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.
In order to secure economy of time, labor, and expense, and also to do everything neatly and in order, the lady who is intending to engage in the domestic employment of preparing linen necessary for personal and family use, should be careful to have all her materials ready, and disposed in the most systematic manner possible, before commencing work. The materials employed in the construction of articles, which come under the denomination of plain needlework, are so various, that a mere list of them would occupy more than half our space; and they are so well known, that no necessity exists for naming them in detail. We shall therefore proceed, at once, to give plain directions, by which any lady may soon become expert in this necessary department of household uses, merely observing, that a neat work-box, well supplied with all the implements required - including knife, scissors (of at least three sizes,) needles and pins in sufficient variety, bodkins, thimbles, thread and cotton, bobbins, marking silks, black lead pencils, india rubber, etc, should be provided, and be furnished with a lock and key, to prevent the contents being thrown into confusion by children, servants, or unauthorized intruders.
The lady being thus provided, and having her materials, implements, etc, placed in order upon her work-table, (to the edge of which it is an advantage to have a pincushion affixed, by means of a screw,) may commence her work, and proceed with pleasure to herself, and without annoyance to any visiter, who may favor her with a call We would recommend, wherever practicable, that the work-table should be made of cedar, and that the windows of the working parlor should open into a garden, well supplied with odoriferous flowers and plants, the perfume of which will materially cheer the spirits of those especially whose circumstances compel them to devote the greatest portion of their time to sedentary occupations. If these advantages cannot be obtained, at least the room should be well ventilated, and furnished with a few cheerful plants, and a well filled scent-jar. The beneficent Creator intended all His children, in whatever station of life they might be placed, to share in the common bounties of His providence; and when she, who not for pleasure, but to obtain the means of subsistence, is compelled to seclude herself, for days or weeks together, from the cheering influence of exercise in the open air, it becomes both her duty, and that of those for whom she labors, to secure as much of these advantages, or of the best substitutes for them, as the circumstances of the case will admit.
We now proceed to lay down what we hope will be found clear though concise rules, for the preparation of various articles of dress and attire.
These are made of a variety of materials, and are applied to various uses. The aprons used for common purposes, are made of white, blue, brown, checked, and sometimes of black linen ; nankeen, stuff, and print, are also employed. The width is generally one breadth of the material, and the length is regulated by the height of the wearer. Dress aprons are. of course, made of finer materials - cambric, muslin, silk, satin, lace, clear and other kinds of muslin, etc, and are generally two breadths in width, one of which is cut in two, so as to throw a seam on each side, and leave an entire breadth for the middle. Aprons of all kinds are straight, and either plaited or gathered on to the band or stock at the top. Those with only one breadth, are hemmed at the bottom with a broad hem; those with two breadths, must be hemmed at the sides likewise. The band should be from half a nail to a nail broad; its length is to be determined by the waist of the wearer. It should be fastened at the back, with hooks and eyelet holes. To some aprons, pockets are attached, which are either sewed on in front, or at the back, and a slit made in the apron to correspond with them. The slit, or opening of the pocket is to be hemmed neatly, or braided, as may be most desirable. In some kinds of aprons, bibs are introduced, which are useful to cover the upper part of the dress. Their size must be determined by the taste of the person who is to wear them.
Take two breadths of any material you choose, dividing one of them in the middle. Hem all round, with a broad hem, three-fourths of a nail deep. The band is to be one and a-half nails deep in the middle, into which a piece of whalebone is to be inserted, on each side of which work a row or two in chain stitch. The band is scolloped out from the centre on its lower side, five and a-half nails, leaving the extremities of the band one nail broad. To the scolloped portion, the apron is to be fulled on, so as to sit as neat as possible ; leaving the space beneath the whalebone plain. Confine the folds, by working two rows of chain stitch, just below the curved lines of the band, leaving half an inch between each row. The lower edge of the band is ornamented with a small piping, but is left plain at the top.