The History of Sewing

The History of Sewing by Groz-Beckert®


30.000 BC:

Man starts to make clothes out of animal skins and fur parts. Fish bones or bone fragments serve as needle. These "needles" have a hole (needle eye) in order to pull the thread through. Leather strips, tendons, intestines or bast are used as sewing thread.

7000 BC:

For the first time, needles made out of metal (copper) are used.


The first steel needle is produced by a needle maker in Nuremberg.


Charles Weisenthal invents the 2-pointed needle with the eye in the middle between the two points. The needle was developed to penetrate the fabric by means of a pair of mechanical fingers. A complete sewing machine, however, was not invented at that time.


Thomas Saint invents a kind of chain stitch machine for the manufacturing of shoes using a hook needle and an awl. Many basic properties of this machine can still be found in today's sewing machines.

1810 n. Chr.:

Balthasar Krems creates a machine for sewing hats and caps. This machine works with a needle with the eye close to the point. This needle was the breakthrough for the invention and further development of sewing machines.


Josef Madersberger invents the first machine that can make a seam. It is used for sewing straw hats.


Walter Hunt invents a machine using a needle with the eye at the point. This needle interacts with a shuttle carrying a second thread. It produces an interlock stitch similar to the stitch of today's lockstitch machines.


Elias Howe invents a sewing machine producing a stitch similar to that of Hunt's machine. However, the fabric is held vertically here. Howe applies for a patent for this machine together with a shuttle and a needle having a groove and the eye at the point. This lockstitch machine can make straight seams only.


Isaac Merritt Singer invents the first really functioning sewing machine.

19th century:

During this century, there is a number of inventions in the area of sewing machines. Many companies still known today were founded at that time: Singer, Pfaff, Adler, Opel, Dürkopp etc. However, the manufacturing of clothes and shoes is still carried out in small workshops.

20th century:

The industrial production of clothing begins. For the first time, sewing machines are driven by a belt. Since 1935, the machines are also driven by electric motors.


Sewing machines get additional functions like needle up position, foot lifter, reverse stitching and thread cutting.


The development of sewing automats begins.


Electronic functional elements like servo motors are introduced.