Did Some Sewing

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, July 24, 1913:  Did some sewing today.


Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Hmm. . . “Sewing”  is such a general term.  Did Grandma do it by hand or did she use a treadle sewing machine? What kind of sewing did she do?

Mending? . . .  or Patching?


Source; The Dressmaker (Butterick Publishing Company, 1911)

Sewing a new dress?


Source: Ladies Home Journal (June, 1912)


25 Responses

  1. You’re right: it could have been handwork or by machine. I’m fortunate to have the old Singer treadle machine that has been in my family for years!

    • You are so fortunate. I can remember that Grandma had a treadle machine in her attic when I was a child. I have no idea what ever happened to it.

  2. Words contain so much – and so little – at the same time!

  3. That is a beautiful singer, Sheryl, is it yours? I really admire those sewig and handcrafting skill from earlier times. But sometimes I wonder what live would have been for those less talented? How would their wardrobe look?

    • Unfortunately it’s not my Singer. I wish that I had one like it.

      You’re right–some people probably were much more talented than others at making clothes and they probably looked much more “polished” than those who were less skilled. I tend to have two thumbs when it comes to sewing–thank goodness I can just go to the store and buy lovely outfits.

  4. My mother had a sewing machine exactly like the one in the picture.

  5. I love the embroidery flowers.

  6. I love the old textiles and everything related! What a great machine in that photo!

  7. My mother tried teaching me to sew on one of those old treadle Singers! Boy, memories! :)

  8. I wonder if she did have one of those wonderful old treadle machines? Or we could picture her sitting with her sisters, like in a Jane Austen book, mending or doing their embroidery together, as they gossiped about the latest events of the town. Either way, it’s a lovely old-time image. :)

    • I can remember Grandma having a treadle machine in her attic when she was an older woman. I don’t know for sure whether her family had one when she was writing this diary–though there have been several diary entries where Grandma wrote about her mother making a dress, so I’d guess that they had one.

  9. This brings back some nice memories. My Grandma did a lot of embroidery and sewing. My Mom and Sister also would sew a lot when I was young.

  10. I love this post! Both my grandmothers had Singers like that, and both taught me to sew, and embroider. (Not to mention knit, crochet, bake and clean….)

  11. I wonder? Probably wasn’t an easy job on one of those treadle machines. I was given one as a birthday gift from my ex-husband. But when we divorce it just reminded me of him so I sold it. They’re really cute though.

    • I’d have gotten rid of it, too. Some items get attached in our memories to certain people, and it’s impossible to see the item without thinking of that person.

  12. I don’t think I would have wanted to make all the buttonholes in that dress!

  13. *sigh* Wish I could sew. I bet 18 year-old Helena would find it weird that a lot of teens nowadays can’t sew. Seems like most women (and men, for that matter) of the early 1900s knew at least the basics.

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