The History Of Sewing Machines


History Of Sewing MachinesFrom Hand Needles To Computerized Sewing Machines:

In this modern day of computers and technology, there are many devices taken for granted that are filled with rich history on how they came to be. Sewing machines for instance, have reached a point where they are computerized and can run with just a few simple programming techniques, having LCD screens built right into the machine.

Believe it or not, sewing has been around for more than 20,000 years. In it’s beginnings, thread was made from animal sinew and needles from the bones or horns from animals to sew animal hides and leather for clothing and shelter. It wasn’t until the 14th century that needles began being made of steel and by the 15th century the needles were eyed.

Humble Beginnings Of The Modern Sewing Machine

A German man named Charles Weisenthal was issued a British Patent in 1755 for a needle that was made for a machine, but could not produce the machine. Therefore, the patent only covered the needle itself and not the machine.

It was as far back as 1790 that Thomas Saint, an Englishman who was an inventor and a cabinet maker, grabbed the patent for the first complete sewing machine. But there was speculation that Saint never actually built a prototype for his invention. He had produced a diagram of a machine that poked a hole through leather and then passed a needle through the hole. A reproduction was later built based on Saint’s design but it didn’t work.

There was a multitude of men who continued to work on a machine that could sew material, but many failed. The first Americans to patent a sewing machine were John Adams Doge and John Knowles, but they could not produce a machine that would continue sewing without malfunctioning.

French Tailor, Barthelemy Thimonnier, invented the first functional sewing machine in 1830. The machine used only a single thread and a hooked needle, resembling the needle and the stitching process of embroidery. Thimonnier was nearly killed when a riot broke out amongst a group of French Tailors who felt his new invention would become a major source of unemployment, so they burnt down his garment factory.

In 1846, a patent was issued to an American called Elias Howe who created a machine which had a needle with an eye at the point.The needle was pushed through the fabric, and a loop was formed on the other side. A second thread was then slipped through the loop by a shuttle on a track, making what is now called the lockstitch. Howe spent many years trying to defend his patent and keeping others from stealing his ideas, and he had fierce trouble marketing his invention.

The First Really Useful Sewing Machine

During the years that Elias Howe struggled with his patent, Isaac Singer devised the up and down motion mechanism and combined it with Howe’s lockstitch. It was in the 1850’s that Singer made the first mass produced machine. His sewing machine was the first to use the up and down motion, rather than side to side, and was controlled by a foot treadle, whereas the machines before Singer’s were all hand cranked.

The problem arose that Singer was using the same lockstitch that Elias Howe had patented and a lawsuit was brought against Singer by Howe, for patent infringement. Singer was ordered to pay Howe royalties, which made Howe a very rich man. From the royalties of his invention, Howe made more than two million dollars between the years 1854 and 1867. During the Civil War, Howe became a Private and donated some of his riches to equip an infantry regiment for the Union Army.

The first chain-stitch, single-thread sewing machine was patented by James Gibbs in 1857, with Helen Augusta Blanchard patenting the first zig zag machine in 1873. Garment factory production lines were the first to use mechanical sewing machines. The first home use sewing machines were not produced until 1849 and by 1905, the electrically-powered sewing machine was in common use.

Modern Day Sewing Machines

Project Runway Sewing MachineSewing machines enthusiasts today have an great variety of machines to choose from. Whether a person is a beginner at sewing or is a real pro, there are sewing machines available to fit everyone’s needs, be it for commercial or home use. Some of the amazing qualities of the home sewing machines available today would leave the pioneers reeling.

Take for example, the Brother Project Runway PC420 machine. Although it’s just a machine for home use, it has a medley of options to offer, that the original inventors could hardly have dreamed of, such as:

  • LED lighting of the sewing bed for better viewing
  • LCD screen
  • Drop in bobbin
  • 294 built in stitches
  • 3 font styles
  • My Custom Fit feature
  • Automatic thread trimmer
  • Advanced needle threading system
  • 6 point feed dogs

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