About me

My photo
I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


Follow by Email

Follow me on Instagram


Saturday, February 13, 2016

No resources like the real resources

I have had a nice day on the picnic table and have the pockets on in my beta test jeans, etc. and tomorrow am doing the fly. Remember I am doing this blind, without instructions, which is fine with a few mysteries.

For example the pattern says to cut three fly pieces and as well one largish zipper guard. I have been trying to figure out the three fly pieces and searching in my memory (it has been a long time since I sewed a traditional, versus a mock fly).

To refresh that memory I have been doing some surfing and pretty much have turned up about 47 versions of the mock fly.

Then bingo.

When you want old school, you go old school and refer to those who knew the Right Way to do things.

In this case I have found in the Digital Commons (where many university libraries use to upload archival materials or university research projects) of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln  Extension, these marvellous instructions for three kinds of fly zipper instructions. Save these instructions, they are like gold.

I think we are losing a precious resource here. 

In previous generations home economists took their work pretty seriously. Historically there was an argument to be made that as women became more educated, and vast numbers of them became empowered working out of the home during WW II, that it became necessary to find a socially acceptable (read this home based) way for women to use their brains and become professional and that fostered the development of Home Ec degrees.

I have written about this before.

In some cases this got a bit silly at times, here is something I read from the same archival collection, about scientific kitchen organization:

Now although this sort of stuff above was a waste of good woman time, I really regret all the good sewing knowledge that is now archived and lost.

I think of what was known, that is now not -  leaving bloggers, new and old sewers to flounder, and too often to hack together methods without the benefit of good solid knowledge.

If I had an endowment and decided to do a nutty retirement project I might just start visiting these archives in the old RV and pulling these materials together for sewers today.

Some excellent minds put their effort, their careers and some times their lives into creating this knowledge.

We shouldn't let it slip away.


Sewcat said...

Thank you for writing this. I have used the archive you noted but I also have started to collect old sewing books from the 1930's to the 1950's. It is amazing what information you can find in these books. If you were to collect all this information in a book I am sure that I am not the only one who would want it.

Angelle said...

I totally agree! I would definitely be interesting in reading the results of that project. :)

Lynn said...

Ciao, Barbara!

I haven't commented before, but am almost always entertained by your posts. I was a home economics major way back in the day, when such a thing existed, and have always believed I received the very best education available, as preparation for the actual life I have lived.

Your pursuit of the core of knowledge that was common to our curriculum is certainly applauded by me. And I share your regrets that so many young people seem to have to learn all over again what we learned as the basics. But, just as it was true for sewing, organizing the home, especially the kitchen, was part of that core of knowledge. Please don't consider that fundamental exercise a "waste of good woman time."

I encourage you on your journey to resurrect the homemaking skills I have cherished my entire life. And, in the spirit of cooperation I invite you to read and enjoy my two blogs:



History of Costume was one of my home ec classes at university, and you will find some blogposts on Renaissance Costume in early posts.

Thanks for entertaining me, and I hope I can do the same for you!

theresa said...

Thanks for the link, Barb. I followed it, copied the fly zip PDF and then went and grabbed as many of the sewing/tailoring as I thought were useful.

Theresa in Tucson

SuzieB said...

Those are GREAT instructions.

Marie-Noƫlle Lafosse said...

You found a gem,thanks for sharing

Angela said...

Excellent post, thank you! I have bookmarked the zipper information, and completely agree with you. So much good knowledge that is hidden...

Teri said...

I am of an age where I have benefitted from Home Ec instruction all through my school years and I lament its lack in younger generations. There are pearls of information in my head, and the heads of many women my age. Things we don't even think consciously about - we just 'know' because we learned it thoroughly, repeatedly and consistently in school.
Thank you for doing the digging to resurrect these instructions. I appreciate your research skills.

Tracy King said...

I totally agree, we shouldn't let it slip away. Sounds like you are having fun and enjoying your time in the sun.

Helen Marshall said...

Thanks for the useful resource And a propros your earlier post, I too taught at RMIT Melbourne in Social Science (from 1980-2006). It was and is place full of the most interesting people!

Kathrynsb said...

I have to agree with Lynn. Not having been a home ec major which was not considered pre-law (although my daughter was and it is now called Family and Consumer Sciences) I did not learn those organizing skills. The quote about organizing was actually something of a revelation to me - a basically disorganized person vis a vis space and possessions so I would say they would not be a waste of anyone's time. I can't even effectively organize my law office and files and have always had to hire this done. A little off point but your comments on young sewers constantly reinventing the wheel is right on the mark.

Anonymous said...

Ritold W., in Home: A short history of an idea, wrote that men right about home design in terms of reposte; women write in terms of workplace ergonomics.

With that in mind, I think that the active/hot storage vs. cooler storage is a good idea. It's intuitive to me, but not to my husband. But, he's always asking me where he can find xyz.

thornberry said...

Thanks for the zip links Barbara - I am in the process of sewing a pair of Bootstrap Vado flares at the moment, and that is a great resource.

Anonymous said...

Hello from Josie

Thanks for sharing. I am a new sewer and appreciate the information. Where were you when I needed this tutorial? I end up watching numerous youtube tutorials last year. Drafted my own pattern, the zipper fly took a whole day.. I will add your information when i get home. For now I have it on pdf on my ipad.

Thanks again

Josie from Hawaii
p.s I hope this comment shows

Abbey said...

Barbara, thank you for sharing these resources! The fly instructions are so nice to have, since I am preparing to sew my first-ever pair of jeans imminently. (And they're men's jeans, at that!) Since the pattern is of my own making from an existing pair, I too am working without instructions. This helpful set will come in handy!

Cynth said...

You would probably enjoy poking around in the HEARTH archives at Cornell

Includes Extension publications and much more.

The interface is a little academic-wonky, but if you dig there are some gems in here.