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Computer Technology Is Changing The Face Of Sewing

Computer Technology Is Changing The Face Of Sewing Machines

October 12, 2005

Normally, NY1 Tech Beat Reporter Adam Balkin introduces us to the latest cell phones, digital music players and home entertainment equipment. Today, though, he looks at the latest trends in sewing. What's high-tech about sewing? You may be surprised.

About 150 years ago the sewing machine was the most high-tech device you could buy for your home. Now the sewing machine is back fighting to regain a spot in your high-tech repertoire.

“The first sewing machine required that you actually sit there and supply the power by using the treddle to make the stitch go and make the needle go into the fabric and form a stitch,” says Joyce Perhac of the Home Sewing Association. “Today you can program your machine by using computer technology and actually walk away from it while it sews for you.”

Take, for example, the Brother Innovis 4000-D. The D is for “Disney.”

“Why is it Disney? Because within that machine are about 80 different Disney designs including Mickey and Minnie and Donald and Winnie the Pooh and all of his friends,” says June Mellinger of Brother International. “Out Disney images are those that are granted to us by the Disney Corporation, and we work directly with them and their style guides.“

The 4000-D also has special software that lets you scan photos and, somewhat eerily, have them stitched in fabric.

Singer's Quantum Futura takes photo scans too, as well as any scans. Rather than have a computer built in, whatever computer you already have acts as the brains.

“It will take artwork like JPEG files, bitmap files, tiff, paint, those kinds of artwork images that everyone's used to working with like clipart, and just automatically turn it into stitch data to embroider,” says Becky Hanson of Singer Sewing Company.

Baby Lock says it has the first at-home "embellisher," which, from my understanding, excites artisits who sew.

“The type of art they're able to do is called fiber arts, and a fiber artist is going to be able to use spun or non-spun fibers in order to create fabrics and also artwork,” says Pamela Mahshie of Baby Lock. “People have done this by hand with one single needle at a time, and we use seven needles in the embellisher.”

With all this hardcore technology built right into sewing machines, does that mean a sewing idiot such as myself, someone who's never even touched a sewing machine, can make something that looks like this?

“There are no sewing idiots, number one, and absolutely it really is easy technology,” says Perhac. “If you can push a few buttons and read the manual you really can do almost anything.”

The irony here, of course, is that sewing novices who know even a bit about computers can create these patters, while grandma, who's been sewing for 60 years, probably wouldn't even know how to turn the thing on.

- Adam Balkin

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