The sewing machine became a popular tool during the industrial revolution, as the automated process of stitching saved time and ultimately money. The first patent taken out on a sewing machine was in 1790, by the Englishman Thomas Saint. His design, which enabled the user to stitch canvas or leather, was never put in to production. Barthélemy Thimonnier advanced Saint’s original design in the nineteenth century: by 1841 he had eighty machines in a factory producing uniforms for the French army.
The domestication of the sewing machine took place around the 1850s, as the ‘Sewing Machine War’ took place over patents in the United States. In 1856 The Sewing Machine Combination was instigated and companies (namely Singer) began to produce machines that were affordable to keep in the home. Sewing machines were further developed by electronic technology in the early 1900s and in 1987 Orisol produced the first computerised machine. Despite the utilisation of digital technologies, the sewing machine became redundant in most contemporary homes thanks to the availability of cheap ready-made clothing. There are, however, indications that the fate of the sewing machine is not yet sealed, for sales figures have grown over the past year. Analysts suggest this is may be a response to financial decline and a growing ethical awareness about the manufacture of clothes.