Tag Archives: sewing class

What’s in a Photo — Stuart McIntosh

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What’s in a Photo — Stuart McIntosh
Photo- thanks to Stuart McIntosh

This is a lovely photo of “Sewing Class at Mrs. Lockwoods 1904”. Jenny Stewart, Diana Ennis, Jamie Devlin, Tena Fyfe and Florence Watson.

Stuart McIntosh told me he was fortunate to have met Florence Watson. I asked him if he had any memories and he said:

Yes.. she recalled paying the doctor’s bill with hens. She was full of fun and didn’t like her picture taken. We have a family photo of her on her 90th birthday. She always taught her dog to roll over and she was quite active all her life.”

She married a Morris who died much earlier than her. Late in life she learned of her brother’s poor health and much to her family’s surprise, flew to B.C. and brought him home so she could care for him. She raised 2 daughters and 1 son. He stayed on the farm and remained a bachelor while the daughter’s married and eventually farmed in the same neck of the woods.

Thanks Stuart McIntosh!

Hoping to receive more info on some of these other these sewing gals.

A bit of a tale about sewing...

We can think of sewing as a kind of performance, despite its domestic setting – a way for women to prove their femininity and suitability as wives, lovers and mothers. Like any good performance, sewing needs its props, and the tools used by women to prepare and execute their work were often objects of art in their own right.

As well as being highly decorative, many sewing implements also carried coded messages in their design. Thimbles are a good example, as they were often presented as gifts and therefore their mottoes and images can be read as a message for the recipient.

Needless to say, such items tended to reinforce the prevailing view of femininity, conveying messages on an object intended for use in a virtuous, industrious context. Thimbles often displayed messages relating to love and marriage, which was in most cases the only realistic objective open to middle- and upper-class women until around 1900.

Like the elegant implements that preceded it, the early sewing machine was most definitely a status object. Decorated with lacquer and housed in a fashionable cabinet, these machines were designed to sit at the heart of the drawing room, advertising the domestic virtue of the lady who occupied it. It was not until prices began to drop after 1900 – and poorer women could buy them on hire-purchase – that the sewing machine became strictly utilitarian. The increasing availability of shop-bought clothing meant that home sewing lost its cachet, and became a thrifty expedient to be hidden where possible. Advertisements for sewing machines reflect this shift, with the earliest ones extolling the style and beauty of their product, to be replaced with assurances of discretion and portability once the machine lost status. The sewing machine in its heyday marked the high point of home sewing as a leisure pursuit, praised in ladies’ journals and illustrated magazines for its efficiency and pleasantness. It also, however, marked the beginning of the end. 

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