Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Sewing Table

One of my most prized possessions is an old sewing table that once belonged to my great-grandmother.  The poor old thing has a long history, but has lovingly been restored and now resides with me.  The table has a drop leaf which extends outward to create work space, but I close the leaf and it becomes a nice end table by my stitching chair.  

My mother remembers it sitting in the corner of  her grandmother's dining room.  It was always open and had a sewing project in progress laying on top. 

 Katherine (Hochstein) Albrecht was born in 1862 in Dane County, Wisconsin.  She was the oldest of seven daughters of John and Susanna (Lenz) Hochstein.  She married Joseph Albrecht at age 16 and 7 children were born in Wisconsin.  The family then moved from Wisconsin to Butler County, Iowa where 4 more children were born.

We believe the table originated in Wisconsin and made the move to Iowa along with the rest of the family in 1892.  Possibly it was a wedding present or perhaps a gift from her husband.

The table only measures 26 inches tall.  Katherine was a tiny woman barely 5' tall, so it was probably just the right size for her use.  Was the table made especially for her?  We don't know at this time.

I'm also a seamstress like Katherine, but my new modern sewing/craft table measures 36 inches tall which is perfect for my 5'6" frame.  When I stand at Katherine's table, I feel her presence and realize how small she was and to think she gave birth and raised 11 children!  Her last child was born just 6 months before her first grandchild.

This picture of Kate was taken about 1906.  She would have been about 44 years old.  Her youngest child was about 4 years old and her oldest son was 28. 

Katherine died in 1943 and the table was given to her daughter, my grandmother, Matilda (Albrecht) Noss.  She was the first of Katherine's children to be born in Iowa in 1893.  Matilda also had 11 children so the old sewing table was put to good use.  Tillie, as she was known, was also an excellent seamstress and had worked  for a department store in Greene, Iowa before her marriage.  In those days, all dresses were not bought off the rack.  A woman could come to the store, choose her pattern and material. Then a seamstress employed by the store would make the dress to her specification.

Shortly after Katherine's death, Tillie, her husband and younger children moved to California.  The old sewing table was packed up and made the long trip over the mountains far away from it's Midwest origins.  When Tillie died in 1984, the table was given to her daughter, Julia, who is my mother.  Mom packed up the old table in California and drove it back over the mountains to Iowa. 

The table was now approximately 100 years old and starting to look it's age.  Mom didn't know what to do with the table as it definitely needed some loving care.  She gave the table to my sister, Eileen, who enjoyed restoring furniture. Eileen lived in Wisconsin, so the rickety, well-used table returned to it's original location after all those years.  Eileen took that old table and brought it back to it's original glory.  It was beautiful.

In the late 90's, Eileen decided to make a move to California to be closer to her grandchildren.  She would be living with her son's family and have no room for the grand little table.  She offered it to me as she knew it would be cared for with the love it deserved.

So this precious table now resides in Iowa with me.  I use it to hold embroidery and knitting supplies.  It sits near my stitching chair.  Somehow I think great-grandmother Katherine would like that.  As I slide open the old drawers and reach for another skein of yarn or a spool of thread, I think of all the women before me who used this table to hold their own handwork supplies.  Especially I'm reminded of my dear sister whose hands restored the old table with love. I lost my sister to a devastating stroke last year and this table is a forever link between the two of us.

Someday the table will be passed on to my daughter and it's journey will continue. I only hope she will treasure all the memories it holds within its drawers.  Now if I could only teach her how to sew on a button !!


  1. What a wonderful history, and even more wonderful that you can record it all.

  2. I have enjoyed your blog and reading your post! What a wonderful travel history your sewing table has. You must be thrilled to have such a treasure.
    Good luck!
    Cindy @ Genealogy Circle