Monday, October 15, 2012

A Peek Inside: When Mother Lets Us Sew

When we're big enough to sew,
Why, then we're growing up, you know!
~ Virginia Ralston

When searching for a quote for one of my posts recently, I came across a reference to a book written by Virginia Ralston in 1910, titled "When Mother Lets Us Sew."  

I was enchanted by the notion of a sewing book for children written over 100 years ago.  

I must admit that I was also wondering how much children have changed in these last 100 years, as the quote seemed to suggest that helping Mother mend was a young girl's idea of paradise back then!  ;)

So, there was no help for it - I had to order a copy of the book for myself.  

It was full of delightful illustrations like this one - showing the proper way to sit when sewing:

Early sections focus on threading the needle and doing a handful of basic stitches:  

And then I discovered that - as is so often the case - the quote I had found on the internet was taken out of context.  The primary motivation of the book is NOT to help Mother work her way through patching holes and replacing buttons on the family's clothes...  

The real purpose for little girls learning how to sew in 1910?  

To make clothes for their dollies!  :)

Much of the rest of the book takes the young reader through a series of increasingly complicated patterns to outfit her doll in a complete wardrobe.  

It starts with undergarments - the top:  

... and panties:   

Special techniques, like how to make a placket, are introduced as needed:  

There are night clothes:  

And a beautiful, pleated frock!  

Measuring the doll:  

The frock pattern:  

"Arabella" modeling her new frock:  

Based on the sketches throughout the book, kittens were as much a part of sewing 100 years ago as they are today!  

There are other garments - a mantle, for example - and the book is filled with cute little poems:  

One of the many things that I love about sewing is the way it makes me feel connected to  women from hundreds of years ago.  So much is the same - working with our hands to clothe the people we love - expressing ourselves through the colors, textures and pattern details that we choose - and even many of the basic stitches and techniques that we use...  

This book stands rooted firmly in a past era and yet clearly shows our close connection to those women...  :)


  1. How delightful! I love the last quote...
    When I'm a grown up-woman,
    With my hair up on my head,
    I'll sit up and sew 'till very late
    And never go to bed!

    BTDT!!! Lol!

    1. Hi Lisa!
      I know - I've BTDT too many times too! ;)
      The whole book is really precious... :)