By: Anita B. Loscalzo
Inventors developed the first sewing machines for commercial use, but quickly marketed them to the public-at-large in the early 1850s. Women took advantage of the time saved from the use of sewing machines for the production of household items to produce more quilts. Some utilized sewing machines for appliqué, some for piecing, and some for quilting. Women took great pride in their sewing machines at first, but by the late nineteenth century the machines’ novelty had faded and a renewal in interest in hand needlework eliminated most visible machine quilting. Ernest B. Haight revived simple linear quilting by machine by the early 1970s and in the 1980s Harriet Hargrave popularized more complex, free-motion techniques enabled by advances in sewing machine technology. Controversy and questions surrounding the validity and value of machine techniques occurred at first with the introduction of new methods of quilting. The results of a survey of judges confirm the acceptance of machine quilting as a valid technique in the production of quilts.