Have You Ever Wondered Where Your Sewing Machine Came From? (by Sandy Wagner)

As a child I sewed by hand (age 8), my father worked in a place that had satin and taffeta scraps and he brought them home. As I grew up, age 9, I got a tin toy sewing machine with a crank handle. I was in heaven I could sew tube tops for me and things for my dolls. 12 years old when I got a real sewing machine WOW.  Did I wonder where the sewing machine came from? No –  and had not really thought about it until thinking about a post for RCC.

modern sewing  The inside of the modern-day sewing machine. Head Front View

A sewing machine is: “a machine used to stitch fabric and other materials together with thread.” These machines were invented during the Industrial Revolution to decrease the amount of time it took to hand sew garments. In 1755, Charles Frederick Wiesenthal, a German born engineer living in the UK was issued the first British patent for a mechanical device to aid in the art of sewing. The machine consisted of a double-pointed needle with an eye on one end.  In 1790, the English inventor Thomas Saint invented the first sewing machine design, but he did not market the machine well.  The machine was designed to sew canvas and leather type materials.  It is thought that Saint had a working model but it has never been found.  The machine produced a chain stitch method (a vertical needle bar and a looper), the single thread  made a simple stitch in the material and with the aid of the stitching awl which pierced the material going to the underside forming a stitch – the process was repeated and formed a locked stitch.

lockstitchmachineHowe’s Lockstitch Machine and built-in 1845

This machine was also used to make saddles, bridles, canvas and boat sails.  His machine was very advance but needed steady improvements over the next decades.  In 1874 William N. Wilson found Saints British patent in the patent office.  Wilson made adjustments to the looper and built a working machine – the machine is in the London Science Museum. In 1804 a sewing machine was built by Englishman Thomas and James Henderson, an embroidering machine was built by John Duncan in Scotland, Austrian tailor, Josef Madersperger began developing his first machine in 1807, his first working model was in 1814. You could go on and on through the years but to be up to date we shall skip a few of the years.  1845 brought an important improvement “the needle running away from the point, starting from the eye”.  there have been patent infringements  and awards made this machine.

Isaac Singer enter the picture:  he saw a rotary sewing machine being repaired and thought it to be clumsy,


Singer then designed a better one using a falling shuttle instead of the rotary plus he included a presser foot to hold the fabric in place – the needle was placed vertically, had a fixed arm to hold the needle and provided a basic tension system   Singer was granted a patent in 1851 and suggested a patent for a foot petal (called a treadle) but this foot petal had been in use for too long to get a patent. With the invention of the Sewing Machine a mans shirt could be produced in 1 hour where by hand it took 14.5 hours.  Since 1877 many types of machines have been designed i.e. overlock, crochet, vibrating shuttle .

In 1880 this machine was built by the Wilson and Wheeler Company.  Notice the crank.


As the years evolved so did the sewing machine industry – Making a selection as to what you need or want – are you going to quilt on it, sew garments, make sails, overlock., embroidery, felt or ??? What size throat, domestic or longarm, it goes on and on.  Then comes price.  A big new Bernina would be fun but do you need a new car?  The first BIG Bernina cost $12,000.00 , a Ford Focus cost $11,000.00.

Looking back over the years what have been your machines, what type of sewing have you done?  I have a 1-year-old Jamone 8900 Horizon, the first computerized machine I’ve owned.  My all time favorite is my 30-year-old 930 Bernina.  I do wall art quilts, wearable art and streetwear.

The World is an Apple – The Still Lifes of Paul Cezanne (by Sandy Wagner)

Exhibit of the Week – according to The Week magazine.  According to Bob Duggan of BigThink.com “you will never look at an apple the same way again”.  He states that still life gave Cezanne the chance to position objects the way he wanted them.  He states that Cezanne said “he was going to astonish Paris” and he did.  This exhibit is small but quite powerful and  is at The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia and runs until September 22.

Apple with Wine

Apples and a Glass of Wine 1877-1879

paul     1861                                      wife

Madame Hortense Cezanne – Metropolitan Museum of Art NY


Paul was born January 19, 1839 in Aix-en-Provence, France and died October 22, 1906 at the age of 67 but in his lifetime he painted watercolors, still life, portraits and self portraits.  His impressive works were the Dark Period 1861-1870; Impressionist Period 1870-1878; Mature Period 1878-1890 and Final Period 1890-1805.  His most impressive works are: Mont Sainte-Victoire Seen From Bellevue 1885; Apotheose de Delacroix 1890-1894; Rideau, Cruchon et Compotier 1893-1894; The Card Players 1890-1895 and The Bathers 1898-1905.  His father was co-founder of a banking firm that prospered through Paul’s life, giving him financial security.  He and his mistress had one son – he later married his mistress.  When he was 47 his father died and left him the family estate.  This estate in now owned by the city of Provence and occasionally is open to the public.


The Card Players (1892-1895) Courtauld Institute of Art, London


Mont Sainte-Victoire (1887) Courtlauld Institute of Art, London



Jas de Bouffan 1885-1887  (estate from father)

He moved to Paris after his schooling where he met Impressionist Camille Pissarro – a friendship form as Master and Disciple with Pissarro exerting a formative influence on Paul’s work.  Over the years they formed a collaborative working relationship as equals.  His early works were considered heavy with  figures in a landscape but later he started working from what he saw in the world around him and his work began to take on a feeling of lightness (airy), but as he matured it is said that his style became more architectural .  His comment was: “I want to make of impressionism something solid and lasting like the art in museums”.  His desire was to unite observation of nature with the permanence of classical composition.  1866 was a year experimentation for Paul – he was using a troweling paint to the canvas with a palette knife to create works –  announcing that painting didn’t have to trick the eye – that the texture, play of color and gesture were pleasures enough.  Matisse and Picasso both called him “the father of us all” (Wall Street Journal 1866).


The Basket of Apples (1890-1894)  Art Institute of Chicago


Drapery, Pitcher and Fruit Bowl  (1893-1894) Whitney Museum of American Art.  NY

The official Salon in Paris rejected many of Paul’s works he was also ridiculed by art critics when exhibited with Impressionists.  After his death his paintings were exhibited in Paris in a large museum-like retrospective in September 1907.  It is thought that he greatly affected the direction that the avant-garde in Paris took – leading to the fact that he is thought to be one of the most influential artist of the 19th century.  He is considered a master by many.


Jas de  Bouffan (1876)


Pyramid of Skulls  (1901) Today these skulls remain in Paul’s studio.  This was in his death period.

Paul’s work and life do intrigue me.  There are more painting and information on the web.

Writer Lorraine Hansberry

Pre-note:  We just spend 5 days in Ashland, OR at The Shakespeare Festival but before we left home my husband looked up the play “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window” of the 3 plays we were to see this title did not register – so did some research on this play.  According to our speaker the original  title for this play was “Up Yours Albee” a person Lorraine really disliked.


Lorraine Vivian Hansberry was born in 1930 in Chicago – Her family was a politically active and well-connected African-American family.  She was the youngest of 4 children and the granddaughter of a freed slave – her father Carl was a successful real estate agent and banker in then segregated Chicago.  He converted large homes into small apartments and rented them to African-Americans that had migrated from the south.  Her mother, Nannie was a society matron that hosted major cultural and literary figures.     Hansberry was 8 when the family moved into an all white neighborhood – racial problems happened – they were told to move by a state judge but after a 2 year fight and an appeal to the Supreme Court the order was reversed.   Lorraine attended private segregated school where she was frequently taunted.  She had a short life dying in 1965 at the age of 34.   Lorraine lived her life around art and activism.    She attended University of Wisconsin for two years majoring in art and journalism – while there she saw a play by Sean O’Casey “Juno and the Paycock” – this play change her direction in life – she then moved to New York where she enrolled in the New School of social Research.  She wrote essays and reviews for Freedom, a magazine started by Robert Robeson, a famous singer and activist – she became a sought after speaker.   In the early 1950’s she began writing play while living in New York and in 1957, she completed “A Raisin in the Sun” , a play about a poor black family living in Chicago who moved into a resistant all white neighborhood mirroring her own family’s experience.  A Raisin in the Sun opened on Broadway in 1959 to instant acclaim and won Hansberry the New York Drama Critics Circle Award.  The New York Times stated that this play changed American Theater forever. In 1953 she married Robert Nemiroft, a Jewish writer who later became her producer – she divorced Robert (1963) to live a lesbian life – they stayed friends.  after her death Robert helped put Les Blancs on stage after a short time he pulled the play, he was the executor of her estate,  the family still must approve any changes made to her writings.  She then began to write in support of lesbians and against homophobia, equating all struggles for freedom and civil rights. In 1963 while working on The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window and Les Blancs  she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer – by the time Window was in rehearsal she was seriously ill.  Window opened on October 15, 1964 but closed 101 days later, which was shortly after her death on January 12, 1965.  The critics were less than pleased with the play but because of Lorraine’s death re-write parts could not be done.

When Lorraine started writing plays, existentialism became the dominant philosophy of the decade.  In 1961, critic Martin Esslin published “The Theater of the Absurd” this was never a formal movement but what bound these playwrites together was their attempt to express the senselessness of the human condition and the inadequacy of rational approach by the open abandonment of rational devices and discursive thought.

Quotes:  Write if you will, but write about the world as it is and as you think it ought to be and must be–if there is a world.  Lorraine Hansberry, 1964 address to the winners of a United Negro College Fund writing contest.

A Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window is a strange play – a lot of turmoil, many lives breaking apart as they are presently living them and unhappy with the outcome in many ways.  The sign that is in Sidney’s newspaper office window is a campaign sign for a friend – Sidney unable to hold a job or do a private business (loser as they call him) is redeemed when his friend wins.   It did spark a lively discussion after the play and it is not likely to be forgotten soon.

Helen Frankenthaler – Artist (by Sandy Wagner)

Helen Frankenthaler is an Abstract Impressionist  painter but is also listed as a Color Field painter and Lyrical painter.  Her career started in 1952 with a solo exhibit of her painting Mountains and Sea which is 7′ x 10′; she was 22.   The oil painting has the effect of looking like a watercolor because of her materials and style of painting.

helen                                             hms                                         hclup    Close up

She introduced painting directly on unprepared canvas – the material that produces canvas in its unprepared state absorbs the paint that has been diluted with turpentine so that the paint soaks into the fabric, this process is known as “soak stain” and has been adopted by many other artists.  This launched a second generation of the “color field” school of painting.  This method of painting often leaves a halo around each area that has been painted.  unfortunately they found over a period of time that the canvas discolored and rotted away.

Helen was greatly influenced by Clement Greenberg 1909-1994 – he was an art and literary critic and personal friend.  Through Greenberg Helen was introduced to the New York art scene.

In 1960 “Color Field Painting” was used to describe the work of Helen’s style and her style was characterized by large areas of a more or less flat single color.  These artists set themselves apart from the abstract artist because they eliminated the emotional, mystic of religious content and highly personal and gestural and painterly application.


Canal 1963


Madame Butterfly  2000


What Red Lines Do  1970


Tales of Genji III  1998


Blue Moon 1961 – at the MoMA in NY

Helen won many awards over the years, served on various boards and taught at the college level.  She did not consider herself a feminist: “For me being a female artist was never an issue”.  in 1953 Kenneth Noland and Morris Louis saw her painting Mountains and Sea – which Louis said later, was a bridge between Pollock and what was possible on the other hand ( I don’t understand what he meant by this) – some critics called her work “merely beautiful”.

Grace Gluck summed up Frankenthaler’s career as “Critics have not unanimously praised Ms. Fankenthaler’s art.  Some have seen it as thin in substance, uncontrolled in method, too sweet in color and too “poetic” but it has been far more apt to garner admirers like critic Barbara Rose, who in 1972 wrote her gift for the “freedom, spontaneity, openness and complexity of an image, not exclusively of the studio or the mind but explicitly and intimately tied to nature and human emotions.

At her death in December of 2011 it became known that she was responsible for cuts in funding for the arts for individual grants.  At the time she had a presidential appointment to the board for the National Council of the Arts, she wrote “While censorship and government interferences in the direction and standards of the are dangerous and not part of the democratic process”.  Controversial grants to several reflected a trend in which NEA was supporting works of increasingly dubious quality.  The council at one time was a helping hand but now she felt they were creating an art monster under the guise of experimentation.

Ms Frankenthaler has her work in many museums throughout the word and has exhibited in many venues.

Helen was born in New York on December 12, 1928 and died on December 27, 2011


Example of Color Field Painting by Kenneth Noland

a pioneer in the field


Clyfford Still 1957

I do not have a background in art and do not understand part of the information about painting etc but have learned a lot and need to continue looking things up they talk about.

Sequoyah of the Cherokee Nation – Independent Creator of the Cherokee Syllabary (by Sandy Wagner)


Born in 1776 in the village of Tuskegee, TN (just outside of Nashville) Died in 1843 or 1845 in San Fernando, Tamaulipas, Mexico. (this is not the opinion of all)  1903 a resting place was found in a Cave in the Wichita Mountains – this site contained a human skeleton, with one leg shorter than the other, a long-stemmed pipe, 2 silver medals, a flintlock rifle and an ax.  This cave was well north of the Mexican border, a grave site was also found in Mexico early but could not be verified.   He was the son of Nathaniel Gist a Virginia fur trader and Wut-teh, of the Red Paint Clan and daughter or niece of a Cherokee Chief – he was also known as George Gist and or Guess.  In his early years he became lame.  Later Saquoyah married a Cherokee women and had a family.  He was a silversmith by trade.  During his childhood he displayed a good deal of natural intelligence.  In 1819 he moved to Wellstown, AL; in 1824 moved again to Illinois Bayou, AK with a final move to Skin Bayou, OK in 1842.


At this time there were no written languages in the Indian Nations but after serving in the war of 1812 against the British and Creek Indians under General Andrew Jackson he realized that the Indians could not communicate in any way with family or understand written orders.  Although he never learned the English language he knew the need to read and write so on his return from the war he began in earnest to search and create a language so that the Cherokee Nations could write and understand.  By creating a writing system of Cherokee Symbols he was able to make words – the initial symbols counted to be in the thousands but by refining these the symbols he was able to reduce them to 85 symbols which represented words and this became their written language.  He was unable to get adults to learn the language so Sequoyah developed a game out of the symbols and taught his daughter Ayaka (age 6) how to make the symbols and read the language.  In 1825 the Cherokee Nation officially adopted the writing system.  American missionaries assisted the Cherokee’s with the development of the newspaper and the printing (the printing was in both English and Cherokee).


It took 12 years (1821) of working on the new language and within a few months after introducing the Cherokee Symbols thousands of Cherokee became literate and by 1825 much of the bible and numerous hymns had been translated into Cherokee.  By 1828 the 1st national bi-lingual newspaper the Cherokee Phoenix was published followed by other religious pamphlets, educational materials and legal documents.

In 1828 he went to Washington DC as part of a delegation to negotiate for land in the planned Indian territory.  At the meeting in Washington he met other representatives from other nations and began to travel to these areas to do a Syllabary for universal use among the Indian nations.  This is our present day New Mexico and Arizona

In hopes of uniting the Cherokee Nation again he and others journeyed to Mexico in search of the people who had traveled there.  According to his traveling companions he died there in August of 1843.   There is a document that was drawn up at Warren’s Trading House, Red River dated April 21, 1845 and signed by STANDING X (his mark) Rock, STANDING X (his mark) Bowles and WATCH X (his mark) Justice and witnessed by Daniel G. Watson and Jesse Chisholm to be perceived as a death certificate.

At the time of his death he was serving as a statesman and diplomat.  He was awarded a silver medal, created for him and a lifetime literary pension by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians – In Tennessee there is the “Sequoyah Birthplace Museum” .  A man with a vision.  FYI There are several differences in date of the many people who have researched Sequoyah.

medal1      stamp      statue

Silver Medal                                                                           Postage Stamp December 20, 1980               In museum

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