In this episode of the Style Blues Podcast, I talk a bit about the history of sewing, the beginning of the big pattern companies and how we got to where we are today. It wasn’t that long ago that everyone sewed. Over the last 30 years things have changed, here’s what happened.
The History of Sewing
Let’s learn a bit about the history of sewing, how did we get where we are today?
Abbreviated History of Sewing as per Wikipedia:
- The Industrial Revolution shifted the production of textiles from the household to the mills. In the early decades of the Industrial Revolution, the machinery produced whole cloth. The world’s first sewing machine was patented in 1790 by Thomas Saint. By the early 1840s, other early sewing machines began to appear.
- By the 1850s, Isaac Singer developed the first sewing machines that could operate quickly and accurately and surpass the productivity of a seamstress or tailor sewing by hand.While much clothing was still produced at home by female members of the family, more and more ready-made clothes for the middle classes were being produced with sewing machines. Textile sweatshops full of poorly paid sewing machine operators grew into entire business districts in large cities like London and New York City. To further support the industry, piece work was done for little money by women living in slums. Needlework was one of the few occupations considered acceptable for women, but it did not pay a living wage. Women doing piece work from home often worked 14-hour days to earn enough to support themselves, sometimes by renting sewing machines that they could not afford to buy.
- Fine quality Tailors became associated with higher-end clothing during this period. In London, this status grew out of the dandy trend of the early 19th century, when new tailor shops were established around Savile Row. These shops acquired a reputation for sewing high-quality handmade clothing tailored to one’s particular fit needs.
- Sewing underwent further developments during the 20th century. As sewing machines became more affordable to the working class, demand for sewing patterns grew. Women had become accustomed to seeing the latest fashions in periodicals during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, increasing demand for sewing patterns even more. American tailor and manufacturer Ebenezer Butterick met the demand with paper patterns that could be traced and used by home sewers. The patterns, sold in small packets, became wildly popular. Several pattern companies soon established themselves. Women’s magazines also carried sewing patterns, and continued to do so for much of the 20th century. This practice declined during the later decades of the 20th century, when ready-made clothing became a necessity as women joined the paid workforce in larger numbers, leaving them with less time to sew, if indeed they had an interest.
One of my friends who is a bit older than I am was telling me that when she was in high school everyone made their own clothes. This was probably in the 1960’s. When I was in middle school in the 1970’s, I was the only kid who made her own clothes. Many of us learned to sew from our mothers but many of us have not had the opportunity to learn from anyone. You can learn to sew and I can help you succeed!
Growing up, I️ always wondered how home sewing was so different from commercial sewing. You would think they are the same but they aren’t. Mass produced garments are sewn by the thousand and use piece work technology to put them together. Garments are completely sewn in minutes, not hours. Commercial sewing patterns have been the same since the 1950s when clothing was produced on a much smaller scale, but the home sewing industry largely hasn’t changed since then. Today we have downloadable pdf patterns and many independent designers that are changing the home sewing industry.
Sew Along with Me!
Sew Along Masterclass 2018, going on now on the Chambray Blues Facebook page.
12 projects using easy commercial patterns, one each month
Video Tutorials, FB live sessions, plus question and answer
Closed group, only open for a limited time
Access to professional designer
Help choosing fabrics, notions, cutting, altering and sewing
Join the fun!
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