Sunday, January 25, 2009

1954 Singer Sewing Book

Editor's Note: A reader informed me that the authoress of this book was Mary Brooks Picken (can you believe I have never noticed that?) who wrote many books on sewing and fashion. 

I wanted to share this book I found at Goodwill many, many years ago. It has been one of my favorites, not only to get sound sewing advice out of, but to look back on another time.

I like the way people expressed things way back when. For instance, 

 "A chief delight in making one's own clothes is being able to find a delectable color or print--an irresistible one-- and using it to make a 'dream dress' so becoming that every wearing brings genuine happiness."

I could not have said it better!

On the third page of this book, there is a chapter entitled "To Sew Successfully." In it, there is advice for how to prepare to sew:

Mentally: "Approach the job with enthusiasm"
 "Never approach sewing with a sigh" 
"Never try to sew with the sink full of dishes or the bed unmade. When there are urgent housekeeping chores, do these first so your mind is free to enjoy your sewing." 
"You must want to make something lovely, to have the fun of putting pieces of fabric together, to make a garment, to handle the fabric with appreciation, to watch the beautify of the article grow as a result of your planning and effort." 

Physically: "When you sew, make yourself as attractive as possible. Go through a beauty ritual of orderliness. Have on a clean dress. Be sure your hands are clean, finger nails smooth...Keep a little bag of French chalk near your sewing machine where you can pick it up and dust your fingers at intervals.... Have your hair in order, powder and lipstick put on with care. Looking attractive is an important part of sewing, because if you are making something for yourself, you will try it on at intervals in front of your mirror, and you can hope for better results when you look your best."

Materially: "Assemble all the essentials you are going to need before you begin... An uncoordinated sewing experience is not conducive either to enjoyment or best results."

There were also suggestions for planning a sewing time: "Make an appointment with yourself to sew, just as you would with your hairdresser..." 
"On the days when you are sewing, make the dessert in the morning; plan a quick-to-get dinner..."
"If you must use the dining table or must clear the floor for a cutting surface, plan to cut several garments at one time."
"Save basting and handwork to do when a friend drops in and you want to visit, or when you want to listen to a favorite radio or TV show."
"Plan what you are to make ahead of time. Keep a notebook and jot down in it what finding or trimmings you need for each thing. Work out a recipe for each garment." (I especially like this idea!)

"Much happiness and benefit can be had from sewing if you plan what you will do..."

Another chapter entitled "A Room Of Her Own" talks about creating a sewing room. It may be a spare bedroom, or little-used den, or even a closet. Plans are made out here for a "Home Management Room" with a space for writing correspondence, dealing with bills, room for filing papers, and space for a typewriter. Book shelves for cookbooks and other references, a telephone center for "daily marketing" and a radio. "This is a room in which she can retire and carry on the business of running a household with at least some of the efficiency aids which a man has in his office to facilitate running his business." 
This room is also a sitting room, where friends can drop by and sit in a comfy chair while you sew and chat. 

There are instructions for how to turn a closet into a home management station--- and have space for the ironing board, dress form, fold-down table for cutting, little fold-down desk for typing, and all with a set of full-length mirrors so you can check the fit of your garment!

There are also suggestions for those with limited space, such as using a corner of the bedroom sectioned off with a decorative screen.

There is a chapter on "How To Bundle Your Sewing" that tells how to cut several garments at once, writing little notes to yourself to keep with the garment for sewing later, and rolling it or boxing it so it is ready when you are to sew. It is suggested that you can take up your sewing when you are listening to the radio or visiting with your family, when the neighbors come over, or you can take a box with you when you go visiting. 

(Rabbit trail: It must have been nice in the old days when ladies visited each other and brought their knitting, sewing, embroidery or even their bowl of apples to peel for a pie or peas to shell. I had this experience once with two old-time ladies in their 80's, one from the Texas Panhandle and one from Arkansas. They invited me over to help peel apples for pies, and they made the crusts talked. They said this is the way things were done in the old days. Now we get to do it by ourselves...) 

A stern paragraph teaches that "If women are to enjoy the luxury of time, they must learn to save their time in their homemaking tasks, especially if they are to make space for sewing. There was a period when the housewife spent the entire morning washing dishes and making the beds. We are now less indulgent with our chores. We pick up as we go and aim to get the housekeeping tasks done in the minimum of time, even though this requires concentrated effort." 

And for those who may think that this is all really dumb, there is the authority of Psychiatry in the chapter on making clothing for children: "The psychiatrists say that ugly dresses have caused more complexes than have 'prettier sisters' or 'scolding mothers.'" Yikes!

Besides all of this already useful advice, there are instructions for all types of sewing techniques, suggestions for making gifts, mending, how to take care of your sewing machine, what you can do with all the different presser feet, home decor advice, hand-sewing techniques, patchwork quilting, and more. 

 Although I am not fond of all the styles and colors used in the book, I like the way they show examples of how to use simple stitches to embellish and trim clothing and household items. 

Oh, but I like the capelet on the coat in the center left bottom of this page! That one can come back into style!
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