Are sewing machines designed for the left handed?

right_hand_sewing_machineI had no idea that sewing machines favor left-handed people. Did you? Quite a few people do, I guess I was late to the party.  One explanation is that the inventors of the modern sewing machine, namely Elias Howe and Isaac Singer, were both left handed but this is disputed by Rex Pulker*, inventor of a right handed sewing machine. His explanation is a bit difficult for me to follow (a matter of writing style?) but the claims that machines were originally optimized for right handers -there was a crank on the wheel on the right side- but once technology improved and the crank was no longer needed, machine design did not follow suit and reverse the buttons and what not to lie to the left.

To be sure, modern day home machines have evolved to be more right-hander friendly. Many have a front loading bobbin, the needle is threaded front to back, and the foot lifter is often on the right side. But it is with industrial machines that I have doubts with the idea that machines were originally designed for right handers but failed to evolve. With industrial machines, bobbins nearly always load from the left, needles must be threaded from the left,  foot changes only unscrew from the left, and lastly, the default pedal installation is left of the needle, so minimally, one could think there is some ambiguity. Then again, it is possible that this design is another case of form following function with the conclusion being that left handers should find industrial machines easier to use than most other handed technologies.

Does it really matter these days? For industrial machine operators, I’d say it wouldn’t because we’re accustomed to it. However, being more aware about handedness explains some problems I’ve had in training people to sew on industrials.

Typically, someone who has only sewn on a home machine will position themselves to the right of the needle path -I could never figure that out, I have to direct them to sit directly in front of the needle (I sit to the left of it). Handling of the materials is another, larger problem. For the most part, neophytes only use their left hand as a clamp of sorts, to hold down the material, directing the material in the seam path with their right hand so the work never feeds neatly without unnecessary attention paid to the task. With industrial machines,  dexterity of the left hand is very important because it should lead in feeding the materials and lining pieces together. It’s an interesting problem to consider if you’re gravitating to an industrial or training new users on them. Do you have any ideas or tips as to training?

*Rex Pulker is also left handed.

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