(In this blog post Madame Achat Chartres, originally from Quebec Canada, but for many years now the resident manager of the Bedford Sewing Center in Bedford, Indiana, continues her long-running report on the history of sewing in the Western world).
As I said in my blog post yesterday, there was a time when sewing by hand was one of life’s basic necessities. In those days there was always at least one person in every family who knew how to sew by hand, and to sew very well.
Wielding a needle and thread with the skill of a surgeon, these people, often the mother in the family, or perhaps an older sister, or maybe a spinster aunt, could make or mend all kinds of different things from a wide range of different kinds of fabric.
And then, in just about the middle of the 19th century (in 1846 to be precise), a revolutionary new thing was born: the sewing machine!
And with the sewing machine came a whole new idea: mass production of clothes, and drapes and curtains, and all sorts of things that in the past had been hand sewed.
And ever since the latter part of the 19th century those in the Western world have gotten used to the idea of “store bought” clothes.
And as more and more people got used to the idea of store bought clothes, a greater and greater demand developed for those who were skilled in the operation of sewing machines—for, in a word, “seamstresses.”
Today seamstresses are the very backbone of the ready-made clothing industry. And most of them learn their trade in school.
There are many sewing schools everywhere in the developed world these days. And without those schools the world couldn’t function.
Many sewing schools are very small, local schools which hold very intimate one-on-one sorts of classes. And then there are the officially accredited sewing schools, which are usually departments in a larger institution, often a university.
We will start to describe these different sorts of schools, and their relative importance, in tomorrow’s blog post. Don’t forget to tune in!