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 bringing the Ladies' Work-Table Book to a close, we cannot persuade ourselves to dismiss the subject, without a word or two to our fair friends, as to the use, necessary to be made, of all the useful or ornamental accomplishments their circumstances and situations may enable them to acquire. We should never, for one moment, suffer the utile to be absent from our thoughts: she who has no definite aim in what she does, can never have any good ground of hope, that, in her progress through life, she can attain to excellence.
These remarks apply principally to that large class, who are dependent upon exertion of some kind, for the means of comfort and respectability, in their respective stations. But, as those ladies, whose circumstances render a practical acquaintance with the arts here treated of, a matter of indifference, a knowledge of them is, by no means, unnecessary. In many ways indeed, a lady, blessed with affluence, may render an acquaiutance with the details of needlework extensively useful.
It is often the case that young persons are engaged in families, whose education has been, from some cause or other, lamentably neglected. In those cases, the lady who feels her obligations, and is actuated by a true Christian spirit, will consider herself as standing in the place of a mother to her humble dependents ; and, under a deep sense of her high responsibilities, 'will endeavor to improve, and fit them, by suitable and kindly-imparted instructions, for the proper discharge of the duties of that station, which it may be presumed they will in after days be called upon to fill. In this case, how useful will the kind and careful mistress find a knowledge of that art, which teaches the proper method of making those articles of dress which are so essential to every family who, however humble, are desirous of securing the respect of the wise and the good, by judicious economy, and a neat and respectable appearance.
Those ladies who are in the habit of devoting a portion of their time to the superintendence of our female charity schools, will also find such knowledge extremely beneficial. To those who are disposed to follow the example of the holy Dorcas, in providing garments for the deserving and destitute poor, an acquaintance with plain needlework is indispensible; and indeed, it will, in every walk of life, be found useful to her who is, by the animating love of the Lord Jesus, disposed
" To seek the wretched out, And court the offices of soft humanity."
Another advantage may also be gained, by a manifestation of the kindly solicitude for the improvement of domestics, here pointed out. In cases where the secular tuition of young persons has been neglected, it will be generally found that their religious and moral training has been equally uncared for. Let the Christian lady evince a real desire to improve the temporal condition of those beneath her influence, and she will soon find that the best affections of the heart are opened to the reception of instructions of a highe and still more important character. Hard indeed must be that heart which can resist the influence of genuine kindness exercised in a friendly Christian spirit. We once had the pleasure of seeing a young servant baptized in the faith of Christ, while those in whose service she was, and two others, highly respectable persons, answered for her at the font. This beautiful meeting together of the rich and the poor, took place in one of the most splendid parish churches in England, and left on our minds an impression which will never be effaced.
In the foregoing pages we have endeavored to lay before the young votary of the needle, such instructions as we hope will be found sufficiently clear to enable her to produce many a delightful specimen of her assiduity, taste, and judgment. We have sought to be concise, without being obscure; and to give plain directions, without making our readers mere imitators, or copyists. One fault which is to be found in all the books on these subjects, which we have 6een, we have carefully avoided; that is, the giving a list of the various colours to be employed in the fabrication of each example given. Nothing can be more absurd, and mischievous than this. The young work-woman can only exercise her judgment, to any extent, in this department of her labors. The various stitches she must form according to the prescribed rule; because, in most instances, they can be performed in no other manner ; but in the choice of materials, and colors, she should have free scope: here judgment, taste, and fancy, should range untrammelled by rules and forms; and yet this is rarely done, because the lady is taught to rely upon her patterns, and scarcely ever to consult her own sense of beauty or propriety. We see the effect of this, in the sameness, and monotonous appearance of almost all kinds of fancy-work : and we have endeavored to do our best, to introduce a more correct taste and principle into this department of the elegant arts, in which females are engaged. We know that much native genius exists among our fair countrywomen ; and we wish to see it expand, as freely as the refreshing breeze, that sweeps over our native hills.