The Teaching of Needlework

Most girls learned to sew at a very young age because needlework was considered to be an essential component of maintaining a middle or upper class household. Their education, either at home or in school, was founded on learning basic stitches, knitting, and mending techniques before transitioning to fancy work. Samplers, often created by girls under the age of ten, were designed onto a base fabric and contained alphabets, numerals and short verses of a sentimental or moral nature. Parents proudly displayed their daughters’ embroidery to show off their work, skill, and status.

Fashioning garments and accessories for dolls allowed a young girl to practice her growing skills, while simultaneously partaking in habits of domestic leisure and imaginative play. Stitching on perforated paper was another popular medium of needlework for girls, due to the availability of easy to follow, pre-printed designs. These small items often served as small gifts to family members and friends.