Saturday, March 7, 2015

The history of the domestic sewing machine

During the early years of industrialisation, manufacturers created an amazing array of products to satisfy the needs of international consumers, including the sewing machine.
These products were made with the bulk of consumers in mind, who were naturally right-handed.  The sewing machine was no different.  The earliest known models of sewing machines were operated manually by rotation of a hand crank.  Early sewing machines were provided with the hand crank on the right hand side of the machine because the majority of people have greater strength in their right arm, by virtue of being right handed.  This meant that all other operational functions were placed to the left.  The majority of functions needing dexterity are placed on the left and are therefore easier for the left-handed operator.  The right-hander is forced to adapt to the various functions of the machine. 
Any demonstration using the existing configuration clearly shows that the actions of setting up, use, and maintenance of a sewing machine are more ably achieved by the left hander due to the fact that most of the user operations are on the left of the operator.
When the use of the hand crank was dispensed with, then the consideration that was given to right-handers when originally designing the drive system, should have been applied to all other functions.  This was not done because the industry was young and establishing itself internationally.  The cost of reversing the configuration would have been prohibitive, as large cast iron moulds were used in the manufacturing process.  However, there is no evidence that reversing the configuration was ever considered.
Following years produced an amazing number of design and operational benefits to improve the scope and performance of a sewing machine.  But despite the fact that sewing machines have progressed from these early versions to utilise other means of operating the machine such as foot operated treadles and subsequently the electronically driven food control, the configuration of the sewing machine as designed to accommodate the hand crank for the right hand has remained virtually unchanged.
Consequently, after 160 years the bias of the sewing machine suits the left-handed operator, rather than the majority of users who are right-handed.  For the right-handed user the existing configuration of the sewing machine is simply back-to-front.  It therefore makes ergonomic, operational and profitable sense, to reverse the existing configuration and produce a choice of designs to cater for both the left and right-handed user.

Rex Pulker’s Invention
The domestic sewing machine for the right-handed user
Due to an artefact of its evolution, the domestic sewing machine has ended up being optimised for left-handed users.  Pulker’s invention is the adaptation of the domestic sewing machine for use by right-handed sewers.
Rex Pulker’s aim is to license the commercialisation rights of this invention to sewing machine manufacturers in countries where Patents have been Granted
  • Australia (Granted Pat. No.: 204238888)
  • UK (Granted Pat No.: GB 2417731)
  • The People's Republic of China (Granted Pat No.: ZL 200480013471.0)
  • India (Granted Indian Patent No.: 257337)
These countries are the major centres for manufacture and use of domestic sewing machines.  The global domestic sewing machine market is worth several $Billion annually.
Rex Pulker began to investigate the opportunity for developing and commercialising a solution for a right-handed domestic sewing machine in 2002.  Given Pulker’s background of 40 years in the sewing machine industry, over 20 years as Australia’s leading Independent retailer as Associated Appliance Company, was able to carry out a thorough assessment through the following:
  • Find out through extensive industry contacts and research whether a right-handed sewing machine had been developed in the past;
  • From knowledge of how the sewing machine works, how operators become skilled in it, and its manufacturing process, select the optimal solution for a right-handed machine;
  • Evaluate the opportunity to protect the solution through a patent;
The resulting solution is Rex Pulker’s invention, which is a method for adapting the conventional design of the sewing machine into an orientation intended for right-handed sewers.  The method works by configuring a sewing machine that is a mirror image of the conventional design.


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