Thursday, August 25, 2022

Sewing Screen

 Happy Thursday!

A week ago, I wrote about cotton and the price of fabric.  One of the things I mused about was making my fabric go farther.   

The funny thing about this is that I actually did a net search.  I googled "Making fabric stash go further" and then laughed at the results.  Only one book was advertised:  Two From One Jelly Roll Quilts, 18 Designs to Make your Fabric Go Further.  

Every other article focused on building, organizing, enhancing, and arranging one's fabric stash.  We are a consumer generation and of course, the fabric manufacturers support buying more fabric. 

But quilters are more.  We have trained our eyes to see the possibilities of fabrics we see in shops and often these very fabrics inspire us--at least when we buy them.

There are pages and pages of products we can buy to help us organize our fabric and tools.  "Our foremothers never had this problem," I thought to myself as I looked around our small cottage.  "They didn't have the room for storage or the disposable income to purchase so much."

But then--as I was researching darning bags, I found an article on something I had forgotten about--sewing screens.  And I began researching those once I had finished the darning research.

Of course I have one. 😁  

I bought this little gadget years ago when the kids still lived at home and I didn't have a sewing room.  At the time I purchased it, it had worn cretonne fabric pockets hanging on the lower half (by cup hooks) which made it convenient to hold my small sewing.  I could close it up and store it behind my sewing chair when it wasn't in use.  It's made from recycled wood pieces.  

I have seen a few of these at flea markets and most are much bigger than mine.  My smaller version was possibly made for a child.  Only 14 inches long, each half of the screen is  only about 7 inches wide. Eventually the frayed pockets became too weak and I disposed of them.  This aspect became a moot point when the kids moved out and I took over the attic.

The original concept was first publicized in the late 19th century.
The latest in "portable furniture", articles suggested it was convenient, kept the woman's sewing organized, and hidden from view when not in use.   


"Perfect for My Lady's bedroom," one article cited in the 1890s.  By the early 20th century,  uses for the screen expanded. From 1907: 

It was suggested that women should have one in their country home (if they were wealthy enough to have such a residence) and my favorite, for sewing on the summer porch.

Most of these had a handle at the top that made it easy to carry around.  Mine doesn't have handles per se but recycled drawer pulls to use for portability.

These are likely early 20th century versions (images from pinterest).

A variety of sewing screen ideas were published in books, magazines, and newspapers throughout the 20th century, until the 1980s.  

Women were often encouraged to make their screens as is evidenced by this photograph from 1915 in one book
When the Depression hit, Farm Bureaus, women's groups, and 4-H ran classes on building the screens as well. These classes ran for decades.

Some screens were quite elaborate and large.  Often they had enough space to keep jars that were screwed in at the lids for things like buttons and gadgets like these mid-century ones:


Below:  A large trifold screen design from 1937:

The screen were popular in various parts of the world.  I found directions or examples in Canada, the U.K., and Australia!  Some were even sold pre-made or in kits.

A later version, painted in green (pinterest).


Nearly every article I read underlined the need that women had to keep their sewing organized and easily accessible.  Grandma might not have had the large fabric stash we do but she certainly longed for ease when she sewed.  It's comforting to know that our foremothers shared some of the same challenges we do.  


By the 1980s, the phrase "sewing screen" no longer connotated a fold-up sewing corner.  It referred instead to a computerized screen on one's sewing machine:

Still there may be a need to bring this old-time gadget back.  For sewing folks living in apartments, small (or even tiny!) houses, and as many of us a certain age are down-sizing, having a sewing screen to organize tools and projects may just be an idea who's time has returned.

Now if we could only find a portable way to store our fabric...😁


Tomorrow is Flower Friday and if you have anything to share, please email me at!

Have a safe and happy day!

1 comment:

  1. What a handy device! I've never heard of them. Sure would help the clutter next to my chair in the family room!