Saturday, 3 May 2014

Sewing Lessons in the 1950's

Quite a while ago I used to go to a ceramics painting class in the evening with a local ceramist.  We would pay for some bisque ware and paint it using different techniques and glaze.  Between sessions the teacher would fire them for us.  I painted quite a bit over a year but sadly had to stop going due to work commitments.
Anyway......there were 5 of us in total and one of the other ladies came to one session with an old school exercise book that she thought I might be interested in looking at.  In fact we all spent a long time look at it, passing it round and swapping stories of sewing at school.
You can see the book above and written in pencil on the front is the title Dressmaking 1954.
There is a school name but I can not read it.  I remember buying exercise books like these in red with all of these rules of measurements on the front, should have it on all school books now, I think.
Every page is filled with an intricately hand stitched sample covering a massive range of skills.  My eyes could not believe what they were seeing.  The opposite page in this case had details on how to create the sample shown above which are the French seam and Run and Fell seam.
Each sample is made on a light grey cotton fabric with red thread, which I think is ordinary cotton sewing thread which did use to be much thicker than the thread we have now.  I have a few vintage cotton reels upstairs which my sewing machine does not like.
Different ways to neaten a hem including binding my hand.  Sooooooo neat you can barely see the stitches.
There are many other seams but I thought that we would move on to the more pretty skills such as these Rouleau loops which are quite small and, again, very neatly stitched by hand.
A lovely sample in cream fabric, which made it quite hard to get a good picture, is Shell Edging on silk.  I have not seen this edging before and it is really very pretty, but some patience might be required!
This sample has so much in it.  Three variations of Froggart stitch, it says in the book, plus feather stitch but some close up pictures shows just how much skill has gone into this sample.
Very neatly created.
I think this is a lovely way to attach  separate pieces of fabric together, very delicate and I am not sure that I could create stitching as tiny as this.
Initials stitched in satin stitch.  I am ashamed to say that I have forgotten her last name.
Pockets in mini scale such as this side pocket sample.
Or this square patch pocket.
 I think I have left the most stunning sample last.
As a left hander and being taught how to do smocking by a right hander, I did find this technique a little tricky to master.  This sample however is soooooo detailed I really can not believe what I am looking at and I wonder how long it took to make.  Such tiny tiny pleats.
On the opposite page in the book  is a set if hand written instruction, which unfortunately did not show up clearly on my photograph so I decided not to put it here.
Close up of the middle section.  Sorry about the blur but my normal camera has broken so I am using another which is not set up for macro.
Another smocking sample in red gingham with a golden yellow thread, so neatly stitched on each row.
Well there you have it.........I left out many many other pages with more pockets, hems, pleats and gathers.  I know for a fact that my students would not want to learn any of this and I think others would feel that I had lost the plot if I asked them to.  A real pity as I feel that some traditional sewing is being lost and the skills shown in the lovely exercise book may not need to be done on a day to day basis but if I was ever asked to make a christening gown or decorate a bridesmaid dress many of these stitches would not look out of place or old fashioned at all.
Perhaps I should dig out my City and Guilds smocking samples and see if I can pick it up again or at least show my Textiles Club as I think they might wonder how it was done.
Are there any traditional skills that you were taught at school that you still do now or feel still has its place today?
Been a lovely sunny day today.  Enjoy the Bank Holiday in the UK and a lovely weekend to to all.


Julie said...

What an absolute treasure that book is. The smocking is exquisite!

Carol said...

Wow, that smocking is amazing! I remember my sister and I had pale blue Sunday dresses made which had smocked bodices ( in the 50's) . Loved them. Wonder if I have a photo anywhere, probably not.
Thank you for blog comment, I'm a terrible blogger, both reading and writing (many posts get written in my head but never appear on screen). I blame instagram!
Yes, I did turn the crochet hook case down further and it did work but I decided I prefer to keep my hooks in a tin, perhaps I now need to rehome the case.
Carol xx

Jill Eudaly said...

I have never seen samples like those. Our sewing classes in school were very basic. No stiches outside a straight seam. Sewing classes were never much fun in my school. I learned everything I know from my mom.

Ali said...

What an amazing piece of work. Do you know if it was completed in just one school year? My daughter wasn't interested in textiles at all so I don't know what happens in classes at school now. We just made a full garment when I was at school, there was no lessons on intricate details. Thanks for sharing this.
Ali xx

Annie @ knitsofacto said...

Wow! What a treasure. Those insertion stitches are beautifully done, and the mini pockets too.

I have an old needle work textbook that all these things in more in it, dated from the 1940s, I wonder if it's the same title the class teacher was guided through the then dressmaking curriculum by.

I have been doing some smocking on my dyed silks lately, although I've got nothing I'm happy to share yet.

Toffeeapple said...

That has certainly brought back memories for me. My Mother used to make my underwear and nightwear from offcuts of the wedding/bridesmaid's dresses that she used to make and my petticoats always had shell stitched edges. So my underclothes were always slippy satin.

Ma taught me how to enbroider and smock, as well as knitting. My aunt taught me to crochet.

My daughter has shown no interest in anything of that nature!

WendyCarole said...

oh wow what a treasure that is.
I never did get to grips with smocking but learnt many of the other stitches. Some at school in the 60s but most from my mum. She did the neatest herringbone stitch.

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