A Stitch in Time

Dressing windows is one of my favorite ways to unite my urge to sew and making a place feel homey. I’ve worked in a costume shop and used a fair share of different types of sewing machines, but for this most recent project, I came into contact with a much older machine that made me curious about the history of sewing machines. This is after all called Mastering Innovation, Technology & Creativity House, so here’s a small dose of technology.

The first ever patent of a sewing machine was in 1790 by Thomas Saint, but he never actually built his design. The first practical sewing machine came into existence in 1829, created by French inventor Barthelemy Thimmoniér. His machine used the chain stitch, which is most commonly used in embroidery. After rising to promincence with 80 machines in Paris, an angry mob of tailors (a branch of Luddites?) destroyed his factory.  Thimmoniér later died penniless.

The precursor of today’s machines was invented by American Walter Hunt in 1834. His design used a lockstitch, which called for two threads and made the machine much more complicated. In comparison to the chain stich, which could be pulled out rather easily, the lockstitch was much more permanent. In 1845 the lockstitch machine was perfected by an American named Elias Howe.

In 1851 Singer received a patent for his version of the sewing machine which included changes such as a straight rather than curved needle. Singer’s sewing machine could sew 900 stitches per minute, as compared to the 40 of an accomplished seamstress on simple work.

The machine I was using was a Singer, but instead of a foot pedal, there was a little lever for one’s leg to press into. It took a bit of research in the tiny manual to figure out how to change stitch length, etc.

After getting the hang of the docile creature, I started sewing up a storm.

The living room floor was the only place long enough to lay out the whole curtain so I could pin the front to the lining.

After a lot of careful inside-outing and ironing, they now have a new home in the “key lime” room at MITCH Collective. I think they have a sort of Cinderella/bat creature whimsy.

Here’s a picture of the curtains I sewed for the bay window in the  “Etruscan” room.

Stay tuned for more updates!



About mitchcollective

MITCH Collective is a community-driven catalyst promoting creativity in the Ohio Valley. MITCH Collective enriches Martins Ferry, Ohio and nearby towns by: -inviting artists, writers, and musicians to experience the beauty and creative potential of the area while creating new work and interacting with local residents through the residency program. -inspiring a historically economically depressed area by teaching new skills and ideas that will help foster new problem solving approaches for challenges that face the community. -collaborating with nonprofit and municipal organizations in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania to bring innovative, interdisciplinary projects to life. Facilities include printmaking, screen printing, sewing, quilting, and bookbinding. Visit www.mitchcollective.org for more information.
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One Response to A Stitch in Time

  1. Emma says:

    Siena – They are fabulous curtains! I do love the Cinderella/bat creature one. Gorgeous. And well done on mastering that sewing machine, I hope it made you just that little bit more proud of your efforts. I DO love doing things the long way.

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