17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:
Friday, August 9, 1912: We had sort of s sewing bee here today. Besse was out and brought some of her stuff along.
Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:
Besse was Grandma’s oldest sister. She was married and lived in nearby Watsontown. Was Grandma’s mother making buttonholes during the sewing bee?
Three days prior to this post, Grandma wrote that her mother was making her a dress for school, and I posted hundred-year-old drawings of dresses with lots of buttons.
Several readers commented that it would have been difficult to make a dress with that many buttonholes. One reader noted that people didn’t need to make buttonholes by hand a hundred years ago because treadle sewing machines had an attachment that made them.
But, in case, if you ever want to make them by hand, here are the directions from a hundred-year-old book:
A well-made garment that is otherwise perfect may be greatly injured in appearance by badly made buttonholes. They should always be properly spaced and marked before they are cut.
Mark the points for the top and bottom buttonholes, and divide the distance between these two points into the desired number of spaces. The slit must be cut on the thread of the goods, if possible, and must be large enough to allow the button to slip through easily.
With the buttonhole scissors carefully test the length of the slit and make a clean cut with one movement of the scissors.
Barred buttonholes are used for underwear, waists and shirts. To make the buttonhole bring the needle up at one end of the buttonhole, and, allowing the thread to lie along the edge of the cut on the right side of the material, stick down at the opposite end.
Do the same on the other side of the cut and stick down opposite the first stitch, with a stitch across the end to fasten the thread. If the material is inclined to fray, the edges may be overcast before working the button holes.
Begin to work the buttonhole close to the corner or starting-point. Insert the needle, and while it is pointing toward you, bring the double thread as it hangs from the eye of the needle around to the left under the needle. Draw the needle through the loop, letting the tread form a purl exactly on the edge of the slit.
Continue these stitches to the opposite end, being careful to make them the same depth and close together. Now pass the needle up and down through the goods until two or three threads cross the end of the slit quite close to the button hole stitches, thus forming a bar tack.
At the end, turn the work around so that the bar end is toward you and make several buttonhole stitches over the bar tack and through the material. Work the other side of the button hole and the second bar.
The Dressmaker (1911) by The Butterick Publishing Company