Vintage Patterns

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The subject of this chapter is one to which it is hardly possible to pay too much attention; since, on the judicious selection of materials, depends, to a vast extent, the success of that prudent and well-regulated economy, which is so essential to the welfare and prosperity of every family. On this account, we have thought it right to place before our readers the following observations, which should be carefully attended to, as of the utmost importance. In purchasing goods, be careful to examine the quality; and, if not experienced in such matters, take with you an experienced friend. Cheap goods generally prove the dearest in the end. The following rules may assist you in this respect, if under the necessity of relying upon your own judgment. Be careful, in purchasing articles, such as linen, calico, &c., for a specific purpose, to have it the proper width. A great deal of waste may be incurred, by inattention to this important direction.

Calico is often so dressed up, as to make it extremely difficult to ascertain its real quality: hence, it is best to buy it undressed. It should be soft, and free from specks. It is of various widths,[18] and of almost all prices. A good article, at a medium price, will be found cheapest in the end.

Linen is of various qualities. That which is called Suffolk hemp is considered the best. Irish linen is also in great repute. But you must be careful to escape imposition; as there are plenty of imitations, which are good for nothing.

Muslin Checks are much used for caps, &c., and are of various qualities. You may form a good judgment of these, by observing the thin places between the checks and the threads; if the former be good, and the latter even, they may generally be relied on.

Blue Checks.—These may be procured either of cotton or linen; but the linen ones, though highest in price, are cheapest in the end: they will wear double the length of time that the cotton ones will.

Prints.—Give a good price, if you wish to secure a good article. Some colors, as red, pink, lilac, bright brown, buff, and blue, wear well; green, violet, and some other colors are very liable to fade. The best way is to procure a patch, and wash half of it. This will test the color, and may prevent much disappointment.

Flannels.—The Welsh flannels are generally preferred, as those that are the most durable. Lancashire flannels are cheapest, but are far inferior in quality. You may know the one from the other by the color: the flannels of Lancashire are of a yellowish hue; those of Wales are a kind of bluish gray tint.

Woollen Cloths.—These vary exceedingly, as to quality. The low-priced ones are not worth half the purchase money. Good woollen cloth is smooth, and has a good nap. If the sample shown you, be destitute of these qualities, have nothing to do with it, unless you want to be cheated.

Stuffs.—The quality of these is sometimes very difficult to [19]detect. Holding them up to the light is a good plan. You should also be particular as to the dyeing, as that is sometimes very indifferently managed, and the stuff is dashed. Black dye is liable to injure the material. Low-priced stuffs are rarely good for anything.

Crape.—This is often damaged in the dying. You should spread it over a white surface before you purchase it, as by that means, the blemishes in the material, if any, will be more likely to appear.

Silks.—These are, if good, costly; and great care should be exercised in selecting them. They should not be too stiff, as in that case they are liable to crack; and on the other hand, they should not be too thin, as that kind is liable to tear almost as soon as paper. A medium thickness and stiffness is the best. If plain, you must be careful that there are no stains or specks in them; and if figured, it is advisable to have the pattern equally good on both sides. This will enhance the price at first, but you will find it to be good economy afterward. In silks that are to be sold cheap, a kind of camel’s hair is frequently introduced. This may be detected by pulling a piece of the suspected silk cross ways, and if camel’s hair be mixed with it, it will spring with a kind of whirring sound. This should be attended to.

Satin.—It is of various qualities and prices. The best is soft and thick. When used for trimmings, it should be cut the cross way, as it then looks better, and has a much richer appearance than when put on straight.

These general observations will be of great use, and should be well impressed upon the memory, so as readily to be called into exercise when needed.

In making up linen, thread is much preferable to cotton. Sewing-silk should be folded up neatly in wash leather, and colored[20] threads and cotton in paper, as the air and light are likely to injure them. Buttons, hooks and eyes, and all metal implements, when not in use, should be kept folded up; as exposure to the air not only tarnishes them, but is likely to injure them in a variety of ways.


Canvas (coarse) eighteen threads to the inch. Work in cross stitch with double wool. This is proper for a foot-stool, sofa-pillow, &c.

Canvas (very coarse) ten threads to the inch. Work in cross stitch, over one thread, with single wool. If used for grounding, work in two threads. This will accelerate the work, and look equally well.

Silk Leaves.—If no grounding is required, work in tent stitch. The pattern should be large in proportion to the fineness of the material. The finer the canvas, the larger the pattern.

Color.—An attention to shade is of the utmost consequence; as on this, in an eminent degree, depends the perfection of the work. The shades must be so chosen, as to blend into each other, or all harmony of coloring will be destroyed. The canvas must be more distinct in tent stitch than in cross stitch, or rather more strongly contrasted, especially in the dark shades of flowers: without attention to this point, a good resemblance of nature cannot be obtained.

Wool, (English and German) white, black, and various colors.—Two, three, four, five, or six shades of each color, as the nature of the work may require. The same observation applies to silk and cotton, in cases where those materials are used.

Split wool, for mosaic work.

[21]Silk. Split silk. Floss. Half twist. Deckers. China silk. Fine purse silk.

Cotton, of various kinds.

Gold twist. Silver thread. Chenille.

Beads. Thick and transparent gold. Bright and burnt steel. Silver plated, &c.

Perforated cards.

Canvas, called bolting, for bead work.


English Canvas.
Canvas No. Cross stitch. Tent stitch.
16 9
18 5 10
20 11
22 6 12
24 13
26 7 14
28 15
30 8 16
32 9 18
34 19
36 10 20
38 10¼ 21
40 11 22
42 11½ 23
45 12½ 25
48 13 26
50 14 28
55 15 30
60 17 34
Silk Canvas.
Canvas No. Cross stitch. Tent stitch.
  14 28
French Canvas.
Canvas No. Cross stitch. Tent stitch.
10 13
12 15
14 17
16 19
18 10 20
19 11 22
20 12 24
22 13 26
24 14 28
30 15 30
40 16 32


Silk, satin, velvet, and cloth.


Silk.—This material is extensively used in the various productions of which we are about to treat. The kinds usually employed in Knitting, Netting, and Crochet, are purse silk, or twist; coarse and fine netting silk; second sized purse twist; plain silk; China[22] silk; extra fine, and finest netting silk; second sized netting silk; coarse and fine chenille, and crochet silk. These are so well known that it would be a waste of time to describe them in detail. They are of a great variety of colors, and of different qualities; some sorts being much more durable, both in fabric and color, than others. No young lady should trust, at first, to her own judgment in making the selection: but a little attention will soon render her a proficient in the art of choosing the most profitable materials. The China silks of the French surpass all others, of that kind, with which we are acquainted, both as to the nature of tints, and the brilliancy of the various dyes and shades.

Wool.—This is of various colors and shades; German wool, single, and double; Hamburgh wool, fleecy, of three, four, five, six, seven, and eight threads; embroidery fleecy Shetland wool; English wool, coarse yarn, for mitts.


German wool is the produce of the merino breed, in its highest state of cultivation, and is the best sheep’s wool we possess. The merino fleece is brought to the greatest perfection in Saxony, and the adjacent states. It is chiefly manufactured for the purposes of needle-work, &c., at Gotha; the dyeing of it is performed at Berlin, and in other parts of Germany. The wools of Germany are, in fineness and softness, much, superior to those of Spain. The wool is prepared in various sizes, and for some kinds of work, may be split with great advantage. A large quantity is imported into this country in a raw state, and is dyed and manufactured here. Some of this is equal to the wools prepared in Germany, as to quality; but the brilliancy of the color will not bear comparison.[23] This remark does not extend to the black German wool, prepared in this country, and which is far superior to that prepared on the continent. Much wool, of a very superior quality is annually prepared for the market; and so great is its resemblance to a superior article, that it requires much attention, and an experienced eye, to detect the fraud. English wool, or what is often called embroidery wool, is much harsher than that of Germany; yet it is of a very superior kind, and much to be preferred for some kinds of work. The dye of several colors of English lamb’s wool is equal to that of the best dyes of Germany; especially scarlet and some of the shades of blue, green, and gold color, which for brilliancy and permanency, may justly claim equality with the most finished productions of the continental states.

Worsted is another description of our native produce, and is extensively used for a great variety of useful purposes, which are familiar to every one. A great portion of the needle-work of the last century was done in a fine kind of worsted, called CREWELS: and some specimens still remain, which do great credit to the venerable grandames of the present generation. Yarn is a coarse kind of worsted, much employed in making garden nets, and for various other purposes. Fleecy (English) is manufactured from the Leicestershire breed, and is much used in knitting and netting: it is of two qualities; both varying in size, from an eighth to a quarter of an inch in diameter. They are made up of threads, varying from two to twelve, and are both equally good. They are applied to crochet as well as to the other descriptions of work named. German fleecy, thought but little used, is much superior to that of this country. Hamburgh wool is an excellent article, but has not hitherto been much in request. Great care is necessary, in selecting wool of good quality: but let the young novice[24] give to the subject her best attention; and should she find herself sometimes deceived, still persevere, remembering that “practice makes perfect.”

Cotton, of various sizes, as numbered from one to six, or higher if required. In the choice of this material, much care is needed, not only in the selection of colors and shades, but also to ascertain if the color has been stained with a permanent dye.

Down.—This is sometimes used for stuffing knitted cushions, muffs, &c., and is too well known to need any description here.

Gold and Silver Thread and Cord.—The precious metals are now very generally employed in the ornamental parts of all kinds of fancy work. Gold and silver threads consists of a thread of silk, round which is spun an exceedingly fine wire of the metal required. For gold, silver or copper gilt wire is employed, as pure gold could not be so easily wrought. These threads can be employed in almost any way which the taste of the fair artist may induce her to devise. Besides the thread, gold and silver cord is also in much demand, and looks extremely beautiful, when employed with taste and judgment. This material is a twist, and is composed of different quantities of threads, according to the thickness required. Much care is required in working with it, or the beauty of the material will be spoilt. It is much used in crochet, and without due attention, the point of the needle is liable to catch the cord, and to break the wire, which would entirely destroy the beauty of the performance.

Beads.—These beautiful fabrications of art, are composed of gold, silver, polished steel, and glass. There is also a beautiful sort called garnet beads, with gold points. All these can be procured at any of the establishments for the sale of fancy articles, and are to be employed as the judgment or fancy may direct. The[25] gold beads are used in making all kinds of knitting, netting, and crochet, and look well either by themselves, or when in connection with those of the other materials named. Glass beads, may be procured of any variety of color, and when in combination with gold, silver, or steel, form a beautiful relief.


Frames. Cross stitch needles. Sewing needles. Meshes, of various sizes—at least three. Chenille Needles. Pair of long sharp-pointed scissors. Cartridge Paper. Tissue Paper. A fine piercer. Seam piercer. Camel’s hair brushes.

Mixture of white lead and gum water, to draw patterns for dark materials.

Mixture of stone blue and gum water, for light colors.

Black lead pencils.


Needles of various sizes. The Nos. referred to are those of the knitting needle gauge. Needles pointed at either end, for Turkish knitting. Ivory, or wooden pins, for knitting a biroche. A knitting sheath, &c., to be fastened on the waist of the knitter, toward the right hand, for the purpose of keeping the needle in a steady and proper position.


A pin or mesh, on which to form the loops. A needle called a netting needle, formed into a kind of fork, with two prongs at each end. The ends of the prongs meet and form a blunt point, not fastened like the eye of a common needle, but left open, that the thread or twine may pass between them, and be wound upon the needle. The prongs are brought to a point, in order that the[26] needle may pass through a small loop without interruption. Twine to form foundations. A fine long darning needle for bead work. Meshes of various, sizes from No. 1 to 11. Flat meshes, and ivory meshes; also of various sizes. The gauge is the same as that for knitting-needles.


Ivory crochet needles of various sizes. Steel crochet needles. Rug needles and a pair of long sharp pointed scissors. These implements should be disposed in a regular and orderly manner, as should also the materials for working. Order and regularity are matters but too frequently neglected in the gay and buoyant season of youth; and this fault, which is the parent of so much annoyance in after life, is but too generally overlooked by those whose duty it is to correct these incipient seeds of future mischief. No pursuit should be entered into by the young, without having some moral end in view, and this is especially needful to be observed in cases, where at first sight, it might appear a matter of indifference, whether the pursuit was one of utility, or of mere relaxation. We earnestly entreat our young friends, never to forget, that even our amusements may be rendered an acceptable sacrifice to their heavenly Father, if they assiduously endeavor to make the habits they form in their seasons of relaxation from graver studies, conduce to the development of the higher faculties of their nature, and subordinate preparations for a more exalted state of being, than any which this transitory scene can of itself[27] present to their contemplation and pursuits. Dyer, speaking of Tapestry, has beautifully said—

“This bright art
Did zealous Europe learn of Pagan lands,
While she assayed with rage of holy war
To desolate their fields; but old the skill:
Long were the Phrygian’s pict’ring looms renown’d;
Tyre also, wealthy seat of art, excell’d,
And elder Sidon, in th’ historic web.”

But we would have our fair friends to place before them a high and a definite object. Let them seek, like the excellent Miss Linwood—

“To raise at once our reverence and delight,
To elevate the mind and charm the sight,
To pour religion through the attentive eye,
And waft the soul on wings of extacy;
Bid mimic art with nature’s self to vie,
And raise the spirit to its native sky.”

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