Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sewing History │ The Invention of the Sewing Machine

Sewing had been around for many centuries before the sewing machine was invented, and I have absolute respect for all the sewists who took the time to make clothing without all the great machines we have today. I think about, for example, all the gorgeous outfits that were worn by the elite in ancient civilizations such as the great Mesopotamia and Egypt, and that somebody had to have made them all by hand! The first sewing needles were actually made of animal bones. Look at these wonderful outfits that were worn by the Egyptian elite back then:

It wasn't until the 18th century that any attempts were made to invent a sewing machine. Several people tried but were unsuccessful:

Charles Weisenthal - in 1755 he was issued the first patent for a needle designed for a sewing machine.
Thomas Saint - in 1790 he was issued the first patent for a sewing machine that didn't work.
Thomas Stone & James Henderson - they were issued a patent in 1804 for a machine, but their invention failed.
Josef Madersperger - he was also issued a patent in 1814, but his invention was unsuccessful.
John A. Doge & John Knowles - they invented a sewing machine in 1818, but their invention failed.

After all these failed inventions, the first practical and widely used machine was invented in 1829 by French tailor, Barthelemy Thimonnier. In America, the first patent for a functional sewing machine was issued to Elias Howe in 1846. Look at Howe's invention below - not bad for 1846, no?

Elias Howe's machine had a speed of 250 stitches per minute!

Isaac Singer and Allen Wilson adopted Howe's invention's mechanism to improve their own inventions, which resulted in Singer building the first commercially successful machine. Howe sued Singer for patent infringement in 1854 and won. Look at Singer's invention below - genius, huh?

We've come a long way indeed! Today's high-end sewing machines come with incredible features - everything from being computerized, to having hundreds of different stitches, to making buttonholes and all sorts of amazing things. I'm truly grateful to all the inventors, even the ones whose inventions failed. Now little me can make herself some clothing too ( coz I sure wouldn't do it by hand! ahem).

Credits: - The London Science Museum; About.com


  1. I love the history lessons! We have two treadle Singers from the 1908 and 1913. They both work and when we reconditioned them, it cost less than $20 delivered for parts for two machines! I can't get anything for my Viking for less than that.

  2. Wow, that is so cool! I'd love to own an old one like that. It reminds me of the ones we used back when I was in high school. They must have been from the early 1900s too, but they always worked so well.