Thursday, February 28, 2008

Boiling sewing patterns in the Limberlost...Does anyone know why?

On her site, Charming the Birds from the Trees, Emma invited readers to submit books and movies which depict positive feminine heroines. I noticed that "A Girl of the Limberlost" was on the list, and I decided to check it out of the library. The book was authored by Gene Stratton-Porter, who was a writer and naturalist, in 1909.

I'm sure lots of you know this book, as it seems to have been beloved by many generations or readers. If you have read this or any of the other novels in the series, please share your thoughts with us.

Also, I have a question, as there is a reference in the book which puzzles me: The main character, Eleanora, is a country student who attends a high school in town. Her mother was widowed at the time Eleanora was born, and, in her grief, she has closed her heart against her own daughter. Thus, she neglects to outfit Eleanora for school properly, and a neighboring couple -- Wesley and Margaret -- step in to help the girl.

In the process, Margaret obtains a dress pattern from town in order to make Eleanora some passably stylish frocks. Once she brings the pattern home, she boils it for some time. Does anyone know why she did this? Were patterns of the day printed on stiff fabric, or something? Wouldn't boiling the pattern wash away any markings and other instructions? I think there's something about sewing at the turn of the 20th century that I'm missing.

The overall tone of the book is wholesome, and the character is delightful. I'm enjoying it very much. However, I'd recommend that a parent read it first before giving it to children and young teens. There are some allusions to some tough subjects, such as marital infidelity, alcoholism, death, and the potential harm that might befall a young girl wandering in a forest alone. These allusions are not graphic, but only you can decide if your child is mature enough to handle them.

And, that brings up my second question: If you've read the book, what do you think about this?



Christy said...

I read The Girl of the Limberlost in my teens, I think. I still have it on my bookshelf but haven't read it in a while. I dearly love the book. It made a deep and lasting impression on me. I recognized something in it I didn't see in every book I read -- the importance of developing character.

I also read Gene Stratton Porter's companion book Freckles, which also addresses some tough issues. It was very good for me to read it at the time. It made me step outside of my protected world and think about issues that are very real.

Thanks for the reminder of these books. I think I might just pick them up and read them again.

Anonymous said...

This was to preshrink and to set the dyes.

Elizabeth said...

Hi Christy,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the Gene Stratton Porter books. My plan is to read Freckles next.

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for letting me know the purpose. I do preshrink fabrics today, but didn't know you used to preshrink the pattern, too.

Annie said...

I loved that book - we read it aloud as a family.