Darn it, said the 19th-century textile worker

Last week on Twitter I mentioned that I might attempt a mending project in-between coughing fits. @HollyWillNot (who is my brother’s wife’s stepsister–got that?) said:

“You can pretend you’re a dying-of-tuberculosis 19th-century textile worker while you sew. It’ll be fun!”

To which I replied, “I have already been playing that imagining-I’m-dying-of-TB game HOW DID YOU KNOW?”

And then over the next few days I beat that joke like a dying horse. (Do horses get tuberculosis? Just herpes?) I also continued to work on mending projects, including some that would not normally be attempted by a 21st-century woman.

I’ve been a member of an internet smocking-and-heirloom-sewing forum since Mabel was a baby, and although I’ve done a whole lot more talking than sewing, I’ve made some great friends. The year Rose was born, I mentioned that what with having a new baby, I hadn’t had time to make an Easter dress for Mabel.

(The sweet handsewn dress Rose is wearing here is one I bought on eBay when Mabel was a baby.)

The next thing I knew, an amazing friend (whom I’d never met in person) whose daughter was getting a little old to be willing to wear smocked dresses asked me for my address. And soon a beautiful dress came in the mail. It was of cotton organza with woven swiss dots, hand-smocked and with hand embroidery. I haven’t ever made anything as nice. And I still haven’t “paid forward” anything that generous. (I have a lot to live up to when I recover from my textile-worker-TB.)

Mabel wore the dress a lot, and then a few years later Rose grew into it.

Longtime readers of this blog may recall that Rose had (sigh, has) a textile-chewing problem.

She chewed a hole in the sash of the dress.

It’s been in my mending pile ever since. And then today I repaired it, like the good 19th-century woman that I am.

I used a size 11 milliner’s needle (because it was the finest needle I had) and some 50-weight cotton thread. (I would have used a finer thread if I’d had any around.) I cut a little circle of cotton organza, stitched around its perimeter with tiny backstitches, and then stitched running stitches back and forth over the hole.

I think it turned out nicely. It’s not invisible but at least it’s tidy.

Best of all, I’m only coughing a little bit now. (Instead, I’m sneezing all day long. What’s that saying? A change of symptoms is as good as a cure?) And my mending pile’s a little smaller, and in a couple of years, Hazel will have her turn to wear the pretty dress.

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This entry was posted in Health or lack thereof, Meanwhile in the real world, Sewing. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Darn it, said the 19th-century textile worker

  1. Mrs. Organic says:

    WHat a beautiful dress. Good job on the mending. Hope you’re feeling better soon.

  2. Acheté says:

    Keep healing. I think when you do a beautiful job of a task that mostly hasn’t been done in the last 100 years, you are entitled to 100 years’ worth of rewards. Hazel will be simply stunning in that dress, as Mabel and Rose were in turn.

  3. Jen says:

    That dress is so fabulous. I am so glad you darned it. I always think of you fondly when I darn things now. For some reason I just love darning, even dumb scrubby jeans that aren’t really worth the trouble.

  4. Whimsy says:

    Once I played a game with my blog readers to come up with their own 19th century disease. I think that 19th century diseases are MUCH more romantic than modern ones. Like Morbid Sore Throat and Gout and others that I can’t quite think of right now.

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