For thousands of years, the process of sewing didn’t change much other than using needles made of different materials. The basic process remained the same; thread some material through and needle and attach pieces of material together by hand. Now that we have patches the process to iron those patches is also easier, get a look at the complete process here

Sewing has been around since the Ice Age. This is from the fact that bone needles have been discovered since that time. Some scientists believe that sewing dates even further back than that.

All that changed about 200 years ago when patents were issued for various sewing apparatus and with that also came the industrial sewing machine. During the industrial revolution, progress was made in many aspects of production and manufacturing and sewing was one of them. These new machines could make clothing faster and with higher quality than hand sewing. As in many industries, home versions take the most popular features from industrial machines and the sewing industry was the same. Early industrial sewing machines had many features that would later be carried over to the home sewing market. For example, some of the earliest industrial machines could zig-zag stitch, a feature that would be put in home machines at a later date.

Many different versions of the early industrial sewing machines seemed to spring up at almost the same time in history. From England to France and also the United States. The first industrial sewing machine patent was in 1790 by a man called Thomas Saint. This sewing machine design allowed leather and canvas to be stitched together. Like many early industrial sewing machines that followed this machine copied the action of the human arm when sewing. So the process was slow and a lot of time was spent ‘re-threading the needles since only a short amount of thread could be seen at a time. Then in 1807 two Englishman, William and Edward Chapman had the vision of putting the hole for the needle at the bottom of the needles instead of the top. This meant the needle would not have to be passed completely through the material to complete a stitch.

But progress always has its price. A French tailor, Bartheleémy Thimmoniers, used these new machines in a manufacturing plant to sew French Armies uniforms. These new machines meant that 160 of Thimmonier’s fellow tailors would lose their jobs. The disgruntled tailors rioted, broke into the factory, and destroyed all of the machines.

Progress continued in spite of the riot in France, and in 1834, Walter Hunt an American created an industrial sewing machine design that produced a locked stitch from underneath the machine using a second thread. As a side note, the same man, Walter Hunt, is also given credit for inventing the safety pin. With lots of inspiration from previous patents and designs, an American name Elias Howe 1846 designed and patented a different kind of machine. Howe went to England in an attempt to market his new machine and upon his return to the U.S. in 1849 he realized that his machine had been copied by others. After a six-year court battle in his suits against the companies that had copied his patented design, he did finally win.

Isaac M Singer was Howe’s main competitor. The singer had received his own patent in 1851. The Singer design incorporated an arm that overhung the flat table. The advantage of this design is that it allowed stitching to be performed in any direction.

During the 1850s Howe and Singer decided to create a “Patent Pool” along with two other manufacturers. When the Civil War started, the demand for military uniforms skyrocketed and they both became millionaires.