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30 Beautiful Vintage Photos of Children Sewing

Posted by James Wolfensberger on

I find vintage photos mesmerizing, and I could browse them for hours. The authenticity of the film images - the grain, contrast, the yellowing, the imperfections - coupled with subjects from bygone decades resonate with me.

Within the past few years we saw the "Instagram" effect applied to everything from selfies to snapshots of sushi. The trend has subsided a bit, it seems, but it certainly stemmed from the desire for a visually interesting alternative to the highly polished, over-produced, digitally enhanced images we see all around us daily.

My infatuation with time-worn photographs marries well to my enthusiasm for vintage sewing machines. Here are my favorites gleaned from all corners of the Internet.

The Little Tykes

A protruding tongue ensures a steady hand!


What? Mom gets two spools and this little cutie isn't throwing a tantrum?


I'm pretty sure that Goldilocks is wistfully eyeballin' the "grown up" machine. Her toy might be a "working sewing machine" but every turn of the hand crank nearly knocks the thing off the table. And Mother just smiles. Have a heart, lady!


Eyes on the stitch, young lady.


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"You feed the baby, and I'll sew as long as my helmet hair doesn't break my little neck."


Start 'em young!


Growing Fast, Sewing Well

Photo from 1899. Hopefully these determined girls lived long enough to see their grandchildren attend desegregated schools.


Vocational students. Let's hope this doesn't lead to the sweatshop. Seriously. (Albany, NY)


Students at a school for the deaf in Oklahoma. One machine in the back.


Home Economics students in the 1920s using New Home machines.


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During a period of "rural electrification," this young girl relies on light passing through her window to continue sewing after dark - most likely without complaint.


Stepping forward in time, Cruella de Vil supervises.


The Boys

These small gents clearly expect the Sister to do their mending.


A family working in their apartment in New York. Third from the left, the 12-year-old boy would operate the machine when his mother was not using it. Otherwise he'd help the younger boys trim thread.


Girl Scouts

1913 in Savannah, Georgia.

 


1926 and still only one sewing machine. (Probably a matter of funding.)


Fast forward and dog gone it! Still only one machine!


The 4-H Club - Head, Heart, Hands, and Health

1940. 


Imagine the condition of this Featherweight! Who wouldn't grin ear to ear?


"Nobody puts Baby in a corner." Unless she's sewing.


1953 National 4-H Congress. Delegates hold the "tools for sewing."


1957. The faces show bemused disgust at that rat's nest of an electrical cord.


1960. This lucky gal is awarded a beautiful White.


The next time you worry that your machine's belt is poorly aligned, have a look at this photo, keep calm, and carry on.


This stylish young lady demonstrates the correct wrist position of the right hand, then succumbs to carpal tunnel syndrome 20 years later.


Child Labor & Sweatshops

Before sharing these, I'd like to quote a Facebook comment by reader Marcella Bogart who had this to say:

In textile mills, very young children worked in the looms (literally climbing under and in). They lost fingers and developed white lung, but they were cheap labor, and nimble.

The photographs are heartbreaking, but many of the most poignant and best known were taken by a man named Lewis Wickes Hine as part of his efforts to create child labor reforms. In no small part, Hine's efforts to capture the hardships experienced by kids in factories, Congress passed child labor laws. So, there is an upside to those images, hard as they are to view.

Hosiery Mill - Lafayette, Georgia.


Gertrude Belier, age 15, sewing curtains in a Boston factory.


Far right, Mamie Gerhino, age 13 working in New York City.


Bessie Blitch, age 15, sewing curtains in Boston.


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5 comments

  • Love the old photos! Especially the ones of the girls making drapes. I started sewing by hand at seven then used my mom Thompson Rotary until 1970 when my husband bought me a Kenmore which I still have. Got rid of the husband in 1990! My point is I sewed drapes for a friend that has a design business in an un-air conditioned warehouse. We’ve come a long way baby!

    Loretta Shuck on
  • Hello! I just stumbled upon your site here and just adore this post!! I love vintage sewing machines and actually learnt on a treadle Singer! I have to share this one for all the adorable images of the young girls learning!

    Evelyn

    Evelyn on
  • A brilliant video – brought many memories of my young sewing days first used one at 7 years old – I now have several vintage models – just love the engineering two singer machines are 1886 and wonder what was made on these lovely machines

    Bridget Kimber on
  • I still love my Singer. Hubby gave it
    to me in 1978. Our first Christmas
    together as newlyweds.

    Lois Ernst on
  • Loved the pics and comments. I have a featherweight and the singer treadle that’s over 100 yrs old.

    Tommie ilg on

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