The year of 1790s marked the midst of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, when the appearance of flying shuttles and the spinning jenny allowed for a massive increase in the production of cotton fabrics and yarn, which, when combined with the advent of the steam engine, led to the creation of large textile factories. Nevertheless, professional clothes-makers, seamstress and housewives would spend many hours a week producing and mending clothing by hand.
Thomas Saint, an English inventor, realised that clothing production should be improved to take advantage of the increase in fabric production. Thus came his patent of a “sewing machine”. However, he did not successfully advertise or market his invention.
In 1829, the first practical and widely used sewing machine was invented by Barthélemy Thimonnier, a French tailor. Over the next hundred-or-so-years, the sewing machine underwent constant improvements and changes and spread to other parts of Europe and North America.
It could be understood that the invention of the sewing machine marked a new era of the clothing field. Firstly, it changed the life of many women. Traditionally, women just stayed home to do chores and spent several days a week sewing clothing for themselves and their family. Thanks to sewing machines, a housewife could now complete her sewing in a mere several hours, allowing for more free time to pursue hobbies and attain new skills.
Secondly, with the appearance of the sewing machine, home sewing developed into more industrialized activities. Industrial sewing machines, in combination with the cotton gin, the spinning jenny, and the steam engine, made clothing production much easier and much cheaper. Economically speaking, people could afford to buy more clothing more often, marking the beginnings of the clothing industry that we see today.
The sewing machine's effects on the clothing industry resulted in major changes for other industries as well. Cotton production needed to increase in order to match the demand of the new clothing factories. As a result, cotton became planted in new areas where it had not previously been farmed. Similarly, there was an increased demand for thread, metal (for needles and machine parts), and now machinists as well, to fix broken sewing machines. In addition to being important for clothing production, sewing machines also became important in the manufacturing of furniture with upholstery, curtains and towels, toys, books, and many other products.
Since the second half of the twentieth century, continued advancements in the efficiency of the sewing machines themselves and constant increases in the size of garment factories have created greater amounts of clothing. Nowadays, as production demands went up and competition between clothing companies increased, sewing machines are being produced of very high quality and at a competitive price.
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