The Early Days
The sewing machine has had a long journey since the days of its beginning. What began as a humble machine that required no electricity has evolved into today’s high tech, computerized & automatic sewing toys. The home sewing machine of today is said to be almost 20000 years old. In the earlier days, it is believed, the needles were made of animal bones or horns & thread was made of animal sinew.
The modern sewing machine saw its light of the day during the years of the first Industrial Revolution. It is generally believed to have been invented by a British named Thomas Saint in the year 1791. He not just invented the machine but also patented the same as well. That prototype of his was meant to work on leather & canvass. But a working model of the same was probably never built.
In the year 1810, German, Balthasar Krems built an automatic prototype. It was meant for sewing caps. Krems did not patent his invention and it never worked upto expectation.
After Krems Austrian tailor Josef Madersperger presented his model in 1814, the work on which he started as far back as 1807. But this attempt was also considered unsuccessful.
The first American machine was invented by John Adams Dodge & John Knowels Who also ended up failing in their attempts.
The Real Beginning
The first functional machine was built by a French called Barthelemy Thimonnier, in 1830. He also patented his machine which sewed straight seams using chain stitch. He also built a factory to build these machines.
In 1833 the lockstitch sewing machine was invented by William Hunt. His machine used a needle which had the eye & the point both towards the end of it. The needle was curved & it moved through the fabric horizontally. The problem was that the machine needed to be stopped frequently since the feed mechanism didn’t work properly. Hunt did not patent his design fearing it would cause unemployment. The first machine was patented in the US by John Greenough in the year 1842.
In 1846 Ellias Howe built his machine which was somewhat similar to hunt’s. The major difference was to have a needle where the point & the eye were apart from each other. He struggled a lot to enlist his machine but only get into a legal tangle with Issac Singer.
Singer’s machine was commercially successful & in his machine the needle moved up & down rather than side to side. But Singer’s machine used the same lockstitch as Howe’s. Howe sued Singer for patent infringement & won the battle in 1854. Singer ended up paying a large amount of patent money to Howe. After successfully winning the legal battle to a share in the profits of his invention, Elias Howe saw his annual income jump manifold to almost $300,000 a year. Between 1854 and 1867, Howe earned close to two million dollars from his invention. Throughout the 1850s many companies were formed & they fought bitter legal battles with one another.
The first modern day computer controlled sewing machine was built by Orisol in 1987 for making shoes. This was an industrial sewing machine.