Thursday, September 9, 2010

Postcard Friendship Friday - And Sew it Began

Birthplace of Elias Howe, Spencer MA

Postmark March 9 1908, Athol MA

Birthplace Of Elias Howe, Spencer MA

Postmark November 27, 1908

Elias Howe 1819-1867

Today in History marks the invention of Elias Howe's lock stitch sewing machine. Elias, who came from an old and very inventive New England family, received his patent on September 10, 1846. His was not the first sewing machine, but it gave the users locked stitches and allowed the material to enter the stitching area vertically rather than horizontally.

The Elias Howe Sewing Machine 9/10/1846

Elias Howe entered Spencer, MA at birth in 1819

The first postcard of Howe's birthplace was mailed from Athol, MA in 1908. The postcard above shows a bird's eye view of Athol and was also dated 1908!

The card was mailed to Woodsville, NH. The postcard above shows a bird's eye view of Woodsville dated 1908 as well!

Manufactured Shirtwaists - 1906

The sewing machine gave rise to economically priced, mass produced clothing. The postcard writers and receivers most likely wore mass produced shirtwaists similar to those shown in this picture dated 1906. The working class wore shirtwaists because they were affordable, while the upper class and suffragettes wore them because because they were stylish and comfortable and were a sign of of freedom from confining dresses and suits.

Sweatshop circa 1906

Sweatshops were not unique to the invention of the sewing machine. They had already existed in some form for hundreds of years. Like all sweatshops the conditions were deplorable: long hours, poor pay, unsafe, dirty and dusty conditions, and grueling, repetitious work. Many girls started working on their 14th birthday - this, after laws were enacted to keep children as young as 5 and 6 in school and out of the workplace. The tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire signaled the end of this slave type labor. Unions formed and oversaw working conditions, pay increases and safety issues.

Is There a Pattern Here?

Simplicity Pattern 5343 - 1963

Tissue paper patterns started showing up on the market during the depression so women who could afford to buy cloth could sew stylish clothing at home. Large families and those who actually enjoyed sewing continued to do so until well into the 70's. Most homes had a sewing room or at least a sewing corner. Sewing was taught in schools. Women's lib brought an end to the popularity and the necessity of home sewing - but, thankfully, not for those artistic souls who still create aprons for their granddaughters and quilts like their great grandmothers made. There are those who just enjoy the feel of fabric, love the sound of the interlocking thread needle and appreciate the satisfaction of basting and hemming colorful homemade beauty.

Most of my growing up clothes were homemade: matching mother and daughter skirts, First Communion dress and my Senior Prom and Graduation gowns.

I sewed some of my own clothing for my first job - mostly using patterns of 2 pieces or less, no zippers, no pockets and if I could have gotten away with no hem I would have done that too. Facing and darts were my nemesis. I made two skirts with the zipper on the wrong side. Whatever. I made a dress in HomeEc and outgrew it before it was even finished.

And sew it began and sew it continues.

Visit Beth at The Best Hearts are Crunchy for more Postcard Friendship Friday fun!


Snap said...

Fun and interesting post. I need to get my sewing machine out of hiding!!!!!!!! Happy PFF

Bob of Holland said...

What an inventive family. A very imaginative and interesting post with beautiful vintage postcards. Happy PFF.

Sheila said...

I love your chain of postcards! Sadly, sewing lessons used to my dread of the week. I wanted to sew left-handed and that caused all sorts of havoc.

Postcardy said...

Sew interesting.

I wasn't good at sewing perfectly straight, but it didn't really matter except in home ec class.

Life Goes On said...

Great posting thanks for sharing. I use to enjoy sewing as a teenager.

Beth Niquette said...

What a wonderful post! Such beautiful pictures, too--thank you for sharing!

Happy PFF!

Lyneen said...

Great post... love the history on the lock stitch... I learned to sew in school... oh so many years ago. Thanks for Sharing... Happy PFF