‘The Mary Frances Sewing Book’ and The Sewing Bird

The Mary Frances Sewing Book w/ Vintage/Antique sewing bird

 Readers it’s that time again; the time where I purge share my collection pieces.  You already know I like old stuff – especially sewing related old stuff.  You might remember when I shared my one hundred year old sewing book ‘The Mary Frances Sewing Book – Adventures Among the Thimble People’ – in this book Mary Frances, a little girl in the Victorian era, learned to sew by making clothes for her doll.  One of Mary Frances’ first adventures is when she meets the Sewing Bird. ‘What’s a sewing bird?’, I hear you ask…Readers, I don’t  like to keep you in too much suspense. I’m not a fan of suspense – in my opinion it’s WAY overrated and only leads to bad things happening.  We ALL know what’s about to happen when we’re watching a 3rd rate horror film and the female protagonist knocks out her crazy attacker thinking with relief that she was safe! We’re suspended on the edges of our seats with our hearts pounding just waiting for the crazy killer to rise from apparent death to have yet another go at his victim…our suspense is always rewarded with a near heart attack. No suspense here readers:

Sewing Birds are hand sewing tools from another era – They clamp on to a table and the fabric is held in the beak of the bird to give the sewist a third hand.  There can be one or more pin cushions on them – usually found on the top of the clamp section and/or on the bird’s back.  This is my little sewing bird, Readers – she’s a sweetie.

sewing bird with fabric close up


Here is Sewing Bird holding onto a piece of linen that i’ve been hand hemstitching and embroidering for another project.  Remember Sublime Simplicity readers? Even with Sewing Bird’s help i’ve been struggling to stay motivated on this project. Maybe I need to implement Grandma’s Rule; no dessert until the vegetables are eaten…No new projects until this little dress is finished.

I’ve digressed Readers…as i’m apt to do – back on topic!

This is what a sewing bird looks like in its entirety…As i said before the top has the bird with either one or two pin cushions and the base has the clamp.  They can be very ornately decorated – whilst mine isn’t the most ornate example, it’s still very pretty.

sewing bird profile 540

As hand sewing became practiced less and less, sewing birds became obsolete. These days hand sewing tends to only be practiced by sewists who make their own clothes when hemming etc  Most sewing is done by machine and thus the sewing bird is still a redundant tool.  I like to sew using French hand sewing techniques…most people do it using a sewing machine, but I like to do both.  I know it’s hard to believe that a hand constructed garment can be as strong as a machine constructed garment, but surprisingly French hand sewing techniques can produce a sturdy and beautifully constructed garment.

As you know friends, I am planning to make all the garments in The Mary Frances Sewing Book once I have made the Jill Hamor handmade cloth doll that will wear the clothes. I plan to make some of the clothes on my various vintage sewing machines, some on my modern Pfaff and some entirely by hand.  This is where my sewing bird will spread her wings and fly once again.

There are eighteen garments to be made from The Mary Frances Sewing Book…This one pattern alone makes a night gown, bath robe, kimono and a dressing sack.

Mary Frances Sewing Book garment pics

Before I start my Mary Frances Sewing Book adventure, I will do a post that outlines each garment in the book so that we know the direction of our journey; a GPS of sewing if you will…hopefully Readers, we won’t get lost along the way…I’m not sure i want to be lost in 1913 with all the social and economic constraints that restricted women and girls so much. As much as I love the old, I’m very happy with being a 21st century modern woman!

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