June 30, 2013

When Thimbles Ruled

After having acquired an old Singer sewing machine (see previous post) I decided to continue in this historical vein and tell you about a book I acquired from my bookseller friend (Garrison House Books or her blog).
The cover is a bit bland but it has real charm inside.
The book was published in 1913 by the Butterick Publishing Co. which was housed in the Butterick Building in New York. Wonder if the building still exists.
The book is written for the teacher and not a step-by-step for the student. 

 Thimbles are my thing and they are used but not pictured. There is NO machine sewing anywhere in all the projects right up to a middy blouse at the end. I am throwing a picture in here just for interest. Beneath it is the detailed 11 step and repeat thimble exercise!

In the supplies for your sewing outfit it suggests an aluminum thimble because they are light and inexpensive. "Colored thimbles are pretty, and children like them. Silver thimbles are nice, of course, but children outgrow them, so that there is very little point in getting them." So these little ladies were expected to start quite early.
 Click HERE if you missed out on my earlier post about my first thimble.

She's not in the book but isn't this ad image from THE GRAPHICS FAIRY sweet? I don't think they started THIS young!
Methods (for the teacher)
"Always remember the never-ending patience which it is necessary to use with the dull-witted, awkward child. Some time this patience may be rewarded with a result showing some degree of success."  Is this PC?
Miniature clothes
"These small garments are an excellent preparation for the making of full size clothes in the upper grades. "

There are instuction for making a baby cap from paper and then using the folded paper as a pattern for a one made of "fine lawn".  Great for the unwed mother! We go right from dolls to real babies.
The book continues with gussets, bias edges, tucks and mending.

The best feature of this book are the beautiful line drawings of the sweetest young ladies of the early 20th century. I used one of them to create THIS.
I shared these with Karen at THE GRAPHICS FAIRY and she has posted two of them for you to use. Click HERE and HERE.
The book ends with the middy blouse that you see when you click on the first HERE in the previous sentence.
Helpfully the text suggests:
"For the Summer for play dresses or for gymnasium suits the middy blouse is frequently made with a short sleeve. For colder weather and for school, the long sleeve blouse is more practical and comfortable than the one with the short sleeve.”
So who has ever sewn any more than a hem by hand? Could you complete a whole garment that wouldn't fall apart the first time it was washed?


  1. I think my sister's home ec teacher was trained with that book! My mom as a home ec major at Ohio State in the 30's. She was way more progressive. She was pretty adament about basting before machine sewing anything tricky like sleeves and zippers. She always used a thimble. I never used a thimble, and rarely ever baste, and often don't even pin!

  2. Wow. I can't believe they drilled in how to use a thimble. I have a 1940's sewing book w/ a chapter on teaching girls to sew and it starts off warning the teacher (mother) against making the girl learn to sew everything by hand first or using other Victorian teaching techniques because "modern girls" want to use modern techniques including machines. I've never sewn an entire garment by hand; not sure that I could. My fore-mothers would probably think I'm a terribly sloppy seamstress.

  3. The bookseller loved it! Though I wouldn't even know what finger to put the thimble ON, much less what to do with it when I got it there, I greatly enjoyed his post. The pictures are very sweet -- I do like them. But you're right -- not too PC there with the text!

  4. On trousers I sew only the side and inseams and the large pocket pieces by machine. All the other work I do by hand. That includes the fly, the fork and seat seam; the waistband, belt loops (if necessary), buttons and the finishing of the hems with kick-tapes.

    IMO fighting with finicky shaped seams under the presser foot is a lot more difficult than hand-sewing.

  5. Okay, I admit it. I've sewn an entire garment by hand. It did not fall apart the moment I laundered it. But it was a challenge I set for myself. I made a full bustled petticoat for my 1880's travelling gown that I wear for our outdoor cowboy fast draw events (a shooting sport). I sew mostly pre-20's clothing since those styles look best on my figure and fit my personal style/taste of steam punk/early diesel punk. A lot of the best parts of the styling are hand sewn, and now that my kids are all grown and my husband just laughs kindly and tells me to wear what I want.... that's what I'm doing.

    And no that was not especially PC... but come on, we've all attempted to teach someone who just was not coordinated enough to accomplish it and have wanted to say it.