What to Charge and how to Collect (from “Dainty Work for Pleasure and Profit” by Addie E Heron)

It made me smile to see how, over a century later, the same problems remain as tricky as ever! What follows is a transcription from the 1894 version of “Dainty Work for Pleasure and Profit” by Addie E Heron (including original typos and spellings) although the daily rate recommended her may need changing! That said though, consider that this amount was no mean consideration back in 1894 and is surely a reminder never to sell one’s time too cheaply:

What to Charge and how to Collect

and especially is this the case where parties are acquaintances, and may be friends. The social relation should not be considered in this connection, and the only successful method is to adopt a rule of procedure to be applied to all cases, and apply it impartially. Never accept an indefinite order, as

“my dear Mrs A. I believe I will have you get me up something for my dressing case, something pretty!” “What would you like?” “Oh, I’m not particular, just anything that would suit you!”

Never be betrayed into filling such an order. Insist upon the name of the article being specified, the nature of the work, the scheme of color, the amount of work, cost and nature of the materials, and last the price of the whole when completed. Make a memoranda of the items in the form of an order, read it to the lady and pass it to her for her signature. This will preclude the possibility of any mistakes being made, and leave no loophole for misunderstandings to occur when too late to rectify them. Be sure to fill all orders according to agreement, make out a bill for the work and present when the work is delivered, and insist gently upon payment at that time; if this is not possible have a definite time set when you are to call for the amount, and be punctually on hand. Women, as a rule are apt to be careless in regard to the payment of such bills, and allow them to run into indefinite time, but they will none the less be your customers because you insist upon your rights in a dignified manner.

When the parties are not known to you insist upon an advance payment of at least one half the price when the order is taken, and the balance upon delivery.

Do not work too cheap, neither be exhorbitant in your charges. Make the estimate of cost upon the time occupied in filling the order; at the rate of $1.50 per day is a fair consideration. When possible furnish the embroidery silks, linen or other threads used in your work; by this means you will always be certain of having correct shading and then, too, the profit on the same will be an item worth considering at the end of a year, as you will be able to make arrangements to secure these materials in small quantities of the wholesale houses.

The chapters on “Shading,” “Designing,” “Stitches,” “Materials,” “Art Embroidery,” including “Roman Embroidery,” “Kensington and Satin Embroidery,” “Application of Stitches,” and “Drawn Work,” contain all of the instructions necessary to thoroughly equip one for “Order Work”, without the aid of a teacher, if even the learner has had no previous instructions in embroidery, providing she has any natural aptitude for the work.

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Bead Fancies (from Needlework Economies edited by Flora Klickmann)

The fashion of the present day runs towards beads in every colour and design, and although the making of beads is not exactly a needlework economy, it is a dress economy, and that is very nearly related to needlework.

I have been very successful in making all sorts of articles for ornamentation – from beads, sealing-wax, broken china, a little gold paint and some glue, not to mention a little grease and a knitting-needle.

I began my home-made bead-making from necessity, because I was unable to find any beads to match a particular frock I very much wanted a string for. Also, in hunting everywhere for them, I found that the really artistic and barbaric ones ran into a great deal of money, especially if they were large.

Now, I wanted an odd shade of blue, which was really no shade at all, because the material was old and had faded to the beautiful tint which it now possesses. I could not procure any tint that were even remotely like it, and so my idea of making some for myself was born.

To begin with, I bought for six-pence a large box of assorted beads, such as are sold for children to string at kindergarten.

Sealing-wax is an Essential

At a stationer’s I bought up a whole lot of broken sealing wax for a very little money, purchasing at the same time, two good sticks, one of gold and one of silver. These I carried home and sorted as best I could into shades of different colouring.

You will be surprised to find what a lot of different tones there are to be had in sealing-wax, though, when buying, be careful not to be taken in by the outside of the stick! I bought what I thought was a beautiful shade of lavender, but fortunately was told by the assistant that it was really a dark blue, which had been in the window and faded! Blues will often fade mauve, and reds will become pink. But you will easily avoid mistakes by looking at the box which gives a description of its contents.

Broken China the next Requisite

Having secured what I wanted at the stationer’s, I next looked through the china pantry and kitchen cupboards to see what I could find in the way of broken china and glass.

I turned out quite a nice little heap from here, and then went to the tool-house, where I had a little store, which I had dug up out of the garden.

I never can understand where all the broken china comes from which is always to be found in every garden when the earth is turned up. I have a small basket full of all sorts of odd pieces in bright blues, reds and yellows, which appear to be chips from plates or saucers. I should think it would take a generation of families, and their tea, dinner and breakfast services, to account for the quantity and colouring I have by me.

All this china I washed carefully in soapy water, rinsing in very hot clear water, and drying whilst still hot. By this means the china and lass keeps its shine, and if set in the sun for a little while it will greatly improve the lustre.

Next I sorted the colours, and then, with the aid of a wooden hammer and a piece of felt, I cracked the china into tiny pieces. Be careful in doing this to put the coloured side of the china downwards, and lay on a piece of felt, with another piece on top. Hit gently, but firmly, and where the piece is cracked insert a nail or strong pin in the crack and hit with the hammer. The cracks will split and will leave a nice edge, which is very useful for sticking in the sealing-wax. Break the pieces as small as possible, but leaving the colour to show on one side. If you smash at the pieces they will powder and be no use at all.

Whatever odd beads you have, or old pieces of coloured paste and imitation stones – which are often to be had in old buckles – spangles and bugles, all are grist to the mill. I have also used broken pieces of pebbles and stones which I found amongst the gravel, and which were broken by the roller, and which, when chipped very fine, displayed really brilliant colouring. Pieces of flint with a sparkle of mica look beautiful.

Making the Beads.

Having completed this collection, I turned my attention to the bead-making, and I began in this manner:-

I started with a set of six large beads in blues for my chain. I chose the largest beads in my assorted box, irrespective of colour and shape. Taking one of these I slipped it over the end of a steel knitting-needle, using one large enough to hold the bead tightly. This needle I first greased with a rag on which a little lard had been rubbed. This prevents the sealing-wax adhering to anything but the bead.

Next I lit a taper, and, using blue wax, I covered the bead roughly with it, turning the knitting needle in my hand, so that the hot liquid ran round it. This I plunged into cold water.

Before proceeding, I would like to say that great care must be taken not to smoke the wax when a taper or candle is used; if you will heat the wax in the centre of the flame, you will find that the colour does not become blackened.

As soon as the blue wax has cooled, without hardening, I splashed on some of the gold, and, turning the bead rapidly in the flame itself, the gold mingled with the blue, so forming a sort of marbled effect. This I also plunged into the cold water.

Then I chose a brilliant yellow wax, and, heating it in the candle flame, I squeezed the tip into a sharp point.

This, in turn, I heated, and dabbed it at regular intervals round the bead to form spots. While the spots were still soft, I pushed into the centre of each one a tiny piece of broken china, in a pure turquoise shade, pinching the wax to cover the rough edge.

Do not use the fingers to the sealing-wax more than can be possibly helped, as touching it takes away the glaze.

I made three beads similar to this design, and three in a paler shade of blue, with the same yellow spots, but using pieces of dark red china instead of the turquoise. These I strung with a three-inch length of small yellow beads (which I bought at the same shop as the box of beads came from, and which were also sold for children’s kindergarten work) between each large one, and the chain, when finished, looked truly beautiful. It certainly enhanced the beauty and value of the frock for which it was made.

Making Fancy Buttons.

To match the chain I made four buttons, used to fasten the shoulder-pieces of the bodice, in the same colours and the same design.

To make these, any old buttons that have shanks to them will do, but have shanks they must, as there is no other means of fastening them. I had four old brass buttons, with flat, shiny tops. With an old knife I scraped the face of each so as to make it rough, as the wax adheres better to a rough surface.

I used a piece of cardboard – piece of an old box – and cut four small slits in it large enough to slip the button-shanks through. On the other side I slipped a burnt match into the shank of each, and by this means the buttons were quite firm and did not wobble about.

Then I covered two with dark wax, and two with light wax similar to the beads, scraping away any wax which had overflowed on to the cardboard. Before it was cold I pressed a tiny ring of the small yellow beads round the immediate edge, finishing off with a spot of the yellow wax in the centre of each, and a scrap of broken china in the centre of that, again.

I found the buttons a little rough on the edge, but, with the aid of a nail file, I rubbed them fairly smooth, and they did not notice when sewn on the frock.

I have made buttons and buckles galore from old oddments, using up different coloured beads in an inlaid fashion.

A most effective way is to cover the surface of a button with a thin layer of glue, and to lay the beads on in a design like a mosaic. This is a really beautiful way of decorating buttons, and a very pretty opaque look can be given by sprinkling the beads, while the gum is still wet, with a little of the flitter used in pen painting.

The Economy Quilt (from Needlework Economies edited by Flora Klickmann)

A Book of Mending and Making with Oddments and Scraps. Thus is the book subtitled and what a little gem it is. Now there are indeed many books, and reprints thereof dealing with post-WW2 thrift but those dating from post-WW1 are much less common so it was a great delight for me to recently lay hands on this fascinating little volume, undated but having a typically Arts and Crafts cover.

I did want to share for you one particular project, which struck me as uncommonly useful and economic, not least because it utilises tiny scraps and threads and all of the snippets which are typically discarded during any needlework project.

The Economy Quilt

Bedclothes become an expensive item when there are several beds for young people to be made up, as well as those for their elders. Yet warmth is essential, if their health is to be maintained.

In the winter, there usually comes a night of sudden cold, so raw and so intense, that it seems next to impossible to put too much on the beds. Every spare blanket is turned out, and every eider-down, and still there is not enough! Next morning someone is sure to say they never got warm all night!

Of course, eider-downs are ideal. They are warm without being heavy. But real eider-downs are expensive. Here is a substitute that was popular in our grandmothers’ day. It is simply a quilt formed of small bags, sewn together like patchwork, each bag containing a certain amount of snippets and clippings. Very simple, isn’t it? And yet these quilts, that cost practically nothing, are invaluable in the cold weather. Put one of these over the outside of the bed, and the sleeper keeps as snug and warm as though under a couple of down quilts.

One great advantage of this quilt is the ease with which it can be made. A child can always run up a little bag; a child can also cut up snippets, if it is old enough to be allowed to use a scissors. Mother can run round a few bags with her sewing machine, just before putting it away after doing needlework. In this way the bags accumulate in a surprising manner, and joining them together, a few at a time, either by hand or machine, is not laborious or brain-wearing work.

The Method I Always Adopt

For some years now, I have made it a rule always to have one of these quilts on hand. If I do not need it myself, when it is finished, I always know someone who can put it to good use. Any woman who has an elastic family and a non-elastic purse, is glad of one for a gift.

I save every scrap of material that would otherwise be wasted. If it is not new, I have it washed and thoroughly dried. All this waste goes into a bag that I keep hanging up in a cupboard in my bedroom. I never allow a large amount to accumulate, lest moth should get at it. I have seldom more than a couple of handfuls at one time waiting to be dealt with.

On my chest of drawers I keep a box. In this there is always a pair of sharp scissors. When I have a few moments idle – between the lights when it is too dark to see much else, or when my eyes are to do work requiring close attention – I cut up a few of the scraps from the bag into snippets about an inch square sometimes smaller, never larger. I put these in the box.

Then again, whenever I have any bits from dressmaking, or mending, or darning, it has become second nature to me to cut them up there and then into snippets, and put them in the box. In fact, I always have the snippet box on the table beside my workbox when I am sewing, and the bits go in as a matter of course as I go along. It keeps me so tidy. Everything comes in useful, even the fragments of darning wool, ravellings and basting threads!

I save any scraps of material large enough to make the bags; a useful size is five or six inches by three inches. I run up three sides of these when I have a spare moment; put in a small handful of snippets, and close up the end. These I put in a drawer until I have time to join them together.

I always machine mine together, as it is the quickest way.

Do not fill the bags anything like full, or the quilt will be impossibly heavy. If you fill the bag about a third full, or at most a very loose half-full, that will be quite enough. Each little bag just wants a slight thickness inside, to give the extra warmth, much the same as we sometimes line quits with a layer of cotton wool between two cotton covers.

The reason we put the clippings in little bags, instead of into one bag, is to keep the stuff evenly distributed over the surface of the bed. Otherwise, every time the sleeper turned over, or disarranged the coverings, there would be the chance of all the clippings slipping over, and collect themselves on the one side or the other of the bed, or possibly all falling to the foot of the bed.

A quilt made of the bags, not too full, can be shaken and kept thoroughly aired.

Almost any sort of material can be used for the bags, provided it is not too delicate in colour, as one does not want to have a quilt of this sort frequently going to the cleaners. Strong stuffs are best, such as cretonne, serge, stout print, sateen – anything in fact that will stand some wear.

Mix cotton clippings with wool clippings in each bag. Obviously the quilt will not need any lining, as the back will be fairly neat. If you like, you can finish the edge with a cord; but I myself always aim to get the outside bags all one colour scheme; this in itself makes a certain finish – a kind of border – and I just leave it at that. After all, these quilts are not for ornament so much as stern utility; nevertheless, they can be made to look really pretty, if a little care and taste is expended on the placing of the various colours and designs.