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Sewing is the process of joining 2 or more layers of fabric by stitching with needle and thread. Sewing may be done by hand or by machine.


Brief History of Sewing - Needle and Machine

Primitive sewing process was simple, two layers of animal skin held together with animal sinew or nerve. Bones or any other sharp implement was used to make holes in animal skin for the sinew or nerve to pass through. The oldest hand sewing needle found by archaeologists is approximately 28,000yrs old made of bone. Needle with eye (hole) came into use about 17,000yrs ago, made with bones or antlers (animal horn). The first metal needle made of copper is found to be 7000yrs old. 

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In 1790, Saint Thomas of England observed how the shoemakers stitched shoes and invented a simple sewing machine (chain stitch sewing). This machine was not popularly used.

In 1830, the first popular and practical 2 thread chain stitch sewing machine was invented by a French tailor, Barthélemy Thimonnier.

Between 1840 - 60, Elias Howe, Isaac Merritt Singer patented and manufactured the lockstitch domestic sewing machine operated by hand, the foot pedal lock stitch sewing machine.

In 1857 - James Gibbs patented the single thread chain stitch sewing machine.

Between 1873-1914 - starting with invention of zig-zag stitching machine, Helen Augusta Blanchard made and patented 22 inventions that improved sewing machines utility.

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In 1900 Singer Company developed industrial sewing machines.

Electrically operated models arrived in 1921. 



• Sewing apparel as per specified construction.

• Maintain uniformity in produced output.

• Maintain neatness and cleanliness in the product produced.

• Produce by consuming the least quantity/amount of machines, material, manpower and time.





Operations concerned with preparing cut components for sewing includes:

• Numbering & Shade Marking

• Position Marking

• Bundle Preparation

• Collecting trims as required

• Fixing Fusible interlinings


Fabric Weight: The type of fabric most frequently sewn on a sewing machine influences / determines the choice of type of sewing machine, type of parts of sewing machine. Fabric type is categorised by weight for easy choice of sewing machinery as the thickness of fabric affects sewing quality.

• Light Weight (60-120gsm) any thin fabric usually used for ladies tops and men’s shirts, wind cheaters, as linings.

• Medium Weight (120gsm – 240gsm) mostly non transparent fabric used for ladies bottoms, men’s & ladies casual shirts and men’s bottoms.

• Heavy Weight Fabrics (240gsm – 340gsm) dense or bulky fabrics used mostly for bottoms, outer wear.

• Extra Heavy (above 340gsm) dense and bulky fabrics like leather, Rexene, polar fleece used for winter wear or outer wear.




Sewing machines are broadly divided into 2 categories; Domestic and Industrial.  


DOMESTIC SEWING MACHINES: Domestic sewing machines are made for use at home. Convenience of use is the main requirement in a domestic sewing machine. The advantage with domestic sewing machines is either multi-functional or portable. Another advantage is they can be either manually operated or electrical power is provided to run the machine. Domestic sewing machines are made for use for a few hours in a day. Speed of sewing of domestic sewing machines is lower than industrial models. Anyone can learn to operate domestic sewing machines.

• Domestic sewing machines are lockstitch machines.

• Basic servicing and maintenance of Domestic sewing machines can be learnt and carried out at home. Domestic sewing machines have tobe manually oiled regularly.

• Domestic sewing machines may be manually operated or be electrically operated. 

• Manually operated domestic sewing machines are in use in areas with bad electricity supply.  This machine is also a cheaper alternative to the electrically operated domestic sewing machine. Usually treadle (foot) operated but some-times hand operated.

• Manually operated sewing machines either have a half rotating shuttle or a full rotating shuttle.  

• Manual machines with half rotating shuttle are slower than machines with full rotating shuttle. 

• Manual machines with Half Rotating Shuttle sew only lock stitch in straight lines. 

• Manual machines with Fully Rotating Shuttle sew lock stitch in 2 options; in straight lines or zigzag lines.

• For straight lock stitch, the stitch length can be adjusted as required. The term used is SPI (stitches per inch).

• For zigzag lock stitch, the SPI (stitch length) and the stitch width can be varied as required. The stitch length once set; cannot be changed while sewing. Stitch width can be varied as required while sewing. Hence this machine is used for embroidery in the unorganised commercial machine embroidery sector.

• Handling of cut components is difficult while using a manually hand operated sewing machine. The difficulty is because one hand is completely occupied in running the machine. As machine table is absent, cut components to be sewn hang down from the machine bed. This leads to components being dragged away from feed area of machine. Hence quality of sewing is affected negatively.

• Handling of cut components is easier while using a manual treadle sewing machine. The treadle is leg operated. The treadle machine has a table. Components to be sewn rest/lie on the table leading to very less drag on components in feed area. Hence quality of sewing is better. A few aides and attachments can be used while sewing.

• The belt of a treadle machines tends to loosen or break over a frequently. This affects speed of treadle machine. 

• Many manual domestic treadle machines with straight lock stitch are converted to power operated versions by household users. A treadle operated sewing machine may be fitted with a low horse power motor on the table to turn it into electrically operated machine. This machine vibrates a bit too much and causes fatigue to the operator. 

• Electrically operated domestic sewing machines are available in 2 options in India. A tailor model with straight lock stitch and another multi-function machine. Both have fully rotating shuttle.

• Electrically operated sewing machines sew lock stitch in straight line or lock stitch in zigzag line. Correct Stitch formation occurs only with synchronised movements of needle bar, pressure bar, feed dog and shuttle mechanism. 

To form lock stitches in straight line, the needle and needle bar move up and down, feed dog pushes fabric forward. 

To form zigzag stitches, the needle bar and needle in addition to the up-down motion, move sideways to left and right. The needle plate will have a wider hole to accommodate sideways movement of needle. Height of the feed-dog can be adjusted into up or down positions in an electrically operated zigzag lock stitch sewing machine. 

• For machine embroidery at home or in the unorganised commercial machine embroidery sector, a fully rotating shuttle, lock stitch, zigzag sewing machine is used. It may be a manually operated treadle machine or an electrical machine with the motor fixed to the machine table.

• For household sewing, zigzag stitch multi-function sewing machines are used. The motors in these machines are built-in, not visible externally. In addition to straight lock stitch and zigzag lock stitch sewing, these machines can be set to sew different pre-set decorative stitches similar to embroidery stitches. Button-hole making, button fixing, blind hemming can be also be done. The feed dog position can be adjusted for light weight fabrics and for can be dropped down for free hand machine embroidery. A number of aides and attachments can be used while sewing.



Sewing machines used in apparel manufacturing factories are generally known as Industrial Sewing Machines. Industrial sewing machines are always electric power operated and do not require manual oiling. High voltage power supply is required to run industrial sewing machines. . Industrial sewing machines are bigger than domestic sewing machines, are more expensive and built for using for long hours. Speed of industrial sewing machines is very high and sewing quality is very good. Each type of industrial sewing machine performs one type of sewing. 

Operating an industrial sewing machine requires a bit of aptitude, learning and practice. Professional mechanics have to carry out most repairs and maintenance of industrial sewing machines. Industrial sewing machines can be broadly categorised into 2 categories:

• High-speed industrial sewing machine – while sewing, fabric components are fed manually by a sewing machine operator.

• Electrical, programmable, automatic pattern stitching sewing machine – these are of 2 types; 

- a) Sewing machine operator places fabric components tobe sewn at designated place/points of sewing machine. Machine runs, sewing happens and machine stops; operator does not move or touch fabric components when sewing is going on. Operator may have to remove sewn components from machine if automatic let-off of sewn components is not programmed.

- b) In some machines, all the operations of point a) above are automatic.