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Texas | Columns | "It's All Trew"

A stitch in time saved 9 in a girl's hope chest

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
A suggestion from writer/cousin Jackie Gill, formerly of Miami, Texas, to write a column about embroidery left me almost speechless. At this age I know a lot, if I can only remember it. After some research and a few vague recollections I am writing a column this week about embroidery.

Embroidery is the art of decorating fabric or other materials by stitching in designs using thread or yarn and a needle.

This decorating of materials came about after people learned to fit and stitch their clothing together. Decorating such articles followed quickly as people sought individual identities by appearing somewhat different. This same desire to look different was shown by native tribes who used beads, quills, teeth and claws of various birds and animals for decoration.

Most think the history of embroidery goes back 5,000 years. Probably the Chinese, who invented silk thread and fabrics, were among the first to embroider such objects.

Until the Industrial Revolution, all embroidery was done by hand, stitch by stitch.

Shuttle Embroidery was invented in the early 1800s leading eventually to the development of the sewing machine.

In the American early South, young maidens were expected to know how to sew and do embroidery in order to be classed as ladies or experienced homemakers. Sewing children's clothes or patches on other clothing was everyday labor. Decorating with embroidery added class.

Suitors were often shown the results of efforts made by maidens enhancing their values as prospective wives. If a young lady could sew and cook, the rest of her attributes became secondary.

In my younger years from 1933 to about 1955, I observed a lot of embroidery.

Both my mother and grandmother embroidered on quilt tops and lesser size items. In fact most young rural girls and single women each had a "hope chest" filled with items, inherited, saved, made or gifted that would enhance her chance of marriage and improve her home whenever that event occurred.

At marriage my first wife, O'Leen, had almost everything we needed to set up housekeeping except furniture and food.

Among the contents of her hope chest were sheets, pillowcases, towels, wash rags, dish rags, dish towels, doilies, table cloths, curtains and gowns.

Most were embroidered with hand-stitched designs of varied colors and were beautiful.

All were stored in a cedar chest bought at her high school graduation from W.W. Virtue Furniture Co. at Perryton.

During this early era, many baby or marriage shower gifts were hand-made items enhanced by embroidery.

In the hard times of the Depression and Dust Bowl the most economical and practical gift was a dozen plain white cloth diapers, to be used as dish drying towels. Many were decorated with embroidery designating a day of the week such as Monday, Tuesday, etc. Another item often embroidered and given as gifts to women was handkerchiefs.

If I remember correctly from the remarks my mother made, these handmade utility items, stitched patiently with love and care, meant more to the recipients than the store-sponsored gift selections of modern day.

Delbert Trew - "It's All Trew"
May 3 , 2011 column
See Also:
Quilting was hub of family, social life by Delbert Trew
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