I am clumsy and so often put rips and tears on my clothes, and break my buttons. I only have to look at food and I put on weight. Between these two tendencies, I need to stitch up tears, and let out clothes.
So the two most important ‘simple machines’ in my life are the Needle Threader and Stitch Ripper. Simple, but oh, what amazing inventions. For those who don’t know what these are, here is a brief. And even if you are young and sharp-eyed and the super sorted-out, do not scoff at these, for the day will come when you need them!
Needle Threader: A needle threader is a small sewing tool designed to help pull a thread through the eye of a sewing needle.
When exactly the first needle threader was invented is unknown, but within the European context it is likely to be an eighteenth or early nineteenth century development. There were various forms of nineteenth century needle threaders. But the one most commonly in use even today is a late nineteenth century form which consists of a small plate (often stamped with a profile image of a woman), with a diamond shaped loop of fine steel wire attached to it. The wire loop is flexible and easily passes through the eye of a needle. The sewing thread is passed through the loop and the loop (with thread) is then pulled back through the needle eye.
A number of needle threading devices were patented in the United States in the early 1900s, including Herman Trzeciak’s model patented in 1924 and Carl J. Schuster’s design in 1945. The first automatic needle threader incorporated into a sewing machine was designed by Juki in 1978.
Seam Ripper: There doesn’t seem to be much agreement on who invented this but there is a patent application by Allie M. Minter, from Petersburg, Colorado in the US and Canada, in 1903.
Seam rippers are an item designed for breaking or undoing sewn stitches, often on seams. A seam ripper is also known as a ‘stitch unpicker’, ‘quick unpic’ and a ‘quick unpick’. (I call them Stitch Rippers). Typically, seam rippers have two spokes, one sharp and the other blunt, connected by a handle, while the intersection is usually a sharp blade.
I sometimes have nightmares of a gangsta (or a lady older and clumsier than me), holding me up with a gun (or pair of knitting needles), and saying “Your Needle Threader or your Stitch Ripper”. I have thought this horrific scenario through. I will part with the Stitch Ripper. One can substitute a safety pin to do this function (albeit a bit clumsily). But for the Needle Threader, there is no substitute!