The Treadle Sewing Machine
Posted: Aug 20 2015
It is believed the first sewing machine was designed by English inventor Thomas Saint in 1790, however a German engineer named Charles Frederick Wiesenthal was awarded the first British patent for a mechanical sewing device. After working in his spare time for eight years, Elias Howe was awarded a patent for what is now considered the first ‘practical sewing machine’ in 1846. A host of inventors contributed to the development of what emerged as the modern sewing machine, igniting a web of patent lawsuits, much like today’s bickering between smartphone makers. What came to be known as the Sewing Machine War came to its head in 1850, when Isaac Meritt Singer was the first to combine the previous innovations in one device. A few years later an amicable solution was reached, where both patents and profits were shared among the parties until the patents expired in 1877. The most iconic item that came out of this revolutionary era was the Singer treadle sewing machine, which has become an international symbol for tailoring.
Lining the streets of Bangkok, you still see many seamstresses with traditional treadle top machines, which prove more convenient as they don’t require electricity, but still provides better accuracy and 10 fold reduced production times compared to hand stitching. It is common for these machines to be passed down through generations. Others, such as Wa who sets up shop next to a 7-11 near Chatuchak, buy their own and pursue their passion for sewing. After attending a sewing school for a year, Wa has been sewing for the past three, most days setting up her Singer machine next to her baby boy in a small travel nursery.
Tailoring is an industry as full of heritage as it is of innovation, so when decorating our newly expanded shop we decided to pay homage to the iconic Singer treadle machine. Two beautifully restored treadle tables located in the new lounge evoke the traditional techniques employed by our master tailors, hand cutting every garment in the next room. On one table you find information about the charity-benefitting Tailor On Ten Book Exchange (don’t miss the complimentary bookmarks), and on the other a range of premium single origin coffees. So sit down, soak up the history (and your coffee) and design yourself some beautiful bespoke clothes.