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‘invented’


around this time. All


worked using chain stitch which meant cloth could be sewn quickly but unfortunately, the stitches were not reliable, easily coming apart if one end of the thread became loose. Because of this, the machines did not become common place.


In the 1832, the first ‘lock stitch’ machine was made in America by Walter Hunt but, losing interest in his creation, he didn’t patent his design. It took another 10 years before a lock stitch machine was brought to the market by Elias Howe, who did patent his design. Whilst he was in England promoting his machine, his patent was infringed by other inventors including Isaac Merritt Singer!


Singer was a trained engineer who saw a lock stitch machine being repaired and thought it a clumsy design. He assembled the best elements of Thimonnier’s, Hunt’s and Howe’s designs and created the first Singer sewing machine. Another


11 | ukhandmade | Autumn 2012


designer, Allen B. Wilson, improved on Singer’s and Howe’s designs, but yet another designer with the same patented idea threatened to sue. Wilson headed off in a different direction with Nathaniel Wheeler. Their quieter and smoother machine meant that the ‘Wheeler and Wilson Company’ was responsible for most of the machines sold during the 1850’s and 1860’s. (Interestingly, Wilson also invented the four- motion feed mechanism that we still see on every sewing machine today.)


The 1850’s experienced a growth in sewing machine manufacturers. Each manufacturer refined the machine, resulting in various companies suing each other’s patent infringements! This finally led to collaboration between the main designers and a sharing of patents. The ‘Sewing Machine Combination’ - the first ‘patent pool’ in American history - was formed in 1856 by Singer, Howe, Wheeler, Wilson, Grover and Baker. All other manufacturers had to pay for the use of patented ideas up until


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