Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Needlecraft Magazine 1923

We may think we're all very crafty these days, but we're rank amateurs compared to those young women who lived between about 1880 and 1940. This was the time when a lot of women had been freed from the most appalling of the housekeeping drudgery by the innovations that followed the Industrial Revolution – like gas or electric stoves and free-flowing hot water for all.

They were also beginning to trickle into the workforce, so they had a little money, and some of them even lived in their own places for a few years before marriage. As new wives, many had a little bit of pocket money and leisure, and they wanted to make their families' homes and wardrobes lovely (as who doesn't?), so they indulged in all kinds of ambitious and purely decorative needlework of a kind that in earlier centuries had been available only to the wealthy.

The cover of this issue of Needlecraft Magazine of October 1923 illustrates "A Bewitching Bedroom-Set in Embroidered Applique", featuring curtains, a bedspread and a bolster cover (which, of course, one made oneself) worked in an Art Deco pattern showing a basket of California poppies.

The patterns (iron-on or perforated for stamping on guide marks) were available by mail for between 25 and 40 cents, or you could buy prestamped fabric to make the various items for between $1 and $3.70. "All in all, a decoration prettier to look at and simpler to do cannot well be imagined," enthuses Nina L. Willis, author of the article describing the project. Just shows what people were able to accomplish in the days before television!

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