Wednesday, November 30, 2022

WPA quilts and more...


When the WPA Sewing Rooms were first opened, the work of the women was celebrated.

Pennsylvania newspapers heralded the first quilt produced in a WPA sewing room, 1935.

Often, the locals supported the work.  Quilts completed were often displayed in shop windows before going to the needy.

Oklahoma, 1935

Newspapers reported how quickly the women could work.  Women in Frederick, Oklahoma could produce a quilt every two hours!

But the work of the women was not just on quilts or even garments.  Women made mattresses, sheets, and pillowcases as well.

1936, Savannah, Georgia

Eleanor Roosevelt wrote a number of columns during this time even noting that on the interior of one cabin, possibly a WPA mattress was on the bed.


The women also provided relief for victims of natural disasters:

Of course the women made other things as well.  I found a few articles citing that women loved to make items for baby layettes.

El Paso Texas, 1936

Sewing lessons were also given to the young.

In a 1936 article, it was reported that girls could only participate in the work they learned at the sewing room--if they behaved in school!

I love this article not only because it relays the excitement of the children but it also describes what some of the women in the program experienced.  

Of course, sewing for children was preeminent.  When winter holidays approached, lots and lots of toys and such were produced!
Tampa, Florida: 1939

Ogden, Utah, 1936

Lancaster, PA: 1936

West Palm Beach, Florida: 1936

The WPA Sewing Rooms weren't the only workers to produce items like toys and even quilts and coverlets.  There was another branch of the WPA:  The handicraft projects which was under the tutelage of the Federal Arts Program.  

The most famous was the Milwaukee WPA Handicraft Project.  Milwaukee's branch was known for a variety of reasons.  Unlike other WPA branches, this project was integrated.  By the time  the project ended in 1943, half of the workers were African Americans.  The branch was also known for the quality and artistry of the crafts produced.  Just look at these quilts that came out of the project:
Rocking Horse, 1939

Wild Geese and Deer, 1935

Interesting fact: the best seamstresses in the Handicraft Projects were usually transferred to the WPA Sewing Rooms; the sewing rooms paid better.

For more information on the Milwaukee Handicraft Project, read here.  It is fascinating and inspiring and I encourage you to take some time to read it!

Wishing you a safe and happy day!

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Tuesday's This and That: November 29, 2022




It's been 81 years since The Great Depression ended.  But it's interesting how many of us have been impacted by some of the changes that were created during not only The Great Depression but the rationing that occurred during World War 2.

Did you know that products like Spam and Kraft's Macaroni and Cheese were BOTH invented during The Great Depression in 1937?  

But for many of us, our childhood may have had meals that harkened back to the depression.  I can think of two in our family and both included potatoes.  Potatoes were affordable, filling, and available to the masses.  The other staple was beans.  These were so commonly used during the Depression that it isn't surprising to see headlines of recipes like this:

I suspect that both of the meals I remember as a kid were from my father's side of the family.  My mother was fortunate that her grandfather was a butcher and her uncle a farmer so food was more readily available to her family.  But Dad was a city boy and he liked these two meals which were probably "comfort food" to him.  Neither had a name.

Entry one:  Put a big mound of mashed potatoes in a bowl.  Create a big crater in the center--but not for gravy.  

Instead, put a ladle full of soup in the center.  Voila!  Filling meal.

It's important to note here that most families during The Depression could only afford meat once a week.  Making soup or stock from the leftovers meant a number of meals.

Entry two:  Hot dogs cooked in sauerkraut and served with mashed potatoes. 


Sauerkraut was common in this area and hot dogs and processed meat were more affordable proteins.  I didn't think this was an unusual meal but my husband and many of my friends had no idea what I was talking about when I spoke of this.

Another big staple during The Depression was rice.  One article featured how to serve rice every day.  Rice recipe contests filled the newspapers around the country.  

Another favorite meal was apparently Chipped Beef on Toast.  But if you couldn't get meat, there were recipes for Chipped Tuna on Toast and other variations (my husband grew up with chipped hardboiled eggs on toast and detests any mention of these recipes).

I'm wondering if your family had some food eccentricities or recipes that may have harkened back to the Depression or War rationing?  Would you mind sharing your memories for Friendship Friday this week?


Back to WPA Sewing Rooms:  Women appeared to love working in the WPA Sewing much so that they fought to keep the rooms open when the rooms were scheduled to close (see my post here).  

It must have been very surprising to the WPA office in Asheville, NC when they received a letter of complaint from a person assigned work in the local sewing room:

"I have never worked a buttonhole in my life, and I can't run a sewing machine.  It's all I can do to even thread a needle.  

I want to ask you to please try to find some work for me besides what you have assigned me to in the sewing room.  I want to work mighty bad and if you can't find any other work for me, I will go to the sewing room but I don't feel like I can stand it in there with all those women."

Turned out a clerical error had occurred.  The person's first name was Malley not Molley--the name recorded on the WPA paperwork.  

Malley was a man.  Happily for him (and probably the women who would have worked with him) he was transferred to "a more masculine" assignment.


Have a safe and happy day!

Monday, November 28, 2022

WPA Revisited

Well it's the week after Thanksgiving and all the ads on tv are  about buying for Christmas.  It's not what I think about this time of year.  As I muted the tv ads, I thought about The Great Depression and how fortunate we are these days.  I'm not the only one.  Tomorrow is "Giving Tuesday" when it is suggested one donate to their favorite charities.  I like this thought.

No matter what kind of government assistance is provided to those in need, there are always a number of naysayers who insist that provisions for the needy are a waste of money.  This has happened a number of times in our history and you may be surprised to learn that it happened during The Great Depression as well.

Editorial headline from 1939

The above editorial ends with this comment:

"Is it not plain for all candid men to see that America must liquidate the WPA or WPA will liquidate America?"

Clearly the writer's children had food on their table, shelter from the elements, and security from harm.  It seems ludicrous to me that after a decade of truly hard times--when even zoo animals were butchered to feed the hungry--that such statements could be made.  

Democrats often retaliated by stating the criticism was from the "silk stocking" class.  The message resonated with voters and increased citizens voting democratic.  

The WPA Sewing Rooms certainly fell prey to New Deal critics.  One politician retorted that preying on the women employed in this program was "the despair of the opposition....they cannot shout 'graft.'  They can't shout about graft because there is none." 

I've written about the WPA Sewing Rooms before but I want to revisit it as well as The Depression this week.  When I wrote about the rooms before, I had to stop because of caregiving.  

The sewing rooms employed women who were heads of households and had no other income.    Depending on the size of the population, the rooms employed a number of women some large, like this one in Massachusetts:

But smaller towns and cities had this program as well.  Kerrville, Texas (population about 4,500 during the 1930s) had a sewing room as well.  The Kerrville Mountain Sun provided an interesting insight into the rooms.  17 women were employed and used 15 sewing machines.  12 women were sewers, 2 were cutters, and 2 more women "finishers"; there was one supervisor woman who often planned the projects or designed patterns.  

The women worked 7 hours a day and 5 days a week.  Although "a good many" of the women had sewing experience, a few were taught on the job.  The criteria for hiring the women was simple and based on need.  Women who were heads of households and had no other income were eligible for consideration.

In December of 1935 when the article about Kerrville was written, the WPA Sewing Room had only recently opened on November 27 and had received it's first order:  make 70 quilts for distribution to the needy in the community.  The women produced 4 quilts a day "of good quality" as well as school dresses, shirts, and overalls.

Nine months later, it was reported that the sewing room had already produced 3,000 garments.  By 1937, it was reported that  Sewing Rooms in the state of Texas had produced 2,500,000 garments for the state.

WPA Sewing Room in Fort Worth, Texas

In total, I've read that the WPA Sewing Rooms produced over 38 million garments for men, women, and children.  More later on other things produced by these amazing women...and other things.  

Have a safe and happy day!

Friday, November 25, 2022

Day after Thanksgiving


I hope you had a wonderful holiday!
Are you doing anything fun today?

Hubby and I are staying home except for a brief grocery store run because traditionally, Black Friday is busy in retail establishments but not food stores.  Anyway, that is our big day!  

Wishing you a safe and happy weekend!

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving: 2022


Block from calendar quilt, circa 1920

Well, it's the day before Thanksgiving.  I can't believe how fast it came this year.

1950s embroidery

I have so much gratitude--for many things--including my friends like you who visit my blog!  

Are turkeys synonymous with gratitude, family get-togethers, or just good eats?  Whatever your choice, I thought I would feature some turkey themed quilts.

One of the most popular quilt patterns that are turkey related are Turkey Tracks, sometimes referred to as Turkey Foot:

Antique Turkey Tracks quilt pattern (from the Bernina website).  Although this is the most popular version, I also found another variation, widely syndicated in the 1930s:

Turkey Giblets was another I found.  I wondered at the time if some nice woman was cooking and thought her giblets looked like a quilt pattern:

Sometimes the pattern is also called "Hearts and Gizzards" of all things:

One of the funniest sunbonnet blocks was one on a local woman's quilt that showed a sunbonnet pursuing a turkey.  I can't find the photo now.  Years later, I found a similar block but the sunbonnet was chasing a chicken.  I guess it will work today:

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Tuesday's This and That: November 22, 2022

Happy Tuesday!

Last Tuesday I posted a story about a woman who made a quilt from her son's clothing.  Susan asked:  What is a wash suit?  Well I had assumed it was washable but I tried to investigate it a bit further as well.  

As far as I can tell, Boys'--and even Men's--"Wash suits" didn't appear until the end of the 19th century.  I think 1889 was the first ad I found.  

By this time, the industrial revolution had hit children's clothing and through the 1890s, more boys' clothes appeared in ads well into the 20th century:

1900 ad

I suspect--but am not certain--the the "wash suit" was a marketing ploy to warm the hearts of mothers.  Some women still opted to make their children's clothing.  The introduction of the electric sewing machine in 1889 (by Singer) would have made the process easier (if you home had electricity).  

Thus indicating that ready made boys' clothing was washable might have been an important marketing ploy. 

It may have been similar to the marketing that appeared in the 1950s and 1960s of "wash and wear" clothing.  This line of clothing was made of synthetic/polyester fabrics.

1958 explanation of wash and wear clothing.

One of the challenges in researching this question (besides the fact that I'm not a fashion historian) is that there appears to be less information published on the topic.  Most articles focus on the style of clothing and not the fabric or durability.

Anyway, it was fun to investigate!  Thanks for the question Susan!

Have a safe and happy day!

Monday, November 21, 2022

Modern Semi-Circles

 I don't keep up with the modern trends anymore.  There's just so much going on and I like the kinds of quilts I've made for years.  I figure it's my right as a senior to just have fun sewing what I want.

When Beth's oldest daughter was pregnant,  she requested Beth make a modern style wall hanging.  This is the piece Beth ended up making: 

These modern styles are apparently the rage with the younger generations. 
There are many semi-circle modern quilts now and pinterest is full of them.  If these pieces seem reminiscent to you of modern art from the 1950s and 1960s, you're not alone.  Many artists refer to their pieces in this style as modern but the word "retro" might be more fitting. Here are some examples I found on pinterest.

All this leads to my reason for posting today.  

When I was preparing yesterday's post on Nancy Cabot's I stumbled upon a quilt pattern called Chinese Gongs:

Nancy suggested this is apricot and white.  
The applique pattern was published in 1937.  Cabot stated that the pattern was a few years old and that "It was not produced to harmonize with modern interiors, because they were unknown."

I've never seen a quilt with this pattern.  If someone had shown me this pattern without the date, I would have guessed it was from the late 1950s to early 1970s.  Still it's an interesting example of how trends that are old are now new.

Do you like this pattern?

Have a safe and happy day!

Friday, November 18, 2022

Flower Friday: November 18, 2022

 Happy Flower Friday!

Thank you to everyone who gave advice regarding the "Out of the Blue" quilt I want to make!  Yes I will include the navy squares in the quilt!  Thank you!

Well it's the last celebration of flowers for the season--unless you live in a warm climate and can still share photos with us. 

As a city gardener, I'm a bit lucky.  I've got a few microclimate areas that have remained warm enough for the plants to survive.

Impatiens in the breezeway:

Begonias--also in the breezeway:

And one lone coneflower has bloomed this week:

None of these flowers will survive this weekend when the high is only going to be 30 something Farenheit and the lows will be down in the teens.  It will be cold this weekend, but I'll cuddle up with my puppy and my sewing machine!

For now, we will switch to Friendship Fridays.  I think most of us would enjoy seeing more of your world so consider some things you can share:

* Your sewing space

*Vintage or antique treasures

* Animal companions

* Projects!

* Humorous memes!

Wishing you a safe and happy weekend!