What was the impact of the invention of the sewing machine?    

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The invention of the sewing machine greatly benefited the textile industry and the consumer. It also afforded many women opportunities for work.

With the invention of the lock-stitch sewing machine with the eye-pointed needle, along with further perfection of some of the mechanisms, the garment industry was revolutionized. Clothing could be mass produced, thereby reducing the cost of individual garments. The garment industry also provided many women the opportunity for employment. Later, women might work on one particular aspect of each garment in an assembly-line manner. For instance, one worker might run only the inner seams of trousers for men. This type of work does not involve skilled workers and it speeds production, so it is profitable for the employer. Because it is cost-effective, the industrial-sewn garments produced are much less expensive than if each garment were sewn individually.

I.M. Singer, who designed sewing machines, came up with the idea of financial installment plans, which allowed people to make purchases which were more than they could afford otherwise. With the installment plan, many women purchased sewing machines so that they could make their own clothing, drapes, etc., and thus economize. The sewing machine was the first household machine that enabled women in their domestic tasks, saving them countless hours.

The sewing machine later played an essential role in the manufacturing of other goods. Anything that had upholstery, such as furniture and automobile seats, could be fashioned by the sewing machine. Also, items such as curtains, towels, pillows, various toys, even bound volumes of books could be sewn by machines. During the Civil War, these devices played a significant role as many uniforms had to be made for the soldiers quickly. Of course, they were used in the wars after the Civil War, as well. 

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The major impacts of the invention of the sewing machine were to 1) create the clothing industry and 2) to help allow people to have more clothing.

Before the invention of the sewing machine, all sewing had to be done by hand.  Cloth could be made by machines, but the actual sewing of garments and other things could only be done by hand.  People would either make clothes at home by hand or would buy them from tailors.  This made clothing very expensive (if you bought it) or time-consuming (if you made it yourself).  The invention of the sewing machine changed this.

Once Elias Howe invented the sewing machine, clothes could be made on a much more industrial scale, much as cloth was.  People could set up factories with large numbers of sewing machines.  Workers using sewing machines could produce garments much more quickly than was previously possible.  When workers can make things more quickly, that also means that the products can be sold more cheaply because the workers do not have to be paid as much.  When clothes become cheaper, people are able to buy more clothing.  In addition, the invention of the sewing machine even helped people who sewed at home.  Sewing clothing at home with a machine was much quicker than hand-sewing and so a woman (almost always a woman) could make more clothes for herself and her family.

In these ways, the invention of the sewing machine had important impacts.  It helped to build the clothing industry and it improved people’s quality of life by allowing them to own more clothes.