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An Antique Sewing Bird and the Mary Frances Sewing Book

My Sewing Bird

I don't have a lot of antique sewing tools, but this little guy keeps me company in my sewing room, and I thought you might be interested in knowing a little about him. Sewing Birds were popular in the 1800's when sewing by hand was such a large part of a woman's life. The bird which clamped to the table, was a "third hand" that held the fabric taught in its mouth as the seamstress hemmed the fabric. Plain clamps to hold the fabric started to be used in the late 1600's and by the 17oo's became more decorative. According to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, the birds didn't become popular in the United States until the mid 1800's when Charles Waterman of Meridan, Connecticut patented a "feathered bird upon the wing, bearing a burden upon its back." The burden was an emery ball and a pincushion sat below the beak. Waterman advertised the birds as having "health preserving properties" because they allowed the seamstress to sit in a more upright position while she worked. The birds became very common and most women had one as a necessary tool in their sewing basket. In 1913, Jane Eayre Fryer published the Mary Frances Sewing Book which taught little girls how to hand sew by creating an entire wardrobe for their doll.