Why Needle And Thread Is Still Some Of The World's Most Incredible Tech

Illustration for article titled Why Needle And Thread Is Still Some Of The Worlds Most Incredible Tech

If you’re compiling a list of the most important technologies of our age, you may start with the personal computer, phones, maybe a nod towards the highway system. But, hey, how about a needle and thread? Should that be in there, too? Yes, it should. Here’s why.

io9’s comment of the day comes from commenter gigglesticks who shared this argument for why sewing technologies are incredibly underrated:

I don’t consider fire a technology so much as a natural resource. Shaping rocks to hit and scrape stuff with is the oldest, but boring, and also how often do humans use rocks as hand tools nowadays? But long before the wheel, came the needle and thread. For tens of thousands of years (possibly up to 60,000), humans have been sewing up people and things, not to mention using them for tattooing and other decoration. Later on, they were used for weaving, knitting and acupuncture. Yesterday, I hand-sewed a bag I’m working on and fixed a hole in my jacket, and the only difference is I’m working with steel and cotton, not bone and deer sinew.


Give it enough time, and any technological advance starts to seem like just the building blocks of other technologies, instead of an advance in and of itself. But, while the technique has remained essentially unchanged through history, new applications — whether for sewing clothes, stitches, book-bindings, and more — just keep coming.

Image: IZO / Shutterstock

Share This Story

Get our newsletter


I think it’s amazing someone took these two things, a stringy substance and a stabby object and went ‘hmm, I think I’ll use this to put these two pieces of hide together and make myself a bigger cover’. I mean, what is that?

I’m easily amazed, and this is one of those things that blow my mind. Let’s not forget making the needles. Who figured out they needed to whittle a bone down to *this big* and put a hole in it for their thread material?

Sewing boggles me. You’re taking a stabby thing and stringy thing and making anything from a simple hemmed edge blanket to elegant and absurdly detailed dresses. All done by the same process of stabbing material with a needle and dragging thread to it to hold it together.

And who the hell imagined using a stabby bone and sinew to stitch together their friend’s wound? Who was the first person to think that would help? ‘Hmm, this needle and thread made my coat, maybe it’ll make my friend’s skin grow back?’ What kind of leap of logic is that?

Ok, I’m done rambling. I adore sewing and creating things. I love how versatile a simple needle and a piece of thread can be.