The 13th of June honours the invention of the sewing machine so let us take a ride through history to figure out who created the world’s first sewing machine.

The first recorded mention of the modern sewing machine was back in 1790 by skilled cabinet maker and English inventor, Thomas Saint who received the first patent for his design. Sadly, no other evidence of this machine exists other than his drawings as it was never advertised or manufactured. His machine was meant to be used on leather and canvas material and employed the chain stitch technique.

Thomas Saint Sewing machine concept

In 1874, sewing machine manufacturer, William Newton Wilson found Saint’s drawings in the UK Patent Office and with some adjustments to the looper, built a working machine currently owned by the Science Museum in London.

1804 saw the world’s first sewing machine built by English manufacturers Thomas Stone and James Henderson. It was not very successful and few records exist today.

Sewing machine concept by English manufacturers Thomas Stone and James Henderson

Josef Madersperger, a Tyrolean tailor, began developing a sewing machine in 1807 using all his savings and free time and presented a prototype by 1814. The machine unlike modern sewing machines, imitated the hand stitch movements mechanically and was dubbed “The Sewing Hand”. Unable to improve the machine, and without any finances Madersperger had to give up on his dream, donating his final version of the sewing hand to the Polytechnical Institute.

Prototype by Josef Madersperger.

Meanwhile in France, Barthélemy Thimonnier, created a similar machine which replicated the hand sewing motion, back in 1829. By 1830 he received a patent a long with a mining engineer Auguste Ferrand. The same year they opened the world’s first machine operated clothing manufacturing company creating uniforms for the French military along with partners. But the factory was burned down, reportedly by workers who were fearful of losing their jobs to machines.


Over in America, Walter Hunt designed America’s first sewing machine, but he never bothered to patent the machine until 1854. Another American by the name of John Greenough patented the first sewing machine over in the States.

While all the machines above had the basics for a sewing machine, all of them had their shortcomings. Enter John Fisher, and English inventor who created the first workable sewing machine back in 1844. However due to a botched filing job in the Patent Office, resulted in him losing his patent and thereby the recognition.

The First Modern Lockstitch

In 1845, Elias Howe, and American, tweaked Fisher’s machine to create the first known lockstitch machine utilizing thread from two different sources, the basis for all modern sewing machines. While struggling to market his design, he sailed to England for a lengthy stay only to return and find that his design was copied and used by others, namely Isaac Merritt Singer.

First patented lockstitch machine modified by Elias Howe

Finally, a well-known name in the world of apparel manufacture. Due to copyright infringement Singer was taken to court by Howe and ended up paying a lump sum and entering into a partnership for creating sewing machines. These two would go on to create one of the largest business empires changing the format of apparel manufacturing forever.

First commercial lockstitch sewing machine by Singer

It is impossible to credit one individual person for the creation of the sewing machine as the original concept was thought up by individuals over 200 years ago. There have been multiple advances in the initial concepts until it was compiled together by individuals such as Elias Howe and Isaac Merrit Singer. If it wasn’t for all of the men mentioned above and many more who may remain unnamed, Fashion would never have evolved to its current state.