Antique Vintage Sewing Tools: A History

Sewing has an incredible history, and it’s around twenty thousand years old! It is said to be one of the first skills humans learned. Originating in the Old Stone Age, its most primitive form involved using animal bones and horns to stitch together fur and bark, with sinews as thread. It was in the fourteenth century that we started using iron needles, and later there were eyed needles made of steel that we still use today.

The intriguing history of this craft that has been a necessity in all the cultures and societies is detailed below.

Before The Sewing Machine

The term "sewing" first appeared in the 14th century, and Europeans who could afford it hired seamstresses and tailors for it during the Middle Ages. Stitching was primarily a female vocation, and all sewing prior to the nineteenth century was utilitarian. Clothing was expensive, and women had the critical role of extending the life of clothing articles. Sewing was used for mending and reusing clothing (such as making quilts etc.). Making garments from scratch was time-consuming and arduous (weaving pattern making, cutting, modifications, etc.), therefore women could barter their competence in certain skills with one another.

Decorative needlework, such as embroidery, was a highly prized talent at the time, and sewing implements such as needles, pins, and pincushions were included in the trousseau of many European brides from the Middle Ages until the 17th century. Decorative needlework was respected in countries and civilizations all over the world - from Ireland to China, Morocco to Western Asia, cultures that were not related found themselves with similar stitching styles.

The Invention of Sewing Machines

Thousands of years of hand sewing preceded the advent of the sewing machine in the nineteenth century. Since the mid-eighteenth century, innovators have attempted to create devices that mimic the movements of a sewer's fingers. The first sewing machine was invented by Barthélemy Thimonnier, a French inventor.

Thimonnier founded a garment factory that used his equipment to make army uniforms shortly after patenting the machine in 1830. He was the first to mass create such machines, making an important contribution to the history of sewing.

Unfortunately, tailors burned down his factory shortly after it opened, fearing that the equipment Thimonnier invented would replace their livelihoods.

Elias Howe, an American engineer, designed the first practical sewing machine using a lockstitch design in 1846. While he was not the first to come up with the concept of a sewing machine, Howe made changes that considerably improved the machine's performance. He spent almost 8 years developing his invention. Howe struggled to promote his design, and others began to imitate it.

Isaac Merritt Singer was one of them. While many say that Howe invented the sewing machine, others argue that Singer's invention was the first practical sewing machine, having a significant impact on the clothing industry. This was due to the fact that his machine was easier to use at home, and he had incorporated additional improvements such as a foot pedal that resembles a modern machine.

You can decorate your home with pieces of this interesting history! Just go to our website and order Martin Trailer’s photography artwork of vintage sewing tools in San Diego.