What is a Martha Washington Sewing Cabinet? Everything You Need to Know

12 min read

Keeping a sewing cabinet in good condition helps extend the life of a high-quality sewing machine. In addition, they can give a sense of sophistication to any area in which they are installed. You know you’ve got something great on your hands when someone has a distinguished past like Martha Washington.

A cabinet bearing Martha Washington’s name may or may not have been used by the first lady, but it was most likely manufactured in the early 20th century. Because of their modest size, these were immensely popular during the Great Depression.

Continue reading our post to find out more about this cabinet’s past. Because of this, you’ll know if you’re getting a good price on an antique sewing cabinet when you read this article. Try to spend some time studying this little bit of American history.

What is a Martha Washington Sewing Cabinet?



The design of this sewing cabinet was unusual. You’ll discover most of them have three drawers in the middle and two spinning pockets on each side. This is the most common style, however there are several varieties.

It’s impossible to say for sure if Mrs. Washington had one. Supposedly, she had one where she could pull a chair up to and relax comfortably as she worked on her projects. Many other desks from the early twentieth century had rotating pockets, thus they weren’t unique to the Martha Washington sewing cabinet.

Flip-top lids can be used on the moveable pockets and the middle of the cabinet above the three drawers in certain other designs. The pockets did not appear to move when the lids were on top of them.

Mahogany was the most common wood used, with veneers of maple or a wood known as satinwood. It’s easy to see that these sewing tables and desks were meticulously crafted to last for almost a century.

There’s nothing wrong with having one as a conversation starter.

When Were Martha Washington Sewing Cabinets Made?

It’s impossible to determine for sure because so much of the past has been lost to the ages. Federal era between 1785 and 1810 saw the use of sewing tables, when females gathered to sew, write, and read in the company of others.

Martha Washington may have owned one of these sewing tables if she was a fan of the sewing hobby. Until the year 1824, this was the most common location. This cabinet was the first to bear the name Martha Washington, but the design has evolved slightly over time.

Furniture makers in the early 20th century needed to sell sewing cabinets at a lower price, which led to the creation of the Martha Washington sewing cabinet. It was popular during the Great Depression in the United States because they were frequently offered for less than ten dollars.

This places their construction between the years 1900 and 1939. A rumor has it that the sewing table Mrs. Washington is alleged to have used had no drawers. Sometime between 1850 and the outbreak of the American Civil War, the Martha Washington style of sewing cabinet may have gone out of production.

Reproductions of earlier designs from the 18th and 19th centuries inspired many of the 20th century’s creations.

History of Martha Washington Sewing Cabinet



An open shelf, two storage pockets, and no drawers in the centre were all that Martha Washington’s first sewing cabinet had to provide. Her death in 1802 meant she couldn’t use the style made famous by placing her name on a cabinet that wasn’t made until 1815.

Replicas of the 1815 Martha Washington sewing cabinet can be found all over the place. Original Martha Washington cabinet designs were changed during the reproduction years, thus each cabinet is slightly different from the others.

Both the originals and the reproductions were fashioned from different kinds of woods: walnut for the higher grade and some kind of fruitwood for the poorer quality.

White, one of the most well-known sewing businesses of the day, frequently incorporated Martha Washington-style sewing cabinets into their machines. As a result, they could create the best wood for their cabinets by owning their own forests in the past.

There are rumors that the Priscilla sewing cabinet replaced Martha Washington’s more expensive counterpart. Since its debut in the 1920s, this cabinet has been out of production.

Exactly when Martha Washington production ceased is unknown at this point. Some may still be created, although the quality may not be as high as it was in the early part of the 20th century.

Martha Washington Sewing Cabinet Manufacturers

This form of sewing cabinet was supposedly made by two different firms. The Sheets Manufacturing Company in Wapakoneta, Ohio, was the first.

At some point, this corporation relocated its factory to Botkins, Ohio, which is just a few miles away. This information can be found on a sticker that is affixed to the bottom of the cabinet.

In one picture, the number 234 appears to have been drawn in crayon, although this is inconclusive because the number might have been written at any point. Despite being labeled with the #380, another model remained unmarked. It’s difficult to tell if the Sheets companies are tied to the cabinet-making business that turned up in a search.

The same may be said for the Toledo, Ohio-based Cowan Manufacturing Company, which also built this sewing cabinet. Despite the lack of information, we are aware of only one reference to the company.

Either the Great Depression or World War II wiped away both enterprises, or they amalgamated with another firm and adopted its identity. It’s difficult to predict how vintage sewing machine companies will fare in the future. Records are destroyed by time.

Martha Washington Sewing Cabinet Uses



When it comes to Martha Washington sewing cabinets, there are a variety of ways you can use them. Sewing cabinets are the most obvious application for this piece. The side pockets can be used to store ongoing projects, while the main drawers can be used to store materials.

You could then use it as a sewing table by putting your sewing machine on top of it. There may be a need for an additional cabinet if the style does not include the two-pocket, three-drawer design.

A variety of picture frames, books, and other items have been employed as end tables for some designs. A family treasure was then placed in one of these bags by a different individual. Her great-grandfather had possessed this light at one time.

The right components and connections build a good television stand or entertainment center even without the legs. A bookshelf or maybe a mirror could be used in this space.

Just some ideas to get your creative juices going. To make things even better, these ideas don’t necessitate a complete overhaul of the cabinet’s appearance.

When it comes to keeping the cabinet in the family and not using it as a sewing machine, a little creative thinking can go a long way.

Martha Washington Sewing Table

Mrs. Washington is known to have been an avid knitter. A woman who liked to knit, not a sewer. She was so enamored with knitting that she would amuse guests even when they were not around by continuing to work on it.

Although her sewing cabinet does not have the same aesthetic as the ones that bear her name, a well-known brand can help sell things, and this is not a new tactic. If she didn’t like the label, we don’t know for sure if the label was given to the sewing cabinets while she was still living.

Her cabinet was a plain table with no drawers in the middle when records were accessed. Side pockets were removed to make room for a shelf that was otherwise left open. These shelves were protected by a fabric skirting.

The addition of drawers appears to be a more practical application. You will find that the depression-era replicas come in a range of forms, some of which are based on her sewing cabinet and some of which are not exactly identical.

That means you can choose a cabinet that you prefer and yet be a part of Martha Washington’s sewing cabinet legacy.

Martha Washington Sewing Cabinet Value



In the words of the Pawn Stars lead character, ‘people can fake anything’. And they do. This is why you need to be careful and make sure you are getting an actual depression-era Martha Washington sewing cabinet.

Pawn Stars’ main character says that “people can fake anything.” And they continue to do so. As a result, you should exercise caution while shopping for a Martha Washington sewing cabinet and confirm that it is authentic.

However, the value of a genuine Martha Washington sewing cabinet can vary widely. Depending on the condition of the item or the seller’s motivation, some sell for as little as $50.

Cabinets of superior quality, according to some, are worth about $500. However, that cabinet should be built of walnut or another high-grade hardwood. It’s also in excellent shape.

We’ve found that most of these cabinets can be had for between $200 and $250 on eBay and other sites, with some going for more than $100.

If you purchase low and sell high, you’ll have the best chance of success. The same idea can be applied to antique sewing cabinets as it is in the real estate market. To add to the value, you can always restore it to its previous brilliance.

But if you decide to do so, you’ll have to fork over at least $100. It’s possible it’s not worth it.

Finding a Martha Washington Sewing Cabinet for Sale

Let’s begin with the most common places where you can find one of these cabinets for a very reasonable price. When looking for a job, the classified ads are your best bet. If your local research fails, you can use Craigslist to broaden your search.

You can also check out estate, yard, and garage sales to see if there’s a used one in the area. You may beat the dealers to the punch, or you may miss one by a few minutes, using these possibilities.

Your local flea markets are also a good place to start. Vendors at flea markets, on the other hand, aren’t the kind of sellers you’d find at yard sales or similar events. You might expect to pay more because they usually know what they have and what it is worth.

And don’t forget about your grandparents or other elderly family members or friends. They might have something valuable in their homes that you don’t, or they might know someone who is looking to sell a Martha Washington cabinet.

You could also try antique shops as another option. A good piece of furniture is something they’re constantly on the lookout for. Going to one of these stores, however, will cost you more money. Those that own the object know its worth and will try to sell it at a price near to that value.

Finally, you can use the modern approach of searching for this sewing cabinet’s retailers. Both eBay and Etsy are now selling a number of them. At the time of this writing, there may have been 5 at the former location and 11 at the latter.

It’s also possible to inquire via email with other shops and businesses to see if they have one on hand. To put it another way: risk is rewarded.

Restoring An Old Cabinet



This is a good place to discuss Martha Washington sewing cabinets because they aren’t always in the best form. Typically, they require extensive repairs or a new finish to look as they did when they were new.

To restore an expensive, high-quality cabinet may not be worthwhile unless you intend to maintain and pass it down to future generations. The price tag might quickly mount.

Stripping a sewing cabinet might cost as little as $100 or as much as $175. The cost of finishing ranges from $375 to $825, depending on the complexity of the project. That’s only one company’s pricing model.

Shop around to see if you can obtain the same high-quality result at a lower price. If any of the wood needs to be fixed, the price to you will be adjustable. Alternatively, if the cabinet’s legs are missing and need to be replaced.

Having one in your basement or finding one at a yard sale is something to keep in mind. If you intend to patch it up and resell it, you won’t make as much money as you had thought.

Some Final Words

The sewing cabinet’s moniker elevates its status. They may not have been manufactured in the early 20th century if the reproductions weren’t referred to as such. The importance of brand familiarity cannot be overstated.

As a bonus, the Martha Washington sewing cabinet also has the added benefit of being a highly functional sewing storage solution. If you’re looking for a way to store a lot of stuff while keeping it all in order, this is the best option for you.

To get a good cabinet, opt for one made of walnut or some other high-end wood, such as cherry or mahogany. When preserved in good condition, these sewing cabinets are a piece of history that can elevate the decor of any home.



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