The English cabinetmaker Thomas Saint received the first patent for a sewing machine in 1790. Elias Howe, credited as the inventor of the sewing machine, designed and patented his creation in 1846. Howe was employed at a machine shop in Boston and was trying to support his family. A friend helped him financially while he perfected his invention, which also produced a lock stitch by using an eye-pointed needle and a bobbin that carried the second thread.
Here is an amazing animation, after the jump, as to how sewing machines work.