Although I never quite liked sitting in history class, years and years ago, I think I might’ve changed my mind with time. I have a habit for wanting to know how things came to be – mostly because of the great respect that such knowledge puts in you. The very same was true for sewing; when I first got interested in learning how to sew, one of the first things I wanted to find out is how the art evolved, and how the machines came about – and you’ll be astounded to know just how far we’ve come (and if you’re curious, I think you should read about 5 Tips when purchasing sewing machines).
Just to illustrate the fact, I’ve written a little top 3 list of some of the greatest sewing trivia I’ve come across.
The sewing machine stretches back to the mid-18th
Back in 1755, a German engineer in England by the name of Charles Fredrick Wiesenthalwas awarded a British patent for a simple double-pointed needle with an eye for thread – a mechanical advancement in sewing. As simple as that may sound, it took only a few decades longer for an entire machine to be devoted to the process – by the 1790s, cabinet maker Thomas Saint had created a machine to work leather and canvas, although he didn’t sell it very well. It wasn’t until later in the 1820s when a Frenchman, Barthélemy Thimonnier, built a machine that actually worked and suited his profession as a tailor.
It was rife with legal troubles.
The sewing machine of today underwent many patent troubles – specifically between Elias Howe and Isaac Merritt Singer – two American inventors, and rivals. Howe originally built a working sewing machine and patented it, before leaving for England to attract interest. Upon his return, however, Singer and several others had violated his patents and sold very similar, if not the same machine without paying him. He took this matter to court for patent infringement in 1854, and won the right to claim royalties from all who sold his machine.
Singer went on to build his own adapted machine powered by a foot pedal, yet upon hearing of it, Howe attempted to take Singer to court again due to the fact that the design incorporated aspects from his. Singer lost, was forced to pay in accordance to his earnings, and decided to simply sell the machines under Howe while paying a price of $1.15 per machine in commission.
However, the first electric sewing machine was developed by Singer Sewing Co. in 1889.
In the long run, Singer’s legacy remained greater – his company went on to be one of the largest producers of sewing machines in the world, and the inventor of the first electrically-powered sewing machine. Singer, Howe, and other engineers pooled in to create better machines – yet eventually they split apart, resulting in other companies like Willcox & Gibbs, which remain in competition even today. Singer Sewing Co. remains a strong brand in the world of sewing as well, alongside industrial and commercial sewing giants like Japan’s Brother Industries.