How Did the Sewing Machine Impact Society?

Last Updated on April 1, 2023

The sewing machine seems simple, but its impact on society was monumental. Have you ever thought about how the invention of the sewing machine changed the path of history?

How Did Isaac Singer's Sewing Machine Impact Society
Image: First sewing machine run by foot pedal by Isaac Merritt Singer
Source: Alamy, Canva

The sewing machine is one of the most important inventions of the Industrial Revolution, changing both family life and the textile industry. Its impact on American society was both positive and negative, as evidenced by its effects on women and by the way it changed the production of items such as clothing and shoes in small shops and homes and in factories.

Before the sewing machine, clothing was made entirely by hand, which was a laborious and time-consuming process. The invention of the sewing machine revolutionized the textile industry and paved the way for mass clothing production.

Here, we will analyze how the sewing machine changed society and continues to influence our lives today.


The appearance of the sewing machine in the 19th century led to socioeconomic, technological, and cultural changes. This device replaces the manual sewing system and becomes a revolutionary innovation in producing large volumes in less time and simplifying complex tasks into simple operations. So the workforce did not need to be specialized.


The invention of the sewing machine is preceded by a relevant social event (18th century) that introduced the growth of production and technical and technological development.

Also, the production of raw materials; humans contributed to the Industrial Revolution, whose early developments were heavily influenced by the textile industry.

Profession and Production

The profession of sewing, embroidery, and tailoring had an artisan character, socially recognized for manufacturing necessary clothing.

The creation of the sewing machine makes mass production possible with greater efficiency in sewing, achieving more precision and speed in activities carried out by the human being.

A machine-made “invisible” seam replaces the hand seam. This is how the sewing machine modifies the way of making garments, changing the relations of production.

At the same time, there is an increase in the productive domestic system and the creation of sewing workshops and tailors’ houses. Consequently, sewing stretches from the familiar to the industrial.

What is the Importance of Sewing Our Society?

Sewing has been an important part of our society for centuries and still holds great significance today. Here are a few reasons why sewing is important:

  • Preservation of tradition and culture: Sewing is often passed down from generation to generation, preserving traditional techniques and designs. This helps to maintain our cultural heritage and keep our history alive.
  • Sustainable fashion: Sewing allows us to create and repair clothing and other textiles, reducing waste and promoting sustainable fashion practices.
  • Personal expression: Sewing provides an avenue for personal expression through unique designs and styles. It allows individuals to showcase their creativity and personality through their clothing and other handmade items.
  • Economic benefits: Sewing can also provide economic benefits, whether through selling handmade items or creating job opportunities in the fashion and textile industry.

How Did the Sewing Machine Impact Society?

How Did the Sewing Machine Impact Society
Image Source: Shutterstock, Canva

The sewing machine profoundly impacted society, particularly in the 19th century. The sewing machine revolutionized the textile industry by allowing for faster and more efficient production of clothing and textiles.

The invention of the sewing machine also had a significant impact on women’s roles in society. Before the sewing machine, women were responsible for sewing all of the family’s clothing by hand. This was a time-consuming and labor-intensive task that often took up the majority of their day.

With the sewing machine’s introduction, women could produce clothing much more quickly and efficiently, freeing up time for other pursuits.

The sewing machine also played a role in the industrial revolution, allowing for the mass production of clothing and textiles. This led to the growth of the textile industry and the creation of new jobs in factories.

Impact on West

The West became the benchmark for the highest scientific, technological, artistic, and fashion developments. The haute couture industry, with exact measurements, quality fabrics, sewing, and exclusive finishes, motivates the need to acquire a consumer good. 

The sewing machine gave an impression to these social minorities that had acquired a standard of living comparable to European social groups.

Under this framework, the new way of making garments develops an idea of the feminine and masculine, developing visual standards that define social status. 

The sewing machine, with its technical dimension in addition to joining fabrics, creates decisive representations for the social actors of that time.

There was a time when thinking of a house without a sewing machine was the same as depriving yourself of any first-necessity item in the home.

Technical Development Effect

Under this scenario, the following effects of the invention and technical development of the sewing machine impacts:

  • The flourishing of trade: This benefited employers more than workers. Because the industry abused private employment relationships, giving rise to the appearance marked by these social class relationships.
  • The city became an important economic center, supported by the creation of factories.
  • The incorporation of women into the labor market gave rise to the transition from the family workshop to the garment factory.
  • Advertising campaigns are created with a symbolic heritage that exploits the idea of ​​fashion, favoring the entire textile industry.
  • The clothing and the fabric of its manufacture house a representation of social differences.

Impact of Women in Society

Before the widespread availability of the home sewing machine, making and mending clothes occupied a significant part of a housewife’s time. 

A man’s shirt would take approximately 14 hours to create, while a dress would take at least 10 hours. 

With the introduction of the sewing machine, women had an increase in leisure time and a reduction in work inside the home, the latter contributing to women looking for work outside the home.

Northern Industry

The development of the sewing machine also contributed to the rapid industrialization of textile manufacturing.

Clothing production moved out of the home and into large factories, continuing the growth of industry and manufacturing in the northern United States.

This created an economic disparity between the South, where cotton was grown, and the North, where the products were manufactured. This disparity would become one of the causes of the Civil War.

Factories and Work

The sewing machine’s widespread application in the textile sector immediately impacted the workforce. In addition to increasing output, sewing machines also resulted in reduced wages, challenging employment circumstances, and unemployment.

The challenging working circumstances raised issues in the factories and established the labor unions, such as the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

These unions campaigned for better working conditions, government worker safety guidelines, and a 40-hour work week.

How Does the Sewing Machine Impact the World Today?

As we said earlier, the invention of the sewing machine in the 19th century revolutionized the textile industry and profoundly impacted the world we live in today.

Here are a few ways the sewing machine continues to impact our world:

  • Mass production of clothing: The sewing machine allowed for the mass production of clothing, making it more affordable and accessible to people around the world.
  • Job creation: The textile industry is a major employer in many countries, and the sewing machine has played a key role in creating jobs and boosting economies.
  • Sustainable fashion: With the rise of sustainable fashion, more people are turning to sew machines to make their own clothes and reduce their environmental impact.
  • Innovation: The sewing machine has continued to evolve over time, with new technology and features making it easier and more efficient to use. This has led to further innovation in the textile industry and beyond.

What is a Sewing Society? How is It Developed?

A sewing society is a group of individuals who come together to sew, share ideas, and learn from each other. These societies can be found in various communities and typically consist of people who have a passion for sewing and want to improve their skills.

Members of a sewing society often meet regularly to work on projects, share tips and techniques, and offer support to one another. Some sewing societies may also organize events, such as workshops or sewing retreats, to further enhance their members’ skills and knowledge.

So, a sewing society is a great way to connect with like-minded individuals and improve your sewing abilities.

How Did Isaac Singer’s Sewing Machine Impact Society?

How Did Isaac Singer's Sewing Machine Impact Society
Image: Invention of the Singer sewing machine, 1851
Source: Alamy

Isaac Singer’s sewing machine company revolutionized the home sewing machine industry and significantly changed how Americans purchased products for their homes. The company’s innovative strategies and widespread success laid the groundwork for a lasting impact on society.

  • Increased Speed and EfficiencySinger’s sewing machine dramatically improved the speed and efficiency of sewing, with the ability to sew 900 stitches per minute. This was a substantial improvement over Elias Howe’s machines, which could only sew 250 stitches per minute. This led to increased productivity in the textile industry and a revolution in clothing manufacturing.
  • Affordability and Accessibility of Clothing: As a result of the improved efficiency and productivity, clothing became more affordable and accessible to the general population. So it becomes possible for more people to purchase a wider variety of clothing items.
  • Affordability and Accessibility of Clothing: Improved efficiency and productivity made clothing more affordable and accessible to the general population.  
  • Innovative Business Practice: Isaac Singer’s company employed innovative practices such as advertising campaigns and offering services with the purchase of a sewing machine, ensuring the success of their product. Singer also introduced payment plans, allowing customers to purchase sewing machines by making payments over an extended period of time. So sewing machines became more accessible to a broader range of customers and solidified the company’s position in the market.

How Has the Sewing Machine Impacted Society in a Negative Way?

Image Source: Shutterstock

Loss of Jobs in the Textile Industry

The sewing machine’s increased efficiency led to a loss of jobs for seamstresses and tailors as the demand for hand-sewn items decreased in favor of machine-produced clothing and textiles.

Loss of Independence and Traditional Craftsmanship

The rise of factory-based mass production diminished the role of skilled artisans and home-based workers, resulting in a loss of independence and control over their work and a decline in traditional craftsmanship.

Lower Wages and Harsh Working Conditions

The demand for cheap labor in factories grew as sewing machines increased production and lowered prices. This led to the establishment of sweatshops, where workers, often women and children, experienced long hours, low pay, and poor working conditions.

Exploitation of Workers

The sewing machine’s impact on the textile industry contributed to the exploitation of workers, particularly in factories and sweatshops, where laborers faced harsh conditions and minimal compensation.

So, while sewing machines revolutionized the textile industry and made clothing more affordable, they also negatively impacted society by contributing to job loss, worker exploitation, and the decline of traditional craftsmanship.


Overall, the sewing machine had a transformative impact on society, changing the way we produce and consume clothing and textiles, and empowering women to participate more fully in the workforce.

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