A Technical History of Sewing Machine Development

Talk: A Technical History of Sewing Machine Development. Tuesday 13th March,
Martin Gregory.
Martin stepped in very late to give his talk when the planned speaker was forced to pullout because of work overload. A well attended meeting heard about the development of sewing machines from the early years of the 19th Century. In fact, apart from motors and electronics in modern machines, there have been virtually no new developments since the 1880’s.
Session 2011/12 No 3 7 March 2012
The talk commenced with a diagram of the only stitch which can de done by hand at the time when all clothing and other fabric goods were stitched by hand. The breakthrough in clothing manufacture, bringing down the cost of clothing came with the invention of the lock stitch which cannot be done by hand, only by machine. Gradually improvements were made in the machines in the way in which the material was held for stitching and then moved past the needle to achieve the final designs. Martin especially mentioned the invention of button hole making by machine for the Yankee Army during the American Civil War.
Martin brought with him several old machines, a very small part of his collection of over 100. These covered the whole development from the very earliest days to about 1920. He described the competition between manufacturers which was intense and where a group based on the Singer company in the USA came to dominate the market.
What was very clear to your reporter was that Britain played no part in the development of sewing machines, it was all American with clones of American machines being made in Germany and sold in this country for one tenth of the price of an equivalent British made machine. There was only one wholly British manufacturer, Jones, whose products Martin described as inferior to Singer. Having said that, the American owned Singer factory at Clydebank was the largest sewing machine factory in the world making a million machines a year although, sadly, it has now been totally demolished.
Martin gave his talk and travelled from Winchester without fee or expenses so the Association has made a donation to his favourite charity, the Twyford Waterworks Trust who are seeking donations to restore a Babcock boiler to working condition.
R Norton