History of the Sewing Machine

A sewing machine is a device that uses thread to sew fabrics and other materials together. In the sewing community, the most commonly asked question is who invented the sewing machine. For good cause, there have been many allegations, failed experiments, and significant scandals throughout the history of the sewing machine. It’s a fascinating story about patent lawsuits and narrowly avoiding death when the sewing machine was still relatively new.

Historical Background

Without the craftsmanship of hand stitching, there would be no history of the sewing machine. Around 20,000 years ago, people first began hand stitching, using animal sinew as the first thread and bone or horn as the first needles. Our innate desire to be creative is what drives us to constantly seek out ways to make sewing easier and more efficient. The necessity to reduce hand stitching in factories became critical throughout the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century.

The First Patent was Issued in 1755

A British patent was granted to Charles Weisenthal, a German, for a “needle that is adapted for a machine.” Unfortunately, Weisenthal’s patent has no description of any mechanical apparatus, but it does demonstrate the need for such an innovation.

First Detailed Design in 1790

Essentially, this is where the story of who created the sewing machine begins. The first sewing machine of its sort was created by an Englishman named Thomas Saint. The machine for leather and canvas was described in the patent as being operated by a hand crank. Nobody knows if Saint constructed a prototype, but William Newton Wilson discovered the patent drawings in 1874. He made a replica to show that they were so precise that they really functioned.

Numerous Failures of Sewing Machine in 19th Century

It’s important to note that all early sewing machine designs, up until the first successful one, used a winding handle to move the needle from side to side.

  • Balthasar Krems created an automatic cap stitching machine in 1810. Even though he didn’t patent his design, it was useless.

  • Josef Madersperger, an Austrian tailor, received a patent in 1814. He persisted and tried several different ideas, but they all failed.

  • The first sewing machine in America was created by John Adams Doge and John Knowles in 1818, although it was only able to sew a small amount of fabric before breaking.

The First Successful Sewing Machine Was Developed in 1830

We now have a working sewing machine, 40 years after Thomas Saint first drew and described a machine for sewing. A chain stitch was created by a sewing machine created by French tailor Barthelemy Thimonnier that employed a hooked needle and one thread.

A Riot and Near-Death Experience in 1830

Following the winning patent, Thimonnier established the first machine-based apparel production company in the world. His responsibility was to design the French Army’s uniforms. But when word of his creation reached other French tailors, they weren’t very happy. They burned down his factory while he was still inside because they were afraid that his machine would make them unemployed. This man almost lost his life because of it.

1834: Values Over Money

This is an illustration of upholding your principles. The first working sewing machine in America was made by Walter Hunt, although he later changed his mind. Hunt decided against filing for a patent because he believed that many people would lose their jobs as a result of the invention.

1844: An Abandoned Patent

All of the sewing machines we’ve seen so far are composed of random parts that don’t truly function together. John Fisher, an English inventor, created a sewing machine in 1844 that would do away with this imbalance between the moving parts. He never received any credit, though, because of a mistaken submission at the Patent Office that caused his patent to go missing.

Elias Howe and The Lockstitch, 1845

With certain modifications and additions, American inventor Elias Howe created a sewing machine that is similar to Fisher’s. “A technique that uses thread from two separate sources,” his patent read. The needle in his device had an eye at the tip. It passed through the cloth, making a loop on the back, and a shuttle moving along a track inserted the second thread into the loop to form the lockstitch. He had trouble selling his invention, so he decided to take the risk and sail to England. After a protracted stay, he discovered that his lockstitch mechanism had been copied when he returned to his native country. There was an Isaac Merritt Singer among them.

Isaac Singer, 1851

One of the most well-known sewing machine makers, Isaac Merritt Singer, built an enterprise that is still in operation today. His famous Singer sewing machines are magnificently decorative and have gained considerable notoriety. He created the original sewing machine that we use today, complete with an up-and-down needle and a foot pedal. Howe sued Singer after discovering that his inventions borrowed ideas from those of Hunt, Thimonnier, and Howe.

An Original Stitch Up, 1854

Singer was sued by Elias Howe for patent infringement; Singer successfully argued his case in court and prevailed. Isaac Singer attempted to make a reference to Walter Hunt’s design and claim that Howe had stolen it. Singer was disappointed to learn that this had no effect at all. Hunt’s invention wasn’t patented, so anyone might use it as intellectual property. It’s interesting to note that John Fisher would have been a defendant in the lawsuit if his patent hadn’t been incorrectly submitted to the Patent Office because Howe and Singer’s drawings were virtually identical to Fisher’s invention.

As a result, Howe received a lump sum payment of patent royalties from Singer as well as a portion of the company’s revenues. In spite of all the accusations, controversy, and legal wrangling, Howe and Singer both passed away wealthy, and each of these trailblazing inventors is credited with creating the sewing machine.


Who knows how our clothing manufacturing business would be now without the early unsuccessful attempts and sheer determination to develop something that would free the women and industrial employees from long, dangerous hours? Many enthusiasts still argue about who is the true creator of the sewing machine because of the intricate history of the device. Thanks to the invention of the sewing machine, we can avoid using animal bones and sinew.

Updated on: 02-Feb-2023


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