A sewing machine is a device with which the sewing of fabrics can be done semi-automatically.

Sewing machine history


Around 1755, various European countries tried to invent a suitable machine that could replace sewing by hand. Developments focused on the major tailors.

Around 1830, the first machines appeared in sewing workshops in France. These were not liked by the workers, but the invention and improvements of the machine were unstoppable. In the ‘New World’, too, a search was underway for a machine that could replace the slow and expensive manual work. The first useful application was the sewing machine developed by Barthélemy Thimonnier. With his invention, he won a contract for the production of French army uniforms. Thimonnier’s machine sewed a chain stitch (see also overlocker). In the United States, meanwhile, it was Elias Howe, who developed a loose spool machine, the mechanism that is still used in most sewing machines today.

In the second half of the 19th century, the sewing machine was perfected, among others by Isaac Singer and could also be used by the housewife. The development of the treadle sewing machine turned out to be a real improvement because people now had their hands completely free for the sewing material. The machines were also given more options, various sewing stitches such as zigzags and hems became possible.

The invention of the sewing machine is quite controversial: patents for mechanisms capable of producing seams were filed by Fredrick Wiesenthal in 1755, by Thomas Saint in 1790, by Barthélemy Thimonnier in 1830 and by John J. Greenough in 1842.

The first models were operated by hand: through a crank applied to the flywheel, the movement of the needle, the bobbin and the advancement by dragging the fabric were produced with the right hand, while with the left hand its position and position were controlled. ‘addressing.

Subsequently the sewing machines were pedal-operated: the movement was obtained with the oscillation of a pedal, placed under the table in which the machine was inserted and which, connected by a belt, produced the movement; both hands remained free and therefore available for addressing the fabric.

Today the movement is produced by an electric motor: the sewing machine is commanded by a pedal that is pressed with the foot or by a lever operated with the lateral movement of the knee. Technology hand in hand with industry has optimized the use of machines with more parts of the operator (95% women), toes and heel of the foot, knee, elbow and obviously hands, making the worker similar to an automaton, for this reason the machines are combined with computers making them automatic units.

Industry history

The sewing machine industry was born in the early 19th century, especially in the United States. The first Italian industry to produce one was Salmoiraghi, starting in 1877.

The use of the sewing machine has speeded up the production (packaging) of garments and linen; the increased productivity has lowered the cost of producing clothes, favoring the creation of the first nuclei of the mass-production industry. Subsequently, the improvement of the sewing machine made it possible to mechanize operations such as: embroidery, over-threading, basting, darning, button sewing, eyeleting and thus save energy.

Structure of the sewing machine

The typical structure of the sewing machine is formed by a base from which an upright protrudes which, in addition to containing the moving parts of the needle bar and the thread tensioner, serves to support the arm. The opposite end of the arm ends with the head which supports the needle bar, the presser foot and the organs that determine the tension on the upper thread. Under the plane of the base there are the organs used to form the stitch (Crochet and bobbins).

Sewing machines differ, in addition to the type of stitch performed, also for the structure with which they are composed and which consequently differentiate it according to the use they can have on this website or this website or on this url.

The pedal sewing machine was later replaced by the electric machine and it is still in use today on this website.


A household sewing machine uses two threads of yarn, as opposed to hand sewing, which is generally done with one thread. One of the two threads is wound on a bobbin, which lies loosely in a holder – the so-called boat – under the fabric. The other thread runs from the spool of thread on top of the sewing machine through a thread guide to the needle. The eye of the needle is close to the tip. The needle moves up and down. If the needle goes down, the thread guide also goes down, so that the thread is not or hardly unwound from the spool. The thread goes through the fabric and forms a loop there. An ingenious mechanism picks up this loop and pulls it around the bobbin. With the electric sewing machine the bobbin itself remains in the same place, with the manual sewing machine the bobbin is in a boat that is inserted through the loop. When the needle comes up again, the thread guide also goes up, pulling the thread tight and holding the seam together.

The mechanism around the bobbin is the most vulnerable. Loops that protrude from the sewn fabric may be too long, or thread breakage may occur.

A sewing machine is always equipped with a mechanism to wind the thread on the bobbin. Generally, the same thread color is used for both threads.

Flat base

It is the most common type, it allows you to perform most of the seams necessary for the construction of the garment. It can be built to perform the lockstitch or a double chain stitch, both with one needle and with two needles, even in the zig-zag variants. It can easily be equipped with a wide choice of edgebanders to perform specific seams as well.

With arm or cylindrical base

The structure of this machine has a higher upright and a cylindrical base that protrudes from the upright itself. It can perform both the lockstitch and the double chain stitch. It is particularly suitable for operations on tubular details such as sleeves or legs.

With inverted arm or with inverted cylindrical base

It is a variant of the previous machine, the arm of which, however, is constructed in such a way as to be perpendicular to the user. It is used in particular for the execution of interlocking seams and processing of details with large tubular shape.


The base of this machine has a column which contains the lower stitch forming members. It is suitable for operations on three-dimensional details such as footwear. It can perform both the lockstitch and the double chain stitch.


In this particular structure, the machine is mounted on a support surface that is elevated with respect to the surface (which is not always present). It is used for operations to be performed on already assembled garments. It too can perform both the lockstitch and the double chain stitch. For more information, check our partner.


It has a compact structure and a reduced space for maneuvering the details. It is a structure suitable for the processing to be carried out on the edges. It can perform the double chain stitch or the springs (class 500 stitches).


The needle is the fundamental component for sewing, both with the use of a sewing machine and for hand stitching. It is the element that allows you to move the warp and weft threads, to transport the thread from one side of the fabric to the other and, through its particular construction, allows the sewing thread to perform the necessary evolutions to link up with itself or others. stitch formation threads.

Physical characteristics of the needle

The needle has several characteristics that determine its effectiveness in stitch formation.

  • Shank: This is the part of the needle that is fixed on the vise at the bottom of the needle bar. It has a cylindrical shape and sometimes has a longitudinal section of the tang itself, which favors the exact positioning of the needle in the machine. The physical characteristics of the needle itself are usually imprinted on the tang.
  • Stock: It is the terminal part of the tang; it has a truncated cone shape to facilitate its insertion into the needle bar.
  • Shoulder: Also in the shape of a truncated cone, it connects the upper part of the needle (shank) with the lower part (stem).
  • Stem: It is the part between the shoulder and the eye, it may have a swelling just above the eye to favor the widening of the weft and warp threads in order to reduce friction. The diameter of the stem determines the fineness of the needle and varies according to the type of fabric to be processed.
  • Groove: It is a channel dug along the shaft in the front part of the needle from the eye to the shoulder and has the function of containing the sewing thread as it passes through the fabric, so as not to cause friction and high tension. In some cases there may also be a groove on the back of the needle, in this case of a smaller size.
  • Eye: It is the hole, positioned just above the tip, into which the sewing thread is inserted. It is the point of greatest friction of the needle due to the continuous flow of the sewing thread inside it; for this reason it has a shape designed to reduce friction to a minimum and a variable diameter to be proportioned to the title of the sewing thread to be used.
  • Armhole: It is a compartment located in the back of the needle, just above the eye. It has two fundamental functions: the first is to allow the formation of the noose of the sewing thread, the second is to favor the hook in grasping the loop itself, passing as close as possible to the needle.
  • Tip: The lower end of the needle is called the tip; it has a conical shape and a pointed vertex which can have various sections.

The tip

The point of the needle has a fundamental importance in the execution of a seam, for this reason it deserves an in-depth study. As already mentioned, the shape of the tips and its sections are many, this to allow you to work optimally any type of fabric and to perform every operation in the best possible way. Its main function is to create the space to allow the passage of the needle (and therefore of the sewing thread) from one part of the material to be worked on; in fabrics this must take place without damaging the fabric itself, therefore the tip has the task of moving the weft and warp threads creating a space in the weave; in compact materials such as leather, the point must instead pierce the material to be sewn to allow the needle and the sewing thread to pass into the lower part. For these reasons, the tips can be divided into two groups:

  • Round tips, used for fabric processing. They penetrate the warp and weft interlacing, moving the threads without damaging them.
  • Sharp points, used for sewing leather, plastic materials and all raw materials not formed by an intertwining of threads, but by a uniform layer. To machine these materials you need to make a hole in the surface itself, which these types of tips are capable of.

Within these two groups, further divisions can be found, depending on the application and the material to be processed. In particular, for the processing of fabrics, conical points and ball points are mainly used, which, in the various shapes, allow you to perform all the normal operations necessary to build the garments.

Where to buy?

You can buy 247 cheap machines on the following websites:

Sewing machine manufacturers

Borletti “Superautomatic” sewing machine mod. 1102, designed by Marco Zanuso (Compasso d’oro Award 1956). Photo Paolo Monti.

Singer sewingmachine

Some brands of sewing machines are or have been:

Singer (USA), Pfaff (Germany), Dürkopp Adler (Germany), Brother (Japan), Juki (Japan), Toyota (Japan), Siruba (Japan), Bernina (Switzerland), Elna (Switzerland), Seiko (Japan) , AMF Reece (USA), Union Special (USA), Husqvarna Viking (Sweden), Salmoiraghi (Italy), Vigorelli (Italy), Necchi (Italy), Borletti (Italy), Rimoldi (Italy), Conti Complet (Italy), Exacta (Italy).

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