Friday, August 5, 2011

I Answer a Reader's Question and Sew Myself Silly

Gertrude Perter Malone, a reader from Syracuse, NY, writes: “You claim to know a lot about sewing. So, smartie pants, do ya know what a bodkin is?” Thank you for your interest, Gert! And yes, of course I know what a bodkin is, thanks to the magic of Wikipedia. Also, never use colloquialisms (ya) with me or I will block you from my site.

The primary definition is  “A blunt thick needle with a large eye used esp. for drawing tape or cord through a hem.” In fact, I could have used a bodkin the other day whilst sewing a small skirt for my daughter. Unfortunately, I did not yet know what a bodkin was, so I used a safety pin instead to pull the elastic through the waistline.
I sure could use a bodkin about now.

The second definition is used far less. It dates back to the Renaissance period in Europe, when men wore codpieces to protect their nether regions. Gentlemen of less means who could not afford a codpiece wore a bodkin, or half a codpiece. Naturally, the bodkin offered only half the protection of the codpiece. It was also not considered as stylish. Examples of the bodkin that survive from this era are on display at London’s British Museum.
Now, on to my latest sewing projects! I wanted to continue to sew useful items that a beginner can complete but that test my developing skills. Coasters fit the bill. These are great to practice stitching straight, applying ric rac, and working with cotton batting.
 Before the coasters, I made two headbands, which have always given me a headache. However, they are so pretty I am willing to give them another shot. I’ve made two so far—one for me, and one for a friend.


Coaster in action.

Both of these appear in the 1960s Mod section of the book Sew Retro: A Stylish History of the Sewing Revolution (Judi Ketteler, 2010). Not only does she take you step-by-step through each project, she also traces the role of sewing in American society since the early 1900s. The sewing timeline is cool, too; I did not know, for example, that the Cleveland Fabric Shop changed its name to Jo-Ann Fabrics. I guess the owners felt that "Reich & Rohrbach" wouldn't convey the right tone in 1943.

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