Room 004




The Practical Mechanic Journal


The ingenious mechanical contrivances which are new so effectively invading the domain of the seamstress, are of very recent origin, having only come into anything approaching to general use within the last two or three years. They are, indeed, a striking example of rapid development of complex mechanical combinations. So lately is it since we first heard of an actual working sewing machine and to such perfection of work has the system now arrived, comparing the results achieved with the space within which they have been accomplished, that it seems as if the clue leading to the mysteries of mechanical stitching had long been hidden or unnoticed, but when laid hold of, the whole matter was at once laid bare and turned to practical account, in supplying a leading want in the arts of human existence. Our cousins in the United States are frequently accused of appropriating to themselves credit for mechanical inventions to which they have not always a clear title; but, in the present instance, we think the man must indeed be prejudiced who will not allow them the honour of being the first inventors of mechanism, as well for performing the drudgery, as for elaborating the refinements, of the art of the seamstress. Sewing machines were first demanded in the United States in consequence of the scarcity and the high price of human labour there and the American artisans met the call by producing small and comparatively inexpensive machinery, capable of performing with the greatest rapidity and precision that work, the adoption and exercise if which, as a means of livelihood, has always excited so greatly the compassion of the benevolent of this country. It cannot but be interesting to our readers to trace the origin and development of this machinery and we propose in this and our following numbers to give a succinct history of the inventions, as disclosed by the several patents obtained in this country and in America for sewing machines. Before entering into this history, however, we may briefly state the present position of sewing machines in this country and in the United States. In the United States, the manufacture of sewing machines is carried on by improved machinery, in large factories specially devoted to the purpose, and consequently the machines themselves are, as pieces of mechanism, of the most perfect construction. The manufactories are now principally in the hands of joint-stock companies, formed or arising out of the old patentees and manufacturers, such as the Grover & Baker Sewing Machine Company, the Wheeler & Wilson Sewing Machine Company and others, turning out hundreds of machines per week. The machines are there produced at a reasonable price and this earlier patentees, instead of endeavouring to appropriate to themselves or to their lawyers, the whole profits arising from their inventions, have consented to take small royalties, which, from the immense number of machines sold, produce in the whole large incomes and these arrangements work to the benefit of patentees, manufacturers and the public. In this country, the whole arrangements are quite different. The first practical machines were introduced from America and having been copied in this country, many inferior imitations of them, made as cheaply as they could be for the purpose of sale, were disposed of before the owners of the earlier patents had taken much notice of them. After a time, however, some of the large American manufacturers sent over their own machines for sale, which, although much higher in price than those we have above referred to, commanded an extensive sale. These machines were also sold for some time without exciting the attention of the earlier patentees; but one of these parties having in the meantime put a machine, ostensibly manufactured under his own patent, into a practical form, commenced proceedings against the users of the American machines and up to the present time has succeeded in stamping them as infringements and resolutely refuses to grant any licences to manufacture or sell the American machines, which many users of sewing machines greatly prefer, and consider of vastly superior workmanship to those of home make. The effect of this state of things at the present time is to impede very greatly the use of sewing machines in any shape, without really benefiting any one; as it is quite clear, if the early patentees here were to grant licences to all makers at a reasonable rate, the sale of sewing machines would be enormously enlarged, law proceedings, which appear interminable, would be avoided, the public would have the choice of machines and would be able to select those best adapted to their own special requirements, whilst the patentees, by an enormously increased sale, would probably triple or quadruple the profits they now make out of the sale of their own machines. We shall now proceed with our history.  

The earliest patent on record for improvements having for their object the facilitating and expediting the operation of sewing or embroidering on fabrics, is one granted the 24th of June, 1755, to Charles Frederick Weisenthal.

His invention consists of an improved needle made with two points, the one at the head and the other at the opposite end as usual. The object of this arrangement is to obviate the necessity for turning the needle each time it is passed through the fabric. This peculiar needle was intended for hand embroidery solely  and we mention it more for the purpose of showing the origin of the double-pointed needle, which in after years became adopted in embroidering machines, than for any intrinsic merit or interest the invention itself.

Robert Alsop obtained a patent on the 22d of March, 1770, for producing embroidered stuffs in a loom with one, two, or more shuttles; but there seems to be nothing in this invention bearing any analogy to the present embroidering or sewing machines. The embroidering of fabrics in a machine specially constructed fur that purpose, and fitted with a large number of needles, appears to have been first made known to the public about the beginning of the present century. On the 30th of May, 1804, a patent was granted to John Duncan, for a machine for tambouring upon cloth. This machine contained a large number of barbed needles or hooks, which were passed in and out of the fabric by means of a horizontal sliding bar, to which they were all attached, and arranged in one straight row. The forward motion of this needle bar causes the barbed ends of the several needles to penetrate the fabric, in which position each needle is supplied with thread by a feeding needle, which passes the thread round the tambouring needle and under the barb thereof. The several needles having been thus supplied with thread, the needle bar recedes from the fabric, drawing the needles and threads with it, the latter being drawn through the fabric in the form of loops, which loops pass through the loops previously formed by the needles. By imparting a describing motion either to the needles or to the fabric, patterns of any kind are produced. The patentee prefers to communicate this describing motion to the fabric, and for that purpose the fabric is stretched between two rollers in an upright frame, capable of sliding vertically in a second frame, having a horizontal sliding motion from side to side of the machine, the combination of these two motions being sufficient to produce any required design. The traversing of these frames was effected either by means of two screw spindles working in the two frames respectively and actuated by the hand of the workman, so as to produce the pattern required, or by means of pattern cams or surfaces cut to the required design. By the latter arrangement the machine was rendered self-acting and of course greater regularity of design was obtained. The fabric is supported at the back by a fixed bar, over which it traverses during the process of ornamentation, such bar having perforations made therein for the purpose of allowing the needles or hooks to enter. By this means the yielding or bellying of the fabric, which would occur if it were not properly supported on the entrance of the needles or hooks is prevented. Mr Duncan appears to have been the first inventor of a frame capable of traversing the fabric in a vertical or horizontal direction, for the purpose of producing various patterns or designs thereon, which ingenious arrangement is still employed in a modified form in the embroidering machines of the present day; and we think that he may be fairly considered as the father of embroidering machines.

The first step towards the present extensively adopted sewing machines may be said to have been taken by James Winter, who obtained a patent on the 20th of February, 1807, for an apparatus for facilitating the sewing and pointing of leather gloves. The main feature to be noticed in this invention is the holding of the two thicknesses of leather to be united between metal plates or jaws. The actual operation of sewing however, was accomplished by hand, with an ordinary needle and thread and in order to ensure the stitches being even and regular, an instrument called an " index " was adapted to the jaws and this index, which was in the form of a flat plate, was grooved or notched transversely on its upper edge, through which grooves the needle was passed in succession  during the operation of sewing, thereby ensuring a greater regularity of work than when the stitches are regulated by the eye alone.

Fig. 1 of our illustrations represents a perspective view of the holding jaws, and index attached thereto. A are the jaws, one of which is hinged at b, to admit of their opening and closing, c is the index, formed of two plates grooved at their upper edge, and nipping the fabric between them. A spring, d, serves to keep the jaws shut; they are opened by a cord, e, attached to a stud on the hinged jaw and passing down to a treadle in the base of the stand, not shown in the sketch. Here then is the first mention made of the employment of holders as a substitute for the finger and thumb of the seamstress. Mr. Winter took out a subsequent patent on the 19th of December, 1821, for some slight modifications upon his former invention above referred to, these modifications relating simply to the mode of opening and closing the holding jaws.


We pass over the several embroidering machines of Bock (1829), better known, perhaps, as Heilmann's machine, Cropper and Milnes (1835), and Sneath (1836); merely observing that they all more or less resemble, in general feature, the original machine of Duncan, in as much as the fabric is traversed to suit the patterns to be produced, and there are a large number of. embroidering instruments worked simultaneously in one machine. Messrs. Newton and Archbold, in the specification of their patent for "improvements in producing ornamental or tambour work in the manufacture of gloves," bearing date the 4th of May, 1841, describe the use of metal clamps or holders for holding the fabric, and traversing it in a straight line during the action of the embroidering or tambouring needles. The actual tambouring instruments used by Messrs. Newton and Archbold are shown in the figs. 2, 3, 4 and 5 and consist simply of a needle through the glove and loop previously left by the needle.



This loop is seized by the vibrating hook, c, and drawn forward,  as shown  in fig. 2, so that on the next ascent of the needle it will pass through the loop, as shown in fig. 3. This loop is then released by the backward motion of the hook, as shown in fig. 4; and before the needle descends again, the  second loop of thread brought up by it is laid hold of, as shown in fig. 5, to be drawn forward into the position shown in fig. 2, ready for the next ascent of the needle: and so the work proceeds, the result being simply a one-thread chain stitch, which is very liable to be ripped out should one end of the thread become unfastened. The thread as it proceeds from the reel or bobbin to the needle is passed over a roller covered with cloth, for the purpose of giving a proper drag or tension thereto, and the prevention of slack is effected by passing the thread under a bar in connection with oscillating weighted levers, so that the bar may rise and fall with the needles, and thus keep the threads in a uniform state of tension. A small foot attached to the hook bar rests upon the surface of the fabric, to prevent it from rising when the needle enters. The fabric is moved forward stitch by stitch by a rack-and-pinion motion in connection with the table which carries the holders or clamps. 


Figs. 6, 7 and 8 represent respectively a transverse section, a longitudinal section, and a plan of one of these holders. The waving line in fig. 6 represents a glove as fitted into the holder. The under side of the holder is open to allow of the needle lever working therein; but is made  with three narrow slots on its upper side, as shown at A, these slots correspond to the three rows of ornamental stitching to be produced on the back of the glove; where one row of stitching only is required, only one slot would be used. In the upper side of this holder are hinged three clamps, b, which are also slotted to correspond to the slots in the holder. Four plates, c, which stand up from the surface of the holder, are arranged to come one on each side of the clamps, the object of these plates being to  take up the material of the glove, when the clamps are shut down, in such a manner as to admit of the three rows of stitches being made parallel to each other when in the holder, but when removed and opened out, that  they shall be. in a radiating direction to suit the back of the glove. These holders, with their clamps, are secured to the travelling table or carriage by a bolt passed through the opening, d, so that as the carriage progresses the holders and gloves will move with it, for the purpose of forming the successive stitches, The dovetail grooves in the sides of the holder are for the purpose of receiving filling pieces, when gloves of a larger size are to be operated upon. When the clamps are closed down over the fabric, they are held fixed by suitable catches to prevent their rising, and in this state, namely, retained between two slotted surfaces, the fabric is ready to be stitched, and the holder is then fitted on to the travelling carriage. Although this machine was specially intended to produce the three rows of ornamental stitching on the backs of gloves, it is equally capable of uniting two fabrics together. We have had an opportunity afforded us of inspecting it when in operation, and we found that it could unite two fabrics together with perfect ease, although it had never been contemplated to make a sewing machine of it, by using it for the purpose of uniting fabrics. One great obstacle, however, to its being used as a sewing machine is, that it can only make straight seams, or rows of stitches; but the holding of the fabric between two metal surfaces, having openings made therein for the passage of the sewing instruments, may be considered as an important step in advance towards the present sewing machines.  


The first machine adapted in this country to the sewing of two pieces of cloth together, without the aid of hand labour, was one patented on the 2d of April, 1814, by Leonard Bostwick, the invention having been communicated to him by a foreigner. This machine produces a running or basting stitch. Fig. 9 represents a side elevation of the working portion of the machine, with one of the side plates removed, in order, to show the internal arrangement.


The cloth enters between the large toothed wheel 'A' and the smaller wheel 'B' and by that means is formed into doubles or crimps, as shown by the waving or undulating line. The needle 'c', shown in detail in fig. 10, is held stationary by the additional pinions 'n' and E and wheel 'F'. It is made in the peculiar form shown, in order that it may be passed over the small pinion 'D' and be thereby always kept up to "its work and prevented from running out of the machine. The pinion 'D', is actuated by causing the spur wheel 'G', on the axle of the wheel 'B', to gear into and drive a pinion mounted on the axle of the pinion 'n', outside the casing. A groove is made in the several wheels and pinions 'A', 'B', 'D', 'E' and 'F', for the purpose of receiving the needle and holding it steady and in its proper position. The needle is always stationary and has an eye formed at one end, as in ordinary needles, for the purpose of holding the thread, which may either be loose or run off continuously, from a ball or reel,  as the operation of sewing proceeds. The length of stitch will, of course, depend on the pitch of the doubling or crimping teeth in the several wheels and pinions. 'H' is the pinion which drives the large wheel 'A'. A machine constructed on the principle of this patent has been largely introduced into this country, for the use of bleachers, printers, dyers, finishers, and lace manufacturers and for the mere purpose of tacking two pieces of material together for temporary purposes, it is of considerable value. A patent was granted to John Fisher and James Gibbons, of Rudford, Nottinghamshire, for "certain improvements in the manufacture of figured or ornamented lace, or net, and other fabrics," bearing date the 7th of December, 1844. Amongst other things described in the specification of this invention is a machine for sewing cords, threads, gimp, yarn or fabric in pattern, on to fabrics.


This, according to the specification, is effected by the aid of a needle and shuttle and in justice to Messrs. Fisher and Gibbons, we feel bound to state that it is to them we are indebted for the suggestion of,combining a needle with a shuttle, for the purpose, of uniting two fabrics, by means of two threads locked together, so as to produce a lasting stitch. This machine contained several sets of needles and shuttles, working simultaneously, and was intended more for the purposes of ornamentation than as a bona fide sewing machine. We cannot learn that it has ever been put into practice. Fig. 11 represents a sectional elevation, and edge view, of the needle specified by Messrs. Fisher and Gibbons. This needle is bent, or curved, in the form of a bow, and is made with two eyes, the one being near the point, and the other at the bottom of the bend. The curved portion of the needle, between these two eyes, is grooved, in order that the thread may lie therein without rubbing against the cloth during the passage of the needle. The object of the bend is to keep the loop of the thread open when passed through the cloth, so as to enable the shuttle to traverse freely with its second thread through the needle loop. 


The shuttle is shown in longitudinal section at fig. 12 and is fitted with a spool or bobbin containing the second thread. A notch, or recess 'a', is made at each end of the shuttle, for the purpose of imparting motion thereto, as we shall fully explain further on. 

Fig. 13 shows the shuttle 'A', in the act of passing through the loop of the needle 'B', above the cloth, whereby the needle thread is locked, or prevented from being drawn out by the descent of the needle. The needles are secured to a needle bar placed beneath the fabric and in order to pass the curved portion, or bow through the fabric, a "shogging" motion is imparted to the needle bar, simultaneously with its rising and falling motion.







Fig. 14 represents a transverse section of apportion of the machine, showing the mode of actuating the shuttle, 'A' is the shuttle and 'B' one of the needles, which is cast in a "lead" secured to the needle bar, 'C'. The shuttle, which is pointed at both ends, is moved to and fro so as to pass through every fresh loop formed by the needle, by means of the two vibrating arms, D, D1. These arms are carried by overhead rocking shafts worked by cams. The vibrating ends of the arms, n, D1, are slotted, so as to receive necks or studs on the bars, E, E1, which rest on the fixed platforms, F, F1 and are slided to and fro by the swinging of the arms, D, n1. On the ends of the bars, E, E1 , are projections which form bearings for the axes of the catch bars, G, G1. To the ends of each catch bar is fixed a finger, H, H 1, moving  along the guide rails, I, I1; hence, as the arms, n, D1, swing together, the one finger will be moving up, whilst the Fig. 13, other is moving down the inclined planes, K, K1, thus causing the catch bars, G, G1, to rook slightly in their bearings.




Each of these bars carries as many catches, L, L1 as there are shuttles in the machine and the bent ends of the catches are made to enter or withdraw from the notches, a, a, in the ends of the shuttles, by the turning of the catch bars. When either of the fingers is on the  lower portion of its guide rail,  that is,  in the position shown by the finger, H 1, then the corresponding catches, L, will be down, or engaged in the notch of the shuttle, which is thus for a time connected to the sliding bar, E1 and will consequently move with it at the next vibration of the arm, D 1. As the finger, H 1, slides up the incline, K 1, the catches, L 1, will be gradually elevated out of the shuttle, whilst the opposite catches, L, will begin to come into action by the descent of the finger, H and having engaged themselves with the shuttles, the backward motion of the sliding bar, E, will draw them all through the needle loops. The needles then descend and the shuttle threads will be fastened down by the threads of the needles. The fabric, m, is now traversed to the proper position for the next stitch and the needles again rise up through the fabric and form another set of loops, through which the shuttles are passed back again, in the manner above described and so on, until each pattern is completed. The fabric is carried by a pair of cloth rollers, capable of sliding horizontally in two directions, namely, laterally and longitudinally; these combined movements being sufficient to produce any required design N, N, are two bars, over which the fabric passes, and is kept stretched during the process of ornamentation. A rod or bar, o, running from end to end of the machine, carries two other bars, P, P, which are hinged thereto, so that they may be turned up when it is desired to look below. These hinged bars carry combs or plates, Q, Q, which form shuttle races for the shuttles, one for each shuttle and the combs or plates carry wires, R, which support the shuttles in their movements across from one set of catches to the other. The slack of the threads of the needles is prevented by weighting the thread roller or beam. The ornamenting produced by the shuttles will of course depend on the nature of the cord, yarn, or gymp used, which will be sewn down in pattern by the movement of the fabric each time the needles go down. When a second fabric is fastened by the threads of the needles, the shuttle threads may be of the ordinary kind used in sewing. A subsequent patent was granted on the 10th of June, 1845, to John Fisher, James Gibbons and Thomas Roe, for some modifications of Fisher and Gibbon's patent above referred to. These modifications, however, contained little or nothing in common with the present sewing machines, and need not therefore be further commented upon. Arthur Eldred Walker obtained a patent on the 6th of January, 1846, for improvements in machinery for sewing. The stitch produced by Walker's machine is a running or basting stitch, precisely similar to that of Bostwick, above alluded to; but in place of using toothed wheels for the purpose of doubling or crimping the cloth, Walker employs a rising and falling bar, which alternately carries the fabric above and below the point of the needle.


Fig. 15 of our illustrations shows two views of the needle employed by Walker and fig 16 represents a longitudinal vertical section of the essential parts of Walker's sewing machine. The needle, a, is perfectly straight and is formed with two projections or stops, a, a, the object of which we shall presently point out. When fitted into the machine, the needle remains stationary, and is supported in grooves in the small  rollers, b, b, such rollers turning freely in their bearings as the fabrics are moved along the needle by the larger grooved rollers, C, C and D, D, as we shall afterwards explain. The stops or projections on the needle are acted upon by the catches, E, E 1, which thus prevent the needle from moving back as the fabric is pushed on to it. 


These  catches  have a tendency at all times, by the action of their springs, F, F1, to bear against the needle; but they are respectively held up at proper intervals by the cam surfaces, G, G1 , so as to allow the fabrics, as they have been sewn and have accumulated on the needle, to pass under the catches. H is the rising and falling bar, which alternately presents the fabrics above and below the point of the needle. This bar is cranked or bent at each end, and works on centres at k, on each side of the machine. The requisite rising and falling motion of this bar is derived from a crank and connecting rod, L, a portion of the latter only being shown in our illustration. In order to keep the edges of the fabric in proper position, a guide plate is fitted to the bar, h, having a horizontal slit made therein, through which the fabrics to be united are passed. The front large rollers, C, C, are kept in constant contact, so as to draw the work forward along the needle as fast as it is presented to the needle point. The second pair of rollers, n, D, are not always in contact; but are brought together at regular intervals, when the catch E is elevated, in order that the fabrics accumulated on the needle may be moved along. When the catch E is again depressed, the catch E1 is elevated in a similar manner and the accumulated fabric is drawn, under it by the action of two endless cords, M, passed round each end of the roller N and kept in a proper state of tension by passing round another roller not shown in the cut, which latter or tension roller is held back so as to give the desired tension to the cords by a weight and pulley. In these endless cords is fitted a board, which carries the bobbin of thread used in sewing the fabrics together. The fabrics are, in the first place, sewed together for a short distance by hand before being introduced into the machine and the sewed ends of the fabrics are then attached to the board on the endless cords, which, receiving an intermittent motion from the machine, will draw along the fabrics as fast as they are sewed together, the bobbin carried by the board giving out its thread as the sewing proceeds.  


Up to the latter end of the year 1846, there had been no machine in use in this country which would satisfactory accomplish the operation of sewing; the machines previously employed or known, being for the most part intended for purely ornamental work or embroidery, with the exceptions of Bostwick's and Walker's machines. Yet even these machines, although intended for uniting fabrics, do not produce a firm or lasting stitch, and can only be employed where straight rows of stitches are required, without any great degree of strength. We may observe, however, that machines of this class are very extensively used in the lace districts, for sewing on long lengths of lace edgings, for which purpose they are found to answer admirably. It is to the ingenuity and skill of "Brother Jonathan" that we are indebted for the first bona fide sewing machine. Mr. Elias Howe, of Massachusetts, U.S., was the first inventor of a sewing machine proper, that is, a machine capable  of  producing  a  firm  and  lasting  stitch. Mr. Howe communicated his invention to Mr. William Thomas of London, who took out a patent for it in this country on the 1st of December, 1846. One of the principal features of this invention is the combination of a vibrating grooved needle, having an eye near its point, with a shuttle for effecting a locked stitch, that is, a stitch which will be firm and lasting, and not easily ripped out. The main action of Thomas' machine is, that the shuttle, when the point of the needle has entered the cloth and formed a loop of thread on one side of the same, passes through that loop, thereby securing it, and leaves a thread, namely, the shuttle thread, on the face of the cloth. It is thus obvious that the needle, in place of drawing back its thread with it on being withdrawn from the cloth, is caused to leave a tightened loop on the opposite side of the cloth to that at which it entered. The cloth then passes forward a distance corresponding to the length of stitch required and a fresh stitch is produced by the next penetration of the needle and corresponding stroke of the shuttle.  


Fig. 17 represents a side elevation and corresponding plan of the needle employed in this machine. This needle is attached to one end of a vibrating arm, and is curved so as to form an arc of a circle struck from the working centre of the needle; it is also grooved, both on its upper and under face, in order that the thread may lie therein and be protected from unnecessary friction when the needle pierces and is withdrawn from the cloth. The cloth to be stitched, is hooked on to a baster plate, a portion of which is shown at fig. 18. This baster plate consists of a thin steel rib A, one edge of which is furnished with a series of projecting pins, B B, on to which the two thicknesses of cloth, are pressed and held together during the operation of sewing, without the necessity for tacking or basting them together by hand. A series of perforations are made in the steel rib, into which gear the teeth of a pinion, c, rotating on the underside of the bed plate of the machine, as will be better understood on referring to the front and side elevations of the machine, fig. 19 and fig. 20. An intermittent or step by step motion is imparted to the pinion and consequently to the baster plate and cloth to be sewed, the increments of motion corresponding to the desired length of stitch, and being adjustable accordingly. This adjustable intermittent motion for carrying or traversing the cloth is in all sewing machines called the " feed motion " and we shall subsequently refer to it as such. The shaft which carries the feed motion pinion, c, is fitted with a ratchet wheel, D, which receives an intermittent motion from a pall attached to the end of a vertical vibrating lever E, worked by a cam on the cam shaft F, in the upper part of the machine. An adjusting stop screw is employed for regulating the extent of the return stroke of the vibrating lever, so that its pall will rack a greater or less number of teeth in the ratchet wheel, d, and will consequently at each stroke impart a greater or less traverse to the cloth, thereby producing any length of stitch required. The cloth, when in the machine, is held in a vertical position, and the part to be sewn is pressed against the side of the shuttle race G, by a presser plate H, hinged on its upper edge and is capable of exerting any required degree of pressure on the cloth, by turning an adjusting screw for  that purpose.


A slot or perforation is made in the pressing plate to allow the needle to pass through it, and a corresponding opening is made for the same purpose in the side of the shuttle race near the bottom thereof, so that when the needle is in, the shuttle may pass freely over it. The needle, I, is carried by the arm or needle carrier K, working on a centre at L. This arm is actuated or vibrated to and fro by means of the vibrating lever M, which works on a centre at N and passes through an eye or saddle piece on the end of the needle carrier. Motion is imparted to the lever M, by the grooved cam O, an anti friction pulley on the upper end of the lever working in the groove of the cam. The shuttle race is a species of trough, just wide enough to allow the shuttle to traverse freely therein, and this traverse of the shuttle is effected in a manner similar to that adopted in ordinary power looms, namely, by the aid of picking sticks. These picking sticks consist of a pair of levers P  P, which are caused to strike the shuttle alternately and so drive it to and fro along its race. The requisite striking action is derived from a cam on the cam shaft. The needle thread is supplied continuously from the bobbin Q, an adjustable friction band being applied thereto for the purpose of keeping up the proper drag or tension of the thread. In order to remove or take up the slack of the thread when the needle is performing its inward motion, a rod, K, is used, which is attached at its upper end to a lever arm worked by a cam, for the purpose of giving an up and down vertical motion to the rod. The lower end of this rod carries two pins standing out at right angles to each other. The one pin serves to guide the motion of the rod in the proper direction by working in a suitable cam groove formed on the side of the presser plate, while the other pin catches the needle thread and draws it up on the ascent of the rod, B, so as to remove the thread and prevent it from becoming slack. The guiding cam groove is so formed that when the pin which travels therein has arrived at the top of its stroke and is about to descend again, it will push the rod slightly on one side so as to release the thread from its holding pin and allow the stitch to be tightened by the outward movement of the needle.


On reaching the bottom of the groove the rod is pushed sideways towards the needle again, by a spring for that purpose, so as to be in a suitable position for again taking up the slack thread. Although this contrivance is stated as not being absolutely essential to the working of the machine, yet it prevents all chance of the thread getting entangled, or of the needle piercing or splitting the thread as it enters the cloth. As it is impossible in a paper of this description to enter into anything like minute detail, we have contented ourselves with merely touching upon the main features of construction, in order that the operation of the machine may be generally understood. In using this machine, the cloth, as we before stated, is placed upon its baster plate, which is either straight or curved, according to the nature of the seam to be produced. The plate is then adjusted over its driving pinion and the presser plate is brought to bear upon the cloth so as to hold it against the edge  of the shuttle race. On imparting a rotatory motion to the cam shaft, the needle will penetrate the cloth and carry a loop of thread through it inside the shuttle race. A slight backward movement is given to the needle after it has entered the cloth, for the purpose of slackening the thread, and so opening the loop. The shuttle is now impelled forward, and passes through the needle loop, drawing its thread with it, so as to prevent that loop from being drawn out again at the return or back stroke of the needle, as would inevitably be the case were no means employed for holding or locking the thread. The needle having been withdrawn from the cloth and the stitch tightened, the shuttle is driven back again to its original position, in readiness for the next stitch and in the meantime the cloth has been traversed a distance corresponding to the length of a stitch, so that the needle will next enter at a different place and form the succeeding stitch. As the shuttle only passes through the loop of the needle thread in one direction, it is pointed at one end only, and its back stroke is simply for the purpose of bringing it into a proper position for passing through the succeeding needle loop. Mr. Thomas illustrates and describes a second modification of sewing machine, wherein the baster plate above referred to, is represented by a double sliding frame of a precisely similar action to the frame described by Duncan, and already referred to by us. The cloth to be sewn or ornamented is stretched on this frame, and is moved in any desired direction according to the direction of the seams or lines of stitches to be produced, by means of racks and pinions, the latter being worked by suitable self-acting mechanism, so as to move the cloth frames in the desired direction, each increment of motion being equal to the length of a stitch. This peculiar mechanism is of too complicated a nature to be definitely described in our paper. The same general arrangement of needle and shuttle is still maintained, but the needle is straight in place of being curved and is fitted to a slide working horizontally, instead of to a vibrating arm. We cannot learn that this second modification has ever been put in practice; but judging of the nature of the mechanism connected therewith, we are strongly inclined to believe that it never has been and never will be brought into practical use. Our readers will at a glance perceive the great similarity of action between Thomas' machine and Fisher and Gibbons', the mode of producing the stitch in both being identical. Mr. Thomas also describes a helical needle, having an eye at one end, and a point at the other for entering the work. This needle was intended for joining two edges of fabric together, so as to produce that kind of sewing which is frequently used in glove work and which covers the edges with the stitches. A rotatory motion is imparted to the helical needle and as the fabric is passed forward, the pointed end of the needle will enter it and worm itself through, the continued rotation of the needle drawing the thread through the fabric. This peculiar needle has, however, been disclaimed in 1855 by Mr. Thomas and it has never come into public use.  


An English patent was granted on the 9th of February, 1848, to a Mons. Jean Marie Magnin, for a sewing machine, the invention of which was partly communicated by Mons. Barthelemy Thimonnier, of Amplepuis, France. In this machine a needle or hook, a holding nipple and a rotatory thread carrier work in combination, so as to unite two fabrics together by a one-threaded chain or tambour stitch. We have merely given such illustrations as will explain the general action and construction of the stitch-forming instruments, without entering into any description of the mechanism employed for actuating such instruments, beyond stating that the whole of the rotatory motions required are derived from cords worked by treadles and wound round barrel springs, from which our readers will be able to judge of the impracticable and complex nature of the working parts of the machine.

Fig. 21 represents a vertical section of a portion of Mons. Magnin's machine, showing the position of the sewing instruments, with the needle or hook about to enter the fabric.

Fig. 22 is an elevation of the same, representing the needle or hook as having penetrated the fabric and in the act of rising again. 


Fig. 23 is a side elevation, on a smaller scale, of the thread carrier and fig. 24 is a corresponding plan of the same. A is the needle, which carries no thread of its own, but operates in a similar manner to a tambouring needle hook, that is, it draws the thread supplied to it by the rotating thread carrier, b, through the fabric and loop previously formed, producing the well-known chain or tambour stitch, which is so objectionable by reason of its liability to rip out of the fabric on one of its ends becoming unfastened. The fabrics to be united are laid upon the table C; but no self-acting feed-motion is employed  for traversing it along, this being effected by the hands of the attendant. The lengths of the stitches are regulated by the lengths of the loops drawn by the needle through the fabrics. To regulate the lengths of these loops the needle is adjustable vertically, so as to make longer or shorter loops and so produce longer or shorter stitches. The thread is supplied from a reel beneath the thread carrier and after passing through the tubular axis of the same it is passed through a hook or eye on the end of the curved arm of the carrier and thence up through the needle hole in the surface of the bed plate or table. The stem of the needle passes through a nipple D, which is screwed to a tube E, working vertically in the fixed guiding bracket F and enclosing, of course, the needle stem. 


The needle stem is connected above with a forked horizontal arm, which is depressed by a treadle, so as to cause the needle to penetrate the fabrics and is elevated again to withdraw the needle and pull up the loop by the action of a rack and pinion arrangement worked by a barrel spring. The needle thus works freely up and down through the tube E and nipple 'u'. These latter also slide up and down by a motion of their own, which is so arranged that on the descent of the needle or hook the tube E, will be forced down also till the lower end of the nipple D, comes down and presses upon the fabrics on the table, as shown in fig. 22, thereby holding them firmly in position until the needle passes back again. Before this upward motion of the needle, however, the thread carrier 'u', makes a revolution, as shown by the dotted lines in fig. 22 and thereby twists its thread once round the needle, so that when it rises its hook will catch the thread and draw it up in the form of a loop through the fabrics. This loop remains on the needle whilst the fabrics are traversed for the next stitch, and consequently regulates the length of such stitch. The needle then again descends and the thread carrier having supplied a fresh loop of thread thereto, this second loop is drawn up through the first loop and so on throughout the entire seam. It should be stated that the thread carrier is rotated by a cord wound round its axis, and is brought back again by a coiled spring in the spring box 'd', such turning back of the thread carrier taking place immediately on the entrance of the hook inside the holding nipple during the ascent of the needle. The only point really worth honourable mention is, in our opinion, the hollow nipple D; as it forms a convenient holder for the fabric during the passage of the needle therethrough and might be found a useful appendage to other machines in lieu of the ordinary yielding plate or presser foot for keeping the cloth down on the table and stripping it from the needle.

Mr. William Thomas obtained a second patent, dated the 26th of July, 1848for various improvements which had been communicated to him. 

(GB 12.221/1848)


The fourth part of this invention consists of an arrangement of apparatus for sewing and connecting fabrics and parts of garments, whereby the needles used are simply caused to pass bodily through the fabrics, the ends of the threads being drawn through the fabrics by means of hooks or suitable instruments for that purpose. Fig. 25 of our illustrations is a side view of a portion of the machine, showing the actual sewing mechanism; fig. 26 is a corresponding end view of the same and fig. 27 is a plan of the underside of the upper slides. The fabric to be sewn is supported on the table A.


The needle B, is taken hold of and moved by nippers, each of which consists of a fixed jaw C C1, secured to the sliding plate D and a moveable jaw E E1, capable of turning on a centre in the fixed jaws before mentioned. The sliding plate u, is guided in its vertical movements by the stationary guides G, secured to the fixed bars G1. n H1 are levers working on fixed centres, and caused to vibrate vertically by suitable cams on the main shaft of the machine, which is not shown, however, in our illustrations. The front ends of these levers are forked, to embrace the projections I, in the slides D. The holding jaws or nippers were kept open by springs K and are closed by the action of adjustable screw stops L, which slide along the face of the fixed guides G, such face being recessed or cut away at those parts where it is required that the jaws should be opened. The needle is precisely similar to that patented by Weisenthal in 1755 and previously referred to by us, that is to say, it is pointed at both ends and has an eye in the middle. The needle having been put through from the upper to the under side of the fabric, the latter is moved a distance corresponding to the length of stitch required, previous to the needle being pushed through again from the under side. The needle having been taken by its jaws through to the upper side, and moved upwards clear of the fabric by the ascent of the upper slide carrying the jaws, then makes a slight backward motion, the cam being properly constructed for that purpose, by which means the thread will be slackened and caused to stand outwards slightly clear of the side of the needle. A hook M, now comes into action and seizing hold of the thread carries it outwards. This hook is formed on an arm fixed to the axis N, which axis is carried on the end of a third lever O, made to vibrate vertically by a cam for that purpose. On the upper end of the axis N, is a second arm P, which, by means of the connecting rod Q, receives the requisite rocking motion from a cam and causes the hook to make the required movements, as shown by the dotted lines in the plan, for drawing out the thread. The thread having been thus drawn clear, the stitch is tightened by the ascent of the lever O, carrying with it the hook and the thread engaged with it. We may here mention, that there are no means described in connection with this machine for feeding the fabric, neither is the position of the reel or bobbin for supplying the thread shown or described; we presume, however, that a continuous thread is used. The nature of the stitch produced by this machine will of course depend upon the motion of the fabric, for if the fabric be moved continuously in one direction, a running stitch alone will be produced; whilst if an alternate forward and backward motion be given thereto after each stitch, the class of sewing known as back stitching would be obtained. The patentee, however, leaves us entirely in the dark on these points, as he makes no mention of them in his specification. Mr. Thomas also describes a machine for producing a tambour stitch, of which fig. 28 represents a vertical transverse section and fig. 29 a partially longitudinal section.


In these figures, A is the needle, which is carried by the bent bar B, fixed to the sliding plate C, which carries a stud projecting into the groove of the cylindrical cam D, on the main shaft E. The thread is supplied to the needle from the bobbin F. The fabric to be stitched is held between suitable clamps G and the sliding plate H, which has a step by step movement imparted to it by means of the tappet I, on the main shaft E. This tappet in its rotation strikes the lever K, which works on a centre at its lower extremity and at the upper end carries a pall or driver K1, which takes into the rack teeth on the sliding bar or plate H, above referred to. The distance which this bar shall move at each stroke of the pall and consequently the length of the stitch, is regulated by the adjustable screw stop L, the end of which comes in contact with the lever K, at every back stroke. A hooked instrument M, has a horizontal movement given to it, so that when the middle has carried its thread through the fabric in the form of a loop, the hook M, will take hold of the upper part of the thread which lies across the bend of the needle and hold it in the form of a loop whilst the needle goes back again. On the needle again entering the cloth, which has been previously moved for a fresh stitch, its point passes through the loop held by the hook M, which latter then passes to the right of the needle and thereby releases its loop and in again passing to the left it takes another quantity of thread to form a new loop. The hook M, is carried by a sliding plate N, which, by means of the lever O, has motion given to it from the tappet I. P P1 are springs for bringing the levers K and O, back again after each stroke of the tappet. 


A third modification of sewing mechanism is also described in this specification, consisting of a mode of using a shuttle in connection with a hooked instrument, in order to produce stitching. According to this modification, a shuttle is employed, which is caused to traverse to and fro along its race by the action of a pair of vibrating levers and drivers, actuated by a pair of cams on the main shaft. A hooked instrument attached to a slide worked by a cam passes through the fabric, which is held vertically against the side of the shuttle race. This instrument, on being passed through the fabric, receives the thread from a bobbin, which thread is lapped on to the instrument by means of a guide or bent arm. The hook is then drawn back, carrying with it a loop of thread through the fabric and when the shuttle is thrown across, its point opens the loop and the shuttle passes through it, leaving its thread in the loop, thereby producing the ordinary locked or shuttle stitch. This sewing apparatus is said to be particularly applicable to the sewing of leather, as well as fabrics, in the manufacture of boots and shoes.

An English patent was granted on the 8th of February, 1849, to Robert Brown, of Middlesex, for "improvements in machinery for perforating, sewing, stitching, pegging and rivetting." As Mr. Brown's apparatus would, if illustrated, occupy more of our limited space than we feel justified in giving it, we shall merely give a general descriptive outline of its functions. The fabric to be operated upon is held stationary in a frame whilst the operation of sewing or stitching takes place; at the same time the piercing and sewing instruments have a step by step motion given to them, by their being carried by a travelling frame. The needle employed is pointed at both ends, and has an eye in the mid die similar to Weisenthal's needle. When it is simply required to sew with a single thread, one needle only is used; but when stitching is required to be performed, or a double thread used, there would be two needles employed. The needles are held, pushed through the fabric and taken hold of on the other side by means of fingers, the action being similar to that of the first machine in Mr. Thomas's patent last referred to. The thread is attached at one end to the eye of the needle and at the other end it is held in the work and in order to draw the thread through and tighten the stitch, a hooked instrument is used. In the case of thick goods, the penetration of the needle is facilitated by a perforating instrument or piercer, which makes the holes for the needle to pass through. Provision is also made for performing an "over-and-over" or felling stitch, by causing the frame which carries the fabric to rise up out of the way after every other movement of the needle, so that a stitch will be made only at every alternate passage of the needle.

An English patent was granted on the 9th of August, 1849, to William Thomas, and John Marsh, for "improvements in the manufacture of looped fabrics, stays and other parts of dress; also, in apparatus for measuring". The third part of this invention only relates to stitching or sewing and consists of improvements in ornamenting, stitching, or sewing stays and other parts of dress, by what is called the tambour stitch. The cloth or fabric to be tamboured is laid horizontally upon a table and is pressed or held down thereon by a presser foot worked by a cam and formed with an eye or opening through which, and through the fabric, a hooked instrument descends. The thread, which is supplied from a bobbin beneath the table, is carried round the hooked instrument by a thread carrier. The hooked instrument then ascends and draws the thread in the form of a loop up through the fabric and also through the loop previously formed, thereby producing the well known chain or tambour stitch.


Fig. 30 of our illustrations is a side elevation and partial section of the actual sewing mechanism of this machine; fig. 31 is an enlarged elevation of the hooked instrument; fig. 32 is a plan and side elevation of the thread carrier on an enlarged scale and fig. 33 represents similar views of the presser foot for holding down the fabric. 

A is the table, upon which the work to be tamboured is laid. B is the carrier which conducts the thread from a suitable reel or bobbin to the hooked instrument C. This latter instrument is held in the sliding rod  D, which is guided, as shown during its up and down movements, by the fixed boss E. This vertical motion is derived from a crank on an overhead shaft working the link F, which is connected to the upper end of the sliding rod D. The hooked instrument passes down through the fabric and when thus below the fabric, as shown by the dotted lines, the thread carrier B, is caused to take a movement round the hooked instrument and thereby lay its thread so as to pass into the hook of the instrument C, which then ascends, and the work being shifted for a fresh stitch, the instrument descends again for a fresh loop and the operations are repeated. The peculiar motions of the thread carrier are derived from the combined actions of the rod G, which slides longitudinally only and carries the thread carrier and the vibrating horizontal lever H; one end of which only is shown in our cut This lever carries bearings or guides I, within which slides the rod G. The rod G, is connected at its inner end to a vertical lever which is actuated by a cam on the driving shaft and which imparts the requisite forward motion to the thread carrier. The lateral motion of the thread carrier is derived  from the lever H, which receives its motion from a second vertical lever worked by a cam on the driving shaft and connected at its lower end to the end of the lever H. It is thus obvious that by these combined movements the thread carrier will be caused to pass on one side, from a position behind the hooked instrument to the front of the same, as shown by the dotted lines, then across the front of that instrument in a lateral direction, and finally back to its position behind the same, thus passing entirely round the hooked instrument. It is on  this particular movement of the thread carrier that the patentees base their claim to novelty. The presser foot K, is fixed to a bar at the lower end of the sliding rod L, which works in suitable guides on the front of the bracket, M. This sliding rod is constantly held upwards by the helical spring O; but is forced down so as to hold the work under operation by a cam on the shaft above, which acts upon a curved blade spring on the sliding rod L. The object of this spring is to enable the presser foot to yield slightly and accommodate itself to different thicknesses of fabric. P is a lever for stopping or starting the machine when requisite. This is the first actual sewing machine in which a yielding presser foot has been employed for holding the fabric to be stitched against a flat surface, during the passage therethrough of the needle or sewing instrument, the fabric being at the same time free to be moved in any required direction and is in our opinion an important step in advance towards the present perfected machines. Our readers will observe, on referring to Mr. Thomas's first patent, that a presser plate is contained in his machine for holding the fabric against the side' of the shuttle race, but the fabric so held was entirely under control of the baster plate to which it was attached, and could not be moved at will by the hand of the attendant. There is no feed motion, however, described in connection with the yielding presser foot of Thomas and Marsh's machine.  




The combination, in sewing machines, of a yielding presser foot or plate for holding down the cloth, with a self-acting step-by-step feed motion, so arranged and worked that the cloth is free to be guided by hand in any required direction over its supporting table, was first introduced from America into this country by the late Charles Morey, Esq., who obtained an English patent for his invention on the 30th of August, 1849 (GB 12.752/1849).

Mr. Morey's improvements, as regards this peculiar feed motion of the cloth, which we shall presently refer to in detail, may be fairly considered as the groundwork of the present perfected sewing machine; indeed, many of the sewing machines now introduced to the public are  little  more than modifications of some of the machines first patented by Mr. Morey.

Mr. Morey's patent embraces five different machines or modifications thereof, which are adapted to different descriptions of work, and perform three distinct kinds of stitches, whereby to connect or ornament the fabrics desired to be so treated. Fig. 34 of our illustrations represents a side elevation of Number 1 of Mr. Morey's five machines.

Machine No.1  Morey's specification
Machine No.1 Morey's specification


This machine produces a basting or running stitch similar to Bostwick's and Walker's machines, and is calculated, as stated in the specification, for sewing the coarser descriptions of material, such as canvas or sacking. The main difference between this machine and Bostwick's is, the combination of a straight needle in place of a bent one with grooved-toothed wheels. In Mr. Morey's machine the needle A, which is perfectly straight, is held at one end, where the eye is formed, in a fixed bracket or standard B, whilst the pointed or opposite end of the needle rests in a circular opening formed by the coincidence of certain notches, formed one in each of the leaves or teeth of the crimping or doubling wheels C, C. Motion is communicated to the shaft D, by the winch handle E, thereby causing both wheels to rotate. The two thicknesses of cloth to be united are introduced between the teeth of the wheels C, which by their rotation form the cloth into a series of undulations and push it forward on to the point of the needle contained between the wheels. When the needle is full, its head is raised from its holding socket and the cloth is pushed off, to leave room for a fresh supply. Mr. Morey has obviously no claim to the leaved or toothed wheels for pushing the cloth on to the needle; but he restricts his claim solely, as regards this machine, to the combination of a straight needle with the leaves of wheels for the purpose of sewing, as shown in our illustration. The second machine is adapted for executing sewing in the chain or tambour stitch, which is accomplished either by means of a needle and hooked instrument, or by a needle and a point, which latter is preferred by the patentee, as the stitch is thereby effected with a greater degree of certainty and the needle is not weakened by having a notch formed therein, which is necessary when working with the hook. As the machine itself is of too complicated a nature to illustrate clearly on the small scale which our limited space alone will admit of, we have merely shown those parts which actually perform the operation of sewing. We will first take the combination of a needle and hook. Fig. 35 represents a detached side view of these instruments, showing the position of the needle A and hook B, after the former has passed through the cloth.


Fig. 36 is a view at right angles to fig. 35, showing the hook B, in side elevation, in the act of holding the loop of the thread whilst the needle A, which is seen in end view, is passing through the same. Fig. 37 is a plan corresponding to fig. 35, showing the needle A, passed through the cloth; whilst fig. 38 represents the same view, before the needle has entered the cloth. The needle, which is made with an eye near its point, is carried by a reciprocating needle bar worked by a grooved cam and passes through the cloth in a horizontal direction, the cloth being held in a vertical position. The hook is carried by a horizontal sliding bar C, to which a reciprocatory motion is imparted by suitable cams on the bed plate of the machine. The thread is supplied continuously from a reel or bobbin, and after passing through a guide eye in the needle holder, it enters the eye of the needle and its end is secured into the cloth. A small weight is suspended on the thread, as it leaves the bobbin, for the purpose of keeping up the proper degree of tension. The cloth D, to be stitched or sewn is fixed between two bars of any convenient length, according to the nature of the work to be accomplished and these bars, with the cloth between them, are slid along the front of the machine in suitable dovetail grooves, by means of a rack connected with the inner bar and worked by a pall on the end of a vibrating lever, so disposed as to move the bars and cloth more or less after every stitch, thus producing the length of stitch required. It follows that the cloth, being held firmly between two bars which are at liberty only to move in one direct course along their guiding slots or grooves, is altogether out of the control of the operator and must of necessity follow the direction of motion of such bars. As these bars in the specification are shown perfectly straight and working in corresponding grooves, the cloth can only be moved in a straight or rectilinear course and therefore curved seams or ornamental patterns could not be produced by this machine. Between each increment of motion of the cloth bars, the needle is caused to penetrate the cloth and carry its thread in the form of a loop therethrough, as shown in fig. 35. The hook B, during this time is being brought forward by its cam and passes or slips over the thread without affecting it; but on its return or back stroke, the hook will pass over the notch or opening in the side of the needle and will take hold of that portion of the thread which lies across such opening, this hold being between the fixed end of the thread contained in the cloth and the eye of the needle. The hook is inclined in such a manner as to expand or open the loop at the same time that it extends it, as will be seen on referring to fig. 36. The needle, which has remained stationary during the taking of the thread by the hook, now commences to recede or withdraw from the cloth and when sufficiently clear thereof, the feeding pall comes into action and moves the rack and bars carrying the cloth a distance equal to a stitch. The needle then again enters the cloth and in addition passes through the loop last formed and now held open for that purpose, see fig. 38. The hook now advances and releases its loop, see fig. 37 and the several operations are repeated, the released loop being drawn up close to the needle by the action of the weight above referred to, which is suspended from the thread. The hook, as before stated, is fixed to a bar C and its stem b, is made broad and flat so as to act as a spring, which presses down on a projection 'c', fixed to the bed of the machine. 


The stem 'b', being inclined, the hook is raised up on approaching the needle, by which its correct position with respect to the notch in the side of the needle will be insured. The fall produced by the inclination of the stem b, brings the hook and loop down opposite the needle, by which the correct passage of the needle through the loop is effected. The same machine, with some slight modifications, is also adapted for effecting the same stitch by means of a needle and a point. Fig. 39 of our illustrations represents a detached side elevation of the needle and pointed instrument and fig. 40 is a corresponding plan of the same. The needle A, is similar to the preceding one, but has no notch, or only a very slight indentation or hollow on its upper side near its point. In lieu of the hook above referred to, a pointed instrument B, is employed, which is secured to the sliding bar 'b'. This bar is jointed at its back end to an extension of the bar 'c', which is continued out for that purpose to the required  length. The free end of the bar b, is supported by means of an adjusting screw b 1, the point of which slides in a straight groove made in the piece 'c', thereby determining the height of the pointed instrument and also ensuring the parallelism of its motion. This instrument consists of a point B. which takes hold of the thread lying along the top of the needle and a broad surface 'd', the under side of which is inclined to the plane of the needle's motion, as shown in the detail section, fig. 41. E is a slight spring which presses upon and holds down the bar 'b', and is attached to any convenient portion of the framing. The thread is introduced as before described, passing through the eye of the needle from the under side and thence to the cloth, where it is secured. The needle A, on perforating the cloth, which is shown in dotted lines at D, passes under the broad surface 'd', of the pointed instrument, which is in the position shown in fig. 42. This has the effect of raising the pointed instrument, by reason of the incline formed on the under side thereof. The backward movement of the point B, now takes place to the position shown in fig. 39 and fig. 40, when, having cleared itself of the needle, it will fall to its original position, regulated by the screw b 1; the point of the instrument 'n', being just below the level of the upper surface of the needle, as shown in fig. 39. The pointed instrument immediately advances again and its point B, takes hold of the thread between the cloth and the eye of the needle, drawing out a loop, as shown in fig. 43. The needle at the same time performs a retrograde movement, so as to withdraw itself from the cloth, which latter is now moved forward for the next stitch. The needle on again entering the cloth will pass through the loop held for that purpose by the instrument 'n', as shown in fig. 43. On entering the loop, the needle again raises the point, B, to the position shown in fig. 42, when the latter again moves backwards, leaving the loop on the needle and in its return stroke taking hold of the thread as before for the next stitch. The loop released by the retrograde motion of the pointed instrument, is retained by the succeeding loop on the withdrawal of the needle and the several motions are repeated, thus producing a precisely similar stitch to that above described.

Fig. 44 and fig. 45 represent respectively a side elevation and sectional plan of Mr. Morey's third machine (No. 3). We have illustrated this machine more as a specimen of the first of its kind than for any real merit of its own: but, as faithful historians, we feel it our duty to set before our readers the various sources or starting points whence have sprung the numerous varieties of sewing machines which we have still to refer to. The machine before us is the first machine wherein the cloth to be operated upon was fixed to a circular or continuous baster or carrying plate and wherein a shuttle was made to travel continuously in one direction in a circular groove or shuttle race. 

Machine No.3  Morey's specification
Machine No.3 Morey's specification


The body of the machine is supported on a pedestal and pillar, a, to the top of which is fitted concentrically the circular plate B, in which is formed the circular groove  or  shuttle  race  for the  shuttle C,  to travel in, as seen in the plan, fig. 45.

D is a ring or circular baster plate, for holding and carrying the edges of  the pieces of cloth or other fabric to be sewn or united by sewing. For this purpose the exterior face or circumference of the ring is fitted at proper intervals with curved or hooked supporting pins, on to which the edges of the cloth are pressed. This ring is arranged eccentrically with reference to the shuttle race and is supported at one side on a suitable projection on the circular plate 'n', whilst its opposite side rests upon an arm E, secured to the plate B and fitted with an anti-friction roller, which bears against the inner face of the ring, for the purpose of guiding it in its rotatory motion. 

Machine No.3  Morey's specification
Machine No.3 Morey's specification


Round the top edge of the ring D, are cut a series of rack teeth and an intermittent or step-by-step motion, in a circular direction, is imparted to this ring by means of a pall carried on the lower end of the vertical vibrating lever F. This lever is actuated by a suitable cam surface formed on the drum G, fast on the driving shaft E, which may be rotated by a winch handle as shown, or by a driving strap and pulleys. I is the needle, which is curved and of a similar construction to the needle already described in reference to Thomas's first patent. It is fitted into the lower end of the vibrating needle arm or carrier K, which is forked at its upper end so as to embrace the drum G and works on a fixed centre at I. A suitable cam groove in the drum serves to give motion to the needle arm and cause the needle to penetrate and withdraw from the cloth. The needle thread is supplied from a bobbin or reel at M and is kept at a proper tension by passing under presser-pads or springs on the needle carrier. The driving shaft H, carries a mitre wheel N, which gears into a corresponding wheel O, on the vertical shaft P. This shaft gives motion to the shuttle C and is fitted for that purpose at its lower extremity with a driver, consisting of two spring arms Q, Q, fitted at their outer ends with studs or pins which take into corresponding holes in the shuttle  and, as the arms rotate, they carry the shuttle round along with them. The shuttle is curved at its front portion, to correspond to the circular race in which it travels and this curved portion is also extended and tapered for facilitating the opening of the needle thread loop. The stitch produced by this machine is precisely similar to that produced by Thomas's first machine; but in order that the passage of the shuttle through the loop of the needle thread may not be impeded by the studs or pins on the arms of the spring driver, these arms are made to rise up in succession as the shuttle is passing through the loop, so that their studs will be out of the way of the thread of the loop and in order that the shuttle may be always under the influence of the driver, one of the spring arms comes down upon the shuttle after being elevated before the second arm commences to rise, sufficient time being allowed for the loop to pass freely under the studs. The rising of these arms is accomplished by causing them to pass over a double incline or swell formed in the centre of the standard R, immediately over that portion of the shuttle race where the loop is formed. The same defect occurs in this machine as in all previous ones where a self-acting feed motion has been used, namely, that the cloth is not free to be guided in any required direction by the hand of the attendant whilst it is being impelled by the feed motion, but must necessarily follow the motions of the baster plate.  



Fig. 46  of our illustrations represents  a vertical section  of  machine  No. 4 of Mr. Morey's patent; fig. 47 is a plan of the upper side of the same and fig. 48 is a similar view of the under side of the machine.

We consider this machine as the most important of all the machines described in Mr. Morey's specification, as it embraces a more perfect feed motion than any of the machines previously described in our "History."

Machine No. 4  Morey's specification
Machine No. 4 Morey's specification


The bed or table 'A', of the machine is supported on the standards or supports 'B' and is furnished with a metal plate 'C', which carries most of the working parts of the machine, the driving gear of which is placed beneath the bed. The needle 'D', is of a curved form and is carried by the vibrating needle arm 'E', which works on a fixed centre at 'F'. Motion is imparted to the vibrating needle arm by the curved lever 'G', which is connected by a rod or link 'H', to a crank on the shaft 'I'. A pinion 'J', on this shaft gears with a spur wheel 'K', on the first motion shaft 'L', both shafts being supported in suitable bearings secured to the underside of the bed 'A'. 

The shuttle 'M', a side elevation and plan of which is shown at fig. 49, is pointed at both ends and is curved alike on both sides, either of such sides corresponding to the curve of the larger radius of the shuttle race.  It is formed with a groove on each side, which grooves receive the edges of the plates 'N', forming the two sides of the race and serving to guide and steady the shuttle during its movements. The curve of the shuttle race is struck from a centre 'O', where the lever 'P', (fig. 48) is pivoted. This lever is provided with two fingers, or drivers, which embrace the shuttle and by the vibratory motion imparted to the lever propel the shuttle to and fro as required. On the driving shaft 'L', is keyed a cam 'Q', having a spiral groove formed therein for the purpose of giving motion to the lever 'P' and thereby driving the shuttle. 


The vibratory motion of this lever also imparts the feed to the cloth, which is placed upon the bed 'A' and beneath the bar 'R'. This bar is perforated at one end, to allow of the passage of the needle through it and is fixed at its opposite end to the bed of the machine. The free end of this bar acts as a presser foot and presses just sufficiently upon the cloth to enable the teeth or roughened surface of the bar 'S', beneath, to feed the cloth along. For this purpose, the bar 'S', is made, to vibrate to and fro. The bar 'R', being stationary, is smooth on its under side, to allow the cloth to slip freely beneath it. Motion is imparted to the feeding bar 'S', by the 'T' piece formed on the end of the vibrating driver 'P', which, during its lateral vibrations, acts alternately upon the two ends of the blade spring 'T', fixed upon the bent portion of the bar 'S'. A sliding motion in a backward direction is thus imparted to the feeding bar, its return stroke being accomplished by the spring 'U'. The amount of motion and consequently the length of stitch, is regulated by an adjustable stop, which limits the return of the bar 'S'. This sliding motion of the bar 'S', causes a fresh hold of the cloth to be taken by the teeth or roughened portion at each backward movement; the slack, or that portion of the cloth which has been sewn, being taken up by the pall 'V', which acts as a claw or foot at each movement of the needle arm.

The stitch produced by this machine is the ordinary shuttle or lock stitch, similar lo that produced by Thomas's first machine. In this machine of Mr. Morey's we have the first introduction of what we may term the friction feed, that is, a feed wherein the cloth is held and propelled by the sole friction of a roughened plate against the surface of the cloth. There still remains, however, a defect to be remedied in this feed and that is. that the roughened plate merely vibrates in one plane and is consequently always in contact with the cloth, in place of rising and striking the cloth when the latter is to be fed forward and then descending out of contact therewith to perform its back stroke in readiness for the next feed. This great improvement, which renders the feed-motion of sewing machines all that can be required, we shall be able to trace presently.

No. 5 machine of Mr. Morey's specification is merely a modification of the No. 1 machine for performing a running stitch, whereby it is rendered  suitable for fine work. The general arrangement consists of a leaved or toothed wheel, working with a corresponding toothed rack, which carries the needle in a groove formed in it for that purpose.  

A  patent was granted  to  Robert Parnall,  on the  13th  of  November 1849 (GB 12.842/1849) for a new instrument for facilitating the stitching and sewing of woven fabrics. Although Mr. Parnall's apparatus cannot be said to be a  sewing machine, yet, as its object is to facilitate the operation of sewing by hand labour, we deem it within our province to give our readers a brief description of its nature and mode of operation.

According to Mr. Parnall's invention, the fabrics to be stitched or sewed together are pierced or perforated with a number of holes in the direction of the lines of stitches to be subsequently introduced, through which perforations the uniting thread or threads are to be passed in the ordinary manner of sewing by hand. The patentee states, that by this invention much less care and attention are required in the after process of stitching or sewing, as the holes for the needle are already made in a perfectly regular manner and, whilst a great saving of time is effected, the appearance of the work is superior to that done in the ordinary way. Shins in an especial manner, it is stated, when stitched in holes, made according to this invention, look much neater than when stitched in the usual method. The perforating apparatus consists of a series of fine piercers arranged side by side, in curves or straight lines according to the contour of the stitching to be introduced. Thus, suitably shaped  perforators are used for piercing the thread holes in the wristbands and collars of shirts where curved lines of stitches are required, or for perforating shirt fronts where the lines of stitches are straight and parallel. The fabrics to be pierced are laid in two or more thicknesses upon a suitable bed or table, beneath a fly press, or other convenient pressing or stamping apparatus. The perforator is then nicely adjusted on the fabrics and the follower of the press made to descend upon it, thereby forcing the series of fine piercers through the whole of the fabrics beneath, after which they are removed to be subsequently stitched by hand.

As we have previously referred to machines intended merely for the ornamenting  of  fabrics  and  not  for  uniting   fabrics,  we  may   here  mention  a  patent  granted  to  Robert Reid  on  the  15th of April, 1850, (GB 13.038/1850) in the specification of which the patentee describes a system or mode of sewing or working figures into cloth, during the process of weaving, by means of small bobbins or pirns carried  by suitable shuttles for that purpose. As there is nothing in  the  specification, however, which  relates to the sewing or uniting of two fabrics together by stitches produced in a mechanical manner, we shall pass it over without further comment.

John Alexander Lerow, of  the United States, obtained a patent in this country for improvements in sewing machines on the 7th of November, 1850. (GB 13.321/1850) Mr. Lerow has, quite unwittingly, no doubt, re-patented and claimed specially the essential feature of Mr. Morey's No. 3 machine, referred to as a type of its class in our Fifth Article (GB 12.752/1849).

He sets forth in his specification for the public behoof, that his machine differs from many others in use in many important particulars and then proceeds to state, that these differences consist in using a shuttle which travels around in an endless groove or path; such rendering his machine vastly or very much superior to those machines wherein the shuttle has a reciprocating rectilinear or curved motion, as it admits of the shuttle being driven or moved at a great velocity without that liability of accident or wear incident to such other machines. 

Fig. 50 represents a vertical section of Mr. Lerow's machine and fig. 51 is a corresponding plan of the same, with the upper works removed, so as to shew the endless groove or path (circular race) of the shuttle, with the shuttle contained therein.  


The stitch produced by this machine is the ordinary shuttle or lock stitch. A is the needle carried by the vibrating arm B, which is driven from the vertical driving shaft C, by the spiral grooved cam D, fast on the upper end thereof. In conjunction with the needle A, works the shuttle E, which rotates continuously within the circular race F (fig. 51) and passes with its filling thread through the loops which are successively formed by the needle thread. The mode of connecting this shuttle with its driver is identical with Mr. Morey's, inasmuch as two studs a, a, are employed, carried by springs attached to the driving disc G; these studs take into corresponding holes in the shuttle and are successively disengaged and engaged with the shuttle, to allow the loops to pass, by coming in contact with a projection at H, the only difference between the two arrangements being, that the studs take into holes in the side of the shuttle in place of in the top. I is a presser foot for holding down the cloth and stripping it from the needle; for which purpose it is perforated or forked at its fore end to allow the needle to pass through it. K is a spring-catch for nipping the thread at the point b, when the needle ascends, so as to draw the thread with it and tighten the stitch. The cloth is carried by a ring L fitted with sharp points and rotating round the periphery of the fixed rim M, secured vertically to the front of the machine. An intermittent or step-by-step feed motion is imparted to the ring L, by a pall actuated from a cam surface N, on the driving pulley, o—such pall taking into the ratchet teeth formed on the edge of the ring. Above the shuttle race and driver G, is fitted to the bed of the machine a plate P, the under side of which is covered with wash leather, so as to form a friction pad, between which and the top of the driver G, the filling thread of the shuttle passes By this means its proper position is preserved during the rotation of the shuttle and it is moreover prevented from becoming entangled with the driving springs or contrivances by which the shuttle is actuated. Our readers will, at a glance, perceive the similarity between this machine and No. 3 of Mr. Morey's machines.

David  Christie    obtained    a   patent    on     the  7th  of November  1850  (GB 13.325/1850for a variety of improvements which had been communicated to him from a foreigner residing abroad, amongst which improvements is combined a sewing machine. From the sweeping claim which Mr. Christie makes at the end of his specification, we should suppose that he was altogether ignorant of the prior existence of any mechanism for sewing fabrics together. From what we can gather from the drawings and description, which are not of the clearest by any means, Mr. Christie's machine resembles, in general formation, Thomas's machine of 1848, (illustrated at fig. 28 in our Fourth Article) with this difference, however, that Christie's machine produces the ordinary shuttle stitch, in place of a tambour stitch. A needle with an eye near its point, carried by a sliding curved needle bar and working in combination with a shuttle having a to and fro rectilinear course, constitute the sewing instruments of Mr. Christie's machine. The fabrics to be stitched are carried by a bar fitted with pins or points and a step-by-step feed motion is imparted to this bar from the driver which actuates the shuttle, suitable ratchet teeth being formed for that purpose in the bar which carries the fabric.

There is, however, a novel idea introduced into this machine, which we do not recollect having met with before and that is, the use of a stop lever on the shuttle driver, so arranged that on the breaking or exhaustion of the shuttle thread the feed motion of the cloth will instantly cease.

We give Mr. Christie's first claim verbatim: The forming a seam by carrying the thread through the fabric by means of a needle attached to a vibrating arm and the passing of a shuttle (furnished with a bobbin or spool containing the thread) between the needle and the thread, as herein before described. A capital claim in its way, but sadly behind hand as regards date. Four years earlier it might have been of some service. 

A patent  was  granted on  the  5th of February, 1851, (GB 13.494/1851) to Frederick R. Robinson, of Boston,  United  States,  for  a  new  and useful "sewing machine". Mr. Robinson does not employ, in sewing with  his  machine, a continuous thread unwound from a bobbin, as is done in the previous machines we have had occasion to refer to, but uses a short piece of thread such as a person uses when sewing by hand with an ordinary sewing needle. This machine is adapted for producing what is termed back stitch sewing, similar to the stitching on shirt collars and cuffs and will also produce ordinary sewing, namely, a running or basting stitch, where the thread is simply passed through the fabric from opposite sides alternately. By suitable modifications, it may also be made to produce what the patentee terms the  cordwainer's  stitch, consisting of two threads which cross each other in the same hole every time they are passed through the cloth, producing in fact the same stitch that a shoemaker or saddler employs in sewing leather. As the thread in this machine is passed entirely through the fabric in both directions, two needles or hooks are required, working one on either side thereof, so that they may alternately pass through the fabric, receive the thread and draw it through on their return or back stroke.

Fig. 52 represents a side elevation of Mr. Robinson's machine complete. A is a circular base plate or table, carrying the working parts of the machine and B is the driving-shaft fitted with a fly-wheel and winch handle C.


An eccentric, D, on this shaft works the needle frame E, which oscillates on a fixed centre at F. This frame consists of two arms, united at their upper ends and connected together lower down by the curved bar or arc G. The lower end of each of these arms carries a curved needle, similar to either of the two forms of needles represented on an enlarged scale at fig. 53. One of these needles is formed a barbed eye near its point and the other one is made more after the form of a crotchet-hook, having no barb. When barbed needles are employed, they each pass through trumpet-mouthed guides, placed on either side of the cloth-holder, which we shall presently refer to, for the purpose of closing the barb during the passage to and fro through the cloth. The front or outer one of these two guides serves also to prevent the cloth from being drawn off the points of the cloth holder and to strip the same from off the outer needle on its withdrawal. H and I are two thread guides, situate one on either side of the cloth-holder. These guides consist of two bars, free to move vertically and laterally; the lower end of each bar being forked to receive a pair of anti-friction rollers, as shown at fig. 54, which is an enlarged detail section of the lower forked end of one of the guides. The requisite motions are imparted to the thread guides by means of suitable projections on the arc, G, of the vibrating needle frame. Helical springs K, serve to raise the thread guides when not acted upon by the depressing projections on the arc. A vertical flange, of an annular form, is made on the base plate of the machine, which serves to support a thin metal hoop L, fitted with a number of projecting points or pins for the purpose of receiving the cloth to be stitched. This hoop with its pins constitutes the cloth-holder. It is formed with ratchet teeth on its upper edge and is made to rotate intermittently round the supporting flange on the base plate by suitable feeding mechanism. This mechanism consists of a vertical vibrating lever M, working on a centre at N and fitted at its lower end with one or more palls O, which take into the ratchet teeth of the cloth-holder. The upper end of the lever M, is actuated by a cam or wiper P, on the driving shaft, so as to push forward the palls and move the cloth the required distance for a stitch. A helical spring Q, draws back the lever to its original position again after each stroke of the wiper. On commencing to sew with this machine, a proper length of thread is selected according to the stroke of the needle frame and one end of this thread is held by a suitable retaining spring, whilst the rest of the thread is laid over the barb or hook of the back or inner needle, which has been previously passed through the cloth. On the withdrawal of this needle, the free end of the thread will be drawn through the cloth and also through the inner thread guide, between the rollers of which the needle passed before penetrating the cloth. The latter is now fed onwards and the front or outer needle in the mean time advances and passes through the front thread guide and through a fresh portion of the cloth; during such advancement, a lateral movement of the inner thread guide causes the thread to be laid over the barb or hook of the front needle. The needles are next moved outwards and during such movement the thread is drawn back again through the cloth and through the front thread guide, being simultaneously drawn out of the eye of the back or inner needle and thread guide. The back needle having passed through the cloth again, the thread is laid over it by the lateral motion of the front thread guide, in readiness to be again drawn through the cloth and so on throughout the entire length of seam. The thread guide through which either of the needles is about to pass is previously moved downwards to its lowest position, or that in which it should be to allow the needle to pass through it. So soon as the needle commences to enter its thread guide, the opposite thread guide is elevated so as to allow the thread, which it carries nipped between the anti-friction rollers, to be raised above the path of the entering needle, so that when this last mentioned guide is moved laterally, the needle may pass directly under that part of the thread contained between the thread guide and the cloth. On the depression of the thread guide again, the thread will be fairly laid upon the needle as above described in reference to the general working of the machine. To produce stitch and back stitch sewing, the two needles must not be situate in the same vertical plane, but should be arranged in two vertical parallel planes at a distance apart equal to the length of a stitch and the cloth holder should be moved forward only during each outward movement of the needle frame. For ordinary stitching, similar to a running stitch, the needles must be disposed in the same vertical plane and a forward movement of the cloth holder should take place during each movement of the needle frame.

We must certainly give Mr. Robinson credit for novelty as regards the general construction and mode of operating his apparatus, but at the same time we cannot say that it is by any means a really practical and useful sewing machine, as the complexity and multiplication of parts would greatly tend to the derangement of the mechanism when running at a high speed.

also see:         

U.S. 7.824 (December 10, 1850)


A patent was granted on the 10th of June, 1852, to Henry Houldsworth for an embroidering machine,(GB 14.161/1852) which, however, contained nothing in common with a sewing machine, being intended solely for the embroidering or ornamenting of fabrics. We will therefore pass over this invention without further comment, as also a patent granted to the same gentleman on the 27th of July, 1852(GB 14.240/1852for an invention relating to the fixing, extending and holding of cloth to receive embroidery.



This very curious  invention, of  which  we  propose  in  a  future  number, giving our readers a more complete and illustrated description, terminates   our  History of the Sewing Machine and brings us down to the 8th of December, 1860, on which day the above specification was filed.

Our readers have now before them abstracts more or less detailed and illustrated by engravings when the novelty or peculiarity of the invention warranted it, of 250 inventions relating to the sewing and uniting of fabrics by machinery and extending from the 24th of June, 1755, to the 8th of December, 1860 inclusive.  



As reproduction of historical newspaper articles and/or historical sources and/or historical artifacts, this works may contain errors of spelling and/or missing words and/or missing pages and/or poor pictures, etc.