The First Profitable Sewing Machine A French tailor named Barthelemy Thimonnier devised a machine that employed a hooked needle and one thread to create a chain stitch. 1830: Barthelemy Thimonnier's first sewing machine. It was a success, and young Barthelemy went on to create more than 20 more sewing machines.
Nowadays, we think of sewing as something you do with a machine. But in fact, it started out this way too! The first sewing machines were actually hand-operated devices used by tailors to save time. They were invented around 1830 by French tailor Barthelemy Thimonnier. He called his invention "la mécanique à vapeur" which means "the steam engine." But since he created it before the advent of electricity, it was actually a primitive form of motorized sewing machine.
Thimonnier's machine used a hooked needle that passed through several layers of cloth at a time as it sewed them together. It had two threads running through its head, one for the catchchain and the other for the material being stitched. When you pulled the cord attached to the machine's frame, it would go into action and sew pretty much anything you wanted fast enough for a suit of clothes!
Then, in 1830, a French tailor named Barthelemy Thimonnier devised a machine that employed a single thread and a hooked needle to create an embroidery-style chain stitch. This was the first machine designed for sewing clothes.
A few years later, another Frenchman, Joseph-Michel Zenger, added a second set of needles in his two-thread machine so it could sew both straight and zigzag stitches. In 1841, he also outfitted his machine with a foot control so users could automate certain steps in its operation. This allowed for more efficient sewing and is still used by modern sewing machines.
In 1845, Isaac Singer built the first mass-manufactured sewing machine, which sold for $140. It used a hand-cranked mechanism to move the fabric through the machine.
Over the next few decades, other improvements were made to the sewing machine, including the incorporation of a motor drive system in 1953 that eliminated the need for human power during sewing. Today's sewing machines can do almost everything from cut fabrics to attach buttons!
Treadle sewing machines were first manufactured around 1870 by the Chickering & Company and The Miller Brothers companies.
In France, tailor Barthelemy Thimonnier created the first mechanical sewing machine in 1830, which employed a hooked or barbed needle to generate a chain stitch. Thimonnier, unlike his predecessors, actually put his machine into production and was won a contract to manufacture uniforms for the French army. However, he could not compete with the cost of hand-sewn garments and his business failed.
The British were also interested in Thimonnier's invention and one company, Arkwright's, produced their own version called the "Mellars Sewing Machine". It too failed to attract customers due to its high price.
Meanwhile, back in Europe's largest city, Berlin, German inventor Friedrich Koenig invented a similar machine that used magnets instead of hooks or bars to hold the thread while stitching. His company began manufacturing the "Magnetic Stitch-Eater" in 1845 and it too failed to attract buyers due to its high price. After losing much of his money on these two projects, Koenig decided to move to America where he hoped to sell his machines at a lower price. However, he died in Germany before reaching this goal and his family sold his patent rights for $10,000. They too refused to release the technology so that others could make profit from it. Even though they lost money on each unit, they still made enough to cover their expenses because the market was not large enough to make big profits.