More Words to Live By

September 20th, 2011


“On no occasion does a lady seem more lovely than when half occupied with some feminine art which keeps her fingers employed, and gives an excuse for downcast eyes and gentle pre-occupation. This sort of playing at work, and working at play, sheds a home feeling around the guests which no studied effort at hospitality can produce, and forms habits of usefulness which consumes many an hour of idle time that might be put to far more harmful uses.

“There is an air of tranquility, and a proof of innocent contentment in these domestic accomplishments, that have a beautiful significance in the family circle. It is only in well regulated houscholds that leisure moments are thus gathered up. It is only minds composed and serene in their joy, or submissive in sorrow, that can constrain themselves to the gentle monotony of work like this.

“The time which any lady gives to ornamental needle-work is usually made up of those leisure moments which would be lounged away on a sofa, or in a rocking-chair; and it is wonderful how many pretty objects start into existence, that, but for this taste, would be dreamed away into nothingness.

“Of course, no person of well-regulated intellect would make a business of this graceful accomplishment, unless compelled to exercise it for a subsistence. We advocate it simply as an amusement, like all recreation, to be indulged in only when the more serious duties of life are disposed of. But it has advantages not always recognized. Many a fine eye for colors has been cultivated into artistic perfection, by the nice discrimination necessary to assort the tints of a worsted rose. Grouping may be learned from a close study of patterns, and a thousand charming associations may be woven in with the forget-me-not or heart’s-ease, which we have wrought tremblingly into the canvass, which a beloved eye was gazing upon.

“Without a gift for needle-work, what should we ladies do for appropriate mementoes for our brothers, husbands, and friends, at Christmas time, and when birthdays come round, sounding their yearly remembrances upon our heartstrings? What should we do for wedding cushions, and christening robes, when our favorite cousins insist upon becoming heads of families, and useful members of society? What excuse should we have for casting down our eyes, when other people’s eyes become troublesome? Every lady knows how many heart-tremors can be carried off in a vigorous twist of the crotchet-needle; how many pleasant words may be innocently received in a sensitive heart, when all its defensive faculties are busy counting stitches? In short, we persist in it, that a feminine character cannot be quite perfect without a knowledge of all sorts of needle-work, and a down-right hearty love of it, too. For our part, we have buried many a heart-ache in the growing leaves of a silken rose, and blunted the sharp edge of pangs that would not be wrestled with by the sweet, calm mbnotony of a shining bit of steel.”

The Ladies’ Complete Guide to Crochet, Fancy Knitting, and Needlework. By Mrs. Ann S. Stephens. 1854, New York.

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