A Brief History of The Sewing Machine

Posted on December 10, 2019 by Stephanie Triplett

The Importance of the Sewing Machine

The invention of the sewing machine surfaced during the industrial revolution and is considered to be the first machine to enter the home. Pre-1900, women had to sew by hand using silk thread or 3-ply cotton which broke frequently and meant women would be making clothes for their family from sun-up to sun-down. The sewing machine accelerated the process of garment construction, which ultimately revolutionized the textile industry, allowing a wide range of pieces to be made quickly and more cost-efficiently. It now gives the home designer a faster alternative to hand sewing while opening the door to sewing as an at-home hobby.

Evolution and Failed Attempts That Led to Success

Inspiration for the original sewing machine stitch came from embroidery decorations, invented in the 18th century, which used a hook needle to produce a hook stitch. The first attempts at a mechanical sewing machine imitated the hook stitch. Inventors from France, England, and the U.S. all had a hand in creating the mechanical sewing machine, beginning with Charles Weisenthal in the U.K. He acquired a British patent in 1755 for the first needle designed specifically for a machine. It was double pointed with a single eye, meant to pass completely through the fabric, sparking the birth of mechanical sewing.

Some years later, there was Thomas Saint, an English cabinet maker, who was issued the first patent in 1790 for drawing a complete machine that included both a notched needle and an awl for sewing. Saint’s machine was designed specifically for puncturing holes through leather. Several failed attempts led up to the great year of 1830.

Continuing on the Sewing Road to Success

In 1830, Barthelemy Thimmonier made the first functional machine that used a chain stitch (like the stitch often used for embroidery) and one thread. He made about 80 machines, which he placed in a factory to make military jackets until it was burnt down by French tailors who feared they would lose their jobs to the sewing machine. Unfortunately, the fire caused Thimmonier to go bankrupt. In 1834, Walter Hunt made the first successful machine; although it only made straight lines, they were created by a brand new stitch that came to be known as a lockstitch. His machine didn’t work very well, so he eventually gave up and didn’t patent his invention.

In 1846 Elias Howe adapted Hunt’s ideas and developed a needle with an eye at its tip, like machine needles we see today, earning the credit for creating the first modern sewing machine and needle, which processed thread from two different sources to produce a lockstitch.

Commercial Use and How Today’s Machines Work

Isaac Singer was the first to sell sewing machines commercially in the 1850s, to which he added an overhanging arm that positioned the needle over a flat table so that fabric could be passed through the bar from any direction. It came equipped with a needle that moved up and down. 


There are 2 main types of sewing machines and they’re made quite differently:

  1. Home Sewing Machine: its frame is made from injection-molded aluminum while its plates are made from a variety of materials ranging from copper, chrome, nickel, etc. It has an electric motor complete with hooks, feed gears, cam mechanisms, needles, needle bars, the main drive shaft, and presser feet (shop MoodFabrics.com for additional presser feet for your machine). The bobbin portion is made of metal or plastic, but must be made specifically so it can be threaded appropriately for your machine. 

Industrial Sewing Machine: consists of the frame, motor, and electronic components. Its frame is made of cast iron while the motor is made depending on the specific voltage and electrical standards for the region, and the electronic components are usually metal.

The Sewing Machines of Today

Sewing machines are still widely used and purchased by home sewists and companies to produce and construct textiles, which has tremendously impacted the industry and the speed at which garments can be made. The evolution of the machine has taken home sewing to new and efficient levels so that both the beginning sewist and the advanced sewing magician can be successful. We have an exclusive Mood Brand sewing machine that can create nearly 100 different stitch types (talk about advancement in technology), and to go along with it you’ll want to grab some durable all-purpose cotton thread for your sewing endeavors. Technology changes every day but it’s important to take a moment to think about the great inventors that paved the way for the sewing machine and its important components and helped to make its way to success.

What type of machine do you currently sew on? Tell us in the comments below!

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