For most of us, an image of a woman stoically engaged in needlework is just another overused movie trope. But there was a time when stitching a pair of trousers took over four days, and women spent most of their daylight hours sewing clothes for themselves and their families by hand. For the same reason, the invention of the sewing machine, which brought about a revolutionary change in people's lives, is celebrated each year on June 13.

The History

Englishman Thomas Saint designed the first sewing machine in 1790. Though his design described the machine as one powered with a hand crank to be used for leather and canvas, nobody was sure whether Saint had made a prototype. Fortunately, the patent drawings were discovered in 1847 by William Newton Wilson. A replica was built, which proved it worked.

However, the first successful sewing machine was built in 1830, forty years after Saint first drew and described a machine. Barthelemy Thimonnier, a French tailor, invented the machine that used a hooked needle and thread, creating a chain stitch.

The first American lockstitch sewing machine was invented in 1832 by Walter Hunt. The patent for America’s first sewing machine was secured by John Greenough in 1842. A decade later, Isaac Singer started proliferating the textile market with his sewing machine models that were more user-friendly and Singer soon became a household brand.

Fun Facts 

1) Sewing machines were a great boon for women, which cut down their sewing time from approximately 14.5 hours by hand to 1 hour using the machine.

2) By 1863, the Singer Manufacturing Company was selling 20,000 machines a year for home use. By the 20th century, more than 4000 different types of sewing machines had been invented. 

3) A useful invention: The sewing machine is one of the most useful things ever invented by man. The invention ensued an era of production of clothing in Europe and America. 


1) “After all, a woman didn't leave much behind in the world to show she'd been there. Even the children she bore and raised got their father's name. But her quilts, now that was something she could pass on.” ― Sandra Dallas

2) "I am certain that a Sewing Machine would relieve as much human suffering as a hundred Lunatic Asylums, and possibly a good deal more" ― Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace.

3) "Fabrics doesn't make exquisite dresses, it is the stitches" -― Treasure Stitches

sewing machine Representational image Photo: Pixabay