Before the mid 1700ís, all sewing was done by hand with needle and thread, or bone and sinew. It took nearly another century for Elias Howe to produce the first practical sewing machine; a mechanical apparatus that used a needle and thread to join material to make clothing via a hand-crank.
However, it was Isaac Singer who built the first commercially marketed sewing machine in the mid 1800ís that combined his and the previous mechanized improvements of many others. Many of the foot-powered sewing machines of the era are still in functional use around the world today.
Todayís electronic sewing machine is one of the best time-saving innovations for the modern world. It revolutionized the textile industry in the late 1800ís and continues to be at the forefront of contemporary innovation.
A time-saving machine sewing-like device, generally known as a serger, sometimes called an overlock machine, gives us the equivalent of a movieís special effects as it not only sews a seam, but trims the seam allowance and overcasts a thread edge all in one step and at an astonishing speed too. Instead of a bobbin and a single needle, the serger uses two cutting blades, mechanisms called loopers, multiple threads and one or two needles. The serger can create beautifully finished seams and hems on all types of fabrics from the lightest of sheers to the sturdiest denims, from delicate laces to the loftiest of fleeces.
A serger can take you beyond simple seam finishing into the realm of decorative and creative stitching and embellishment. It can also gather and generate shirring, create a narrow rolled hem edge as seen on table linens and as a sheer fabric edge treatment, produce pintucking and cording, as well as apply beading, sequins, and elastics on swimwear and athletic wear.
A serger, as versatile as it can be, has the potential to reduce your sewing time; however it does not replace the traditional sewing machine. A serger, unlike a sewing machine, is not capable of some sewing tasks, for example making stitched buttonholes, or inserting zippers.
If you have sewn for years quite happily without a serger, or if you are new to sewing, you might wonder if a serger is really all that necessary. A sewing machine can imitate many of the sergerís versatile stitches, even some sewing machineís array of presser feet can imitate to some extent the sergerís crochet-type overlocking stitch however, the serger will be able to produce a seam with the same professional clean-cut edging seen in many of todayís ready wear clothing. It can sew much faster than a traditional sewing machine. A sergerís loopers have large eyes that can take wooly, metallic and decorative threads for enhanced decorative sewing treatments. A serger can be a time-saver when sewing long runs of even straight stitching as when making drapery, curtain, or bed linens.
These two icons of the sewerís world Ė sewing machine and serger - are trusty companions, each a complement of the other, each prized for their versatility, flexibility, and portability.
Isaac Singer Biography
Howe's sewing machine, c.1846
Sew happy, sew inspired.