In 1790, Thomas Saint took out a patent on a machine for sewing leather. Though he probably made only an experimental model, it was the first ever sewing machine. The key to producing a successful sewing machine is that its needle, unlike the needle in hand sewing, must not pass right through the material to form the stitch, because a continuous supply of thread is required. In 1807, Edward Chapman invented a machine using such a needle, with the point and the eye at the same end. By the middle of the nineteenth century, significant developments had been achieved in Europe and the United States, and in 1850, Isaac Merritt Singer, whose name was to become synonymous with sewing machines, made his first machine. Singer combined technical ability with marketing flair, but he did not lack capable rivals, among them Allen B. Wilson. As a result, the manufacture and use of sewing machines grew rapidly in North America and Europe, including Britain.About the Author:
As a textile teacher (now retired) Carol Head taught boys and girls how to use and enjoy twentieth century machines with great success. Her interest in nineteenth-century machines began when she purchased a Willcox & Gibbs chain stitch machine. As her fascination for old sewing machines developed, she formed a collection and researched into early manufacturers.
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