A sewing table or work table is a table that was used for sewing. It originated in 1770 in England and was eventually adopted in Canada and the USA. Based on the philosophy that “idle hands are the Devil’s workshop”, sewing tables were conveniently placed in every room of the home lest the ladies find themselves with five minutes without work. Fancier tables, such as this one, were relegated to drawing rooms or parlours.
These tables had a surprising amount of space in them to hold all manner of sewing tools and thread. Nearby there would have been a chair or a stool and a waste bin. This is the first time I have come across a combination of sewing table and matching stool (seen below).
The sewing table was also designed to provide a surface and storage for a gentlewoman’s other leisure actives, such as basket-weaving, crochet, and macramé. Some examples had an extending leaf to give even more space.
The majority of tables created in North America were made of mahogany as was this one. The top is constructed of a single piece of wood and such, is susceptible to changes in humidity which often results in the wood splitting as you can see in the image.
The inside of this sewing table is intact, with more than 30 compartments to store everything an accomplished sewer would need. The velvet workbag, seen hanging below the table, slides out to reveal storage space for works in progress.
The invention of sewing machines in the mid 1800’s sounded the death knell for sewing tables such as this one. The concept of a sewing table remained however it was altered to accommodate a sewing machine.
The sewing table and stool are owned by people who appreciate its history and uniqueness and this bodes well for its continued existence.