Woman Who Patented the Zigzag Stitch

Do you have a sewing machine? What is the first brand name that pops into your mind when you think about the zigzag stitch? If you said Singer – that company developed a commercial zigzag machine in 1892.

The first patent on a zigzag stitch machine, however, was many years before that. Helen Augusta Blanchard filed a patent in 1873.  Patent  #141,987 describes the ‘Improvement in Sewing Machines’ as:

The present invention relates to certain new and useful improvements in sewing-machines, having for their principal object the forming of an overstitch that may be adapted to either fine or coarse work. These improvements also consist in a device, arranged and operated as will be duly described, for varying the depth of the stitch, so as to be used for fine or coarse work, and of a device for disconnecting the operation of my improvements to allow the ordinary working of the machine for its customary sewing.

She applied for another Patent in 1874, #152721, which she said was ‘akin’ to her first patent.  Helen’s patents were for working machines. The model for the machine in her first patent is in the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History.

Helen was born in Portland, Maine in 1840. She was a prolific inventor who patented 27 other inventions in her lifetime, including a surgical needle (in 1894). The biography of this remarkable women is found in the book “Mothers and Daughters of Invention: Notes for a Revised History of Technology” by Autumn Stanley.

 I see that the path of progress has never taken a straight line, but has always been a zigzag course amid the conflicting forces of right and wrong, truth and error, justice and injustice, cruelty and mercy.
– Kelly Miller –

Here is the link to how other photographers interpreted this Photo Challenge: The Daily Post – Zigzag

7 thoughts on “Woman Who Patented the Zigzag Stitch

    1. I don’t know about you, but zigzag just screamed ‘sewing’ to me!
      It had been a long time since I had used the letter disk for my sewing machine. I had to get the manual out!


    1. Isn’t that quotation a good reminder that life never happens in a straight line. We might know the general direction to go, but we keep overshooting the straight path and then having to correct course. Then we overshoot in the opposite direction, and correct course again.


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