincloths, there’s been such a thing as sewing. But for centuries, it was a time-intensive process. You know the drill…you put thread through the eye of a needle, and then draw the needle through layers of material, up and down, joining the material with the thread.

Tailors and young ladies alike worked hard to sew tiny, even stitches. But you can imagine that even the best, fastest seamstresses (The Damsel was going to coin the word “seamsters” in an effort to be PC but no. Just no.) couldn’t sew very fast.

In the 1800’s lots of inventions were being made, and several people tried to make a mechanical thingy for sewing. None of them worked very well. One sort of worked, and the inventor was almost killed by wild, angry tailors who feared he’d put them all out of work. He gave up.

Inventing sewing machines can be a deadly business. Tailors have all sorts of pointed things, sharp things. Just picturing wild, angry tailors gives the Damsel the shivers.

Along came Elias Howe. He worked and worked on a machine, but it just wouldn’t work right. The Damsel thinks he was pretty much crazy from all the trying because one night he dreamed he was being boiled by cannibals. They danced around the cookpot, brandishing strange spears with small holes in their tips.

When he woke up, the answer suddenly dawned on him. Instead of having the thread hole in the end, like it had always been, the hole needed to be in the pointed tip. Like the spears.


Finally, the machine worked, and wow, what a difference in the time it takes to create a garment.

The Damsel is grateful because she looks terrible in a loincloth.


5 thoughts on “Old School field trip–sewing machines

  1. LOVE the phrasology. A gadget that is near and dear to my heart. Did a report on Elias Howe, I did, as I learned to sew on an old treadle machine. Talk about Old School!

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