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Monthly Archives: September 2012

11 09, 2012

Our Most Used Tool – the Sewing Machine

By |September 11th, 2012|Education|1 Comment

OK – so drawing on a variety of resources – here are some fun and interesting facts……….. about SEWING MACHINES.

Hand sewing is an art form that has been traced back in history to over 20,000 years ago………. as just at the time as the Columbian Mammoth was becoming extinct, our ancestors were stitching clothing and blanketing from bones and animal horns. Carved, shaved and ground by hand to primitive point, the first threads used were made of animal sinew and reeds and fed by hand thru the puncture in the textile. It was not until the 14th century that the Iron Needle was invented and late yet – in the 15th century that the first “eyed” needles appeared.

Interestingly, in the year 1755 a patent was issued in Great Britain to a German inventor by the name Charles Weisenthal. While the “needle” element was indeed patented, a description of the machine that operated it (if indeed it was mechanically driven) was not patented or published.

It was an English inventor some 35 years later in 1790 that was issued the first patent for a complete mechanically driven sewing machine. It is unknown if a working model ever existed – or if the patent was passed solely on a design. A later reproduction of the automated awl and needle design by Thomas Saint indeed did not work….

Various inventors, craftsman, cabinetmakers and tailors in years to follow also developed and patented a variety of different machines – all of them considered unsuccessful – or at least unreliable. In most cases the machines were unable to sew any useful amount of material before snagging or malfunctioning. Even a machine for “multiple needle embroidery” was patented in the early 1800’s – but the too invention failed and was soon forgotten by the public.

It is believed that the first successful American built sewing machine was that designed in 1834 by Walter Hunt. Capable of stitching in a straight line only, it could be considered an early predecessor to those machines which we today still use – in that it was a mechanical process “which drew thread from two different sources.” The needle was pushed thru the cloth, creating a loop on the backside, and then a secondary thread-shuttle slipped a second thread through the loop – creating what is called a “lock stitch”.. Hunt never patented the design, claiming difficulty in marketing his invention………. it is said that his main concern and that of the marketplace was that his invention would cause unemployment. In 1846 a patent for a like design was issued to Elias Howe. Interestingly, despite being issued a patent for the lock-stitch process, he gave up on trying to maintain and defend the patent.

Drawing on and improving upon this working model inventor Isaac Singer (ah! – now a name you recognize!) successfully mass produced the first trade ready commercial machine in 1850. Singer’s design incorporated an up-and-down motion with the needle (rather than side to side) and was powered by a foot operated treadle. Singer’s model used the same “lock-stitch” as had been developed by Hunt and patented by Howe…. with patent infringement law suits ensuing. After successfully defending his right to a share in the profits of his invention, it is rumored that Howe earned close to two million dollars which a portion of was donated to equip a Union Army infantry regiment during the Civil War. Elias Howe died in 1867 – which was coincidentally the same year in which his patent expired.

Some interesting side notes on the subject – the zig-zag stitch machine was patented first by a woman….. Helen Augusta Blanchard of Portland Maine. (she in fact patented 28 inventions! Clever lady….!)

Bear in mind that electrically powered machines did not become the norm until around 1905 – prior to that machinery was all treadle or wheel driven.

Amazing to think that the electically powered industrial sewing machines – Consews, Jukis, and the like – that we use here at Sew What? to manufacture custom stage curtains, digitally printed band backdrops, and scrims all originated from this early design.

6 09, 2012

Meet the Rent What? Staff, Part 1: Rick Garcia

By |September 6th, 2012|Company, Rent What Team|2 Comments

We have such amazing employees here at Rent What? and Sew What? and could not be more proud of them if we tried! I would love you to meet a few of the hardworking Rent What? employees who are the stars of the warehouse, making sure everything goes out smoothly and in show-ready condition and then returns on time so that it is available for the next customer’s show or special event. This series of entries will be titled “Meet the RW? Staff”, and I am so excited have our readers to meet some of these wonderful employees, too.

The first person I wanted you to meet is Rick Garcia, who is the Warehouse Manager for both companies, and Production Coordinator for all of the rental traffic that is constantly going in and out of the warehouse. Rick’s many talents and abilities are integral to almost every aspect of Rent What?’s day to day operations, and we’re so grateful to have him here. We are eager for you to get to know him a little bit, too!

When did you first start here at Rent What?

Rick started in 2005 with Sew What?, then moved to Rent What? in 2008.

If you could take a vacation to anywhere in the world, where would you go?

The Rain Forests of Brazil—his dream is to be dropped off in the middle of the forest and have to use his smarts to find his way back to civilization.

What kind of work did you do before coming to Sew What? / Rent What?

He worked in the contracts department of Polar Tanker (of Phillips 66 Oil Tankers).

Do you have a special talent?

He tinkers in everything—electronics, plumbing, computers, carpentry, automotive, etc. Rick recently rebuilt his girlfriend’s CPR 600 Motorcycle “just for fun”. He’s become our company’s very own “MacGyver”!

What is your favorite memory from Rent What?

All of the Halloween Parties here—forwhich he often won best costume (he recently designed an actual light-up Christmas tree costume as well as a 10ft tall dragon costume!).

What are some of your hobbies?

He loves working on motorcycles, and recently has gotten involved with breeding Ball Pythons with a few of his gorgeous snakes (he’s looking to get a Bumblebee Python bred soon!).

What project have you worked on recently that was interesting or challenging?

Recently they worked on a huge installation for Skechers. The sheer size of the install and amount of draping and hardware from RW?, the incredibly complex scheduling, and all of the thinking they had to do on their feet was quite exciting. Getting the job done right and on-time, and to the very happy satisfaction of the client, was also extremely rewarding for him and his entire crew.