Friday, May 29, 2020

Sewing by Hand

Do you do much hand sewing? In between trying to finish up some Dear Jane triangles (by machine), I'm working on hand quilting a few small quilts. There's quite a backlog. It's very enjoyable for me and even though the quilts are small, the going is slow. As I was sewing yesterday,  I was reminded of the exhibit on Civil War dresses I saw a few summers ago. When I pick up my needle, I cannot help but think about the amount of hand sewing that went on during that era. How in the world did they do so much of it? 

Many of the dresses that were on display were sewn with exquisite stitches. By HAND. Including the fancy trim, piping, pleating.

By the mid-nineteenth century, some households had treadle sewing machines, but not all families could afford one. In my book Remembering Adelia, Adelia Thomas noted in her 1861 diary that her family was lucky enough to have a treadle machine. At times. some of the local women would come over for the day to sew on it. 

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Here are a few more entries from Adelia's diary -

July 29, 1861

The anniversary of my nineteenth birthday! Worked all the day till three o'clock then sewed on my basque—seems as though I should never get it done. 

[Note: A basque was a form-fitting jacket or bodice perhaps worn over a hoop skirt. Some references I found say it was a corset. Imagine having to make your own corset!]

Aug 5, 1861

Emma's seventeenth birthday. Anna and I did quite a large washing. Mother helped to wash the colored clothes. Cut the little girls some purple calico dresses.

 Aug 8, 1861

Washed three calico dresses for myself and one for Em. Got dinner and after the work was done sewed on some embroidery. Finished the girls' dresses and cut out two night dresses for Mother and myself.

Aug 20

Sewed on Mother's dress. 

Aug 24

Slept until eight o'clock then sewed on Mother's dress and almost finished it.

You can see that sewing was pretty much a daily chore among all the other household chores that needed to be finished. My goodness. How lucky we are today. The little bit of hand sewing I do is so pleasurable. I would be very stressed if I had to make clothes for myself and the family too - wouldn't you?

Remembering Adelia has always been a special book to me and it is now out of print.  You can still find copies in some places but the prices are usually ridiculous. You can purchase an e-book version here from my publisher.

During earlier centuries, some women earned their keep by sewing and did piecework for a living. There were few work options for women in general and poor or widowed women took on needlework, millinery, dressmaking or shirtmaking in order to earn ridiculously low wages. 

Here's a poem I ran across written in honor of Mrs Biddell, a poor widow and seamstress living in England under wretched conditions - 

With fingers weary and worn,
With eyelids heavy and red,
A woman sat in unwomanly rags,
Plying her needle and thread -

Stitch! stitch! stitch!
In poverty, hunger and dirt,
And still with a voice of dolorous pitch
She sang the "Song of the Shirt."

The Song of the Shirt  by Thomas Hood, 1843

Thank goodness for the advent of the sewing machine is all I can say . . . . And the fact that my husband sewed a button on his own shirt last week. Gives me more time to enjoy my hand sewing.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, May 22, 2020

Keeping Busy

I'm a little late in posting this, but  - we're done! The final clue was given for the 2020 Mystery Quilt earlier this month.

The borders were added, applique finished and I hope to hand quilt it when I have time. It's definitely a different look for me and I had fun trying something new and putting it all together. The applique was easy and very relaxing.  

This is the fourth Mystery Quilt I've designed for my groups.  The monthly patterns will remain in the group files and up on my website (under Mystery Quilt) until the end of the year so if you didn't choose to participate in January - May, you can still download the patterns until then. I hope you had a little fun making the blocks every month.


The challenge quilt for this month in my groups is to make the pink and brown Shoo Fly doll quilt from my book The Civil War Sewing Circle. You can make it in any colors you like.


I've been keeping busy with a few larger projects and have also recently gotten back to making triangles for my Dear Jane quilt. They're not especially difficult if you use the DJ software and print out the paper piecing patterns. They just take me a long time. 

Antique-looking samplers are fun quilts and even though I don't always have time to work on this one as much as I'd like, it's still something I find I can pick up in between other projects. I'm trying to focus on it a little more now while staying home so hopefully there will be some progress made. 

I still really love this quilt and the stories surrounding it  -  Jane Stickle made or finished her unique sampler quilt comprised of 225 blocks and triangles in 1863 during one of the the most turbulent times in American history, the Civil War. The assumption is that this was a project that gave her a creative outlet and something to focus on during the time the war was raging. Here's an article about Jane's quilt that I think some of you will find interesting. 

I have to say I've learned a lot from working on this quilt over the past 10 years (!). Most importantly, patience and persistence. I think you have to have seen some of these finished "Jane" quilts in person or the original quilt in order to be truly inspired to make one yourself. Pictures don't do it justice.  I'm awfully glad I took the challenge back in 2010 and then stuck with it. And also glad that I was lucky enough to see the quilt up close on display at the Bennington Museum a few years ago. An unforgettable experience for a quilter in love with antique quilts.

I think what I have the most fun with is picking through all of my fabrics - some old, some new - to make the blocks. This quilt will be like a catalog of some of my favorite reproduction prints. I'm still working on putting all of my blocks together with the sashing. My goal for the rest of this year.

I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep . . . .

Have a good weekend, all! I received a photo of the cover for my new book, which should be coming out in October. I'm waiting to show you until it's posted on Amazon or the Martingale website with a little more info. Soon! I know you're going to love it. I will keep you posted.