in september i found an amazing book (scroll down to the last book) at the red brick store, here in nauvoo, and promised to blog more about it: "The Workwoman's Guide By A Lady", published in 1838. it explains in great detail how to make anything needed for a family and household in 1838. i was thrilled to have it in my hands, and picked it up to read it every chance i got. but there were so many words, terms, phrases, references that i didn't understand. i needed a decoder. and i didn't know where to start. i needed help to be able to use it as i wanted to.
i found help in my new friend mary (also referenced in my last post). she knows more than anyone i've ever talked to about sewing in the 1830s & 40s. look at the authentic 1840s dolls that she makes. she is a wealth of knowledge and inspiration, and she helped me start to decode the book. AND start to sew.
pantaloons for gracie & mia on my 1850s era antique quilt.
this has been a pure delight! i made gracie's (on the bottom) completely by hand. and to my surprise, i loved every minute of the process. i have always loved hand work, but still thought that making clothing completely by hand sounded like a nightmare. i was wrong. i was inspired to try to make at least one thing completely by hand because i want to learn as much as possible about sewing in the 1840s, and there were no sewing machines then. what i discovered is that making an item completely by hand feels like picking up a lump of clay and forming it into something beautiful and useful with your hands. it feels wonderful. and so much more enjoyable than by machine. i could mold the fabric in my hands to do what i wanted, rather than needing an iron and lots of pins. and i love sitting and talking with my family as i sew, rather than being stuck behind a noisy sewing machine that separates me from them.
when i learned how to make japanese yukatas (cotton summer kimonos), i was amazed at how cleverly they were made to conserve fabric, and to last and last and continue being usable forever. with a system of tucks and pleats they can be let out and lengthened as a child grows. now i realize that my pioneer forebears were no less resourceful. they use tucks the same way. not only are they cute and decorative, they allow gracie to grow and grow and still wear the same pantaloons. if i were a very resourceful pioneer mother, i would make several pairs of the little pleated bottoms to button on and off of the pantaloons so that if the pantaloons are soiled, the cute little ankle pieces that show below the dress don't have to be laundered too.
i used the directions and drawings above to make "child's first drawers" for grace and "turkish trousers" for mia.
gracie's little pantaloons are open in the back.so cute! and i realized that i had authentic 1800s bone and shell buttons that i had collected during my antique quilt business, and even reproduction 1800s lace that i had found to use on the christmas stocking that i made from an 1800s cutter quilt, while in japan.
i made mia's (right) by machine, and i like them too. they have a neat, tidy appearance. but i love the soft rippling of the fabric created by the hand stitching on gracie's (left).
the book is a delight to read. i love reading almost anything written in the 1800s, because of the use of language:
"The Author of the following pages has been encouraged to hope, that, in placing them, after much deliberation, in the hands of a printer, she is tendering an important and acceptable, however humble, service to persons of her own sex, who, in any condition of life, are engaged, by duty, or inclination, in cutting out wearing apparel in a family, or for their poorer neighbors. She trusts, in particular, that Clergymen's Wives, Young Married Women, School-mistresses, and Ladies' Maids may find, in the "Workwoman's Guide" a fast and seviceable friend."
"Method shortens Labor"
"She stretcheth out her hand to the Poor - She looketh well to the ways of her Household. Provs 31 Ch"