Embroidery, household hints ruled women’s pages in 1913

Posted April 23, 2013, at 12:34 p.m.

In one of many successful attempts throughout its history to engage women readers, the Bangor Daily News in 1913 ran on Saturdays and sometimes Tuesdays, a feature page titled Our Magazine of Fashion. This was the era when skirts were narrow at the hem, fell to the ankles and were embellished with lace, embroidery and lavish trims.

Winifred Worth was the reigning needlework expert on these pages, offering readers embroidery designs suitable for corset covers, shirtwaists, pincushions and other items. I haven’t found much about Winifred Worth and her background except that she also compiled and published instruction booklets for crochet and tatting.

With each of her embroidery designs published in the BDN, Worth offered a bit of history and suggestions for colors and stitches to use. In an early July 1913 edition, she had this to say about a floral design for a rectangular-shaped pincushion:

“In my study of embroidery I have learned that one reason why Madeira [a Portuguese island off the coast of Morocco] embroidery is bowerlike and fragile is because in the land of its creation, about the only beautiful objects to delight the eyes of the women are flowers which grow in lovely profusion. These the women imitate in embroidery, often working by a single light or by the side of a humble open grate fire.”

On July 25, 1913 Worth said about the design for a corset cover she offered, “ I have always thought this one of the neatest of all patterns to embroider upon underwear. In the first place, each design is so small that there need be no complex needlework. Each leaf can be covered with satin stitch which even a child can learn to make.”

This design was composed of floral sprays to be worked on both sides of the front of the garment.

For the Saturday, Aug. 9, 1913 edition, it was a Novel Collar Design in Bulgarian Embroidery.

Worth wrote: “I am furnishing you a pretty design today, the very name of which will call to your mind the peasantry of the Balkan Mountains, who are noted for their remarkable skill in completing some of the handsomest embroidery of historical beauty. It is their aim and delight to use a great many colors, intermingling them in a manner so clever that one color blends like a shadow into its adjoining part.” She suggested using shades of blue for the floral motifs, shades of green for the leaves and vines and shades of blue and green for the butterfly motif — all in satin stitch.

On Tuesday, Aug. 12, 1913 Worth said, “If you are acquainted with Roman cutwork you can appreciate the beauty of this design. It is not intricate at all, but you must exercise considerable patience to obtain best results.” The design, for a shirtwaist [a blouse], featured stylized flowers and curving leaves, and eyelet and bar cutwork. She suggested using silk floss on silk fabrics in order to obtain “rare beauty” in the finished piece.

With each embroidery design, these instructions for transferring the design to fabric were included: “To Transfer This Design: Put some soap in a pint of hot water, stir and remove soap. Saturate design with mixture [one assumes the design was cut from the newspaper], then remove excess moisture by partially drying design. Place material on a hard, flat surface and lay the design face down upon the material. Cover with two folds of newspaper and rub with a tablespoon, pressing hard, until design is entirely transferred.” There was a patent pending for this process developed, apparently, by World Color Printing Co. in St. Louis.

The news also featured in nearly every edition a pattern. Readers would clip a coupon, write in their name and address, put a dime in an envelope and mail it to the Bangor Daily News. A design in July, dubbed “A Charming Gown,” featured embroidery in oriental tints, had a front in the surplice style and a vest-like bodice. Recommended fabrics for making the dress were crepe, charmeuse, linen, corduroy, gingham, chambray, voile or tub silk. The pattern was cut in 34, 36, 38, 40 and 42 bust sizes. It required 5 ¾ yards of fabric to make the dress to fit a 36-inch bust size.

The fashion page also offered household hints, such as: “A pinch of soda added to a berry pie before the upper crust is put on will keep it from running over” and “A bit of camphor in a small cup placed over an alcohol lamp which has its flame turned very low will always put mosquitoes to flight.”

I assume these items were compiled by a woman who worked at the news and not by Winifred Worth. However, an article on making a wildflower garden bears Edna Egan’s byline and one on beautiful hands has Annette Angert’s byline. Mrs. Kingsley and Mrs. McClure sometimes contributed, commenting on fashion and giving tips on how to raise courteous children.

Snippets

The website for Stitch for Cancer was incorrect in last week’s column. The correct address is stitchforcancer.webs.com.

Call Ardeana Hamlin at 990-8153 or email ahamlin@bangordailynews.com. Don’t forget to visit her blog at byhand.bangordailynews.com.

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