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The Workwoman's Guide: A Guide to 19th Century Decorative Arts, Fashion and Practical Crafts--1838 Review by Amy Christy

Piper Publishing, LLC
PO Box 42
Easton, CT 06612-0042

The Workwoman's Guide is a must have for anyone who wishes to study or reproduce 19th-century household items and fashion. Containing "instructions to the inexperienced," this wonderful text was intended for use by young married women, ladies' maids, and any woman who ran a household. It was originally published in 1838 by an author who identified herself only as "a Lady."

There are hundreds of detailed patterns to clothe the family and beautify the home within the pages of this comprehensive manual. The first chapters cover basic needlework, tips on purchasing goods, and general rules for cutting patterns, and directions for assembling the work box. Continuing with the family wardrobe, you'll find everything from baby's first shoes, to ladies' and gentlemen's clothing, caps, bonnets and footwear. Many patterns are specific for social class, which I found very interesting. There is also a section devoted to mourning attire and burial shrouds.

For the household, there are countless patterns for basic linens, elegant upholstery, and draperies. There are simple dinner napkins and sheets as well as elaborate bed hangings and coverlets. The recipe section teaches how to make ink, fabric starch, stain and grease remover, and furniture polish, among others. There's also a large detailed section on knitting and straw platting. This book is absolutely amazing, especially given the time period in which it was written. I have enjoyed several period needlework books, but this serves more as a practical guide containing clear line drawings and illustrations of the finished product. I was fascinated by the detail and the volume of information contained in this book! It is definitely worth the time to study and would be perfect for a seamstress or for anyone wishing to re-create period clothing and furnishings from the 19th century.

Product review by Amy Christy, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August 2007