Knowing the history of the sewing machine helps us understand it’s importance today.
Looking back through the history of the sewing machine, there’s not one place to start in the story of the sewing machine because there wasn’t necessarily one inventor of the sewing machine. After many patents, several people contributed to the beginning of the sewing machine. A few key contributors include Thomas Saint, Bartholomey Thimonnier, and Isaac Singer.
During the 18th Century, Saint came up with the idea to create a machine that could stitch leather, especially for shoes. According to Smithsonian Magazine, “It’s not known if Saint actually built any of his designs before he died, but a functioning replica was built 84 years later by William Newton Wilson.”
Thimonnier, in 1830, built a machine out of wood and created a factory with 80 machines. They sewed uniforms for the French army. ISMACS (International Sewing Machine Collectors Society) tell the rest of his story: “He ran into trouble from Parisian tailors. They feared that were his machines successful, they would soon take over from hand sewing, putting the craftsmen tailors out of work. Late one night a group of tailors stormed the factory, destroying every machine, and causing Thimonnier to flee for his life.” Unfortunately, he was never able to recover a full factory again.
Isaac Singer won a legal battle between himself, John Fisher, and Elias Howe for patents of a reliable sewing machine. Therefore, he became the most well-known of the three. Singer’s sewing machine was the first to have a foot pedal instead of a hand crank that used two strings at once to stitch continuously.
Impact of the Sewing Machine on Society
Before the sewing machine was invented, men and women sewed everything by hand. Can you imagine how much longer it took to sew anything? The main time period that triggered the need for a sewing machine was the Industrial Revolution. The New York Times stated that the sewing machine “is the only invention that can be claimed chiefly for woman’s benefit. The inventive genius of man, ever alert to furnish the world with machinery for saving labor and cheapening the cost of manufactures, seemed to regard man as the only laborer, prior to the invention of the sewing machine.”
In our age of feminism, it is very interesting to note that the ability for women to have more opportunities to work came about in part because of the invention of the sewing machine. Women were recognized as being better at sewing than men were. The invention of the sewing machine created many opportunities for women to work and earn extra money for their families. It also helped the price of clothing to drop because it had become so much easier to produce.
The Future of the Sewing Machine
While we’re talking about the history of the sewing machine, it only makes sense to talk about the future! Nowadays, there seems to be at least one sewing machine in most households. They are affordable and almost anyone can learn how to use them. However, Fast Company describes our manufacturing industry as “archaic.” There are some designs for the future of sewing machines that suggest that they will someday be smart robots.
Some of these designs will include touch screens or self-driven needles. They will be able to detect which color of thread you need and how fast to stitch. They will probably be even easier to use than they are now. The sewing machine has shaped our history and the future of sewing too. The sewing machine started as a machine that was necessary for industrial progression. It continues to be useful in an industrial setting and for recreational use. It will be interesting to see what uses it allows for in the future.