Please "Say it isn't Sew!" Confederate Soldiers and Wives!

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Belle Montgomery

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I've read a number of ACW Southern women's diaries and some had a sewing machines in their home to help make uniforms for their loved ones but had no idea according to this is was only 2%!
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The elegance, speed, noiselessness and simplicity of the machine; the beauty and strength of the stitch:…impossible to ravel, and leaving no chain or ridge on the under side; the economy of thread and adaptability to the thickest or thinnest fabrics, have rendered this the most successful and popular sewing machine made. (Advertisement for a Weber Sewing Machine The Illinois Farmer VI 1861)

Although only perfected in 1854, seven years later the sewing machine was to play a major role in the production of uniforms for the Civil War.

Anyone who has every used a sewing machine knows that the formation of machine stitches depends on a complex arrangement of thread, needle, bobbin, and tension. It took much experimentation to develop machines that could replace hand sewing. The first attempts were most notable for their failure. For example...
REST of article:https://americancivilwarvoice.org/2014/06/03/the-sewing-machine-and-the-civil-war/
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Belle, you hit on a great topic to be able to draw in the experts! @jgoodguy for one.

Only 2% had machines? You know, there are quite a few images of Confederate soldiers whose uniforms ( especially those incredibly unique shirts! ) seem to be hand sewn. Gee whiz- you see visible stitching these days and it means the garment is hand tailored ( and awfully expensive ).

Ran into Demorest's various machines. It really must have been a huge burden lifted for women who laboriously sewed all the clothing for a family. Can you imagine? Never became adept at those things myself. Something about all that frantic chattering as you run material under the needle was just too intimidating.
 

Northern Light

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Two percent of the female population may seem like a small amount, but remember that there were often multiple generations living together who would have had access to one machine: mothers, daughters, aunts. They might also have allowed neighbours access to them.
 
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jgoodguy

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Belle, you hit on a great topic to be able to draw in the experts! @jgoodguy for one.

Only 2% had machines? You know, there are quite a few images of Confederate soldiers whose uniforms ( especially those incredibly unique shirts! ) seem to be hand sewn. Gee whiz- you see visible stitching these days and it means the garment is hand tailored ( and awfully expensive ).

Ran into Demorest's various machines. It really must have been a huge burden lifted for women who laboriously sewed all the clothing for a family. Can you imagine? Never became adept at those things myself. Something about all that frantic chattering as you run material under the needle was just too intimidating.
Some find the clattering relaxing. That is why Singer made a fortune. He knew what women wanted.
 

jgoodguy

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Two percent of the female population may seem like a small amount, but remember that there were often multiple generations living together who would have had access to one machine: mothers, daughters, aunts. They might also have allowed neighbours access to them.
I remember a story told by a lady about a sewing machine shared by an entire town in North Alabama when I was looking for sewing machines near Warrior Alabama.

Other cases would be a lady that took in sewing for neighbors and friends for extra income.
 
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Belle Montgomery

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It's funny, back in the day when I used to sew all the time, the "clattering" was more like me swearing! Jammed bobbin etc. LOL To this day I'm good accept pointed collars...hence my preference for no or shawl and Nehru type collars. Timeless! Lapels widen and narrow through the years but those aforementioned collars seem to never go out of style!
 

JPChurch

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My mom had her mom's foot pedal driven pump Singer, with all the attachments. Beautiful. The leather drive belt broke on it, I could never find a suitable replacement so I could fix it for her. I do have her electric Singer circa early '50's in its wooden cabinet with the matching bench seat. It still runs!!!! I figured out to sew with it myself (these oldies but goodies were easy to figure out), cause my mom wouldn't sew up my torn bell bottom jeans in the early 70's. "I'm not fixing those, they need to get tossed out...." Mom ran her Singer all the time sewing for people for some spare $, and that Singer would keep us up at night in the late 50's early 60's with it clattering as well and of course, she had Perry Mason on TV with the volume way up so she could hear the show over her sewing machine. An she chain smoked cigs and always had a huge glass of Lipton iced tea on the rocks while sewing....An yeah she cussed too when that Singer jammed up, broke a needle, the bobbin got clogged up etc etc. Fond memories...…….
 

jgoodguy

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One problem with sewing machines in the Civil War South was the thread. Sewing machines need strong tightly wound that does not fray easily. This is a machine wound thread. The blockade kept such thread from coming in from England or the North, the South did not have machines to wind thread, and the homespun thread would not work well or at all.
 
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Cavalry Charger

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my mom wouldn't sew up my torn bell bottom jeans in the early 70's. "I'm not fixing those, they need to get tossed out...."
:laugh:

Mom ran her Singer all the time sewing for people for some spare $, and that Singer would keep us up at night in the late 50's early 60's with it clattering as well and of course, she had Perry Mason on TV with the volume way up so she could hear the show over her sewing machine. An she chain smoked cigs and always had a huge glass of Lipton iced tea on the rocks while sewing....An yeah she cussed too when that Singer jammed up, broke a needle, the bobbin got clogged up etc etc. Fond memories...…….
So glad you decided to share them :smile:
 
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jgoodguy

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One problem with sewing machines in the Civil War South was the thread. Sewing machines need strong tightly wound that does not fray easily. This is a machine wound thread. The blockade kept such thread from coming in from England or the North, the South did not have machines to wind thread, and the homespun thread would not work well or at all.
 

AshleyMel

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I remember my Granny's old singer. She made many a dress for us girls.

Wish I had that machine. It was a classic.
My Nanny had a singer she used to sew skirts for me. Several of the ladies I sew with actually prefer the older machines to the newer ones of today. Several have their mother's old machines or refurbished Singers and use them exclusively for their quilts! I think they like the sturdy way they were made and the stitch quality.
 
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jgoodguy

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My Nanny had a singer she used to sew skirts for me. Several of the ladies I sew with actually prefer the older machines to the newer ones of today. Several have their mother's old machines or refurbished Singers and use them exclusively for their quilts! I think they like the sturdy way they were made and the stitch quality.
Something about all metal sewing machines and quilts goes together. There are even folks that cut an old singer in half, weld extensions to it to make a long arm quilting sewing machine. For the money, a thrifty shopper can find an old black singer for under $50 and a patient one under $25

Every year when my workshop gets cold in January, I swear off sewing machines until about when tomato plants show up at Walmart then I get back interested. My last purchase was a 3/4 size Singer in a bentwood case at an antique store. It was at the checkout counter and I stubbed my toe on it How much. $25. Done. Deals can be found.

My current favorite. A 3/4 size singer 99. Converted from electric to hand crank. The flower decals are from a fingernail art package.

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jgoodguy

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The Singer decal is fake but a Union uniform might have been sewn on a machine like this dating to mid Civil War.
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One like this was used at the Richmond depot during the Civil War.

I tell a story of how this one was smuggled out of North in '62 to Bermuda, was put on the blockade runner Flordia, chased by the Yankee navy, saved at the last minute by the guns of Fort Morgan. Taken by riverboat to Montgomery escorted to the Montgomery depot by cavalry led by Lt. Williams, where it sews uniforms and ball gowns. After the war, Williams bought it from the Yankee government who had confiscated it. Williams had taken the Yankee loyalty oath, but the woman he courted was unreconstructed and held that against him. She saw the sewing machine and forgave him and they were married.
 
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Cavalry Charger

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The Singer decal is fake but a Union uniform might have been sewn on a machine like this dating to mid Civil War.
View attachment 299268
One like this was used at the Richmond depot during the Civil War.

I tell a story of how this one was smuggled out of North in '62 to Bermuda, was put on the blockade runner Flordia, chased by the Yankee navy, saved at the last minute by the guns of Fort Morgan. Taken by riverboat to Montgomery escorted to the Montgomery depot by cavalry led by Lt. Williams, where it sews uniforms and ball gowns. After the war, Williams bought it from the Yankee government who had confiscated it. Williams had taken the Yankee loyalty oath, but the woman he courted was unreconstructed and held that against him. She saw the sewing machine and forgave him and they were married.
I love this story :inlove:. Where on earth did you come across it JGG? Even sewing machines have stories it seems!
 

jgoodguy

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I love this story :inlove:. Where on earth did you come across it JGG? Even sewing machines have stories it seems!
She told it to me when I touched her handwheel at an estate sale in Montgomery. Who am I to disbelieve? OTOH there was a lady next to me talking about turning her into a hallway table with a marble top so maybe she embellished her story a bit.
 
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