The sewing machine has existed in many forms since 1755 (258 years!) and many variations were invented and patented over time eventually leading to a "patent war" in the 1850s between Isaac Singer and Elias Howe.
Singer won but had to pay out Howe with some of his earnings as Howe owned the original patent. Even though it was 20 years old at the time.
The first machines only sewed straight stitch using the system we have today of a bobbin, top thread and needle. The Zig-zag stitch machine was patented in 1873 by Helen Augusta Blanchard of Portland, Maine and electricity eventually joined in the party in 1905 (much better then those silly dog powered ones...)
The iconic Sewing Machine that your grandma might have owned or that you might see in antique stores is the Singer sewing machine. An ornate black machine often with gold detailing and and sometimes a hand or treadle (foot) crank.
Singer bought out a modern version of this machine for its 160 year anniversary
These first machines were often flat bed which meant you couldn't sew sleeves on to a bodice that was already stitched down the inner arm. In order to do so, you would have had to stitch sleeve hem first, followed by the shoulder seam and then close the sleeve, sewing up under the arm through to the hem on the bodice
The classic Singer Featherweight is still a valuable item - used by quilters and vintage enthusiasts (Gertie Hirsch uses hers to sew her special VoNBBS projects)
Nowadays sewing machines have a removable flat bed to make it easier to sew set in sleeves, collars and hems.
This is my darling little machine - Dolly.
Named after my Nanna - Dolores Lucy or Dolly for short. She was an avid crafter often knitting crocheting and sewing - she had 6 children, 5 of which were boys, so sewing and mending were part of her daily life. When I was little and my parents noticed my creative streak they decided that it had come from Nanna.
And so it's with her apparent crafting genes I named my machine.
It's a Janome Décor Excell II 5024 - it's about 6 years old and needs a service as it squeaks when I sew sometimes, but I can't bear to be without it for too long!
My favourite thing about Dolly is her automatic needle threader - which sounds fancy, but it's just a little hook that drops down into the needles eye and grabs the thread and pulls it back through. Ingenious!
The thing that annoys me the most is its tendency to jam right when I'm trying to sew something tricky. The only way the solve the jam for some reason is the re-thread the machine - both the bobbin and top thread. It also used to jam when I changed stitch type but its stopped that now.
One of my favourite movies begins with jammed sewing machine - seen here being used by Shirley McClaine (with a little James Booth) in "The Bliss of Mrs Blossom". Hers looks similar to this Maxfield Agenoria machine
Dolly is plastic fantastic with manual operation (knobs and dials) and 25 stitch functions and some very nifty feet, so we get along fine. She was about $500 when I bought her but you can now get great basic machines for $290.
Some other interesting machines of note;
The Ikea sewing machine - SY - which is a basic machine intended for home sewing at a bargain basement price of $69.99 (not available on the Aus website!!)
Apparently it's not too bad - apart from the fact that you can't adjust the stitch length. So I wouldn't recommend it for garment sewing as you cant gather or do pretty top stitching
How-about a Hello Kitty machine? That cat does everything!
This beautiful machine by Sarah Dickins uses your touch to move the fabric through the machine. She also simplified the design to make it less intimidating to a new sewer and widened the arch to make bundling up fabric less of an issue. The machine is threaded by following the metal path saving confusion from the up and down of the thread race
If I could buy a practical vintage machine I would want something like this
Do you have a sewing machine? Dose it have a name?
Make sure you give it a big hug today and think of all those people who contributed to one of the most wonderful machines of the industrial age!