Facebook Email Pinterest Twitter X Instagram Tiktok Icon YouTube Icon Headphones Icon Favorite Navigation Search Icon Forum Search Icon Main Search Icon Close Icon Video Play Icon Indicator Arrow Icon Close Icon Hamburger/Search Icon Plus Icon Arrow Down Icon Video Guide Icon Article Guide Icon Modal Close Icon Guide Search Icon

Conversational Threads

History Lessons

damascusannie | Posted in General Discussion on

In another discussion we got chatting about different historical aspects of sewing and one of the gals requested two little-known history facts every day. I’m moving the discussion to its own subject here. Currently we are talking about the history of the sewing machine.

Fact 1: Some of the earliest sewing machine designs used what would seem to be odd stitches to us. For instance, in 1818 two gentleman from Virginia (sounds like a Shakespeare play!) invented a back-stitch machine. Made sense, since when sewing clothing by hand, a backstitch is used because it’s stronger than a simple running stitch. They didn’t patent the machine when tailors convinced them that the machine would put them out of business.

Another popular stitch was the chainstitch. (See Fact 2)

Fact 2: William O. Grover of Boston patented the double-chain stitch in 1851, but it never achieves the popularity of the Willcox and Gibbs single-thread chainstitcher, patented in 1856. Gibbs and his partnet J. Willcox, founded one of the most successful sewing machine companies in history. Their little chainstitcher was widely copied by other companies when the patents ran out, but the Willcox and Gibbs machines were always the most popular. The company eventually branched out into industrial machines and continued in business until 1947. A collector friend just acquired one of their industrial sergers.

I have two chainstitch machines, both made by the National Sewing Machine Company, that are copies of the W&G machines. I use them for decorative embroidery and basting.

If you go to my webshots albums, the first picture in the first album, is one of these chainstitchers. They are often mistaken for toys and make a Featherweight seem big and heavy!

Annie in Wisconsin, USA
~~Doodlestein Designs Quilt Patterns
~~Finely Finished: Machine quilting worked on a treadle sewing machine.
See patterns, quilting, and National sewing machines at: http://community.webshots.com/user/damascusannie


  1. rekha | | #1

    Did the stitch on the fabric come out looking like backstitch? How did they go about achieving the backstitch?

    Thanks for the link to the chainstitch machine. They seem to be built heavyduty. The end result is not different from the machines available today. Can you as of today make something more out of this machine other than a simple chainstitch?

    1. damascusannie | | #2

      I have no idea how the backstitch was formed--I'll have to do a patent search and see what I can come up with. I'm surprised that you think the chainstitcher looks "heavy duty." In fact, they are lightweight, delicate looking machines in person. The chainstitch machines could only make a chainstitch. On the other hand, a couple of the lockstitch machine companies did make chainstitch attachments. Attachments are a whole 'nother subject for some lessons.

    2. damascusannie | | #3

      Today's subject is Isaac Singer:Fact one: Isaac Singer started life as an actor. An egomaniac, he was unsuccessful on the stage largely due to the fact that he refused to take direction and eventually no one would hire him. He formed his own company, but it was a financial failure, In 1851, at age 33, he is renting space in Orson Phelps' sewing machine shop, while working on an invention for carving wooden type, when George Zieber, his financial backer on the type-carving project, suggested that he turn his energies toward correcting the flaws in Phelps' sewing machines. Singer agreed, a contract was written up between the three men-Singer, Phelps and Zieber--and eleven days later, Singer had a working prototype ready for patenting.Fact two: He had five separate families, four of then at the same time. He married his first wife, Catherine, when he was just sixteen and had two children with her. Nine years later, while still married to Catherine, he convinces Mary Ann Sponsler (18) to live with him as his wife, without going through a form of marriage, claiming that Catherine is not legally his wife, but that until this can be proven, he is not free to marry anyone else. Mary Ann was his "wife" for almost 25 years, before learning that he had another family with a woman named Mary McGonigal, using the name "Mathews." When news of this became public, in 1860, he fled to England with Mary's sister, Kate, who traveled with him under the names "Mr. Simmons and Lady". Then it was revealed that he had had yet ANOTHER family, the "Merritts", with another Mary since 1850! While Mary Ann seemed unaware of the two other families, it is thought that Mary McGonigal Mathews at least, was aware of who "Mr. Mathews" really was. While in England, he took up yet another mistress, Lucy, who he brought back to the United States when he had to appear in court, when Mary Ann sued him for divorce. (She had been declared his common-law wife, after he'd divorced Catherine on the grounds that SHE'D committed adultery!) Mary Ann's suit was successful and she was granted $8000 in alimony--the largest settlement of its kind at that time.Singer eventually married Isabella Boyer Summerville after having a brief fling with her mother. Isabella left her husband to marry Singer and after attempting to live in the U.S. for several years, it became apparent that this was impossible as Singer's social position was irrevocably destroyed by his scandalous behavior, all of which had become public knowledge during the divorce proceedings with Mary Ann. They lived briefly in Paris and then moved to England. Singer had a total of 24 children, six with Isabella, eighteen with his four other "wives". The whole story can be found in "Singer the Sewing Machine: A Capitalist Romance" by Ruth Brandon. It's fascinating reading!

      1. Ralphetta | | #4

        Hmmmm, they didn't teach me all that in grade school when we talked about inventors. That's wild.

      2. rekha | | #5

        What became of the 24 children - did anyone of them become as intellectually able as Singer.

        Totally mystified about existence of 'several' wives.

        1. damascusannie | | #6

          Singer took very good care of his children and by and large, they grew up into the sort of people who are pillars of society, leading uneventful, quiet lives. The girls married into the highest echelons of English and European society as the impoverished sons of aristocratic families had no objection to their father-in-law's scandalous behavior as long as there was enough money to help them forget. The sons were men of leisure or went into business, some of them in the company. Singer was one of the richest men in England when he died, and his children all inherited large portions of stock in the company, in addition to large monetary inheritances, so with some care, none of the children would have to worry about money for the rest of their lives. However, in a family of this size, there were bound to be some stand-outs. His favorite daughter Alice married a "commercial gentleman" who proved to have a wandering eye, but not until she'd had a relatively successful stage career under the name "Agnes Leonard." His son Charles (by Mary McGonigal) was a stockbroker with a gambling problem and committed suicide.Winnaretta, an accomplished artist and musician, became a patron of the arts in Paris society after her first husband died, eventually marrying the Prince de Polignac, member of one of the most prestigious families in France. William was knighted and made High Sheriff of Berkshire, brother Washington was Sheriff of Wiltshire. Washington also endowed the Washington Singer Stakes at the Newbury race track and was probably the only English sheriff to cite Younkers, NY as his birthplace.Paris, another artistic Singer with a degree in architecture, had a long liason with modern dancer Isadora Duncan. Her fervent Communism eventually proved too big a strain on their relationship and they went their separate ways. He went on to found the city of Palm Beach, Florida. Unfortunately, Paris lost most of his fortune in the '29 stock market crash.

          1. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #7

            If they taught more of this kind of history and science in school, alongside the usual stuff, then I probably would have been more interested in general history than just all that political stuff....
            This is utterly fascinating Annie. How did you originally get interested in it? Was it the quilting or the machines that came first? or is it kind of a chicken and egg question? Cathy

          2. damascusannie | | #10

            Definitely chickens and eggs with me! I got my first treadle just because I love antiques and the tiger oak cabinet would look great in the living room of the house we were remodeling at the time. Then when my stupid, cheap sewing machine started giving me fits, we decided to try sewing on it. I loved the motion of treadling and the machine worked great, so I just never really went back to e-machines. When we got the internet, the very first forum I joined was Treadle On and I've been actively researching the National Sewing Machine Company's machines for about six years now. The history of Singer is fascinating and I'll share one or two more tidbits with you before we move on to something else.

          3. sewslow67 | | #11

            I learned on a Singer treadle machine and just loved it.  Then my mother, knowing how much I loved to sew, decided she would give me a treat and bought a new machine.  That was great except that she traded in the treadle along with the beautiful, carved oak cabinet.  I would love to have it back, but appreciate her intentions.  She was such a love, and always doing what she felt was right for those she loved.  I really miss her ...and that old treadle machine.

          4. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #12

            I still have my old singer treadle, but the cabinet is falling apart from being hauled around and used. I am almost afraid to open it out. I do open it up every few months to run her through her paces and oil her to keep her working tho. What really miffs (other word would be ####'ed out) is the people who take the treadle machines apart for the stand, and throw away the cabinet and machine. Cathy

          5. damascusannie | | #16

            I don't know if you all are aware of the fact that I do ALL my sewing on treadle sewing machines, except when I feel like treating myself to a day playing with one of my handcrank machines. While I'm gone, take a look at the pictures of the sewing machines in my webshots albums, keeping in mind that the electrics are machines that I've collected only because of their significance as products of the National Sewing Machine Company (which will be the subject of next week's lessons.) I probably have the most extensive collection of National machines in the world, since I'm really about the only person who's collecting them! Have a great weekend everyone!

          6. BernaWeaves | | #26


            I have my great grandfather's 1902 Singer treadle, and it sews beautifully.

            Because my great aunt had taken it out of the original cabinet and electrified it, I bought a new treadle and cabinet from Singer (they still make them!) and removed the motor.  It's back to being a treadle.  Yes, the new cabinet is pressboard with a walnut veneer, but it looks good and the treadle is cast iron and looks like the originals.  It even came with a leather drive band.

            By the way, it sews forward only.  If you treadle backwards, and you line up the stitching just right, you can unsew.  Very handy if you went off course.



            Edited 8/19/2008 1:42 pm ET by BernaWeaves

          7. damascusannie | | #27

            More about National:Fact 1: National had no mandatory retirement age. In 1939, company records showed that over 100 employees were over the usual retirement age. I have a friend on a collector forum whose best friend's mother worked at the factory. Fact 2: The factory covered 27 acres, which included its own foundry. The clock tower was a prominent Belvidere, IL landmark if postcards are any indication. I have three or four different postcards from Belvidere, dating from the horse and buggy days to the 40s, featuring the clock tower at the National Sewing Machine plant.

          8. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #28

            Are you writing a book? Or opening a museum? Cathy

          9. damascusannie | | #29

            No book, yet...museum, not really, although I have a pretty extensive collection of National sewing machines and other stuff about the company. Just won an original sales brochure that looks like it will date to about 1895-1900; I'm really excited about that!

          10. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #30

            Just a True Enthusiast. I am glad to be a recipient of your enthusiasm. When you do write your book, be sure to put me on your list for signed first issues ,Ok. Cathy

          11. damascusannie | | #31

            Ok, but I think a quilting book is first on the agenda.

          12. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #32

            Hmmmm, somehow, I suspected that. ;) Cathy

          13. damascusannie | | #33

            I've got one last quilt to finish for a client, then I'm officially out of the custom quilting business. Once I get a bit caught up on all my UFOs, I'm hoping to get to work on a book about the practical uses of antique sewing machines. It's an idea that's been floating around in my head for about two years now. In this day of "thinking green" there's a renewed interest in people-powered tools of all kinds from reel lawn mowers to treadle sewing machines, so I think the timing is good.

          14. katina | | #34

            I'm so glad you're going to write a book - I look forward to it.


          15. damascusannie | | #35

            Today's lesson:Fact 1: National made one of the most unique sewing machines ever invented: the Two Spool. (It's the first machine in the "National Sewing Machines" album via my webshots link.) Instead of a bobbin, it uses a second spool of thread, which means that much less time is spent rewinding bobbins. I can sew pretty steadily for two or three days before winding a bobbin. I'd always wondered why the model wasn't carried on after the company merged with New Home in 1954 so I asked an OSMG (old sewing machine guy) about it. His theory is that the machine was never as successful as an electric as it was as a treadle. The machine has to make a huge loop with the top thread to pass around the spool canister to pick up the bobbin thread. With the higher speed electric motors, there just wasn't enough time for the machine to complete the loop and make a good stitch. I have a Two Spool mounted in my custom sewing table ("Studio" album) and use it for about 90 percent of all my sewing, except for machine quilting.Fact 2: At its peak, National produced nine different models of machines. By the 1930s, they were all offered as both people-powered (handcrank or treadle) and electric. For instance, I have both electric and handcrank versions of their very popular Expert BT Vibrator model. I also have both electric and treadle Rotaries.Annie in Wisconsin, USA
            ~~Doodlestein Designs Quilt Patterns
            ~~Finely Finished: Machine quilting worked on a treadle sewing machine.
            See patterns, quilting, and National sewing machines at: http://community.webshots.com/user/damascusannie

            Edited 8/21/2008 6:00 am by damascusannie

          16. damascusannie | | #36

            And one last day on National before we move on to something new:Fact 1 (or more accurately, educated guesswork): On a collector forum, we are discussing "badged" machines--those machines made by a manufacturer for a retailer with the retailer's name on them. Many knowledgable collectors believe that National made more badged machines than any other manufacturer in the U.S., confirming my own person conviction. When one considers that there were five or six other major manufacturers also badging machines, it is astonishing that about 50% of the time a "mystery" machine will turn out to be a National. It just happened again yesterday, when I was able ID an machine with an unknown badge name as a National Vindex B-Top Tension. Fact 2: National went out of business in 1954, either selling out to or merging with New Home. I think it was a merger, since a couple of National models were sold as New Homes (I have two examples of these machines in my collection so far.) As I've stated before, Montgomery Wards was National's main buyer of machines and I've been trying to determine whether they switched to the Japanese machines before or after the merger. The Spring/Summer catalog from 1955 shows a Japanese machine, with the description "Wards new round bobbin sewing machine imported from Japan...." which leads me to believe that M-Wards remained loyal to National to the end. BTW, my current free-motion quilting machine is one of the "new" imports--it looks exactly like the one in the catalog. Annie in Wisconsin, USA
            ~~Doodlestein Designs Quilt Patterns
            ~~Finely Finished: Machine quilting worked on a treadle sewing machine.
            See patterns, quilting, and National sewing machines at: http://community.webshots.com/user/damascusannie

            Edited 8/22/2008 8:41 am by damascusannie

          17. KharminJ | | #37

            Hi Berna, and Annie, and All!You wrote (last month!):
            "I have my great grandfather's 1902 Singer treadle, and it sews beautifully. ...
            By the way, it sews forward only. If you treadle backwards, and you line up the stitching just right, you can unsew." That made me giggle! I use my Grandmother's 1901 Singer - I've never gotten it to "unsew" - usually just makes a mare's nest of thread on the bottom, and needs to be restrung ... I'll try it with more attention, and see if I can achieve unsewing!Annie - this thread has been fascinating! And I certainly agree that history taught with more attention to the "people", not just the "wars", would make for a much better-educated country.
            Have you ever considered writing for outside publication? My husband subscribes to "Old News", a bi-monthly compilation of stories written just like yours, about people and happenings anytime in the last -oh- 3000 years. Here's their homepage - they're very low-tech, but a treat to read!
            http://www.oldnewspublishing.com/index.htmlBright Blessings!KharminJ

          18. damascusannie | | #38

            Hi Kharmin--I have written one or two things for publication--an article for a sewing machine collector's magazine and an internet article on non-electric sewing machines for the Quilt Dating.Com website. You've reminded me that I need to get back on track with my history lessons. I got busy last week and didn't get around to them! Mea Culpa, everyone!

          19. sewchris703 | | #14

            History books never present "heroes" as humans. A failing, I think. I didn't know about Singer's personal life. I only know bits and pieces about him and sewing machines.Chris

          20. User avater
            JunkQueen | | #13

            Thank you so much for taking the time to post all of this. It is truly fascinating and gives me a whole new appreciation for this wonderful vocation/avocation of ours. I agree with Threadkoe (I think it was she) who mentioned how much more interesting studying history would have been had it been presented in this manner. Humanizing it has certainly piqued my interest. I suppose it goes back to how differently all of us learn, maybe?Thank you again.

          21. damascusannie | | #15

            I LOVE history and I can't figure out how some teachers can make it so amazingly boring. Bad news for everyone I'm afraid. We're going away for the weekend so I won't be posting again until Monday. We're heading up to Lake Superior for a golfing weekend with our son and daughter. Today's subject: SingerFact 1: Singer's business partner, Edward Clark, established the first rent-to-own program so that housewives would be able to afford to buy sewing machines. In 1856, a Singer sewing machine was priced a $125, an astronomical sum when one considers that the average income in the U.S. was about $500 per year. The downpayment was $5, with monthly payments of $3-$5. The idea boosted Singer's sales from 883 in 1855 to 2564 in 1856.Fact 2: In 1857, in another attempt to boost sales, the Singer Company comes up with the idea of the trade-in. Those who had purchased earlier models from ANY company were given the opportunity to trade them in on the new models. The company would give the consumer $50 towards a new machine on the trade-in. The plan worked and Singer's sales jumped to over 3500 in 1857. The machines that were traded in were destroyed, as Singer didn't want these used machines to remain in circulation, in part explaining why it's very difficult for collectors to find early examples of sewing machines in the U.S.

      3. Josefly | | #8

        A fascinating story. I wonder where he was living at the time of the bigamy? He must've been quite a charmer, attractive to so many women with a wide span of ages, apparently. Pity Kate who ran off with her sister's husband, knowing that he had abandoned three women already!

        Edited 8/14/2008 7:32 pm ET by Josefly

        1. damascusannie | | #9

          New York City! He apparently had a very compelling personality. I'll be sharing a bit more.

  2. damascusannie | | #17

    Hope you all had a great weekend--our early anniversary trip was wonderful. We went to Duluth, MN to visit our daughter and son-in-law, golfed a bit, wandered along the waterfront and ate ourselves silly. We both decided that we really love Lake Superior and can totally understand the appeal of ocean-front property.

    This week, I'm going to focus on a sewing machine company that's near and dear to my heart, the National Sewing Machine Company, Belvidere, IL. My first treadle was/is a National and I now have what may be the largest collection of National machines in the country.

    Fact 1: National was one of the largest manufacturers of sewing machines in the world. While production records have been lost, they made all the machines for Montgomery Wards for over 50 years, plus made millions of machines that were sold through their own dealers and other retail outlets, including Sears-Roebuck, Macy's, the Charles Williams stores of Chicago, and Eaton's in Toronto. Even foreign retailers got their machines from National: I've got a machine that sold by a store in England, and Befarfield's of Sydney, Australia also sold some National machines.

    Fact 2: Most sewing machine companies followed the practice of "badging", including National. This simply means that a retailer could chose to have their own name put on the sewing machines that they were selling. Therefore, even though all old Montgomery Wards machines were made by National, none of them have the National name on them.

    In my own collection of over 60 National sewing machines, less than half a dozen actually say "National" on them. For instance, M-Wards used several different names on their machines over the years, Montgomery Wards, Damascus, Damascus Grand, and Brunswick are the most commonly seen and I have examples of M-Wards machines dating from 1901 to 1950.

    Because badging was so prevalent, collectors and researchers almost always need to see a picture of a machine in order to correctly identify who made it.

    Annie in Wisconsin, USA
    ~~Doodlestein Designs Quilt Patterns
    ~~Finely Finished: Machine quilting worked on a treadle sewing machine.
    See patterns, quilting, and National sewing machines at: http://community.webshots.com/user/damascusannie

    Edited 8/18/2008 2:10 pm by damascusannie

    1. katina | | #18

      Annie, thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to share all this with us. It's very much appreciated.


      1. damascusannie | | #19

        You're more than welcome. I love talking about history, sewing and sewing machines, so it's pure pleasure for me.

        1. katina | | #20

          And pleasure for me too, but it still takes time on your part and I'm grateful.


          1. damascusannie | | #22

            The National Sewing Machine Company:Fact 1: National's founder Barnabas Eldredge, was originally a salesman for the Domestic Sewing Machine Company. When he decided to manufacture his own machines, he found himself in a series of legal battles over presumed patent infringement. Finally, he won his cases and established the Eldredge Sewing Machine Company in 1869, first located in Chicopee Falls, Mass, then in Chicago. Fact 2: The June Sewing Machine Company was founded in Chicago in 1879 by F. T. June, making a copy of the popular Singer 12 machine, called the "Jennie June". Like Eldredge, June spent a lot of time and money fighting over patent rights. Singer did eventually win their suit against June, who then began manufacturing another model, also called a "Jennie June." Eldredge eventually decided that the midwest was a better distribution location and contracted with June to make Eldredge machines and moved his company to Chicago. The two companies co-exsisted for a while, with Eldredge serving as vice-president of June. However, while Eldredge's machines were gaining popularity, the lack of a trained workforce in Chicago made production difficult, so Eldredge orchestrated another big move. In 1886, the fixtures of the factory were loaded onto a train and moved to Belvidere, Illinois in order to have access to its population of talented engineers and inventors. When F.T. June retired in 1890, Eldredge became president of June and consolidated both companies under the name, National Sewing Machine Company. Bonus fact: I've done a fair amount of patent research on National and Eldredge and one day, hoping to find some of the more obscure patents, I searched the keywords "Belvidere, Illinois". This little town has had a LOT of patents issued to its residents over the years, so I can see why Eldredge chose it as the location for the new plant.Annie in Wisconsin, USA
            ~~Doodlestein Designs Quilt Patterns
            ~~Finely Finished: Machine quilting worked on a treadle sewing machine.
            See patterns, quilting, and National sewing machines at: http://community.webshots.com/user/damascusannieEdited 8/19/2008 8:51 am by damascusannieEdited 8/19/2008 8:52 am by damascusannie

            Edited 8/19/2008 8:53 am by damascusannie

          2. katina | | #23

            Thanks again, Annie. Are these Eldredge machines very different from Singers? Do you have one of these in your collection? Looking forward to our next lesson!



          3. damascusannie | | #24

            Well, I don't think the early Eldredge's look much like Singers at all, but sometimes the individual components are very similar so that's what the suits were based on. You can't actually patent an entire sewing machine, but you can patent the different mechanical features. So Singer may have had the patent on the bobbin system for instance. What this forced Eldredge to do was acquire as many examples of old machines as possible to prove that the features of his machine were in use BEFORE Singer got the patents, which would put them in the area of public domain. This was tricky, but it worked because Singer had previously challenged Howe using the same argument. While the courts favored Howe's suit, by the time Singer sued Eldredge, things had changed. I have several later National machines that are very similar to the Singer 27 machines, but with enough differences that they got away with it, or the patents had simply run out by the time National put them in production. We have been able to narrow down when National began making chainstitch machines, based on when Willcox and Gibbs' patents ran out. The National chainstitchers are almost identical copies of the W&G. I don't have any of the pre-National Eldredges yet, but have a sales brochure so at least I know what I'm looking for. They are rare and I lost out on one earlier this spring on ebay, when I wasn't able to get back to my computer in time to raise my bid at the end of the auction! 8^( I was pretty bummed since it's the only one I've ever seen. I DO have one of the Singer 12 style Jennie Junes, but haven't had time to post pictures yet.

          4. katina | | #25

            Oh Annie, so frustrating to have missed the bidding opportunity. Post your brochure if you can and I'll keep my eyes open.


          5. damascusannie | | #39

            Ok gang--this week we're going to learn about the history of fabric production. Fact 1: While it's difficult to determine exactly when someone had the brilliant notion to interweave two strands of fiber into cloth, there is evidence that woven textiles were being produced in Turkey and Mesopotamia as early as 8000 B.C. Weaving, both of baskets and of cloth are believed to be the first crafts perfected by man, although, I think that you must include the working of stone into spear and arrow points and cutting tools as a craft and it is much, much earlier in origin. Fact 2: Egyptian tombs have yielded samples of linen from 5000 B.C. In Egypt, linen was used by the highest ranking members of society and was used to wrap the dead after mummification, cotton was used by the middle classes, and wool was delegated to the lowest classes of society, the shepherds and laborers. Priests were forbidden to wear wool next to their skin or in the temples.
            Linen, derived from the flax plant, is one of the most durable plant fibers; it is two to three times stronger than cotton. In addition, the fiber is slightly waxy, which gives it a slight sheen and makes it virtually lint-free. It takes dyes well and can be boiled without damage to the fibers.

          6. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #40

            Oh boy, you are on to my favorite and specialty topic now Annie! Can I butt in and add a few notes of interest as you go along? Cathy

          7. damascusannie | | #41

            Definitely! This is an area of interest to me, but I'm the first to admit that I'm no expert and would love to learn more myself.

          8. damascusannie | | #42

            History of FabricFact 1: There are many legends of how silk was discovered. The most popular is that it was discovered by Empress Hsi-Ling-shi in the 27th century B.C. when the Emperor asked her to learn why the mulberry trees were dying. She noticed that worms were eating the leaves on the trees and then spinning cocoons, so she collected some of the cocoons for study. When she accidentally dropped one in warm water it began to unwind, revealing the intricate web of silk fibers. When she pulled on the fiber, she saw that it was one continuous thread, hundreds of feet long--actually, a single cocoon can contain a filament as much as 1000 feet long. This filament is so strong in itself that it doesn't need to be spun before use. Fact 2: The Chinese guarded the secret of silk production for over 3000 years, but had a thriving trade selling silk fabrics to western traders. This commodity was so important to traders that the East/West trade routes were known as the "Silk Road" even though many other items were traded along the routes. In 1266, Venetian tradesmen, Maffio, Nicolo and Marco Polo became some of the first westerners to follow the "Road" all the way to China.
            Annie in Wisconsin, USA
            ~~Doodlestein Designs Quilt Patterns
            ~~Finely Finished: Machine quilting worked on a treadle sewing machine.
            See patterns, quilting, and National sewing machines at: http://community.webshots.com/user/damascusannie

            Edited 9/3/2008 10:44 am by damascusannie

          9. rodezzy | | #43

            Wow, that was very interesting, I'm glad I stopped to read it.  You are a treasure and a wealth of information.  Thanks for being you.

          10. damascusannie | | #44

            Well, shoot--thanks for being YOU! I really enjoy reading your posts, too!

          11. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #65

            The first synthetics were all attempts to reproduce silk. The unique triangular shape and long staple give silk its unique sheen and strength. A protein fibre, like wool, it is warm in winter, cool in summer, takes dyes, especially vegetable dyes, well. Like linen, it becomes fragile when wet, as it stretches. This is why it must be handled carefully, delicate cycle in a bag in the washer, or handwash. Washing silk gives it a beautiful buttery feel. Drycleaning will leave it feeling crisper. Like wool, it does not like extreme temperatures. Lukewarm water, that means not hot, not cold. And not warm either. The water should feel cool to the touch, not warm. It is not as complicated as it sounds. If the warm cycle on your washing machine is too hot, you can adjust the temperature by turning down the hot water at the tap that feeds the hot water to your machine at the source (the red handle on the pipes).
            Many people are confused about what is silk, silky and silk like when talking about silks. Silk is the fabric content. Silky is a description of how a fabric feels. Silk like is a synthetic fabric that is made to resemble a silk. When a customer comes in asking about a silk fabric, Always confirm with them what they are asking about! Some do not know the difference, and to them they say silk when they mean soft polyester satin!
            It is nice to sew silk fabrics with silk thread when possible. But cotton is your 2nd best choice, and usually has more colour matches. Polyester thread, and cotton wrapped polyester threads have a tendency to cut the more fragile (in comparison-tensile strength) silk.
            CathyEdited 9/5/2008 12:30 pm ET by ThreadKoe

            Edited 9/5/2008 12:32 pm ET by ThreadKoe

          12. Josefly | | #71

            I'm really enjoying your contributions to the history lessons. The descriptions and explanations help me to remember when mere facts or tips are likely to be forgotten. For example, that polyester thread "cuts" silk, and therefore isn't good to use with that fiber - that I'll remember. Thanks so much.

          13. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #75

            OOps, I forgot to mention, when washing silk, you can rinse with 1/4 c of vinegar in the rinse, then clear rinse after. This will remove soap residues and restore the lustre to your silk. Cathy

          14. damascusannie | | #76

            More about looms: Fact 1: The frame loom is one of the simplest designs of all, just four poles fastened to each other in a rectangle with the warp wrapped around and around the ends of the frame. The drawback is that the project made can't be any longer than the length of the sides of the frame. Frame looms are usually only used for making small projects like placemats. You can easily make a frame loom for yourself out of artist's stretchers, a sturdy picture frame or scraps of 1 x 2 lumber. You can, with care, rotate the project around the frame to get a bit more length. It's a neat way to show kids the basics of weaving at almost no cost. A yardstick can be used as a combination shed stick and beater. If you've ever woven a chair seat, you've basically woven on a frame loom.Fact 2: Finally, the last of the "primitive" looms (and I use the term for lack of a better one, not because the textiles woven are in any way primitive in design or execution!) is the backstrap loom. This is an interesting design that really incorporates many of the elements of the common floor loom: heddles, double sheds, shuttle and beater. Unlike a floor loom, which uses rollers to maintain tension on the warp, the weaver places a wide strap around her waist or hips and leans back against it to put tension on the weaving. To prepare the loom warp threads are cut to the desired length of the weaving and tied to rods at each end. One rod is fastened to something sturdy--a tree or hook in a wall, with the other attached to the backstrap. Backstrap looms are completely portable, can be moved around at will and may be used from either a sitting or standing position.It is very difficult to pinpoint when the various "primitive" looms were invented. All of them are very ancient and almost all of them are still in use today in some form. Handwoven Turkish rugs are still made on warp-weighted looms as are Navajo rugs. Many native weavers in South America still work with backstrap looms and I've seen pictures of Indian and other Asian weavers working on pit looms, although these seem to be more sophistcated than the original versions.

          15. rbjohn | | #77

            I am enjoying this topic so much. I have nothing to add, but just wanted to say thank you for all the information.


          16. rodezzy | | #78

            Thank you, that was as usual, very interesting.  The backstrap loom especially.  I'm going to see if I can find a picture of it on the web, I would like to see that one. 

          17. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #79

            Thank you Annie for your History lessons. I am as fascinated as always. Cathy

          18. damascusannie | | #80

            More about looms. Before we move on to modern looms, I think we need to learn some terminology so today we're doing vocabulary instead of history.Warping the loom: The process of setting up the warp threads before weaving. Correctly warping a loom is a huge job and takes some practice to get the tension evenly set up across all the threads.Warp beam: A large axle that the warp threads are wound onto. This allows long warps to be used. Heddles: Heddles are difficult to describe, but are key to the operation of modern looms. A heddle is a gizmo that the warp threads are passed through when the loom is set up for weaving. Heddles can be made of string, wire, wood, or steel. In rigid heddles, the warp is threaded alternately through a hole in a heddle and a space between the heddles, but this style of loom is not much used today because it only allows for one set of heddles. Most modern looms have multiple sets of heddles to allow for the weaving of different patterns. They are attached to a shaft or "harness" that moves up and down to open the shed...Shed: An opening in the warp threads that allows the passage of the shuttle. The shed is created when every other thread is lifted, either by lifting the heddles (modern) or by weaving a shed stick through the warp (primitive). A shed stick is smooth, wide, and flat. You weave it through flatwise, then turn it up on end to open the shed. It can also be used for beating the weft...Beating the weft: (Also called "battening", but local weavers in my area prefer the term "beating") Pushing the weft thread firmly against the previous row. On primitive looms this is done with a comb beater or the shed stick. On modern looms the beater is made of a series of stiff steel rods that the warp is passed between. The weaver pulls the beater firmly towards herself to beat the weft. Harness: The shaft that the heddles are attached to. Most modern floor looms are either two or four harness looms. The harnesses can be raised and lowered by means of foot pedals called "treadles." Shuttle: A boat-shaped carrier for the large bobbins or "quills" that the warp yarns are wound on. The shuttle is thrown through the shed and the weft thread unwinds through a hole in the end of it. One pass with the shuttle is called a "pick".

          19. rodezzy | | #81

            I looked up that backstrap loom.  Looks complicated.  But the work on it is beautiful.  Thanks, learn something new everyday. 

          20. damascusannie | | #82

            Just a word of warning--this is probably the last lesson this week. I'm frantically getting ready for an annual sewing machine collector's gathering this weekend and I don't think I'll have time tomorrow and I'm leaving early Friday morning. So, I'm going to finish up styles of looms and then we'll start talking about the different fabrics that have been made on them next week. Fact 1: Floor looms are what most of us think of when we picture a loom in our mind. A typical floor loom that the home weaver would use will have two harnesses, allowing her to make more than a one-over, one-under fabric, but nothing extremely complex. However, it is possible to get looms with up to 16 harnesses and the more harnesses, the more variety in the weave is possible.Fact 2: Obviously, weaving by hand is a slow process, so power looms were a necessity. The first truly workable power loom was invented by Edward Cartwright in 1785. Originally, power looms were shuttle powered, but in the early 20th century, shuttleless looms came into use. They are faster and more efficient than the shuttle looms. Modern industrical looms can weave at six rows per second.

          21. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #83

            annual sewing machine collector's gatheringSounds like one of your favorite yearly gatherings. Hope you have a really great time there. Let us know if you get to see anything really unique OK? Us armchair travellers would really appreciate it. Thanks for the lessons, we will wait patiently for our teacher to have time for us. Cathy

          22. rodezzy | | #84

            Thanks for our lesson today.  Very interesting as usual.  Looking forward to when you come back....have a great time at your event this weekend.  We want to hear all about it..giggle.

          23. damascusannie | | #85

            Today's lesson is postponed so I can tell you all about my weekend instead. As you know, I was in Lake City, MN for a sewing machine collector's reunion called a "TOGA" which stands for "Treadle On Gathering and Academy". Treadle On is a forum for users of treadle sewing machines and there are TOGAs all over the US and even in the UK and Australia now and again. Our hostess is a parts and machine dealer with a great collection of antique sewing machines. This is an annual event with members from all over the midwest and Canada attending. Friday was set up day, so we got our campsite set up and unloaded my traveling treadle and demonstration gear at the church where the event was held. Then I made my annual visit to the local quilt shop (they give each of us a $5 coupon every year) and bought a huge bagful of batiks for my nephew's wedding quilt, plus a few other odds and ends. When I got back, I demo'd making eight half-square triangles at a time and then showed how to put them into pinwheel blocks. I pride myself on my pinwheels. 8^) That evening we had hand-tossed pizza with friends and finished the evening with a campfire.Saturday morning, I breakfasted with another bunch of Togateers, then back to the church. My job was to show how to safely clean a really dirty sewing machine, which took all day. Others demo'd using the attachments, adjusting treadle irons for smooth operation, fixing tensions, watercolor quilting, Seminole piecing and easy Nine-Patch blocks. There is always a huge raffle and we closed with a turkey dinner. Another campfire rounded off the evening nicely.Sunday morning we spent in Cindy's shop/museum. I got some new FM quilting feet to test drive for her, picked up some treadle belts, got a new reference book that I've been wanting and took some pictures of machines for an on-going research project that I'm working on. Then back to the church to demo FM quilting. Late in the afternoon, Cindy took us out to her warehouse and let us look at the machines out there. These will all be for sale as she gets them cleaned up, but she let me buy one "as is". Good deal for me, since it's in PERFECT condition! We had supper at a local casino whose head chef is one of the best in Minnesota and then off home. What this doesn't tell you is how much fun the whole weekend was. There are many people who attend this event that I either only get to see once a year or am meeting for the first time, but have "known" for years via the 'net. One of these was Sandra from MI, who I've been chatting with for six or seven years now and it was so great to finally meet her in person. One thing that I noticed this year was that there were many more men in attendance than usual. Usually, the women out-number the men about 10 to 1, but I think were more like 3 to 1 this year. And they weren't just reluctant husbands, either, but guys who are genuinely interested in old sewing machines, chose to come, and had a lot to contribute. One is an old sewing machine repairman and he's forgotten more about fixing old machines than most of us will ever know. Yesterday, I was BEAT! I didn't do a thing except read my e-mails and take a nap! Tomorrow I promise to get back to our lessons!Annie in Wisconsin, USA
            ~~Doodlestein Designs Quilt Patterns
            ~~Finely Finished: Machine quilting worked on a treadle sewing machine.
            See patterns, quilting, and National sewing machines at: http://community.webshots.com/user/damascusannieEdited 9/16/2008 9:35 am by damascusannie

            Edited 9/16/2008 9:36 am by damascusannie

          24. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #86

            Sounds like a wonderful weekend. Which machine did you get? Tell all Dear Annie! Cathy

          25. damascusannie | | #87

            Oh, I totally forgot! I hate to admit it, but it's an electric portable. It's was made by the National Sewing Machine Company (remember, that's company that I collect) the model is a "Reversew" and it's in like-new condition. It was probably silly to buy a machine that I'll never use, but I just couldn't resist it!

          26. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #88

            No, it is not silly at all. You are a collector of a certain Maker of machine. You are merely expanding on the perimeters of your collection. I collect miniature turtle figurines. They don't do anything! Problem? What Problem? Cathy

          27. rodezzy | | #89

            OMG, you had a great trip.  I would have loved to be there with you.  It sounded so interesting.  So very very interesting.  And camping out sounded like fun.  I can just vision you showing your quilting stuff with pride and precision.  Did you guys sing around the campfire too?!  I love half-square triangles too.  I print out paper that makes several a time too.  The paper is on the internet and it has different sizes from 2 inch to 4 inch finished.  I can't remember is that is with or without seam allowance, I will go to the site today and check.  What are your usual finished size half-square triangle and what method do you use? 

            Oh dear, fabric shopping!!!!!!  I love batiks, that wedding quilt is going to sing the wedding song....giggle.  Ummmmm yummy.

            What is FM quilting?  Boy, I love talking to you.  I learn something every time you post something.  You are just a wealth of information and a delight to learn from.  Wish I could hang out with you on the quilting scene. 

            And a new machine!!!!!  Wow you had a great trip.  Oh, yes....I can hear the fun and the unique experience you had in every word.  Thanks so much for sharing.

          28. damascusannie | | #90

            No singing around the campfire, but we did have two birthday girls to sing to, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. I make my HSTs from big squares, marking the diagonals and then stitching a scant 1/4 either side of the two diagonal lines. Then I cut the square into quarters and cut along the diagonals and I have eight HSTs. I make them oversized and trim to the size I want. The formula for the big squares is:finished HST x 2 + 2. So, if the finished size of the HST after being sewn into the block is 3" ( as it would be in a 6" Pinwheel block) the math is:3 x 2 + 2 = 8 I cut my 8 x 8 squares of my two fabrics, put them right sides together, draw my diagonals and go from there. I sometimes tell my beginners to add an extra 1/4-1/2" to the total until they get comfortable with the scant 1/4" stitching. It gives them a bit of fudging room. There's a bit of waste with this method, but I get really accurate HSTs every time this way. Annie

          29. rodezzy | | #91

            Awwww the birthday ladies.  Wonderful.  Gave the lungs a little wind.  Fun though.

            Actually, the paper does all that work for me.  I put two fabrics together, right sides together and pin it on.  Sew on the broken lines, trim up the outside edges, cut on the solid lines.  Done.  I can't wait to see that beautiful wedding quilt, those batiks are lucious candy fabric.  Love it.


          30. damascusannie | | #93

            The thing I don't like about the paper is that it dulls my blades so quickly. On the other hand, adding all the cuts does too, so it's probably just a trade-off. 8^)

          31. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #92

            This is fascinating greek to me. I almost get the picture. Can you redirect me to something with a picture to see what you are talking about? Thanks. It sounds like fun. Cathy

          32. Josefly | | #72

            Your history lessons are fascinating. Please keep them going. I've especially liked the ones concerning spinning, and looms. I've read a little about looms, once when I took a floor loom weaving class, and enjoy seeing the types of fabrics woven on the different kinds of looms still used around the world. You've done an excellent job presenting these topics, imho.

          33. damascusannie | | #73

            Thanks! I will keep them going as long as there's an interest. The subjects are almost limitless. I want to thank Cathy for her input on spinning and weaving--I think she knows a lot more about this than I do.

          34. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #74

            Thanks Annie, my interest in textiles is from fibre all the way to finished product, so I have a broad interest base. I am not familiar with all the machinery tho. I can tell more about what than how sometimes. Cathy

          35. rodezzy | | #45

            Wow, now wool is considered superior to other fabrics.  Who knew! 

    2. User avater
      ThreadKoe | | #21

      This is fascinating Annie. I can see you enthusiasm glowing in your words when you are writing about your beloved machines. I am enjoying this so much, please share more. Cathy

    3. rodezzy | | #46

      Thanks so much for all of this history.  I used to love history too.  But, I never heard it like this.  I know why schools don't teach the personal stuff, it would be too racy for students and the schools didn't want to take on parents that didn't want their children exposed to the "behind the scenes human behavior" of inventors and other historic figures.  It also would raise more questions than the teachers would have been allowed to answer.  That's why there are biography books that give you the inside story.  This is "of course" my reasoning for why its not taught in schools in the past; although by the time you reach college I remember teachers giving you a little more than the date and place of an event.  They went a little farther with some personal details.  I also liked to read biography's in the library when I was young; and in literature classes, you got personal histories of the historical figures behind the stories, depending on the teachers.

      But you are spell binding.  Love the details.

      Edited 9/3/2008 11:52 am ET by rodezzy

      1. damascusannie | | #47

        Today's lesson: Spinning. Before a fabric can be woven, most fibers must be prepared by spinning. Fact 1: The earliest examples of spun fiber date to the early Stone Age, roughly 20,000 years ago. The earliest form of spinning was achieved by simply rolling tufts of fiber down the thigh. (I have a girlfriend that's a spinner and she's quite good at this.) Later, a rudimentary spinning tool was created by fastening the fibers to a stone which was then twirled until the yarn was twisted, the yarn was then wound around the stone and the process repeated. By the Neolithic period (8500 B.C.) drop spindles are invented, greatly improving efficiency. It is interesting that no matter where in the world you go, if there is a shepherding culture, drop spindles are found, whether in Asia, Africa, Europe or the Americas.

        Spinning wheels aren't invented until about 1000 A.D. and from this time production of thread and yarn remains largely unchanged until the 18th centuryFact 2: Large-scale industrial spinning is finally made possible with the invention of the "spinning jenny" in 1764 by James Hargreaves. The "jenny" allowed one worker to tend eight spools at once. An improved device, the "waterframe" (because it was powered by a water wheel), is invented (either by Richard Arkwright or Thomas Highs) at almost the same time. The waterframe produced stronger thread than the jenny, but the real breakthrough came in 1779 with Samuel Crompton's "spinning mule", so-called because it was a combination of the spinning jenny and the waterframe. The mule made an even stronger thread and was better adapted to mechanisation. By the 1790s, as many as 400 spindles could be run off one mule and the machine was adapted to run off of steam power. Today's industrial spinning machines can produce 90 MILES of thread per hour!

        1. rodezzy | | #48

          I know I keep saying it, but Wow!  I've learned more in the last two days, about fibers, sewing equipment and the people who made the miracles we use today, than I would ever put my mind to researching. 

          Thank you so much.  I look forward to each of your lessons. 

          1. damascusannie | | #50

            You are more than welcome!

        2. User avater
          ThreadKoe | | #49

          When thread or yarn is spun, it can be spun in 2 different directions. An S from a clockwise spin, or Z from a counter clockwise spin. Most are spun in a S.
          When working from a ball of yarn, or cut piece of thread, it is easy to check which is the correct direction to work from. You should always work with the grain of the yarn or thread. Holding one loose end in one hand, run the thread gently between your finger and your fingernail or scissor blade . If it jumps like crazy, you are running against the grain. When handsewing, you should be drawing the thread through your fabric with the grain of the thread. This way you will have fewer knots and tangles, and the thread will not fray. Cathy

          1. damascusannie | | #51

            This is great to know! I knew that the twist can vary but I never knew how to test it! I do a lot of hand applique and it's such a nuisance when the thread starts to twist up on me. Now I know how to avoid that from the beginning. THANKS!

          2. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #52

            Another way to avoid the problem is to thread your needle onto the thread before cutting the thread. Knot the loose end. Pull the needle up towards the spool as you measure off what you need. You will notice or feel a bit of "drag" on the needle as you do this. This is because you are pulling against the grain. Cut just beyond the needle, and you are ready to go! When I am beading, I often thread several needles onto my spool, and then put a stop bead on the end of the thread. That way, I do not have to stop and re-thread my needles so often. I just move the needles up the thread, cut one off, and keep on going! Cathy

          3. damascusannie | | #53

            Thanks again! This is a great tip, too!

          4. rodezzy | | #54

            Boy oh boy, I learn something new with every thread.  Just talking about beading a doll and I'm getting tips and tricks already.  Lovin it, Lovin you!

          5. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #55

            When you tell me more about what you want to do with your beading, I have lots more to pass along! Cathy

          6. rodezzy | | #56

            You bet lady.  Oh how blessed can one person beeeeeee!!!!!!

            I've found treasures for friends that indulge in and teach all the crafting I can possibly do.  And I'm going to experiment with every thing I haven't been able to do in the past, right now! 

            Thanks for your knowledge and inspiration.

          7. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #57

            Rodezzy, Are you doing a Happy Dance? Just happy to pass along what I know. Cathy

          8. rodezzy | | #58

            How'd you guess? giggle.  I'm on the internet exploring as we type!!!!  Looking for beaded dolls.

          9. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #59

            Try Bead & Button magazine, or Beadwork magazine. They are my fav beading mags. Seems to me that the doll I saw was in the BeadDreams Competiton. CathyIs this the beaded mermaid doll you saw: http://www.indigoarts.com/gallery_africanart_cpdoll1.html

            Edited 9/4/2008 11:01 pm ET by ThreadKoe

          10. rodezzy | | #61

            ooooooo, that was a great site with beaded everything.  My beaded doll will not be that intense.  Some beading on the doll mermaid, but not a completed beaded doll.  I put that site in my favorites because it was so interesting and wonderful.  Loved all of the beaded pieces. 

            Have you done that type of beading?  I was at Joanne's yesterday during my lunch hour and I almost bought a bead magazine.  I have a couple bead books at home.  "Bead Crochet" and one on beaded jewelry.  I haven't come up to it yet.  Got any lessons on bead history?  That would be interesting too!

          11. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #66

            Will do later on OK. Have to find my lesson plan and break it down and find the pics and download them first. Will then post under a new heading. Have not done anything like the Mermaid. Have a few ideas for other projects on my To Do Someday list. My Beading mags collection doubles my Threads collection, as I have 2 mags I collect for them, plus a few more..... Cathy

          12. rodezzy | | #68

            ok ...great!

        3. SAAM | | #60

          I just want to say thank you to you and Threadkoe for posting such interesting and useful information. I, like Rodezzy, am loving reading about the history of the craft we love.Sherry

    4. damascusannie | | #62

      Looms: We learned a bit about how fibers are prepared yesterday, today we get into the weaving itself. Looms are going to take a few days!Fact 1: The earliest looms were vertical, warp-weighted looms, most likely as simple as tying the warp (the threads that run the full length of the fabric--what we call the lengthwise grain in sewing) to a tree branch and weighting them with stones. The weaver had to lift every other warp thread by hand to weave the weft (crosswise grain) through them. Then the weft had to be pushed upwards (beating) either by hand or with a comb. Later a long stick wasto guide weft--this stick doubled as a beater and eventually evolved into the shuttle for throwing the weft. The most important innovation was the "shed". The shed is created by inserting a flat rod under every other warp thread, then turning the rod on edge to lift them, creating a space for the shuttle to pass through easily. This type of loom is still used today by Navajo and Turkish rug makers.Fact 2: The simplest horizontal ground loom was made by pounding two rows of pegs into the ground and winding the warp around them. The distance between the rows determines the length of the fabric and the length of the rows determines the width (pretty narrow as a rule!) Because this meant that the weaver was constantly bent over the work, the pit loom was invented. A pit was dug that was big enough to accomodate the size of the fabric desired and the pegs were pounded into the edge of the pit at each end. The weaver could now sit on the edge of the pit, with his/her legs dangling into it. This whole style of loom had a couple of problems, though. Firstly, the weaver had to work mostly from the edge of the textile as opposed to working from the end. Secondly, it was very difficult to maintain an even tension on the warp threads, which is crucial to successful weaving. Tomorrow we'll see how these problems were overcome.Annie in Wisconsin, USA
      ~~Doodlestein Designs Quilt Patterns
      ~~Finely Finished: Machine quilting worked on a treadle sewing machine.
      See patterns, quilting, and National sewing machines at: http://community.webshots.com/user/damascusannie

      Edited 9/5/2008 10:01 am by damascusannie

      1. rodezzy | | #63

        Is the "pit" loom used for weaving Kente Cloth in Africa?  I understand the men did all the weaving.

      2. User avater
        ThreadKoe | | #64

        Weaving was accomplished even before the loom. Called Off Loom weaving, the simplest form is braiding. By adding more strands to the plait, a wider band of fabric can be created. The Frienship bracelets that are so popular for the last few years are another form of simple off loom weaving.
        When many strands are used, each thread is woven under and over from the outside edge, across the fabric, then dropped. The next edge thread is picked up and used. These off loom pieces can be very beautiful and complicated. The original Assmption sashes worn by Metis and French Canadian fur traders are an example of this.
        This is a pretty good picture: http://www.craftkits.com/i//ASC_&_AGC_250.jpg
        They are named for the town of L'Assumption, in Quebec, where they were made for trading purposes. They are often made on looms, but the originals are made by finger weaving as it is called. Cathy

        1. rodezzy | | #67

          Oh, those are beautiful.  Great scarves and belts. 

        2. damascusannie | | #69

          I watched an Ojibwa man making Assumption belts using a pencil to hold the warp, but weaving by hand as you describe, at an Indian art show last summer. They are just beautiful and I was so impressed that he could maintain a uniform tension and width without any of the helps provided by a loom. His belts were just gorgeous.Annie in Wisconsin, USA
          ~~Doodlestein Designs Quilt Patterns
          ~~Finely Finished: Machine quilting worked on a treadle sewing machine.
          See patterns, quilting, and National sewing machines at: http://community.webshots.com/user/damascusannie

          Edited 9/5/2008 1:37 pm by damascusannie

          1. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #70

            They are actually more than just decorative belts. They are used as back support, carrying straps, tie-down straps, calendars, and calculators. Knots in the different coloured end fringe would indicate number and kind of furs. Knots would also be put in to indicate expected days out on a trip. Each day out, a knot would be undone, When a certain knot reached, it was time to turn back and go home. If someone was not home by a certain time, search parties would be sent out to look for them. CathyIt is actually pretty hard to maintain an even tension when doing off loom weaving. It takes a lot of skill and patience. One of my first off loom projects was a simple woven strap made like this. It is very hard for it not to have a twill like twist in it!

            Edited 9/5/2008 1:54 pm ET by ThreadKoe

  3. jjgg | | #94

    I was in Washington DC for Thanksgiving, and went to the American Art Museum and found this portrait that I thought would be interesting to this discussion. It's always fun to put a face to a name - Singer. Also a picture of one of his machines, you may know the model of it.

    1. damascusannie | | #95

      Cool! Thanks for sharing! I love the portrait of Isaac. Satin smoking jacket, silk waistcoat, gold watch chain--nothing understated about HIM was there?!

    2. User avater
      rodezzy2 | | #96

      Wow, he was a real dandy huh?  He loved clothes I'm sure.  That machine is one that you had to crank with one hand, huh!  We are so pampered.

      1. jjgg | | #97

        >>>We are so pampered.<<<
        That's exactly what I was thinking! 'We've come a long way baby' comparing that machine to my fancy shmancy computerized /embroidery machine, what would he think of the machines today!

        1. User avater
          rodezzy2 | | #99

          I want a long arm quilting machine and the QBot quilting computer.  giggle.  In my dreams.  And maybe ... just maybe ... I can make that dream come true.  I'm holding on and saving.  Maybe one day.  giggle.

      2. damascusannie | | #98

        Now you all need to stop dissing the handcrank machines--I love sewing on mine. They are great for putzy stuff like paper piecing. And you have to remember that none of my working machines are electric--only people-powered sewing at my house!

        1. User avater
          rodezzy2 | | #100

          I'm not dissing (giggle, snicker) I'm just not motivated to go back to the blast in the past.  Lovely to look at, and think about how astonished the ladies were when those appeared on the scene.  But, I'm marveling now, and I like what the future has to offer me, just like those ladies did in their time. 

          They were po pooed too for not doing it all by hand.  Somebody was dissin' them abou their "new fangled sewing machine, hump, not for me.  I do all my sewing by hand." 

          Just like the ladies that pieced quilts by machine and brag about how they "hand quilt only".  Everybody has their thing!  smile.

          Love ya, but I gotta look to the future. 

          1. damascusannie | | #101

            It's interesting to know that the biggest opponents of the sewing machine were not the housewives, but the professional tailors and dressmakers--they were sure that the new machines would put them out of business. The housewives were thrilled to get sewing machines to ease the burden of all that sewing for the family. It's not until the sewing machine arrives that we really see quilting take off because now a woman had the time to piece more elaborate quilts.

          2. JeanM | | #102

            The film industry was concerned that the VCR would put them out of business also.

            On one sewing show it was mentioned that a woman had counted the hand stitches she had used to stitch a shirt for her husband.  It was over 20,000!  She was probably stitching between times of churning butter and carrying water from the stream.  No wonder they didn't have many clothes "back then".

          3. damascusannie | | #103

            One historian that I know calls the washing machine, the cookstove and the sewing machinethe top three most important time-saving appliances ever invented. If you've ever cooked over an open fire, or done laundry with a washboard, you'd have to agree!

          4. JeanM | | #104

            That's probably very true (about those 3 items).  My mother couldn't see a need for an automatic clothes washer, so I am well acquainted with using a washboard and a wringer for laundry.  Ugh.  I didn't mind hanging the clothes on a clothesline so much because they always smelled so nice when dry.  This entire process was extremely time consuming!

            When I was on my own and had roommates, we moved into an apartment which had originally been planned as a condo so there were a washer and dryer in the kitchen.  I had to ask my roommates how to use those items.  They looked at me like I was from another planet.   Well,  ( never mind----that's another story).

            My mother sewed for a living.  At home her Kenmore was a straight stitch.  Every garment she made had buttonholes which she sewed by hand.  Every garment had a matching belt with buckle which she covered by hand.  This could be why there are steps in sewing that I do by hand when I know there are faster methods, but I enjoy doing it that way.  But I refuse to do buttonholes by hand!



            Edited 12/4/2008 6:11 pm by JeanM

          5. damascusannie | | #107

            I think it's interesting that your mom never got a buttonhole attachment, which I know was made for the Kenmore machines. I love my vintage Singer buttonholer--best buttonholes ever!

          6. User avater
            rodezzy2 | | #105

            Tell about it girl, he he, I love it!

          7. damascusannie | | #106

            When we moved into our current house, we didn't have running watere for nearly a month (long story), so I got to know all about doing the laundry in a washtub! I love doing things the old-fashioned way within reason, but laundry for seven kids by hand--NO FREAKIN' WAY!!!! I cannot begin to tell you how thrilled I was when the water was finally in the house and my washer was hooked up again!

This post is archived.

Threads Insider

Get instant access to hundreds of videos, tutorials, projects, and more.

Start Your Free Trial

Already an Insider? Log in

Conversational Threads

Recent Posts and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |

Threads Insider Exclusives

View All
View All


Shop the Store

View All
View More