Timeless Tips from Homemakers of the Past is an ongoing series highlighting useful and thought provoking tidbits from the generations of homemakers who have gone before us. Our goal at Sheep Among Wolves is to provide a forum for Good and Great literature, and to help you in your quest for godly, high-quality resources. It is our hope that these Timeless Tips will be an aid and encouragement to you as you strive to follow the example of Titus 2, and become a keeper of the home.
Virtuous womanhood has always been difficult to attain. Even in days when homemaking skills were valued and prized, it took determination and commitment for ladies to become godly wives and mothers. After all, the passage in Proverbs 31 which describes this ideal, begins: “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.”
So how can we educate our daughters to be godly, virtuous women? How can we choose curriculum which will help them reach this high, but precious standard?
Today’s Timeless Tip comes from Hand Sewing Lessons: A Graded Course for Schools and for the Home, by Sarah Ewell Krolik. It’s 1901 note To Mothers gives some powerful insights into teaching one of the foundational traits of a virtuous woman.
The Lost Art of Industry
“Sewing should become a part of every girl’s education, from childhood to womanhood; not only as a useful art to be practiced at home, but for its educational value. By this means skill and attention are developed, habits of industry are acquired, and a love is cultivated for other domestic arts, which are irksome only to those who have not had any kind of manual training.
“A prominent educator said that one of the future dangers of our country lies in the habit of idleness resulting from the one-sided education of the present day.”
It’s easy to launch out into resentment toward those who created the educational system to which this author is referring. But rather than blaming those of the past, let’s take this as a valuable insight into how we can give our children an education that will carry them through the rest of their lives.
Teaching Our Children to Love Industry
Sarah Krolik firmly believed, after fifteen years of experience as a sewing teacher, that handwork was a powerful tool to educate children in diligent habits.
“As a child can be taught to be generous by teaching it to give, it can be taught to be industrious by teaching it to work, if the teaching is begun early and the work is made attractive.”
In fact, so great is the emphasis which the author places on the importance of handwork, that she adds: “If [the child’s] needle is a rival to her books, so much the better. Books will have their time a little later, and she will be better prepared to devote herself to them then, for idleness will be irksome.”
Handwork and the Virtuous Woman
When you look at Proverbs 31, it is striking how often handwork is mentioned. The virtuous woman is described as
– Seeking wool and flax (vs. 13)
– Working willingly with her hands, (vs. 13)
– Laying her hands to the spindle, (vs. 19)
– Holding the distaff, (vs. 19)
– Not being afraid of the snow, because all her household are clothed with scarlet, (vs. 21)
– Making herself coverings of tapestry, ( vs. 22)
– Having clothing of silk and purple, (vs. 22)
– Making fine linen, and selling it, (vs. 24)
– Delivering girdles unto the merchant, (vs. 24)
All of this is in a manner summed up in verse 27:
“She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.”
Easy Ideas for Teaching Handwork
Here is a short list to give you some examples of handwork projects that are good for beginners. Any of these projects, except the cross stitch, may be done by machine, but all except that last item are also excellent for hand sewing. I’ve tried to rank this list in order of difficulty, but many factors such as the pattern you are using, the size of the project, and the talents of the individual sewer, may influence which articles are easier for which students.
- Pin Cushions
- Pot Holders
- Cross Stitch Kits
- Doll’s Quilts
- Quilted Placemats
- Doll’s Clothes
- Tiered Skirts made with strips of fabric, each strip being gathered, and sewed to the one above it.
- Clothing From Purchased Patterns (in order of general difficulty)
For further ideas, take a look at Needlework Without Specimens by Ellen P. Claydon and C. A. Claydon. This school needlework course from the early 1900’s contains 75 projects, divided into seven “standards,” and carrying the students from second or third grade, to eighth or ninth grade. While some of the patterns are difficult to use without adaptation, it is a great place to glean ideas and instructions for handwork projects to suit whatever stage of needlework your daughter is at.
How Does Handwork Teach Our Daughters to be Godly, Virtuous Women?
Handwork is virtuous for at least three reasons.
1) It provides useful clothing and household articles for our families.
2) It makes us less dependent on mass-produced products.
3) It encourages industry, and guards against idleness.
As we have discussed above, industry is such an important lesson, that sewing would be valuable even if it taught nothing else.
Including handwork in your school curriculum gives your children a wonderful advantage as they set out in life. As Sarah Krolik sums up her advice: “Mothers are amply repaid for their efforts, by the benefits which their daughters derive from domestic training in all the arts of home making, and sewing is a very important one.”
Unless otherwise referenced, the quotations in this article were taken from Hand Sewing Lessons: A Graded Course For Schools and For The Home, by Sarah Ewell Krolik.
For some hints on how to create a sewing box that will equip you to start as a seamstress, take a look at our previous post:
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This post may have been shared with the following linkups: The Art of Homemaking Mondays, Monday’s Musings, The Modest Mom, Titus 2 Tuesday, Tuesdays With A Twist, Homemaking Wednesdays, Wise Woman Linkup, Coffee and Conversation.
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