“The Sewing-Machine” (from Robert Merry’s Museum, December 1857; p. 182)
Of all the labor-saving inventions of our age, we are inclined to regard the sewing-machine as the most important and interesting. Not that it will effect so great a visible change, or produce so much money capital, as the cotton-gin, the steam-engine, or the telegraph. But we think it will bear as favorably, and as powerfully, on the health and morals of society, as either of them. It comes to the relief of the very portion of our great family which most needs it, and will most effectually profit by it. It comes into the bosom of the family, and divides and lightens the most absorbing and wearing of the cares of the mother and the daughter. It is, in the highest and most perfect sense of the word, a household economy. It is an inexpensive, tireless, accommodating servant, that neither eats, drinks, wears, nor steals, nor ever demands an increase of wages. It is a family physician, prescribing air, exercise and cheerful amusements to those who have been wasting their strength and spirits in sedentary devotion to the needle—stitch, stitch, stitch, all day, and too often all night.
The sewing-machine is not altogether a new conception. Its incipient idea had birth in China, some two centuries ago, in a machine for working certain kinds of embroidery. This idea was caught up in France, about fifty years ago, and embodied in a machine for labeling fine broadcloths. The idea of using it for ordinary sewing, and its adaptation to practical use, is purely American. Many ingenious heads and hands have been employed upon it. More than two hundred patents have already been issued, of which perhaps half a dozen will stand the test of use.
The needle used in these machines is peculiar, having the eye near the point. Most of them have also a shuttle, by which a second thread is looped or linked into the first, thus forming the stitch. Wheeler & Wilson’s machine has a rotary hook, in place of a shuttle, making thereby a stitch by many thought more reliable. The single-thread machines make a chain-stitch, which is more liable to ravel than the others.
One good machine will do the work of ten persons. What an immense relief to the mother of a large family, to do up the work of ten weeks in one! How much time would it not allow for wholesome exercise, and for attention to the other duties of the household! How many daughters, wasting away in consumption over the never-ending, monotonous tasks of the needle, might be saved and restored to health, by the relief which this untiring co-laborer would afford!
In purchasing a machine, several things are to be considered, besides the first cost. One of these is the quantity of thread required for a given amount of sewing. In this respect there is a great difference in different machines. The character of the stitch, also, is a very important item.