Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Romper Sewing Bags

 Happy Wednesday!

In January of 1938, an 8th grade girl named Betty Jean sent a letter to her local newspaper in California about the Christmas she had while visiting her father.  Her Dad's home was not decorated for Christmas.  Betty Jean and her sister found a tree limb to substitute for a Christmas tree.  "Just to be silly," she wrote.  "My sister and I hung our socks by the fireplace."  Happily, her socks were filled with small presents on Christmas morn:  "a scarf, a box of candy, a wrist band, a box of hankies, and a sewing affair made like a pair of pajamas.  On this was pinned a verse that read:

Put your thimble in my pocket, 

your needles in my knees,

Drop your buttons down my collar,

And hang me where you please."

What Betty Jean described is a romper (not pajama) sewing bag.  I've seen a few of these and I know that Jayne and Sue P. have at least one of these.  I have a few I've collected through the years.

The verse used on the romper sewing bags vary and often missing from the piece when I find them later.  This one just happened to have the verse sewn in:

Ardella from Augusta, Maine, also wrote to her local newspaper about one she had received for Christmas 1936:

Also in 1936, "The Homemaker's Club", a regular column in the The Calgary Albertan (Canada), reported that the club had patterns readers had shared that were available to women in the region--including a romper sewing bag pattern.

There are a variety of these out on the market, especially Etsy.  The trick to finding these kinds of textiles is looking not for a "romper sewing bag" but instead searching for "small romper clothespin bag."  It doesn't surprise me that vendors don't know what they are selling, but there are a few tell-tale signs.  The legs have batting at the bottom for needles and pins and usually (but there are a few exceptions) a pocket for thimbles.  One of the ones I have was made without the loop at the top:

As charming as these are and as wide spread as they are found, it is surprising that I haven't found the source of the pattern.  I've looked through newspapers, magazines, even searched through things like 4-H patterns (although most members were taught to make a sewing bag, it isn't described in detail) and haven't found a single pattern published.  It's a mystery.

All of the articles in the newspapers are at the end of the 1930s which matches the fabric used in the sewing bags (there's only one other mention in 1939 and that is that a woman in Vermont who submitted one to the local fair for judging).

Still, for those of us who might want to make one for a friend or family member, there is hope.  This book has a true pattern for what the author refers to as a "sewing buddy."

I just happen to find this at a used book store and saw the pattern.  Copies of the book are still available online at a reasonable price.

If you happen to know the origin of this quaint little bag, please let me know.  Do you like it and find it charming too?

Have a safe and happy day!

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