Vintage Patterns

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If it be true that “home scenes are rendered happy or miserable in proportion to the good or evil influence exercised over them by woman—as sister, wife, or mother”—it will be admitted as a fact of the utmost importance, that every thing should be done to improve the taste, cultivate the understanding, and elevate the character of those “high priestesses” of our domestic sanctuaries. The page of history informs us, that the progress of any nation in morals, civilization, and refinement, is in proportion to the elevated or degraded position in which woman is placed in society; and the same instructive volume will enable us to perceive, that the fanciful creations of the needle, have [iv]exerted a marked influence over the pursuits and destinies of man.

To blend the useful, with the ornamental and to exhibit the gushing forth of mind, vitalised by the warm and glowing affections of the heart, is the peculiar honor and sacred destiny of woman. Without her influence, life would be arrayed in sables, and the proud lords of creation would be infinitely more miserable and helpless than the beasts that perish. To render then those “terrestrial angels” all that our fondest wishes could desire, or our most vivid imaginations picture, must be, under any circumstances, a pleasing and delightful employment; while for a father or a brother to behold her returning all the care bestowed upon her, by the thousand offices of love, to the performance to which she alone is equal, is doubtless one of the most exalted sources of human felicity.

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; and hence, her inventive powers have been, in all ages, called into early and active exercise, in the fabrication of those articles calculated to accomplish those desirable ends. Amongst these, Useful and Ornamental [v]Needlework, Knitting, and Netting, occupy a distinguished place, and are capable of being made, not only sources of personal gratification, but of high moral benefit, and the means of developing in surpassing loveliness and grace, some of the highest and noblest feelings of the soul.

To become an expert needle-woman should be an object of ambition to every fair one. Never is beauty and feminine grace so attractive, as when engaged in the honorable discharge of household duties, and domestic cares. The subjects treated of in this little manual are of vast importance, and to them we are indebted for a large amount of the comforts we enjoy; as, without their aid, we should be reduced to a state of misery and destitution of which it is hardly possible to form an adequate conception. To learn, then, how to fabricate articles of dress and utility for family use, or, in the case of ladies blessed with the means of affluence, for the aid and comfort of the deserving poor, should form one of the most prominent branches of female education. And yet experience must have convinced those who are at all conversant with the general state of society, that this is a branch of study to which nothing like due attention is paid in the usual routine of school instruction. The effects of this neglect are often painfully apparent in [vi]after life, when, from a variety of circumstances, such knowledge would be of the highest advantage, and subservient to the noblest ends, either of domestic comfort, or of active and generous benevolence.

The records of history inform us of the high antiquity of the art of needlework; and its beautiful mysteries were amongst the earliest developments of female taste and ingenuity. As civilization increased, new wants called forth new exertions; the loom poured forth its multifarious materials, and the needle, with its accompanying implements, gave form and utility to the fabrics submitted to its operations. No one can look upon THE NEEDLE, without emotion; it is a constant companion throughout the pilgrimage of life. We find it the first instrument of use placed in the hand of budding childhood, and it is found to retain its usefulness and charm, even when trembling in the grasp of fast declining age. The little girl first employs it in the dressing of her doll: then she is taught its still higher use, in making up some necessary articles for a beloved brother, or a revered parent. Approaching to womanhood, additional preparations of articles of use, as ornaments of herself and others, call for its daily employment; and with what tender emotions does the glittering steel inspire the bosom, as beneath its magic touch, that which is to deck a lover[vii] or adorn a bride, becomes visible in the charming productions of female skill and fond regard. To the adornments of the bridal bed, the numerous preparations for an anxiously-expected little stranger, and the various comforts and conveniences of life, the service of this little instrument is indispensible. Often too is it found aiding in the preparation of gifts of friendship, the effects of benevolence, and the works of charity. Many of those articles, which minister so essentially to the solace of the afflicted, would be unknown without it; and its friendly aid does not desert us, even in the dark hour of sorrow and affliction. By its aid, we form the last covering which is to enwrap the body of a departed loved one, and prepare those sable habiliments, which custom has adopted as the external signs of mourning.

The needle is also capable of becoming an important monitor to the female heart; and we would impress this truth seriously upon their recollection, that as there is

“Sermons in stones,
And good in every thing.”

so the needle they so often use, is, or may be, a silent but salutary moral teacher. They all know that however good the eye of a[viii] needle may be, if it were rusted and pointless, it would be of little use. Let them also recollect, that though it may posses the finest point and polish in the world, if destitute of the eye, it would be of no use at all. The lesson we wish them to derive from hence, is this; that as it is the eye which holds the thread, and that it is by the thread alone that the needle becomes useful, so it is the eye of intelligence directed to the attainment of useful ends, that gives all the real value to the point and polish, which is so much admired in the educated female; and that unless the intellectual powers of the mind be engaged in the pursuits of goodness, all other endowments will be useless to their possessor. Let them learn also, not to despise such of their companions as, though intelligent and useful, are neither possessed of wit or elegance equal to their own. Circumstances may have rendered them, like the needle, rusty and pointless; but the eye of intelligence is there, and they may still be useful.

The want of a work containing clear instructions, without unnecessary diffuseness, by which the uninitiated may become their own instructors, has long been sensibly felt; and this want, the following pages are intended to supply. Our aim is, not to make[ix] young ladies servile copyists, but to lead them to the formation of habits of thought and reflection, which may issue in higher attainments than the knitting of a shawl, or the netting of a purse.

Indeed, it is only when accomplishments are rendered subservient to the development of moral goodness, that they may become pursuits at all worthy of an accountable being. We were not sent into this world to flutter through life, like the gaudy butterfly, only to be seen and admired. We were designed to be useful to our fellow beings; and to make all our powers and capabilities, in some way or other conducive to the happiness and welfare of our co-journeyers on the path of time. To this end, we wish our fair countrywomen to devote their best attention; and, in its attainment, to exert every energy which they possess. We wish them to make all the knowledge which they may acquire subserve some noble purpose, which will outlive the present hour. But to do this, the well-spring of the purest affections must be opened in the soul; and the elegant productions of taste and genius become vitalized, and animated, by the spirit of love. Thus, and thus only, can the occupations of a leisure hour be converted into efficient ministers of good; and such they will assuredly be found, if practised from right motives,[x] and placed in due subordination to the right exercise of more important duties, which we owe to Heaven, to our fellow beings, and to ourselves.

We are anxious to render elegant amusements conducive to the attainment of moral ends; and to lay that foundation of intellectual superiority, and affectionate regard, for the comfort and happiness of others, which can alone give light and animation, sweetness and blooming freshness, to the interesting scenes of future life. All engagements, which are calculated to elevate, soften, and harmonize the human character, have this tendency; and it is in the assured conviction that the employments here treated of, are, when cultivated in due subordination to higher duties, well adapted to secure these objects, and to promote these domestic ends, that the Ladies’ Work-Table Book has been prepared, and is now presented to the lovely daughters of our land. The public will be the best judge how far we have succeeded in our effort. Small as the work is, it has not been produced without much labor, and considerable exercise of thought; and it is dedicated to our fair countrywomen, in the fervent hope, that it will not be found altogether unworthy of their favorable notice and regard.

[xi]In concluding these introductory remarks, we wish to say a word or two to the parents and guardians of those, whose excellence of character is so essential to the welfare of our beloved country. We trust by you, our little manual will be cordially approved, and placed, as a memento of affection, in the hands of those you most desire to see models of sincerity, elegance, and accomplishments. This will be well; but we trust the matter will not be allowed to rest there. It is not when good instructors and proper books are provided for the young, that the duties of the parental relationship are performed. No; care must be taken to give efficiency to the means thus called into requisition, by the most assiduous care, devoted attention, and judiciously expressed approval on the part of those who claim the highest regard from the rising generation. The path of education is not always strewed with flowers, nor can it ever be pursued with either pleasure or advantage unless a foundation of practical piety and moral worth be laid, on which the superstructure may securely rest.

It has been well remarked “that intellect may be cultivated at school, but that the affections of the heart can only be properly developed amid the scenes of home.” Our aim in this work has[xii] been, while seeking to promote the purposes of genuine education, to raise high the moral sentiments, and cultivate to an eminent degree the best sensibilities of the soul. In this we ask for your cordial and careful co-operation. We know the influence of a judicious mother, and we confidently commend our labor to your favorable regard.

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