This section is from the "The Ladies' Work-Table Book: Domestic Needlework in Nineteenth-Century America" book, by Margaret Vincent. Also available from Amazon: The Ladies' Work Table: Domestic Needlework in Nineteenth-Century America.
BEfore commencing those directions, which we deem it necessary to place before our readers, in reference to this important portion of the work-table manual, we wish to say a word or two to our fair countrywomen, on the importance of a general and somewhat extensive acquaintance with those arts, on which so much of the comfort of individual and domestic life depends. Economy of time, labor, and expenses, is an essential requisite in every family; and will ever claim a due share of attention, from her who is desirous of fulfilling with credit to herself and advantage to others, the allotted duties of her appointed station. To those, who are at the head of the majority of families, an extensive knowledge of the various departments of plain needlework is indispensable. The means placed at their disposal are limited; in many instances, extremely so: and to make the most of these means, generally provided by the continual care and unremitting attention of the father and the husband, is a sacred duty, which cannot be violated without the entailment of consequences which every well regulated mind must be anxious to avoid.
The following are the principal stiches used in plain needlework.
If you have selvages, join them together and sew them firmly. If you have raw edges, turn down one of the edges once, and the other double the breadth, and then turn half of it back again. This is for the fell. The two pieces are pinned face to face, and seamed together; the stitches being in a slanting direction, and just deep enough to hold the separate pieces firmly together. Then flatten the seam with the thumb, turn the work over and fell it the same as hemming. The thread is fastened by being worked between the pieces and sewn over.
Turn down the raw edge as evenly as possible. Flatten, and be careful, especially in turning down the corners. Hem from right to left bring the point of the needle from the chest toward the right hand. Fasten the thread with out a knot, and when you finish, sew several stitches close together, and cut off the thread.
Turn down both the raw edges once, taking care so to do it, as that both turns may be toward your person; you then lay one below the other, so as that the smooth edge of the nearest does not touch the other, but lies just beneath it. The lower one is then to be hemmed or felled to the piece against which you have laid it, still holding it before you. You are next to open your sleeve, or whatever else you have been employed upon; and laying the upper fold over the lower, fell it down, and the work is done.
You lay the raw edge of one of your pieces a little below the other; the upper edge is then turned over the other twice, and felled down as strong as possible.
Take three threads, leave three, and in order that the work may be kept as firm as possible, back-stitch occasionally. If you sew selvages, they must be joined evenly together ; but if raw edges, one must be turned down once, and the other laid upon it, but a few threads from the top. It is, in this case, to be felled afterwards.
The work must be even as possible. Turn down a piece to stitch to, draw a thread to stitch upon, twelve or fourteen threads from the edge. Being thus prepared, you take two threads back, and so bring, the needle out, from under two before. Proceed in this manner, to the end of the row ; and in joining a fresh piece of thread, take care to pass the needle between the edges and bring it out where the last stitch was finished.
Gathering - You begin by taking the article to be gathered, and dividing it into halves, and then into quarters, putting on pins, to make the divisions. The piece, to which you are intending to gather it, must be gathered about twelve threads from the top, taking three threads on the needle, and leaving four; and so proceding, alternately, until one quarter is gathered. Fasten the thread, by twisting it round a pin; stroke the gathers, so that they lie evenly and neatly, with a strong needle or pin. You then proceed as before, until all the gathers are gathered, Then take out the pins, and regulate the gathers of each quarter, so as to correspond with those of the piece to which it is to be sewed. The gathers are then to be fastened on, one at a time ; and the stitches must be in a slanting direction. The part to be gathered must be cut quite even before commencing, or else it will be impossible to make the gathering look well.
Double Gathering, or Puffing. - This is sometimes employed in setting on frills; and when executed properly has a pretty effect. You first gather the top, in the usual way ; then, having stroked down the gathers, you gather again under the first gathering, and of such a depth as you wish the puffing to be. You then sew on the first gathering to the gown, frock, etc. you design to trim, at a distance, corresponding with the width of the puffing: and the second gathering sewed to the edge, so as to form a full hem. You may make a double hem, if you please, by gathering three times instead of only twice; and one of the hems may be straight, while the other is drawn to one side a little. This requires much exactness, in the execution ; but if properly done, it gives a pleasing variety to the work.