Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Sign of the Times

teaching sewing cover 5.1976 It seems to me that nearly every week I hear about a quilt or fabric shop closing. Not just here, but all over the country. Yet, I also keep hearing that fabric purchases for clothing are on the rise. More and more women and girls are making their own clothes. In fact, I received a phone call today from a woman asking where her 19 year old granddaughter could get sewing lessons, as she wanted to start her own business.

photo of my quilt, ca. 1900-1920 scrappy
The other common theme being discussed in quilting blogs, articles, and among quilters, is the Great Depression. No, not the one we are in, but the first one. With the GD comes history and the people's stories. Reading them I forget that we are in one ourselves. Nothing like the distraction being, well, the same thing as the problem you want to be distracted from!

So it wasn't a surprise when I came across two wonderful women's articles today on these topics. If you enjoy reading history of women's lives, read these and see if you feel yummy or ? If you don't like history, skip them because you won't feel yummy or distracted at all.

Great Depression Survivor:I worked for Shoes, by Kimberly Palmer "Everyone knows about patchwork3.1980 quilts which we used for bed covers. The tops of our quilts were made of scrap material left from my mother’s sewing projects. The patterns varied with the colors and sizes of the pieces. Patterns were obtained from relatives and neighbors-often copied from quilts or magazines. The tops were quilted by hand to muslin linings through cotton batting.

My mother made our night clothes from flannel for the winter, but we generally slept in old dresses or slips in warmer weather. We usually had about two or three dresses each for everyday and one for Sunday. I remember one time, I had gotten all my everyday dresses dirty and my mother allowed me to wear my Sunday to school on Monday which was wash day... As I was crossing the creek, I fell in and got my dress wet and muddy and I had to go back home. I missed school that day because I had nothing presentable to wear to school." U.S. News and World Report, Jan. 7, 2009

July 1979Life Before Shopping by Patricia McLaughlin "It's only in retrospect — now that it's over — that you begin to notice how odd it was that shopping, a task that played such a minor role in the lives of most Americans before World War II, should over the last half-century have so thoroughly captivated, saturated and finally remade American society, culture, values, habits and folkways in its own image....

I can't remember which sociologist pointed out that a big part of the modernizing of American households universally ballyhooed as progress in the late 1940s and 1950s — the washers and dryers and vacuum cleaners and ready-made clothes and store-bought cake mixes and canned goods and cellophane-wrapped cakes and cookies and loaves of airy sliced bread — boiled down to the de-skilling of housework. ...

Women whose mothers had been highly skilled producers of cakes and jams and quilts and clothing instead developed skills as competitive shoppers.

In retrospect, it seems like a bad bargain. Notice how much of the work women were "rescued" from in the 1950s — quilting, baking, knitting, cooking from scratch, growing vegetables — has found its way back into their lives relabeled as recreation." Read on to find out why she thinks.

McLaughlin's entire article is a yummy read. She supports her thesis well. I just couldn't get the Maytag repair man, sitting on his chair, out of my mind :)

I have a dozen or more "Olde Time Needlework Patterns and Designs" magazines for sale. Not necessarily those shown above. Email me for info and list of dates.


Barbara Strobel Lardon said...

I do believe we are going back to making clothes, bed quilts, and Victory Gardening! I am just glad my children are raised and out of the house as my grocery bills have never been higher and it is only the two of us and perhaps a weekend visitor.

Lucy Slaich said...

Kimberly Palmer's article made me recall my mother's description of her wardrobe for her 1-room grammar school, c. 1920: Two cotton dresses plus two pinafores. One dress/pinafore combination was worn on Monday and Wednesday, then aired on Tuesday and Thursday while the other was worn--and on Friday, all were examined and the cleanest selected to finish out the week. said...

I remember an experience back in the day -- My mother and I were at a department store trying on clothes. I put on a wrap-type dress with easy closures. My mother said to me, "That's a wonderful dress for shopping."
That day and comment is still vivid in my mind. There we were shopping and found a dress that would be perfect to go shopping in.

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