Sewing Projects from the Past

Sewing Projects from the Past
As acquired knowledge individual sewing was once a practical necessity and important skill, however, today is enjoyed as art and craft by textile artists and hobbyists alike. With the advent of mechanized, mass marketing of clothing and goods, it is easy to forget that sewing was once a time-honored tradition.

A few sewing traditions are delightful to reminisce about and perhaps attempt to reproduce. Victorian sewing boxes, tomato pincushions, and stenciling, also known in past times as theorem painting, are just a few.

Victorian Sewing Boxes – it was customary for women in Victorian times to keep sewing notions in a small fabric covered sewing box that would easily fit in the hand. Pins and needles worked into a small scrap of wool, hooks and eyes, tiny buttons and small scissors were often the items most needed for darning, embroidery and minor clothing repairs. Traditionally the sewing box was made from three same-size fabric covered oval cardboard sections with pointed ends. The sewing box's three oval sides were whip-stitched one side of an oval to another to form a 3-D oval box like shape. A ribbon tie was used for closure at the center top. The box opens easily when the pointed ends are gently pressed together. To reproduce this charming portable sewing notion, flexible plastic can also be used in place of cardboard cut from a butter or margarine tub. These sewing boxes may be known today as a clamshell pinch purse, coin purse or thimble pip (keeper).

Tomato Pin Cushions – more than a utilitarian sewing notion, the iconic red tomato pincushion with an attached emery filled strawberry was traditionally pieced from fabric scraps. There were highly prized and displayed in Victorian times over the fireplace mantel to ensure prosperity and good health. The strawberry attachment was filled with emery and was used to clean and sharpen very valuable steel needles and pins. The tomato pin cushion is easy to make, with or without the little strawberry companion. Made out of scraps of velveteen or velour, of any color or fabric on hand, by cutting a rectangular shape, on the bias is best, sew the short ends together to form a tube, tightly gather one open end with a running stitch. Stuff with poly fiberfill, tightly gather and close. Using pearl cotton or embroidery floss, encircle the shape several times to make sections. Add a leaf shape or star shape cut from felt to sew or glue to the top to finish.

Stenciled linens – stenciling became very popular as an inexpensive means of decoration for walls, floors, furniture, and household linens in the early 1800’s. Bed and table coverings were especially popular for stenciling using fast-drying pigments for paints. Plain surfaced cotton fabrics, pre-washed to remove any sizing, dried and pressed work best to receive a stencil today. Mark a guideline along a fabric edge with a fabric-marking pen with ink that disappears when dampened or heat applied to position a repeating stencil uniformly. Traditionally leaves, flowers and fruits were popular motifs found as borders on plain linen tablecloths, kitchen curtains and pillow shams.

Sew happy, sew inspired.

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