Saturday, January 16, 2016

Sewing Guild References

Sewing class, c. 1830s, from The Workwoman's Guide.
Artist's rendering of the proceedings.
(Or the frontispiece to the Workwoman's Guide.)

Here are links to some of the titles and fabric stores that came up during the Fort Nisqually Sewing Guild meeting on January 16.

The Dressmaker's Guide by Elizabeth Stewart Clark (for sale here) is the book that was being passed around and constantly referenced.  The sewing support forum is found at [Added: In the February meeting we discussed buttonholes.  Liz also has a tutorial on those here.]

Nancy and Tracy also had a lovely presentation of workbaskets and sewing tools.  Virginia Mescher's article "The Case of the Lost Thimble" has additional information on this topic, including pictures of period tools and notions.  The sewing accessory book that was mentioned is Anna Worden Bauersmith's Fanciful Utility.

The Workwoman's Guide (1838) is the period book that was brought up several times.  A reprinted edition is for sale in the Fort's gift shop or your preferred book retailer; electronic versions are available free on Internet Archives and Google Books (the 1838 version has the pattern "plates" set into the text, while the 1840 version has them all at the end).

Some other period needlework books which I have found interesting include:

The Ladies' self instructor in millinery and mantua making, embroidery and appliqué, canvas-work, knitting, netting, and crochet-work (1853) includes all the aforementioned subjects and then some. Unfortunately for us, the author devotes most of her descriptions to what materials to use rather than giving details on how to execute the stitches.  Images primarily are of embroidery designs, as well as a few fancy stitches.

The Ladies' Work Table Book (1850) is another cornucopia of needlework techniques; I believe much of the plain sewing section was lifted verbatim from this book for the above.  Of the two, I find this one easier to navigate, somehow.

The Girl's Own Toymaker (1860) features period instructions for doll clothes.  The author of The Ladies' Work Table Book opines that sewing doll clothes is the best training for sewing human clothing.

The Sampler by Lady Elizabeth Finch (1855) is a guidebook for school sewing instruction; it walks through cutting and stitching various basic garments.  It's an interesting peek into sewing and pedagogical methods of the time.

Method for Teaching Plain Needlework in Schools (1861) has fewer garment instructions than The Sampler, but does provide illustrations of the different exercises and "plain sewing" samplers.  It also aimed at the public school teacher, and discusses how to arrange and a conduct a sewing class.

Miss Leslie's Lady's House Book (1850) covers many topics, including some very readable sewing advice and instructions for a few basic garments like shirts and chemises.

Fabric Sources
There are some "local" shops carry useful fabrics--I like Nancy's Sewing Basket in Seattle for silks and fine cottons; Portland's Fabric Depot has a nice selection of reproduction cotton prints; the Pendleton Outlet near Oregon City has lovely wools.  Here are some on-line retailers as well:

Reproduction Fabrics. The website is divided by era, which makes it easier to find good prints.  To be foolproof, call the store: they can direct you to good fabrics for your year and project.

Hancock's of Paducah. Also has a large selection of reproduction prints, but they are all mixed together (18th-20th century). Be sure to check the dates on the fabric before ordering (or compare it to original samples).  They also currently have the best price I've found on white pimatex cotton (a really good fabric for undergarments).

Originals by Kay carries garment-appropriate fabrics intended for historical reproductions, including gorgeous silks and hard-to-source items like cotton and silk net.  The proprietress is also a historic costumer and pattern-maker, so if you explain your project, she may be able to suggest fabrics for it. carries white pima and occassionally has other fabrics suitable for period attire (I once found a fun sheer silk in the home dec department).

Fashion Fabrics Club has a variety of silk, wool, and fine cottons (some in period patterns, some not); their sales can be very good.

Dharma Trading Co caters to the dye market, and carries lots of beautiful materials like silk gauze and longstaple cottons.  Most of it is white, however.

Puresilks has gorgeous silk taffeta, which is an absolute dream to sew, and makes lovely evening gowns, fashionable day-wear, and accessories.  Satin, and brocade silks can also be period appropriate, though harder to work with, in my opinion. Do not buy silk dupioni for period use.

Wm Booth, Draper caters to the Revolutionary war crowd, but some of the fabrics can be used for mid-19th century as well.  Silks, wool, linen, and cottons--including that cotton velvet in my basque.

Lacis carries finer grades of cotton and silk fabric, as well as coutil for corsets.  Incidentally, this a good place to look for esoteric fiber craft supplies.

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