September 2, 1851

Cloth

Tuesday Sept 2d  Again this morning sat down quite early to 

sewing for Oliver cut him out 5 dickeys & finished 

one that was cut last autumn.  Mrs Stevens stiched

2 of them.  Mrs Stevens Pauline & self passed the

afternoon with Mrs Witherell  The weather is

very unpleasant & cold and this evening it rains

hard

The northeast wind of yesterday brought no good weather with it.  The ladies stayed indoors and sewed clothes for Oliver (3), only breaking stride enough to move in the afternoon to the other part of the house to do more of the same. Most likely, Sarah Witherell sewed with them.

Evelina noted today that she worked on dickeys, or shirt fronts, for her son.  She finished one that she had cut out almost a year earlier, which begs the question: Where had she kept it all that time?  Where did she store the fabric, thread and trim for her multiple projects? She had a workbasket, certainly; any sewing woman in that time and place would have had one.  But a workbasket was just that, a basket, or a box.  It might hold a thimble, scissors, needles, a bodkin, an emery bag, plus “tapes, and buttons, and hooks and eyes, and darning cotton, and silk winders, and pins, and all sorts of things,* but it wouldn’t hold bolts of cloth or unfinished, flounced skirts. The yards of fabric and dickeys-in-progress, the aprons to be hemmed and the chemises to be sewn together, would be stored elsewhere. Where?

Perhaps Evelina had shelves in a corner closet to hold her projects, or maybe she laid claim to a particular chest of drawers in the sitting room. When she was working on large projects, such as the cover for the lounge she made earlier in the summer, perhaps the piece simply lay out in one of the rooms until completed. Was she tidy or messy? How did she manage? She may have wished for a room that could be just hers for her projects.  With that large family, and all the houseguests they welcomed, an extra room wasn’t likely to be available.

 

 

* Susan Warner, The Wide, Wide World, p. 40

 

 

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