This section is from the book "Scientific Sewing And Garment Cutting", by Antoinette Van Hoesen Wakeman. Also available from Amazon: Scientific Sewing And Garment Cutting: For Use In Schools And In The Home.
The system of instruction set forth in this book makes sewing and garment cutting an educational factor identical with manual training. It has been the primary aim of the authors to lead the pupils to think independently, coordinately, and constructively. To this end the reason for each step in the course of instruction has been set forth explicitly, and the teacher is urged to make these reasons plain to the pupils, that they may work from intelligent conviction, and not mechanically. To fail in this is to defeat the first and most important aim of the system, which is founded not only upon broad educational principles, but upon mathematical verities.
The entire system is based upon the square and the parallelogram, and in this respect the sewing is coordinate with the garment cutting. The system of cutting, which is without chart or other guide than simple, easily comprehended mathematical principles, is original with Miss Louise M. Heller. For six years Miss Heller has been connected with the department of sewing and garment cutting in the Chicago Jewish Manual Training-School; and this system, which is now for the first time given to the public, has been thoroughly tested in that institution.
It is Huxley who claims that that person is liberally educated who has been so trained that his body is the ready servant of his will, and does with ease and pleasure all the work which, as a mechanism, it is capable of doing. That the system which is clearly explained in the following pages is a valuable factor in obtaining this result, has been abundantly proved in the school where it has been tested. In this institution it is not the aim of the course to graduate proficient seamstresses, but rather to so educate pupils that they may be able to make the most of themselves in any one of many lines into which opportunity and their capacity may lead them. It is a fact that perfect drafting and the most satisfactory needlework are done with the greatest ease by those pupils who have taken the course of sewing and garment cutting. It is a matter of daily, nay, of hourly, experience in this school that a girl of ten years takes the measures and drafts in five minutes the pattern of a perfectly fitting dress waist for a child. Other garments are drafted and cut with equal ease by the aid of this system.
The counting of threads, the accurate measurements required, the precision in the matter of darning, and all else that pertains to the work of the course, may seem to the superficial observer an unnecessary expenditure of time and effort; but let it be borne in mind that the first aim of the system is to enable the child to see correctly, to use what she sees with facility, and to make her hand the ready servant of her will. More than this, it is easy to demonstrate that, when the habit of executing the commonest task in the best way is established, the work can be done with no greater expenditure of time and effort than is employed in doing it in the least skillful manner.
In all lines, the artistic, which until recently has been appropriated by exclusive classes, is now being incorporated into the common everyday life of the people, and the work of the needle should be no exception. Knowledge alone is required to accomplish this; for the skillful use of common materials, which are among daily necessities, renders the work of the needle truly artistic.
The stories of materials and their uses, which follow the outline of work for each grade, are not a part of the course. They can be used or not at the discretion of the teacher, and must be adapted by her to the pupils she is instructing. All that has been attempted is to give a general idea of the different subjects in a form suited, as far as possible, to the capacity of the children of the respective grades.
It may seem that, as the utmost precision is required at every step, from the beginning to the end of the course, the creative faculty in the child is not sufficiently encouraged; but let it be remembered that when principles are thoroughly mastered, the worker is made free. The small squares of the canvas of the first models represent the regular stitch; and having mastered this, the pupil is enabled to work with ease along correct lines. It is one thing to create, and quite another thing to produce, that which is of value; and it is only when those principles which exist in the nature of things are recognized and obeyed that real excellence is achieved.
It is true that the child is required to do certain given tasks in a certain way; but she has no set pattern, and really designs each model without assistance save direction from the teacher. The working out of the different designs in this way establishes in the pupil's mind that most valuable of possessions, a correct ideal.
It will be observed that there is no sewing up and down through cards perforated in formal designs, for this kind of work is of very little practical value; it is mechanical, and in doing it the child acquires habits which must be overcome later.
It is an axiom of modern pedagogics that no portion of that fine and complex instrument, the human body, should be neglected; and, keeping this in mind, the authors have taken many things into account in putting forth their system. Throughout the course the appeal is made, not to the pupil's memory, but to her understanding. Although but forty minutes twice a week are devoted to the work, it has been found that this course invariably stimulates the reasoning faculties, and brings into action powers of the mind previously dormant.
While Scientific Sewing and Garment Cutting is arranged as a textbook for schools, it is also a valuable manual for the home circle. Whether used as a guide in cutting and making garments for children, or in teaching children to sew, or as a handbook containing much useful and interesting general information, it is one that every mother of a family will find of value.