A Timeline and History of Sewing: Who Invented the Sewing Machine? 

July 18, 2022

Did you know that manual sewing, hand sewing, and artistic sewing can be traced back to 20,000 years ago, when our ancestors used animal bones as needles and animal sinews as threads for their sewing needs? 

Iron needles are reported to have first appeared in the 15th century for better sewing outcomes. Then, during the industrial revolution in the 18th century, when inventions were many, and people were searching for a solution to manual sewing, the idea of the sewing machine came to life. 

The history of the sewing machine is one dramatic timeline. It involves a lot of people, trials, and failures before we reach the convenient sewing machine we enjoy today. So, let's dive right into the beginning of this machine that revolutionized the world’s sewing needs

1755: A discovery 

A German immigrant in England working as an engineer applied for a patent for a double-pointed needle. However, there was no description of this invention or any machine to accompany the needle. 

To historians, it's debatable whether Charles Wiesenthal created the first machine since heonly stated his patent is something people could use to aid with sewing. Nevertheless, this invention is a stepping stone toward the machine we know all too well today. 

1790: A working prototype 

The person who invented the first sewing machine was an Englishman, Thomas Saint. The patent described this prototype as machine operated, using a hand crank for leather and canvas. Thomas Saint created this machine primarily for sewing and fixing ships' sails. However, the original machine was never found. 

In 1874, William Newton found detailed drawings of the machine made by Thomas Saint along with accompanying notes, and he re-created the machine to prove that Saint was the first-ever person to invent such. From here, the development of sewing machines started. 

1804 - 1829: Trials and errors

After the emergence of the first sewing machine, several people came up with their versions of sewing machines to use for crafts and clothes making. In 1804, Thomas Stone and James Henderson tried to make a machine that imitates hand sewing but failed to make it work. 

In the same year, Scottish inventors created a machine with multiple needles and made the first embroidery machine. In the following years, more and more inventors tried making several versions of sewing machines for different purposes but were found defective. 

Finally, in 1829, a Frenchman, Barthelemy Thimonnier, developed the first working sewing machine. This machine can create straight stitches, which helps in making clothes. In 1830, after Thimonnier patented his machine, he started a clothing manufacturing company that eventually supplied uniforms for the French army. 

1832 – 1844: A step closer 

In 1832, several people tried developing the sewing machine further. In the same year, an American inventor, Walter Hunt, successfully created a lock stitch that can produce straight and short seams. Then, in 1842, another American inventor patented the sewing machine that saw the needle pass through the fabric material completely. 

In 1844, Englishman John Fisher created a sewing machine that combined all the processes of the previous half-century of sewing machines. John Fisher's invention is a great leap toward household sewing machines. Unfortunately, Fisher was not recognized for the invention because he failed to file his patent correctly. 

modern electric sewing machine

1845 – 1860: The war of sewing machines 

Who is the inventor of the sewing machine? This dramatic war on sewing machine patents does not really pinpoint the original inventor, but this period was already the start of the sewing machine rage. Manufacturers started selling sewing machines for household use. 

In 1845, an American inventor named Elias Howe invented a sewing machine that holds the fabric vertically and a machine that includes an eye-pointed needle. Unfortunately, it took Howe a long time to perfect his design, only to find out the US manufacturers used it and began selling them when he moved to England. 

The first sewing machine war happened between Howe and Isaac Merritt Singer, the founder of the famous Singer brand. Elias Howe sued Isaac Singer and managed to win for patent infringement and royalties. 

The heat between sewing machines intensified further when the Wheeler and Wilson Company came up with their own sewing machine model to compete in the market. Wheeler and Wilson's sewing machines were quieter and smoother. They were also the inventors of the four motion feed mechanism that the modern sewing machine still uses today. 

Moving forward from the 1860s, the sewing machine war died when major manufacturers joined a single company to protect their monopoly. The sewing machine combination group included Singer, Howe, Wheeler and Wilson, and Grover and Baker. 

1860 – 1877: Developing further 

As the standard sewing machine started to rise in the market and in every household, more inventors looked for a way to bring new light to traditional sewing machines. Finally, in 1877, Joseph Merrow invented the first overlock sewing machine. This invention is dubbed the first-ever crochet machine. 

1890 – Present: Modernization of sewing machines 

By the 1890’s, every household in the United States had a sewing machine. Then, nearing the 20th century, Singer introduced the first-ever electric sewing machine. From this point, Singer spent almost a million dollars on advertising and manufacturing their products all over the world. This resulted in his company becoming one of the biggest brands when it came to sewing. 

Sewing machines have come a long way since their first invention. In these modern times, there are different machines that can do more than repairs. Computerized machines, quilting, knitting machines are available you can use for your hobbies and crafts. 

Wrapping Up 

The sewing machines we know today are a long way from where they started, from inventing iron needles that can fit the machine and sew through the fabric to operating them from hand cranks to developing electric ones. The individuals who invented the sewing machine really gave us a machine that would make our lives easier. 

Now that you know about the history of your sewing machines, you may also want to check out in-depth reviews of the different sewing machines and accessories to aid you with your purchase. Subscribe to our blogs for more information.

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