By: Suellen Meyer
In a study of periodicals, advertising brochures, and sewing machine manuals from 1830-1900, I found that sewing machine companies sold their machines to men for the benefit of their wives. Although the companies and the magazines emphasized machines for sewing clothes, women transferred machine sewing to quiltmaking. A study of nineteenth-century quilts revealed that during the third quarter, women highlighted the machine by using it for appliqué or quilting. Once the machine became common, machine appliqué and quilting fell out of favor. Machine stitching continued to be used for piecing and the binding. A great increase in pieced patterns corresponded with the rise of the sewing machine. It would appear that when sewing machines were expensive status items, quiltmakers emphasized the machine stitch, but once they became common, quiltmakers returned to handsewing for visible stitching and continued to use the machine for invisible piecing and for the binding.