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Learning to Sew Then vs Now Part I The Early 1900s


*This is the first post in a series. I'm doing them chronologically from the early 20th century to the present day.

I don't know how you learned to sew but I learned a lot by osmosis as a child watching my mother and then in Junior High School in Home Economics class. Back then, in the 1970s, all the girls were required to take Home Economics in 8th grade and the boys were required to take Wood Shop. The class was divided into 2 parts. Part 1: cooking; Part 2: sewing. I was not a star at either one as reading/following instructions is not one of my strong points but, what I cooked was edible, and the dress that I made I wore. I consider that a success.

Before I was in school learning to sew, before my mother learned to sew in the 1950s, girls were learning to sew in school as well.

Learning to Sew in the Early 1900s

I am lucky enough to have ended up with a practice stitching notebook by Bertha (Charlene) Tucker from Wichita, Kansas. I did a Google search and found some information on when she was born and when she died. Bertha Tucker was born July 17, 1893, in Wichita, Kansas, and died at 96 on March 3, 1990. She had 2 younger sisters who would have attended the same schoolhouse as her. They would each have had their own composition notebook as well. As you can see, the hand stitching gets more complex as you go through the notebook.

The detail of the instructions and the precision of the stitching exercises do not, for the most part, look like it was done by a student learning how to do the stitch. I also found a newspaper clipping in the notebook that was a poem about the San Francisco earthquake further dating the book.

The following images are all from the same student's book.

French and Felled Seams

Such beautiful work she did as a child. I can only imagine the level that she rose to as an adult.

The above photos from the book include pleating, cuffs, mending holes, and finishing seams.

This machine is from when Bertha was in school creating this book. Of course, the chance that she had a machine like this one is pretty slim. This would have cost between $10.00 and $25.00. Which in today's dollars is $350 to $877. So, most families had hand-me-down or used machines if they had one at all.

Stay tuned for the next installment - Sewing Mannequins and Dolls. How WWII made them more popular.

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03 may 2023

A great read!

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02 may 2023

This is amazing! The details are incredible. My grandmother had a machine similar to the one pictured. My mother bought a White right after WWII and used until she passed away nearly 25 years ago. She bought others but always sold them and went back to the White.

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24 abr 2023
Obtuvo 5 de 5 estrellas.

How cool that you could find this! Thanks for sharing it.

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25 abr 2023
Contestando a

I was absolutely amazed when I was able to find her on Google!

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