Browsing our Early and Fine Printing Collections is always interesting, especially when something which goes beyond the simplicity of the basic page turns up—such is the focus of this blog. The volume in question is snappily entitled: Simple Directions in Needle-work and Cutting Out; Intended for the Use of the National Female Schools of Ireland, to which are Added Specimens of Work, Executed by the Pupils of The Female National Model School [G 746.4] (1858). The text was published in 1858, in Dublin by Alex Thom & Sons, through the direction of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland.The Model Schools were formed to aid in the education and thus employment of the impoverished in Ireland. This volume concerning needle work helped to teach female students by not only giving text based direction, but also through the pasted-in physical examples of the work expected to be produced. The book details the order in which the lessons should progress, beginning with hemming, sewing and stitching; advancing on to darning, marking, knitting, platting, and overcasting. The volume also details how to work with various fabrics and yard goods such as lace and muslin, through to decorative thread-work. It also covers instructions on how to cut-out patterns for different types of garment. At the rear of the volume are the examples of the work—it is these examples which make the volume so attractive. I admit to being very taken by this tiny little shirt (it only measures about 150mm in length.) If my sewing skills were up to the task, I’d have a go. Sadly though, even having read through the volume, I’m pretty sure my skills remain at the sewing handkerchiefs level. The volume can be seen by appointment within the Wolfson Centre for Archival Research by emailing the address at the bottom of this page.
Rachel Clare, Senior Archives Assistant