Elias Howe (1819-1867) was born in Massachusetts, USA. He died at the young age of 48. Although his life was short, his contribution to the world of clothes–that of the sewing machine–will always be remembered.
The sewing machine invented by Elias Howe was at first utilised, not for sewing clothes, but for stitching shoes. The main breakthrough was the development of a lock-stitch by a shuttle carrying a lower thread and a needle carrying an upper thread which passed through a hole situated at the tip of the needle.
For thousands of years, people had been accustomed to making a hole at the base of the needle. So, following their lead, Howe made the needle of his machine with a hole at the base, instead of at the tip as is now the practice. The placement of an eyelet, simple as it may seem to us now, remained a big hurdle for its inventor for quite some time. It was only a dream which finally brought about the desired solution.
As he was racking his brain to perfect his machine, Howe dreamt that he had been captured by a primitive tribe and was ordered to produce an operational sewing machine within 24 hours, failing which he would be speared to death. He tried hard, but could not accomplish it. When the deadline was up, the tribesmen surrounded him and raised their spears to kill him.
Howe succeeded in inventing a machine only because he had engrossed himself in it to such an extent that he came to dream about it.