Sewing is the craft of fastening or attaching objects using stitches made with a needle and thread. Sewing is one of the oldest of the textile arts, arising in the Paleolithic era. Before the discovery of spinning yarn or weaving fabric, archaeologists believe Stone Age people across Europe and Asia sewed fur and skin clothing using bone, antler or ivory needles and “thread” made of various animal body parts including sinew, catgut, and veins.
Although usually associated with clothing and household linens, sewing is used in a variety of crafts and industries, including shoemaking, upholstery, sailmaking, bookbinding and the manufacturing of some kinds of sporting goods. Sewing is the fundamental process underlying a variety of textile arts and crafts, including embroidery, tapestry, quilting, appliqué and patchwork.
For thousands of years, all sewing was done by hand. The invention of the sewing machine in the 19th century and the rise of computerization in the later 20th century led to mass production of sewn objects, but hand sewing is still practiced around the world. Fine hand sewing is a characteristic of high-quality tailoring, haute couture fashion, and custom dressmaking, and is pursued by both textile artists and hobbyists as a means of creative expression.
Whether the object to be sewn is made of leather, fabric, paper, or plastic, the basic components of sewing are the same: stitches and seams.
In sewing, a stitch is a single loop of thread brought in-and-out of the fabric in a particular way. A variety of stitches are used for specific purposes, named according to the position of the needle and direction of sewing (running stitch, backstitch), the form or shape of the stitch (chainstitch, feather stitch) or the purpose of the stitch (tailor’s tack, hem stitch).
Basic machine stitches are chainstitch, lockstitch, and overlock. Fancy machine stitches mimic traditional hand stitches using variations on the basic stitches.
A row of stitches fastening two objects together is called a seam. Seams are classified by their position in the finished object (center back seam, side seam) and by their construction (flat-felled seam).