The Lancashire Sewing Machine (1853)

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Courtesy of Rijnko Fekkes


October 1st 1853


The production of a Sewing-Machine, which for many years has been attempted without success, has at length been accomplished by the Lancashire Sewing-Machine Company. The automaton may be seen in operation at either of their depots -- No.2, Lawrence Lane, Cheapside, London; or 35, Corporation Street, Manchester. Independently of the table upon which the machine rests, it is composed of a flat iron disc, about twelve inches square. From one side of this surface an arm rises erect, to the height of about ten inches, and then passes over to the opposite side.

From the extremity of this arm descends a moveable bar, to the bottom of which is fixed a needle, the eye being about half an inch from the point; and on top of the arm is fixed a reel, or bobbin, filled with silk or other thread.

Fixed to a main shaft is a wheel, turned by a handle (which also can be worked by a treadle or steam engine), that gives motion to a lever within the arm, and which moves the vertical needle up and down. Beneath the visible surface or base is a second reel of thread, supplying another needle, which, in place of being straight, is circular, and works horizontally; and, consequently, at right angles to its stitching companion which descends from the arm. Supposing the threads to be passed through the eye of each needle, and the apparatus set to work, the process is thus performed: -- The vertical needle descends, and passes through the two pieces of cloth to be united, carrying with it the thread, to perhaps half-an-inch below the under side of the cloth. As the needle rises, the thread is left behind in the form of a noose or loop, through which the horizontal needle passes; the horizontal needle instantly reversing its motion, leaves a loop, into which the the vertical needle descends.

Both needles thus progress, forming a series of stitches; each stitch being quite fast, even should its neighbour be severed. The apparatus is stated to produce as much work as twenty skilful hand sewers. The tightness of the thread is regulated by a screw; and as each stitch is of equal tension, a great advantage is secured in the regular appearance of the work. The length of the stitch, by turning a small nut, can be increased or diminished to any degree of fineness, and perfect uniformity secured.

By a simple contrivance, which it would require too much space intelligibly to explain, the cloth is moved forward at every stitch; and the operator, by directing its approach to the needle, can cause the sewing to be straight, angular, or circular.

We have stated that each stitch is independent of the one on each side of it. In this respect it differs from a French invention [Thimonnier's??] introduced a few years ago, in which only one thread was employed. In that case, when the thread broke, the rent extended.

We understand that a considerable number of these machines are already at work in various houses, and that their operation is entirely satisfactory.

Some early specimens of the clothing made by the Sewing-Machine may now be seen in the Dublin Exhibition, where they are exhibited in the space allotted to the agents of Messrs. Nicoll, of Regent Street, London; but the sleeved cape, a new garment invented by the above firm, is the first properly completed sample of the workmanship of the machine. The material of this garment is an improvement on the blue cloth, which obtained and Exhibition Prize in 1851, and is richly lined with silk, which, with the borders, cuffs, collars, seams, etc., of the cloth, are simply but elegantly ornamented and secured by wonderfully exact and fine sewing, in which respect its chief merit is professed to exist. On a carefully-made calculation, it appears that, although the garment is free from unnecessary seams, etc., yet the extraordinary number of 300,000 stitches have been made in its construction.

It has purposely prepared for the inspection of his Royal Highness Prince Albert, as being the first perfect result of machinery so applied; and which will, without doubt, tend to diminish, if not entirely remove, the unhealthy nature of the employment of the mechanic. At the same time, it seems to be clear that, as the sewing machine will do much in the way of increased strength and appearance, at present quite out of the reach of hand power, it will not interfere with the numbers or immediate interests of the workmen, as Messrs. Nicol, the employers of many hundreds, distinctly assert that they will not, in consequence of its introduction, discharge a single hand; but on the contrary, they believe it will be the medium for increasing the demand already existing in the export trade -- the supply for first-class goods not meeting present demand.

They expect, therefore, by the machine, to add to the number and comfort of their workpeople; who will, by its use, avoid the numerous ill effects of a constant sitting posture.