September is National Sewing Month, and I’m happily turning my attention away from our fraught political climate to find photos of older women practicing this craft. The American Sewing Guild, of which I’m a member, calls sewing “an art and life skill.” The life skill part of that equation was perhaps most apparent during our terrible spring, when most of those with sewing machines were churning out masks. Now that you can buy masks in the grocery store, perhaps the art of sewing will once again bring me joy.
The photo above, estimated to be taken around 1960, shows that it is never too late to start sewing. The African American woman on the left is teaching two older women students how to lay out a pattern.
When you blow up the photo, you can even see what they are making. Laid out on the table with the fabric are instructions for an apron by Simplicity Patterns. Aprons were often offered as a beginning project back in the day when women wore a lot of them. These days a starting project is more likely to be a loose pair of pajama bottoms.
There isn’t much in their clothes that says “1960” to me, but we really can only see the teacher’s outfit in any detail. She wears what looks like a very close fitting shirtwaist decorated with an interesting shirred pocket. And did you notice all the dots? They are everywhere—the teacher’s dress, the student’s scarf and even the fabric on the table. Not a stripe to be seen.