Free Science Studies: Elias Howe & the Sewing Machine

Free Science Studies: Elias Howe & the Sewing Machine
Free Science Studies: Elias Howe & the Sewing Machine

Elias Howe was an American inventor best known for his invention of the sewing machine.

Read the following:

“Elias Howe and the Invention of the Sewing Machine”

  • Map the following (you’ll find mapping resources below):
  • View a bone sewing needle held at the British Museum dating 500–100 BC.
  • Make a list of the ways Elias Howe supplemented his education (see top of pg. 123).
  • Learn more about the sewing machine patented by Thomas Saint.
  • Reference this diagram (from the page above) when reading about the parts of Thomas Saint’s sewing machine.
  • Compare and contrast the chain stitch and the lock stitch.
  • View a photo of Walter Hunt’s sewing machine patent model from 1854 at the American Museum of Natural History.
  • View a diagram of Walter Hunt’s sewing machine parts taken from his patent.
  • Narrate why Howe’s sewing machine invention cannot be considered “a growth.” (See bottom of pg. 127)
  • Work your own chain stitch (see resources below).
  • View an animation of a sewing machine lockstitch.
  • View a photo of Elias Howe’s sewing machine.
  • Narrate how Elias Howe’s sewing machine worked.
  • Tell what happened to Elias Howe in London, England.
  • Make a list of the features Isaac M. Singer added to Howe’s machine.
  • Explain Isaac Singer’s main contribution to the advancement of the sewing machine. (See top of pg. 139)
  • List the benefits of the invention of the sewing machine.
  • Make a timeline showing the key events in Elias Howe’s life.
  • More about Elias Howe and the sewing machine from the Book of Knowledge:

    The development of the sewing machine brought about a complete change in the clothing habits of the civilized world. It led to the creation of entirely new industries and ways of selling, and brought style and fashion within the reach of all classes of people.Many attempts were made to perfect a workable sewing machine, both in England and America, but it was not until 1846 that a really practicable machine was patented by Elias Howe in the United States.Later, in 1851, Isaac Singer patented the improved machine….”Some Other Famous Inventors” from The Book of Knowledge


Further Investigation

Inventor Elias Howe
Brief biography at The Library of Congress kids’ site.

Elias Howe
Biography at The American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Elias Howe’s Sewing Machine
The story at the Cambridge Historical Society including figures showing the dramatic increase in production.

Isaac Singer: Sewing Machine
Brief narration of his sewing machine involvement at MIT.

The Sewing Machine
Detail at of the various inventors, their designs, and the end result of the sewing machine invention.


Early Sewing Machine by Elias Howe
View and read about the one brought to London by his brother (c. 1846) at

Sewing Machine
An Engines of Our Ingenuity account of the sewing machine.

Use this interactive from to create a timeline showing the main events in Howe’s life.

Chain Stitch
Video tutorial to help you create one of your own at (scroll down).

Activity: Learn to Sew
Lots of ideas and resources.


“Elias Howe”
A chapter from Inventors by Philip G. Hubert.

The Singer in the Family
A booklet from Singer Sewing Machine showing some of their machines — and marketing.

Unit Studies & Lesson Plans

Clothing and Textiles
Mini unit suggestions from Steward Ship.

Printables & Notebooking Pages

United States Map
At for locating Massachusetts.

Massachusetts State Map
At for locating Spencer and Cambridge.

Modern Sewing Machine
Diagram for notebook.

Elias Howe & the Sewing Machine Notebooking Pages
Simple pages for copywork, narrations, or wrapping up.

Enjoy the entire series: