Alone At Last: Making Sewing Hot Since 1915.

posted in: Art, Quilting 10
"Alone At Last," A. Willette, 1915.
“Alone At Last,” A. Willette, 1915.

I know.

It’s one heck of a picture, especially if you’re a chick who likes to sew.

I found it quite by accident while sifting through Wikicommons, a clearinghouse for public domain images that is occasionally The Best Thing Ever. I say “occasionally” because copyrighted work (i.e., The Wizard of Oz, images of the quilts of Gee’s Bend, etc.) is, by definition, not in the public domain, so Wikicommons has its limits because those copyrighted images are the ones tends to need most and they are not there. But then you find something like this and it’s just great.

The drawing was made by Frenchman Adolphe Willette (1857-1926) and the description we get from the Wikifolk (via the Library of Congress) says:

“A soldier on leave from World War I embraces a young woman, whose chair by a sewing machine tipped in haste while she answered his arrival. At his heels a small dog begs for attention.”

That dog’s gon’ wait awhile.

My mom and I speak on American quilts and quilters and we often remark on the need for a tune-up of the quilter’s public image. The world tends to picture us as being — how to put it — rather long in tooth and either super docile or extra cranky. (There there are those who fit such bills.) But American quilters are 21 million strong: We’re as diverse a group as that number would clearly produce. There are interesting reasons for the prevailing image of the “little old lady” quilter which I’d love to expound upon at a later time — it has to do with WWII — but for now, l urge you to share this free image with wild abandon. Credit it properly, of course, and pin it and tell your friends.

We quilters are a saucy bunch when we want to be, darn it. We may be ample-bosomed. Long-legged. Firecrackery.* Lusty. We, like the nerdy librarians (who clearly have a good PR machine working for them) need simply to take off our glasses and take out our hairpins to reveal sexy, sensuous kittens with throaty laughs who were just waiting for you to take a little initiative, soldier.

Though… Well, wait till we finish this block. Then take the initiative. Because we just have the one seam left. On this block. Just… Hang on just one second, dear.

*Firecrackery = new word, possibly best word ever

10 Responses

  1. Jessica
    | Reply

    I’m loving the heels that lady is wearing! If she can rock a treadle sewing machine in those babies, she can take on the world! Personally, when I use any sewing machine, I tend to be barefooted, which accounts for the number of pins I’ve stuck in my foot (I’m always up to date on tetanus shots as a result of my inability to sew with shoes on).

  2. Mary Ann
    | Reply

    A makeover so to speak….but really just a PR job.

  3. Liz Flaherty
    | Reply

    Great picture! I need that on the sewing room wall beside the 100s of spools of thread that may or may not ever get used.

  4. Elaine Karls
    | Reply

    The image startled me–in a GOOD way–because there is a story told and retold in my family. It goes like this: My great-great-great (?) grandfather went off to the Civil War from northern Michigan, leaving a 17 year old bride behind. While he was gone, she nearly starved trying to support herself in a remote and cold region (eating dandelion greens and so on in her tattered-and-only dress). That one dress, one she had undoubtedly sewn herself, had seen better days. One day, she spotted periodic groups of ragtag men coming down the road–all beat up and walking home from the war. One of them told her he had seen her husband, Rueben Payne, and to expect her husband in a day or two, as he was behind by a bit. With great excitement, she waited for the crowd around her rural shack to clear, and she washed out the dress and hung it outside to dry, then went on to bathing herself inside. You can guess the end to the story: he was about a half hour away. As the story goes, the dress got good and dry.

    • admin
      | Reply

      I love this. Love. Thank you for sharing, Karls.

  5. Jean. Isiminger
    | Reply

    My late husband always said that my dying words would be, “Wait until I finish this row”.

  6. Katie
    | Reply

    Great post!! So agree – we are a saucy bunch!

    My hubby is always suggesting I try “naked quilting”. I guess it is a sexy subject in our household! 😉

  7. Andres
    | Reply

    I’m a little old lady quilter.

  8. Coley
    | Reply

    You, and many other knitters.

    I think Mary’s description of quilters sounds a lot like knitters too. My grandma, a prolific knitter, passed about a month ago and my aunt came across this lovely photo of her as a young lady, knitting. While she was in her 70s when she taught me, she started when she was in high school. Now I’m nearing 30 and knit as much as I can.

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