Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Home Organization with the Workwoman's Guide

Winter Break is finally here, and for this teacher that means time for a little household tidying! All of my recent projects, while delightful, have definitely left a mess in our cutting room dining room, so that was where I started. This included all kinds of small bits of fabric for potential caps and other projects.

Organizing lots of little bits of things is always difficult for me. Luckily, The Workwoman's Guide has the following suggestion

"A rag bag is a desirable thing to have hung up in some conspicuous part of the house, into which all odd bits, and even shreds, of calico, print, linen, muslin, & c should be put: as they are useful to come in when a gusset or chin stay, or other small article is wanting. Those bits too small for this purpose may still be used by school children, for practicing stitches; or, at all events, may be disposed of to the rag merchants, and thus prove of some value at last...."

Obviously I could not go any further with cleaning until I made a rag bag!

She goes on to say that

"Another family bag, for the purpose of containing stray tapes, or shoe strings, hooks, eyes, odd buttons, pieces of silk , or bits of ribbon, may be kept with advantage; especially where there is a large family of children, whose demands for these small articles are daily and constant."

Since I do, in fact, have stray ribbons and pieces of tape about the place, this seemed like a good idea as well. She also suggests a small bag to be kept in your work-box for these things, which I also want to do, since those and thread are usually what causes a mess there. 

The Guide is full of this strong desire for what the author considers 'economy' and efficiency. Today, we might think of it as 'sustainability', but whatever you call it, I think she has a few lessons to teach us about it.  I usually put bits of fabric which are big enough under the sink to use as cleaning rags. Some of these will still doubtless end up here, but this will keep them clean in case I want to use them for caps or some other small thing. And I did add some pieces which I would normally have just tossed, but which really will be good for chin stays for infants caps or other similar projects in the future. 

We have come to think of large-scale industrial production as being more efficient, but it is marvelous how the home economy described in the Guide finds a use for every last piece of material. 

Unfortunately I don't think I'm going to have a value or use for those little tiny scraps the author would have given to the rag and bone man. It's a shame, as I really hate to throw things away. It's really an excellent example of how wasteful we have become compared to our ancestors who used everything. 


  1. Hi, Amy - just a thought, but those little pieces too small for anything else were often used as stuffing, for small items like pincushions!

    1. That is a great idea! Thanks Shelly! I will hoard away :-)