Well-intended advice…

Circa 1949.

CT Sewing Head

She doesn’t look like she’s having any fun, does she?  She must know Mary Brooks Picken.

Mary’s advice has been making it’s way around cyberspace for a few years, you might have seen it.


You follow this advice to the letter, right?

It’s reportedly an excerpt of text from a 1949 sewing manual published by Singer Sewing Machine Co., perhaps even the manual that came with sewing machines being sold at the time.

But the folks at fact-checker Snopes attribute the passage to an edition of the Singer Sewing Book written by Mary Brooks Picken, a prolific author of books on sewing, textile arts and other forms of needlework.  The date and publisher are correct.

An excerpt of the actual text reads…


Dress?  To sew?  If it were up to me, I’d wear jeans all the time.  Or yoga pants.  And I can say with near-absolute certainty that I have never had an “urgent housekeeping chore”.  Urgent sewing to do?  Yes.  (Especially right before Quilt Market and the holidays.)

I’m sure Mary meant well but I much prefer the advice circa 2016…


So put on something comfortable, brush your teeth, order some take-out and go sew!

Happy Friday!




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40 thoughts on “Well-intended advice…

  1. Hmmm – I agree with you – there is too little time for sewing as it is without all that beauty care stuff. Maybe the French chalk might be useful to help avoid slipping when free motion quilting but I’ll stick to my Machingers’ gloves! Oh – and please tell the lady in the photo that sticking pins into that pincushion she has wrapped around the frame will ruin the decals on her beautiful sewing machine. The results are a common sight in antique shops … 🙂

  2. I sew just fine without any makeup or lipstick- always have! As for the dirty dishes in the sink – they don’t affect my sewing at all.
    There are a couple of urgent housekeeping chores, but they only occur when there is something like a burst pipe – and you want to deal with that quickly so your fabric doesn’t get wet and moldy.

  3. Oh I LOVED this! You even got a big chuckle out of my husband with the ‘leave a number for takeout’. I enjoy days best with all your ‘now’ comments :)!

  4. 2016 – my style of quilting. Only one exception -wear shoes, if you step on a wandering pin it could really interrupt your sewing. LOL

  5. Great post!! Loved it!!
    Loved seeing the “then”, but I think I can relate more to the “now”!!!

  6. Really, that is what they thought in 1949? My Mom and Dad were married that year, and I am sure my Mom did not participate in those rules at all. She was more of the camp where things get done when they have too. So if she wanted to sew that was what she did. Housework and looking nice were secondary. Now she did cook and have meals on time for us to eat, or more likely she made sure all the kids knew how to cook and made us practice so she could continue sewing. There are times that I do have to clean up the kitchen before I can sew, just because it makes me feel better to have it out of the way, and actually gives me a better excuse for eating out, don’t want to mess up the kitchen.

  7. Can you believe it? To think our mothers or grandmothers actually might have listened to this kind of advice! We’ve come a long way, baby!

  8. Thanks for a very much needed laugh (after butting heads with multiple things computer-related this morning) – Love Margaret L’s comment 😉

  9. I’m off to the basement to quilt sans makeup. The only household emergency that would maybe stop me is if I had that big ball of green slime oozing out of the kitchen like in the Geico commercial. Thanks for the always fun and refreshing posts!

  10. Awesome! Although, I have to say my husband would never want the bed unmade or dishes not done. He would take care of it himself! I was up sewing till 2 am. He’s in the bed so there’s no problem! Thanks for this. I’m printing it up and putting it on my sewing room door!

  11. The advice is very funny. Don’t they know that we sew or qullt in order to avoid the mess and clutter in the kitchen and living room?
    I have a question on another topic and can’t find a way to e-mail directly. I want to purchase some black bella and would like to know if Super Black is blacker than regular black (9900-99)

  12. Wonderful post! Now I understand why my mom always told me to get my housework done before sitting down to sew. The trouble with that it that housework is never finished!

  13. What fun! Although the original bit of advice from Mary at Singer sounds familiar (I’m born in ’54) it’s a tad before my time. But for sure the ways in which women were expected to BE women has shifted a LOT thank heavens 🙂 No I don’t sit around with lipstick on sewing. Nor would housework take precedence over my sewing! Like someone else said yoga pants or shorts, sandals, a great cup of coffee and my favourite DVD movie on the TV and I’m happy as could be to sew all day!

    1. You are my twin psyche (sp?) I sometimes cut thread with my teeth, I know, I know, bad for the teeth, and if I wore lipstick, it would be all over my project. I am 74 and still hear my mother telling me not to do this. She never did all this 1949 stuff. She was not ADD like me.

  14. 1949–I was a little kid then and, yes, my mother adhered to this philosophy quite well. She was always in a dress (“frock”) and the beds were always made, the dishes always done and the house tidy. I believe my mother kept things in order out of respect for my father who worked hard on the farm and appreciated her efforts when he came home to peaceful surroundings. We can get a good chuckle out of the advice from 1949 but, really, perhaps we should take a more serious look at how order and prioritizing tasks might help our creativity. I am much more productive in an organized environment–and happier. Maybe those 1949 women weren’t so silly after all. I have to go put on my lipstick so I can sew.

  15. Those good old days. Ha ha ha. The instructions did not say to wear heals though. Only women who are obsessed have totally clean, super clean homes. They are very dull people. Right? Quilters are inventive and creative. Plus, when I was raising children I discovered the only way possible to have our house completely clean was to clean it and have all of us leave to go play at a park or go swimming. We couldn’t stay away forever. I could only keep the laundry completely caught up if we went totally native in our birthday suits. I kept a home that was respectful and free of mortal disease but 100% clean, never I am happy to say. That is why people have laundry baskets and closets. My children have grown up to be happy adults who in turn wanted to have children.

    Thanks for this funny post.

  16. My hubby does the cooking so he has all the carry-out numbers he needs. He also comes to check if I am hungry and will bring me a snack or an iced tea periodically. However if I’m ‘well put together’ he always asks if I’m going somewhere! Gosh, what does that say. And I do keep a chapstick handy just because. I think back then it was expected that your housework would be done before anything else. I do love a clean house but I hubby does too and he does a lot of it. An aunt once told me she wished she had learned to sew but she couldn’t do it unless all her laundry was done. Which with 11 kids was never. So sad.

  17. Finally! I started reading the first version and I could hear my brain skittering along the words, like a needle on a vinyl album halting to a shrieking stop…. So glad to see the “then and now” version so I could breathe again.

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