How Does A Sewing Machine Sew?

Like all Hackaday readers, we pride ourselves on having at least a passing acquaintance with how most things work. But we suspect to a lot of people, things we take for granted — computers, air conditioning, motors, and cell phones — are just black magic. That’s how we feel about sewing machines. Sure, there’s a motor. There’s a needle and some thread. But how does the machine make a stitch? We always wondered, but after watching a recent video from [Veritasium] we can at least claim we have an idea.

First, he shows the intrinsic problem: sewing by hand requires you to reverse the direction of the needle, and it isn’t clear how to make a simple machine to do that. Sure, today you could probably make a robot that sews like a human does, but sewing machines have been around for a very long time.

In addition to showing how a chain stitch and lock stitch work, the video shows the history of the machines, including 50,000-year-old needles and the progression of innovations required to get to the modern sewing machine. In addition, he shows a large model sewing machine to clearly explain the concepts.

You might think you don’t care about sewing, but machine sewing has touched nearly everyone. The video says that in 1900, a family might spend 15% of their income on clothes. In 2003, that number drops to under 4%, yet the family will have many more clothes than they did in 1900. This is possible because of machine sewing and other innovations.

You can, of course, make your own sewing machine. If you want to get an industrial one, we have some advice.

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Hackaday Visits The Electric City

Much to the chagrin of local historians, the city of Scranton, Pennsylvania is today best known as the setting for the American version of The Office. But while the exploits of Dunder Mifflin’s best and brightest might make for a good Netflix binge, there’s a lot more to the historic city than the fictional paper company. From its beginnings as a major supplier of anthracite coal to the introduction of America’s first electrically operated trolley system on its streets, Scranton earned its nickname “The Electric City” by being a major technological hub from the Industrial Revolution through to the Second World War.

Today, the mines and furnaces of Scranton lie silent but not forgotten. In the 1980’s, the city started turning what remained of their industrial sites into historic landmarks and museums with the help of State and Federal grants. I recently got a chance to tour some of these locations, and came away very impressed. They’re an exceptional look into the early technology and processes which helped turn America into an industrial juggernaut.

While no substitute for visiting these museums and parks for yourself, hopefully the following images and descriptions will give you an idea of what kind of attractions await visitors to the modern day Electric City.

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