January 8, 1851



Jan 8th Wednesday

Made some cambric cuffs & collars and

starched & ironed some.  Worked on them most of the

day.  Jane ironed the coloured & coarse clothes

Head aches this evening trying to sew on fine work   gave

it up & went to reading a Thanksgiving story that

Mr Whitwell brought me to read.  Bought 25 cts worth Crackers

Settled with Sarah Ames she paid me for Cheese &c

Have been looking over my expense account  Pleasant

Evelina was an excellent needlewoman.  Like most women in the days before “ready-bought” apparel, she made her own clothes.  She made clothes for everyone in her family, in fact.  By. Hand.  No sewing machine was yet on the market; Isaac Singer and Elias Howe had each invented one but a drawn-out patent dispute was holding up its production.  By the advent of the Civil War, however, and the consequent need for mass production of uniforms, the sewing machine would come into its own, and the production of clothing would become an industry.  The three Ames sisters-in-law would eventually acquire a machine to share.

In the meanwhile, in the last decade before this change, Evelina sewed almost every day.  She occasionally relied on the help of a dressmaker – all the sisters-in-law did.  But Evelina easily made dresses, aprons, and underclothes for herself and her daughter, as well as work shirts and underclothes for her husband and sons.  Collars, handkerchiefs, sheets, linens and more were cut out, run together, fitted, taken up, untucked, hemmed, mended, refitted and re-mended.  The projects were endless, especially as the children were growing, but fortunately, sewing was an occupation that Evelina appeared to enjoy.  She spent more time at it than any other chore – certainly more than doing laundry, which she relegated to Jane McHanna, and probably more than cooking, which she typically undertook only when short-handed.  Sewing was her primary responsibility.

The “Pleasant” at the end of today’s entry describes Evelina’s take on the day’s weather, by the way, and not the prospect of looking over her expense account.  Other Ames diarists of this period followed the practice of describing the day’s weather, Old Oliver especially, but Oliver Jr, too.  Practiced agrarians, they all watched the sky.

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