I received this beautiful and quirky old book from my friend, Kendra, as a Christmas gift this year--Easy Steps in Sewing for Big and Little Girls by Jane Eayre Fryer. The book also has an alternate title found inside on the title page--Mary Frances Among the Thimble People--which alludes to how this sewing instruction book unfolds more like a story where all manner of sewing notions come to life and spend many an afternoon teaching Mary Francis how to sew the most lovely and exorbitant doll clothing--often offering their instruction in rhyme.
You can see some of the book's main characters above--they appear in illustrations throughout the book. You can also see how perfectly rude Mr Silver Thimble can be, calling Tommy Tomato Pin Cushion a "fatty." Boys can be so callous to one another.
The book was published in 1913 and as far as I can tell I must have a one of the early printings since it is inscribed to Arlyne Ostrom (from Mother), Xmas 1913 (love old inscriptions in books, don't you?). But the book is filled with instructions on how to do all the basics in sewing--all hand sewing, mind you--as well as how to do things I have never even heard of like felling on flannel, kensington outline stitch, and whipped ruffles. It also teaches how to darn which I have never done before but seems useful.
And then there are patterns--like this sweet and classic cross stitch that I feel compelled to make now even though I have somehow always felt that cross stitch is mundane and the equivalent of counting holes in ceiling tiles for amusement. But this pattern charms me...they call it a Grand Sampler on Canvas, which does make it seem a bit more glamorous.
Oh yes, and then there are oodles of instructions for doll clothes. Like, a trousseau of doll clothes that one could take on your 12 month honeymoon across Europe with your beloved and dapper husband--pinafores, bathrobes, kimonos, morning and afternoon dresses, petticoats, fur lined capes, automobile coats, bathing suits...
...and even items of a racier sort like rompers, drawers and bloomers. Oh la la, mon cheri.
Oh yes, and one must not forget the Tippet, Muff and Polo Cap. You want one for yourself now, don't you? I mean, that Tippet actually does look pretty sweet to me--I would wear it (albeit with jeans, t-shirt and kick ass boots...)
But the best part of the whole book is that it contains sheets of delicate and yellowed tissue paper patterns for all the clothes that fold out. My heart almost broke when I found these as I paged through the book--mostly because almost all the patterns are still there, just waiting to be unfolded and used. They are glued right into the book so that they reside right in with the instructions for a given piece of doll clothing. Like little sewing surprises awaiting you with each turn of a page.
And you can count on this, I will report back at some point, having hunkered down and made something from the book--and then I will scan in the pattern and share it with you just in case you might want to make your own tippet too--or whatever.
Update: As it turns out, this book is actually still in print. You can find a copy of it under the title, The Mary Frances Sewing Book--find it here.