Sewing Machines from the Past to the Present
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Second episode : 1832 up to nowadays

In 1832, Thimonnier was back in Amplepuis, and conceived what he called a "backstitch sewing machine" which Walter Hunt (United States) would "reinvent" in 1834 and which would make Elias Howe and Isaac Merritt Singer's wealth.

But Thimonnier kept on perfecting his chain stitch sewing machine he had patented in 1830. Thus, on 19 August 1845 he patented a "chain stitch sewing loom as perfected by Barthélemy Thimonnier since the 1830 patent". According to him, the new machine offered all the advantages of a simple and cheap manufacturing and of its regular play, and its perfect work".

On 17 October 1847 Barthélemy Thimonnier and Jean-Marie Magnin, lawyer, patented the "couso-brodeur". This last invention is designed to sew, embroider and make chain stitstrings and can sew 300 stitches per minute. The patent even the possiblity of fitting several needles thus foreshadowing modern machines. It even mentions that the size of the needle should be chosen according to the thickness of the fabric to obtain a nicer seam ! According to the patent, the Couso-brodeur, as its names shows, "can be used for all sorts of chain stitch embroideries on muslin, linen, velvet, satin, woollen cloth and leathers, especially gloves". It can also sew one or many strings (trimmings, edgings).

Like the 1830 couseuse, the couso-brodeur has no feeding system and the material must be moved from lest to right. This last creation was so promissing that Thimonnier and Magnin bought the English trading licence in Fabruary 1848. In January 1849, thimonnier lieaves for Manchester to manage the manufacturing of his sewing machines. At last he is successful.

But Magnin did not keep his word of payinf 60 Francs per month to Thimonnier's wife. Thimonnier went back to France and resumed his business keeping on perfecting his sewing loom and selling it. He even raised his prices since his competitors sold machines for 600 Francs.

Magnin presents Thimonnier's machine to the 1855 World Fair in Paris where it is granted the First Classe Medal. The same year he wrote to his son a sentence that epitomizes the struggle of his life: "my greatest worry was to be discouraged by the village people's gossipping.

Thimonnier built another loom which allowed to "sew loose or tight seams, long and short stitches. It can sew with thread, silk, cotton and all kinds of material even leather and all the sizes of needles. It works more smoothly and more easily that the chain stitch". He also describes the machines functionning "the needle sticks through the fabric, goes through the plate with its tread, a small shuttle goes hooks the needle's thread, and the needle rises, taking the shuttl'es thread to the middle of the fabric where it makes a backstitch on both sides like the cobbler's. The stitch is very solid and does not unpick, and has a very clean aspect". Amasing !

But the tireless inventor is not satisfied with his last stroke of inspiration which he prolifically criticises and prefers the chain stitch to the shuttle stitch. He wants to perfect the cahin stitch so that it does not unpick.

At 63, Thimonnier falls ill and has to resume tailoring for a living. This does not prevent him to keep on looking for a solution to the chain stitch's problem, fruitlessly - it unthreads, therefore it mus be fixed with wax as he already mentioned it in his 1830 patent. He did not suspect that what he considered as a fault would be an indispensable quality in some sewings. It is the case of machines used to sew up paper bags or any temporary sewing that is so much used in the end of the 20th century.

Aged 64, and after almost thirty years of work Barthélemy Thimonnier died on 5 July 1857 in the morning.

The traditional images from Epinal illustrated Thimonnier's life and only showed the "Amplepuis Tailor". Later in 1955, the French Postal Services edited a 10 Franc post stamp bearing the effigy of Thimonnier. In 1957, on the occasion of the centenary of his death, a stele was inaugurated right where he had lived. Incidentally, note that there is a mistake in the spelling of Thimonnier's name - one N instead of two. The stamp, reads 1859 as the date of his death thus granting him with two years of life he did not enjoy at the time.

Bust at the Sewing Machine and Cycle
Museum in Amplepuis.

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