Sewing has a history that dates back to 25,000 B.C.E. Early cultures sewed together animal hides and plant leaves to make clothing and shelter. Sewing is a timeless craft passed down through generations while evolving with the time's thanks to technological advancements. September is National Sewing Month, a time where we honor sewing, its history, and those who enjoy sewing.
Sewing is a skill that beautifies our homes, protects us from weather, and ensures our comfort. Sewing is an artistic practice that encompasses countless others. Sewing, embroidery, applique, and crafts offer variety used by cultures across the world.
Let’s honor National Sewing Month and look back at the history of sewing and how it has evolved throughout the years.
The history of sewing dates back thousands of years. The Inuit used sinew from caribou for thread and needles crafted from bone, while the indigenous peoples of the American Plains used sophisticated sewing methods to assemble tipis. In Africa, weavers combined sewing and weaving plant leaves to create baskets. The weaving of cloth from natural fibers started in the Middle East around 4000 B.C.E. During the Middle Ages, the wealthy employed seamstresses and tailors, and the importance of sewing was indicated by the "Lord Sewer" position at European coronations.
Tailors did most sewing before the 19th century out of practicality. Clothing was expensive, and people sewed to create clothes and extend the longevity of clothing. People used sewing for mending, and once clothing became worn, it would be taken apart, and the clothing would be reused into new items such as quilts.
Decorative needlework, such as embroidery, became a valued skill and was held in high regard by many cultures across the globe. Embroidery spread across the world thanks to the trade routes of the Middle Ages. The Silk Road introduced Chinese embroidery techniques to Western Asia and Eastern Europe, while techniques used in the Middle East arrived in Southern and Western Europe.
The Industrial Revolution changed everything, moving the production of textiles from households to mills. The history of the sewing machine dates back to 1755. A German-born engineer working in England, Charles Fredrick Wiesenthal, received the first British patent for a mechanical device that aided sewing. In 1790, Thomas Saint patented the world's first sewing machine; within fifty years, other early sewing machines began to appear.
Saint's machine was meant to be used on leather and canvas, and his device included several practical features. The device reduced the amount of hand-stitching, making sewing more reliable and functional. The machine would need improvement over the decades before becoming a practical tool.
French tailor Barthélemy Thimonnier invented the first practical and widely used sewing machine in 1829. His machine used a chain stitch like Saint's model. Thimonnier went on to open the first machine-based clothing manufacturing company in the world to create uniforms for the French Army.
In America, Walter Hunt invented the first lockstitch sewing machine in 1832. His machines were unreliable and sold individually before they were ever patented. In 1842, John Greenough patented the first sewing machine in the United States.
A few years later, English inventor John Fisher built a sewing machine that featured previous innovations into a modern sewing machine. In the mid-1800s, Isaac Merritt Singer and Elias Howe created similar machines, though Singer reaped the benefits due to a botched filing of Fisher's patent.
Other sewing machines followed, including the first chain stitch single-thread sewing machine. James Edward Allen Gibbs patented the machine. Gibbs formed a partnership with James Willcox and established the Willcox & Gibbs Sewing Machine Company. The company's commercial sewing machines are still in use today.
During the late 1870s, Joseph M. Merrow invented and patented the world's production overlock sewing machine. The Merrow Machine Company grew into one of the largest overlock sewing machine manufacturers and is the last overlock sewing machine manufacturer in America.
Electronic machines arrived on the market in the 1970s. Before then, sewing machines were purely mechanical. The modern sewing machines included components that allowed new features, including digitized stitch patterns and automated needle positioning.
President Ronald Reagan proclaimed National Sewing Month in 1982. The Sewing and Craft Alliance and the American Sewing Guild serve as sponsors. The month celebrates the art of sewing and its variety of forms. The month also recognizes the importance of home sewing in cultures worldwide. National Sewing Month is a perfect time to explore this hobby while learning a new skill and some history about sewing.
You can observe National Sewing Month in several ways, even if you don't know how to sew. The best way is to explore your community and find a sewing club. Whether a beginner or an expert in sewing, sewing with peers is a great way to socialize and relax. You can also learn new things to improve your quality and form. If you don't know how to sew, now is the time! Start with something simple and learn the process. Create a bag or a pouch, design your own clothing, or make a quilt to keep you warm at night. You can also learn more about the history of sewing and its significance to humans. Pick up a needle and start sewing this month.
Thanks to sewing and embroidery, custom patches also have a special place in the history of sewing. Ancient cultures in China, India, the Mediterranean, and South America have used patches for thousands of years. Patches were a way to mend garments, clothing, and tapestries and as a means of identification. Artisans created embroidered items worldwide, but only the wealthy could afford embroidered items. It wasn't until the invention of embroidery machines in the 19th century that embroidery became accessible to the masses.
Today, custom patches are everywhere. They adorn the uniforms of police officers, firefighters, military members, company employees, and more. Custom patches have also become a staple in the fashion world, used for branding, marketing, and style purposes. They are also great tools for fundraising for organizations and are still a great way to repair worn clothing.
Sewing changed the world. September is the month we celebrate its significance. Millions of people around the world enjoy sewing. It's a great way to clear your mind, enjoy simple things, and get creative. Whether you sew from scratch, alter clothing or repurpose your own designs, sewing is great solo or with a group. Let's honor National Sewing Month and design a custom patch you can wear with pride.