Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Sewing and the bachelor girl

Have you ever thought about matching your carpets, your walls or your sewing to your hair colour? Well this, according to The Big Book of Needlework was the thing for all young ladies to do so. This book has always appealed to me, it offers insightful, creative and practical designs and tips on how to get started and become a mild expert in varying household and creative needlework projects. Yet it does so in a mildly sarcastic manner and it is the embroidery chapter which offers the most charmingly imaginative guide.

“Though the modern bachelor girl of the dashing, dancing, cocktail-drinking type may abhor embroidery, purely as embroidery, when it has no definite end in view, yet there is much modern embroidery which would give character and individuality to her bachelor abode and which, done by herself would neither cost much nor take much time for its execution.

Let us first design a background for those embroideries and for a brunette. Suppose she has a large and fairy lofty room with a north light. Her main furniture consists of a good divan with plenty of cushions and a quite handsome black cocktail cabinet presented by an admiring uncle. As she is of the vivid, restless type, fond of brightness, colour and life, her walls and ceiling could be covered entirely with a good dull gilt paper, having a surface simulating a canvas weave. The woodwork to be enamelled black and a plain black carpet on the floor. If this is too expensive then the floor could be painted black and have one or two scarlet (not red) rugs. Old rugs will dye quite satisfactorily to the proper lacquer scarlet.

Now the embroideries. For boldness and speed, these must be mostly in appliqué. Place the cabinet against the wall facing the window. On the wall behind it may be hung and embroidered mural panel ...

… For the blonde girl of this same type, the walls and ceiling might be in a silvery grey with woodwork painted soft jade and a jade-green carpet. The furniture to be plain, unpainted deal to which is applied two or three coats of inexpensive silver pain. Removed handles and replace them with short jade composition bar-handles. The embroidery … divan cover and curtains to be in the same designs but in a very full soft flat yellowish pink, embroidered in jade instead of scarlet, silver instead of gold, mulberry instead of black, and soft blue instead of china blue.

… For the less sophisticated type of bachelor girl, we would suggest the pale-pink walls of the shade of those small pink anemones one buys in spring. Woodwork and carpet in a pale dove beige. The divan and two large comfy chairs with loose covers of mignonette green with uncrushable linen.

This girl loves embroidery so she has piles of cushions, pink, beige, green and natural, embroidered in rather naturalistic designs.

… Do not imagine that those schemes are extravagant and beyond the reach of the bachelor girl. That is not the case. It is simply a matter of harmonising colours. If economy is a consideration, the curtains and cushions can be all of good casement cloth embroidery cottons are very cheap nowadays and with only one room to furnish the bachelor girl can afford to devote all her money to it”. (Goldie Killin, G., 1936:197-203)

Sounds like I need to hunt out some black paint and scarlet, definitely scarlet cloth!

Quote taken from - Goldie Killin, G (1936) “Embroidery” In Paterson, A.S., Service, S. and Paton, H., (Eds) 1936, The Big Book of Needlecraft, Odhams Press Ltd: London pp 184-211


  1. Bonjour!
    Hope you had a wonderful Christmas. This was such a great article, so entertaining - definitely go for the scarlet!
    ALso loved the little flower compact in the last post.
    Are you ready to ring in a fabulous New Year? WIshing you much happiness in 2010!

  2. Thank you Bonjourroamnce! I'm so glad I managed to stumble across that rose compact too - keep finding a load of them upon Ebay now too, the market will soon be over run with them!

    I can't wait for the new year - the first half of 2009 really wasn't the best. Luckily its turned around rather well but hopefully 2010 will be the start of things to come!

  3. that is so funny! and i have seen that book- its great. i even love the citation at the bottom the post (im such a nerd haha)
    merry christmas and happy new year!
    and gorgeouss blogg!

  4. Haha i'm such a nerd too - can't slip out of my student days without feeling I need to reference everything!!