Internet Archive: Ladies Worktable book

I found this on the Internet Archive, or wayback machine.

The Ladie’s Worktable book: containing clear and practical instructions in plain and fancy needlework, embroidery, knitting, netting,and crochet.

Published about 1850-something according to the notes on the description page. The image above was copied from the black and white PDF of the bookcontributed by the University of California Libraries and the Digitizing Sponsor is MSN.

The introduction is an essay about the role of women in society and the home

“Providence has, in a remarkable manner, adapted woman’s tastes and propensities to the station she was designed to occupy in the scale of being. Tender and affectionate, it is her highest bliss to minister to the wants, the convenience, or the pleasure of those she loves;…”

What I’ve read so far has been entertaining and fascinating. Our how-to “tutes,” books and instructions really take you by the hand for each step. This bookgives general guidelines…It does have illustrations, but the section on sewing leaves me nearly clueless. If I didn’t already know how to sew, I would find it difficult to follow the instructions and come away with a well-constructed item.
There are some unfamiliar terms, too. A Nail of fabric? I looked that up and it is a 1/16th of a yard or 2 1/4 inches.

The excess verbiage glorifying the status of women at the time certainly dates the book and provides a view into the idealized role of women in the mid 1850’s. I can imagine the despair that some women felt when faced with the daily realities of keeping a family fed, clean, and clothed with few resources and even less assistance. Then to open a book such as this, meant to be a helpful guide and see how they “should” be feeling. Talk about lack of validation!

Some key women in history were raised in settings such as these and they went on to change the world.

I’m looking forward to exploring this farther, not only the needlework instructions but a picture of the world in which my great-grandmothers grew up.


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