When I was growing up, there was a Singer Sewing Center right across the street from the bowling alley where I loved to bowl. Starting from when I was ten, I would go to the Sewing Center every Saturday, sit down at a machine and learn something new. I started with the basics – sewing a straight line, learning to reverse and then jazzing things up with a zigzag stitch.
There was a sewing contest at the end of the year where each student made a garment they would wear in a final fashion show. I made a blue and red patterned jump suit with a shiny zipper. When I had it on, I felt brave and looked like a million bucks. So daring! I knew I would win.
I didn’t. A girl who had made something far more challenging to sew won and although I cursed her at the time, I get it know. Thankfully, my love of sewing was stronger than my wounded pride and I went back for a second series of classes. The skills I learned became so ingrained that I don’t even think of them as skills. When someone said to me recently “I don’t sew,” I barely understood what she meant. How could anyone not know how to sew?
Machine is easy to learn and a joy to do. It offers up speed and ease in the sewing process and durability for the finished product. It also gives us options – now we can mend those beloved blue jeans rather than having to toss them: we can buy those too long curtains because we know we can hem them and we can make those perfect pillows or even sew a new cushion for a flea market chair. In short, machine sewing is a time saver and a beauty maker.
The history of the sewing machine is a varied tale and the facts about it’s development seem to depend on who is doing the telling. If you’re interested in the twists and turns of the machine’s development check out the great site Sewalot. What we do know is that the idea for the first sewing machine arrived in 1789 when a Brit named Thomas Saint invented what is generally considered the first sewing machine.
Centuries passed with a variety of machines being invented by a variety of people, before people like Isaac Singer brought his ingenuity and entrepreneurial drive to building and marketing the sewing machine as we know it today.
It is good to remember that every piece of clothing we buy has been made at a sewing machine by someone, usually a woman. Clothing factories worldwide are often unsafe and their workers are often poorly paid. If you want to be conscious of buying clothing from companies that are known to treat their workers well, check out the list put together by the Fair Labor Association.
Also, there are many wonderful charities which help women find a path out of poverty by giving them sewing machines so they can create things to sell. A wonderful one is The Sewing Machine Project and you can learn more about it here.
Gandhi called the sewing machine “one of the most useful things ever invented.” Anyone who sews would certainly agree.
Lorne Holden is an artist, author, educator and entrepreneur. Check out her bestselling book “MAKE IT HAPPEN in Ten Minutes a Day/The Simple, Lifesaving Method for Getting Things Done.”