Tuesday, May 24, 2016

SEWING CLASS; 1919; by J. W. M.

Dear Friends:

On a hot June afternoon, a few mothers and daughters came to the ranch at my invitation, to consult about a sewing class which I had offered to carry on for the girls of the community. The two youngest who wished to join, were five and seven years old and had never held a needle or used a thimble. The two oldest had sewed quite a bit on their mother's machine but almost none by hand.

The sewing bulletins given us at the county adviser's office say quite emphatically, "have the meetings short." These girls came a mile or more through rain or shine so we could not afford to have too short sessions. We met at three o'clock, sewed an hour, then stopped for a recess of fun.

The first day, the girls dropped their sewing any where and any how. When they returned later, to the table under the trees to sew, I said pleasantly, "Girls! What's the matter here? What's wrong?" They looked around and one face after another began to look sheepish. The sewing was either in little mussy heaps or sprawled over the chairs or on the ground. The lesson went home with no further words from me. Also at the end of that first lesson, I asked how many would come next time with clean finger nails. These little lessons on the side I consider among the most important.

To return to the recess time, after an hour's lesson the girls ran and played. That first day they took turns riding the Shetland pony whose pasture field is the big yard.

Other afternoons the recreation quarter-hour was spent climbing the low-branched birch trees or dressing the dollies. Always they returned rosy-cheeked and cheerful for another hour's work.

On that first day, I told the mothers and girls in simple story form of early ways of weaving, of the time when people had no needles and no machines; of looms and warp and woof; of Indian rugs, and so forth, and brought it all down to the present time. It was not hard to hold the attention of the girls who sat open-mouthed but many of the mothers would whisper to each other, "Have you weaned the baby yet?" or "Isn't this weather awful to sour milk?" Their minds had been so long running in the rut of cooking and children only, that they could scarcely concentrate on outside subjects of interest.

One afternoon I showed the girls samples of different weaves, goods, textures and dyes.

The simple garments made by the girls, of course, did not amount to much as garments but their coming together was a character-forming influence.

During July, I, their leader, was away. In spite of hot days and busy hours, these girls came together at the call of their girl President. They had each bought muslin and with some help from a mother, each one had made a nightgown. The gown and the making of it were of less importance than their other training. For example: I asked each one to rip off the neck facing and let me show them the correct way to put it on. With no exception they cheerfully complied, although it took more than one long hot afternoon for some to complete the job. To undo the work they had done was a test of patience and good nature and trust in their leader.

These garments went to the County Fair. They received no blue ribbons nor honorable mention. The premiums will be realized in characters of the future.