How To Sew Successfully


I was reminded the other day of some great advice contained in The Singer Sewing Book of the early 1950’s.  So, for those of you who haven’t quite got it together yet, pay attention now as Mary Brooks Picken explains, in her characteristic style, how to sew successfully …

Prepare yourself mentally for sewing … Approach the job with enthusiasm.  You must want to make something lovely, to have the fun of putting pieces of fabric together, to make a garment, to handle the fabric with appreciation, to watch the beauty of the article grow as a result of your planning and effort.

Never approach sewing with a sigh or lackadaisically.  Good results are difficult when indifference predominates.  Never try to sew with the sink full of dishes or beds unmade.  When there are urgent housekeeping chores, do these first so that your mind is free to enjoy your sewing.

When you sew, make yourself as attractive as possible.  Go through a beauty ritual of orderliness.  Have on a clean dress … Have your hair in order, powder and lipstick put on with care.  Looking attractive is a very important part of sewing, because if you are making something for yourself, you will try it on at intervals in front of your mirror, and you can hope for better results when you look your best.

Keep a little bag full of French chalk near your sewing machine where you can pick it up and dust your fingers at intervals.  This not only absorbs the moisture on your fingers. but helps keep your work clean.

Again, sewing must be approached with the idea that you are going to enjoy it, and if you are constantly fearful that a visitor will drop in or your husband come home and you will not look neatly put together, you will not enjoy your sewing as you should.

Make an appointment with yourself to sew, just as you would with your hairdresser, or with a neighbour to go shopping.  If your intimates enjoy sewing, invite them to come and sew with you from 2 to 5 on a Wednesday, or perhaps for an evening each week.  Do not spend your time planning refreshments, but insist that each bring sewing to do.

All jolly good stuff for sure, and there’s plenty more where that came from.  Strange though that with this being the 1950’s, Mrs Pickens mentions the bag of French chalk but omits to caution against dropping ones fag cigarette ash on the work.  But doesn’t it all conjure up a wonderful picture of times gone by, when women (or at least middle-class American women) might find themselves invited round to a neighbour’s for three hours of sewing – with no coffee or cake provided?

Maybe they took their own.  Whatever, lest our militant feminist reader be all of a froth at the idea that one might be fearful of ones husband coming home and finding one not neatly put together, here’s a little reminder that things were a bit different in the 1950’s …

And for what it’s worth, there’s another one here!


6 responses

  1. I like to sew while listening to my favorite tv shows. Because I love sewing, I make the time for it, I value that creativity. I think people participate in that which they value.

  2. Well, i know that many will have a good laugh at this. But there is a good point to be made about preparing one self to sew. And making time to do it. Maybe that’s why sewing for most people doesn’t exist today like it did 40+ years ago. Our lives are overfilled with many things. From important things like work and family. And time wasters like too much time on the computer,tv,video games or cell phone.

  3. Thank you! So great to read your thoughts about sewing and sharing them with all of us! I will share two of mine. I always finished all mending before I started a new sewing project! The other is one that I shared with my daughters when I taught them to sew. MY mother always said,” if you make a mistake, rip it out and sew it right!” That always meant that we would be proud of our work and wear it a long time. Both of them cannot wait until they make a mistake so they can rip it out and sew it correctly. They know their grandmother is watching proudly from above! Regards, Joan

  4. Re the french chalk, my mother taught me 40 plus years ago to use talcumpowder on my hands when knitting baby bootties! H ey at 14, one has only so much attention to detail!!!

  5. This is very funny! We have come a long way. I agree that it is easier to sew if my dishes are finished too, but I can’t imagine “making an appointment” to sew.