April 16th Friday. Julia here again to day and we have
been to work on my dresses Mrs S Ames & Witherell
helped some time this afternoon and we have
got along nicely Hannah & Augusta called
Augusta brought her work and Hannah finished
Susans stocking. Susan has the other stocking about
half done. The first pair that she ever attempted to knit.
Stormy again to day.
The day before had rained “pritty fast” all day long, and today opened in much the same vein, with “snow squals + rain + a high wind.”*** The women stayed indoors and focused on fashion. Dressmaker Julia Mahoney came over to work on new outfits for Evelina. Sisters-in-law Sarah Ames and Sarah Witherell helped for a time, too, both of them as accomplished at sewing as Evelina. They all “got along nicely,” a phrase that suggests good progress was made on Evelina’s dresses, although the women’s sociability quotient was also probably pretty high.
Others joined the hum. Nieces-in-law Hannah Gilmore and Augusta Gilmore, a younger set of eyes and hands, arrived with work in hand. Hannah helped her little cousin, Susie Ames, knit a pair of stockings.
The sewing of new dresses – as opposed, say, to the mending of men’s shirt fronts – was the favorite expression of the women’s collective talent with needle and thread. As Winthrop Ames noted, “An immense amount of sewing went on in every family.”** We’ve certainly learned that from Evelina’s diary. In 1852, they still made their own dresses. “[T]he materials and trimmings, after much consultation about their style and quality, were made up in the house with the help of the town seamstress and pictures from the fashion magazines.”
Things would change. By the start of the Civil War, the Ames women began to have their dresses made up in Boston. But on this day in North Easton, needles flew.
*Image courtesy of nhdsewingmachine.weebly.com
** Winthrop Ames, The Ames Family of Easton, Massachusetts, p.126
*** Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tofias Collection