Sewing Details, Old and New

Sewing Details, Old and New
Modern sewing techniques have made home sewn garments closely approximate purchased store-bought ready to wear. Today’s explosion of sewing machine types with their many stitch choices, various sergers, blind hemmers and even home embroidery machines greatly contribute to the professional finished look of individual home sewn clothing, draperies, and home décor.

Home sewing in times past was time and labor intensive. Clothing then had buttons and button loops, small metal hooks and eyes, lacings or later snaps to close garments around the body. These closures took time and skill when sewing garments. Even donning a garment was not necessarily an easy one-person effort. It was not until the invention and general acceptance of the slide fastener or zipper as we have come to know it did garment sewing become a more efficient endeavor.

Two 20th century modernizations that have greatly improved the home sewers experience:


The earliest vision for zippers, or toothed slide fasteners, originally named as clasp lockers, made an appearance at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and was designed by Whitcomb Judson who launched the Universal Fastener Company. The clasp locker however was not promoted with commercial success. The company moved to Hoboken, NJ, hired Gideon Sundback, and eventually changed the name of the company to Talon, Inc. Sundback worked on improving the design and a patent for a separable fastener was issued in 1917 for which he had non-U.S. rights.

The zippers we know today can be found sewn into almost any type of clothing, home décor, suitcases, camping gear, shoes and boots, hospital equipment - even parts of an astronaut’s spacesuit. Zipper fasteners today have taken advantage of technology for high altitude, pressure intensive and waterproof applications for deep space and deep-water diving. Even our lunch bags and refrigerators may contain food storage bags with molded plastic ridge seals that act as toothless zippers.


As home sewing machines became more acceptable and affordable to many early 20th century households, demand for paper sewing patterns of the latest fashions grew. Women’s magazines of the era often carried paper patterns within the pages. Pattern companies of the names Butterick, Simplicity, and Vogue began to produce traceable paper patterns and remain in existence today. Women entering the paid workforce during WWII years with less time to sew, and the increasing lower cost of ready to wear (fast fashion) over ensuing years had seen a decline in home sewing yet the pattern industry continues to endure as ever new generations of sewers, quilters, sewing hobbyists and fiber artists learn and perpetuate the valuable skill sets that accompany hand and machine stitching.

Today's sewing patterns are often available in a digital form online, although downloaded e-patterns can often involve 20 or more printer pages to print off, be sure that the printer is set to full scale, or no scale. Avoid the printer options shrink-to-fit or fit-to-page so that the multiple pages print correctly. Check to see that the scale is set to 100% or actual size.

Generally, a cooperative printer, plenty of printer paper and sufficient printer ink are all that are needed (cost of digital patterns vary but are usually much less than commercial sewing patterns) and a chosen sewing pattern can be readily available - a plus when the sewing bug strikes transmitting an alluring siren's song that a sewing project must commence!

Sew happy, sew inspired.

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