The Pinking Machine-TH-G2516SM-Computerized pattern sewing machine

“Pinking” is the name given to producing scalloped or zig-zag edges to cloth for decorative purposes or to prevent fraying. Nowadays it is usually done with ‘pinking shears” (Figure 1), a pair of special scissors. For the serious dressmaker, specialised machines have long been available to produce a variety of uniform fancy edges. Here are a couple of variants and the edges they produce (Figure 2). I would be interested in pictures and details of others, so send them to ISMACS News.
The first is an American machine, the ‘Hannum Pinking Machine” patented 110 years ago on November 2nd 1897 (Figure 3).

A sharp wheel cutter with a wavy edge (Figure 4) rolls against an upper wheel. Both cutter and upper wheel are hardened steel and the pressure between them is controlled by a screw. When cloth is fed between the wheels the edge is cut in the pattern of the cutter wheel. The ‘Hannum” machine was made by H. A. Hannum & Co., Syracuse, NY and must have been a success as an improved version called ‘The Gem” (Figure 5) was patented in America on April 25th 1899 and subsequently in Canada, England, France, Belgium, Italy and Russia between that date and 1903. The principal improvement is the ability to change the cutter wheels.

In a later American machine, the ‘Chandler HP2″ (Figure 6) the two wheels are reversed, the wavy cutter wheel is on top, and is driven through gears to keep the sense of rotation the same. A spring regulates the pressure between the wheels. This machine produces the ordinary zig-zag to prevent fraying (Figure 7).

The machine in Figure 6 is similar to the design shown in an English trade catalogue of 1930 (Figure 8).

sewing machine

How a Sewing Machine Forms Stitches-TH-G6080-Computerized pattern sewing machine

Sewing machines are of two classes – those for domestic use, usually driven by treadle or hand, and machines of special construction, driven by power, for use in the various industries. The principle upon which the machine works is the same as in all types: the needle is clamped to a bar or arm which moves vertically up and down at great speed, piercing the material to be stitched, which is placed upon a flat or curved steel plate. The needle is made with the eye near the point, the eye passing through the material, which is moved automatically for a small distance at a time, to form the stitch. Two kinds of stitches are chiefly in use–the single-thread or chain stitch, which can be unravelled by pulling the end of the thread, and the double-thread or lock stitch, in which an upper and lower thread are used, locking together in the centre of the material; this stitch cannot be unravelled, but must be cut through if the material is to be taken apart.

The operation of the chain-stitch machine is as follows: The needle descends through the material and throws out a loop of thread, which is seized underneath and held by a hook-shaped piece of steel called a looper, which has a vibrating or rotating movement. The needle then rises, and as soon as it is clear of the material this is moved forward the given length of the stitch. The looper then spreads the loop of thread across the path of the needle; this descends again through the loop, which slips off the looper and is drawn tightly up to the under side of the material. The needle next throws out a new loop, which is seized by the looper, and the operation proceeds as before. The appearance of the stitch is as a straight line on the upper surface, and as a series of interlocked loops on the under side.

The operation of the lock-stitch machine is as follows: The needle descends and throws out a loop as before; through the loop a second thread is passed by a vibrating shuttle, or the loop is passed over the under spool of thread by a steel circular hook having a rotating movement. When the needle rises, the second thread is drawn tightly up to the under side of the material, and the two threads interlock together in the centre. To facilitate the formation of the loop, and to permit the under thread to be passed through it, the needle is made to pause for an instant, and descend again in the up-stroke just after is has commenced to rise. The upper thread, after leaving the spool, which is carried as a pin fixed to the upper part of the machine, is passed between steel plates pressed together by an adjustable spring. The arrangement is termed the tension, and its object is to put a strain upon the thread, and consequently determine the tightness of the stitch; it then passes through a slot or hole in the upper end of the needle-bar to the eye of the needle. The stitch is drawn tight by the rising of the needle; and, as the thread would be left slack on the downward movement, a vibrating arm is provided, termed the automatic take-up, which engages the thread and draws it tight, releasing it at the moment of formation of the loop and at the end of the needle up-stroke. The lower thread is wound on a bobbin carried within the shuttle or rotating hook, and also provided with tension arrangement.

The material is kept from rising with the needle by the presser foot, a forked plate of steel carried at the end of a bar parallel with the needle-bar, and pressed down by a spring which is adjustable. The material is carried forward during the stitching operation by a small toothed bar or ‘feed-dog,’ which rises through a slot in the cloth plate underneath the presser foot, engages with the cloth, forces it forward the length of the stitch, then falls below the cloth plate, and moving back rises again and repeats the operation. With lock-stitch machines the stitch should have the same appearance on both sides of the cloth. Various attachments are provided for hemming, cording, braiding, ruffling, tucking, quilting, embroidering and tambour work can also be executed.


Sewing Machine Attachment Tins-TH-G5050-Computerized Pattern Sewing Machine

Many collectors of sewing machines also collect other items associated with sewing machines – oil cans, oil bottles, Singer puzzle boxes or sometimes almost anything connected
with Singer. (We have three Singer stools in our house, but that’s another story).

However, I felt I had to show the Pfaff Zwerge or dwarf tin which is quite well known and very collectable. It dates from about 1906 and must be the only tin with the artist’s
signature on the front.

Two interesting and attractive tins came from Biesolt & Locke who started making sewing machines in 1869 in Meissen and in 1893 made the Afrana rotary. Eventually all their
machines were called Afrana and Seidel & Naumann continued with the name after buying up the rights in 1918. The odd thing is that both the Biesolt & Locke and the Afrana tins
have mirrors on the inside of the lid. Why? Perhaps it was to reflect the gaslight and help the search for a small attachment or needle? Anyway it didn’t seem to catch on.

Many tins have lithographed pictures of the company’s factory on them, sometimes in monochrome on the inside of the lid, or in colour on the outside as with the Original Victoria,
from Mundlos of Magdeburg.

There is considerable detail in these drawings if they are enlarged.

One other group of tins that are attractive and collectable are known as ‘handbag’ ‘casket’, or ‘Kästchen’ tins. These were for the Original Victoria, from Mundlos of Magdeburg
and for Seidel & Naumann machines from Dresden.

There are several different versions of these and also French and Italian versions as well as German. I know of at least one more version of the Original Victoria that I don’t
have yet.

Some dates can be estimated by medals shown on the tins. Although, like patent dates on sewing machine plates, the dates will only indicate that the tin must have been produced
after the latest date shown, it would be reasonable to assume that it would not have continued to be made much later than the date of other awards shown on other tins.

e.g., one Original Victoria tin shows off “Goldene Medaillen” won at Tasmania and Lubeck in 1892 and 1895; another shows these plus awards from Petersburg and Magdeburg in 1904
and a third lists these awards together with others dated 1905.


The Sewing Machine Factory-TH-G2010-Computerized Pattern Sewing Machine

Although sewing machines from the earliest makers have survived, I have come across little pictorial evidence of the factories in which they
were made. This is a pity as some important manufacturing techniques were pioneered by the sewing machine industry.

The problems of mass production were initially solved by the small arms industry in the USA at the time of the civil war.
From the Colt armoury in Hartford Connecticut came Charles E. Billings and Christopher M. Spencer. Billings had founded the Weed Sewing
Machine Co. with George A. Fairfield in Hartford. While with Billings, Spencer devised his automatic turret lathe with “brain wheels” (Fig.
1) which revolutionised the series production of small precision parts. The first parts which Spencer produced were small bobbins for Billings’ sewing machines.

Singer, though one of the major early manufacturers, was not in the forefront of using the new automatic machine tools. Much work was hand
fitted and major items were contracted out. The James’ St. factory in Glasgow, for instance, bought in castings from George Ure’s foundry in
Bonnybridge and cabinets were imported in pieces from Southbend, Indiana.

Only when the company moved to Kilbowie in 1884 was every part of the machine, including tooling, made on the one site. Sewing machine
factories were major employers of labour with Kilbowie employing over 14,000 workers in its heyday around 1906 when it manufactured over a
million machines each year.

Photographs and engravings of the exteriors of factory buildings are much more common than pictures of the people at work in the interior.
When engravers depicted interiors they usually cleaned them up to show specific trades at work. Figure 2 is an engravings of the Singer
Elizabethport NJ forge in the 1880’s.

The forge could be any large engineering works with its steam hammer and forest of belting driving machines. Ornamenting the machines
required much hand labour . The needle department often had women working in an engineering environment, not so common in the nineteenth

For some photographs I have taken examples from a set of 40 stereo pairs of pictures of the National Sewing Machine Co.’s factory at
Belvidere Ill. USA about 1920.

They show scenes which were probably unchanged from about 1890 to almost 1950 in some plants. (When Singer ceased production at Kilbowie
(Clydebank) in the 1970’s there were still machines in use that had been installed for the opening in 1884!) A general history of the
National S. M. Co. is given in Graham Forsdyke’s article in ISMACS News 55. The factory was driven from a steam powered central engine house
by a forest of shafting and leather belts.
The only automatic machine tools seen are for making small screws. There is little evidence for health and safety measures and only two
photographs show inspection or quality control. At the end machines are shown in crates being loaded onto railroad freight cars. I was
surprised to see the treadles assembled and not as “flatpacks”.