What about Sewing?

The prejudice against sewing.

A word in its favour.

Some of the very advanced and extremely superior women of the present day are strenuously opposed to the teaching of needlework in girls’ schools and colleges. A mere handicraft should be beneath the notice of highly intellectual human beings, and should be left to those whose intelligence is of a lower order. That is their creed. I am glad to see that one of the cleverest and most learned women of the time, Mrs. Bryant, D.Sc., advocates, though in a half-hearted and semi-apologetic fashion, the teaching of needlework to girls receiving the higher education. She thinks that, just as a man is a somewhat incomplete person if he cannot make himself useful with a hammer, a plane, and a saw, a woman who cannot sew is equally an anomaly. The man who wants a rent in his glove stitched would be likely to regard her as much more so. But I must not, from this, be understood as advocating the accomplishment of sewing merely with a view to the repair of men’s sartorial damages. This would be to invoke indeed the wrath of the superior woman, who thinks it degradation to stoop to all the sweet, old-fashioned, housewifely uses and despises her gentler sisters who delight in making home comfortable and life smooth for those who dwell with her.

The training it involves.

Its moral value.

One of the best and foremost reasons for teaching sewing to girls is the training it involves. Our wonderful finger-tips have within them possibilities which oftentimes lie dormant throughout a whole lifetime for the want of education. The Great Genius who made them gave them a capacity of delicate, sensitive touch, which is blurred and lost when not encouraged and promoted. The hands that can wield a needle with celerity and skill have necessarily received a training that tells for them in many another way besides mere sewing. The servant who sews well is the one who breaks fewest things. She has learned to use her finger-tips. The clumsy woman who uses brute force in dealing with the most delicate articles, and is constantly smashing and damaging something or other is she who has never been taught to sew, or in some way had manual training. The value of this development of finger-training is greater than at first sight might be imagined. Through the hands the mind and character are influenced. Patience progresses while the diligent little fingers of the child are at work, conquering difficulties gradually and achieving skill day after day with a continued progression towards perfection. The lesson in perseverance is a fine one, and no less valuable is the necessary exertion in self-control, which soon becomes a habit and works wonders in producing repose of manner. This last may not be a particularly valuable quality, but it is a delightful one in this restless age, when few people seem able to settle down for more than half an hour at a time, even to the agreeable occupation of reading.

And mental effect.

It may seem exaggerated to attribute so much to the mere learning to sew; but a little examination into the matter will prove to the thoughtful that there is something in it. Any man, for instance, who has learned even a little carpentering, will admit that the effect on his mind and character of perfecting himself in any one of the necessary processes was distinctly good. It promotes clearness of thought, banishing that vague slovenliness of ideas which is analogous to the ragged edges of a frayed garment. To many an uneducated worker the acquirement of skill in some handicraft has brought with it an upward influence that has led him far in the direction of self-improvement.


Harriet Martineau on overdoing it.

But there must be moderation in it. Many an intellectual life has been killed by intemperate sewing. It was the creed of our grandmothers that everything else for girls was idling. Long seams were regarded

  By PanEris using Melati.

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