Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Learn to sew like it's 1889: from a vintage Home Journal


I would like to make a practical suggestion, and tell exactly how I made of my own little girl an accomplished needlewoman. I commenced when she was eight years old by cutting and planning her doll's plain clothes for her, such as skirts and aprons, making myself the more particular things, such as dresses, drawers, sacques and bonnets. I taught her to hem, fell, overseam and gather. Early in life she learned that no really first class seamstress ever finished the making of a set of undergarments with uncovered seams. She was taught, as a little girl once said, to "gather like a lady," and always to use a double thread.

When her gathering had been finished, I taught her to lay gathers without the aid of pin or needle. I find many ladies who still adhere to the old time custom of "stroking" them, which is tedious and often injurious to fine, thin goods. For those who do not understand this particular "knack" I will explain. When the apron, or other garment, as the case may lie, has been gathered, draw up the thread as tightly as possible, stick in the needle and wrap the thread around it to prevent slipping. Now take the gathers in the left hand between the thumb and forefinger, and with the thumb and forefinger of the right hand, pull tightly over the nail of the forefinger of the left hand, and if done according to directions, beautifully laid gathers will be the result. In this, as in everything else, "practice makes perfect."

For a number of years this little maid has taken upon herself the making of the pillow cases for "Papa's" night pillow, and receives for her work, from the aforesaid "Papa," a little money consideration, and from her "Mamma" a great deal of praise for well executed work. I cut and baste them for her, she then overhands them, hems and finally puts on the finishing touches in the shape of neatly worked buttonholes. A pillow case, by the way, is an excellent article to commence your instruction on, as it embraces the most important kinds of sewing, and is plain, straight work throughout.

When she was proficient in plain sewing I taught her to darn, first of all giving her a gay bright darning bag, to hold her unmended hosiery. This bag was supplied with embroidered flannel leaves containing some long slender needles. The pocket held a pair of scissors, thimble, cards of black, brown, navy blue and white darning cotton. This pretty bag I gave her when she was ready for her first lesson, with the request that when her work was finished the cotton, scissors and thimble should be put in the pocket, the needles in the leaves, and the bag hung on its proper hook. I gave her her first lesson on a pair of stockings very little worn. Seating her at my side I showed her how to go back and forth with her darning needle, until the hole was covered, then to cross it, weaving in and out until a smooth, flat surface was the result....

After she was thoroughly up in the rudiments of sewing she was encouraged to do some fancy work, which, from her knowledge of plain, prosaic work, will bear the scrutiny of close attention much better than if she had been allowed to commence with the ornamental first. At fifteen she is nearly as fond of her dolls as at eight, and so proficient has she become in the art of sewing, that she can make from a Parisian hat down to a pair of well shaped crocheted bootees.

It was not always "clear sailing" in these lessons of ours, little tempests sometimes arose that seemed likely to upset the frail bark, the thread would snarl or break at the most inopportune times, a pucker would sometimes appear in the heel of the stocking, but patience and perseverance, those wonderful elements of success, finally conquered. --Annie Curd.

From Ladies' home journal and practical housekeeper, Volumes 5-6, July 1889

1 comment:

Naomi said...

This is just lovely! And making me re-think my teaching methods of handcrafts entirely.