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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sewing Notions at the Laurens Library

Do you remember playing in your mother's sewing basket?  Check out the new exhibit at the Laurens Library to see an assortment of interesting sewing notions.

There is a basket of pearl buttons that reminds us that Iowa was once known as the button capital of the world. The buttons were made from the shells of mussels caught in the Mississippi River. In 1889, a button maker named Johann Bopple emigrated from Germany and designed a machine to punch what were called pearl buttons out of the mussel shells. Within 10 years there were sixty button factories located in the Mississippi River valley.  Muscatine became known as the the "Pearl City." In 1898 Iowa turned out 138 million mother of pearl buttons. The story doesn't end well. By 1900, the mussels were almost gone around Muscatine. Mussels shells were then imported to the Iowa factories from the Arkansas, Ohio, and Tennessee Rivers until plastic buttons took over.
A flat iron,  a Coleman kerosene iron, and an early electric iron make us thankful for "wash and wear" fabrics.The electric iron was first invented in the 1880's, but the early models were were too dangerous to use. It took until the 1900's to design a safe electric iron. In Iowa, rural farms didn't get electricity until the 1930's so flat irons heated on a cook stove or kerosene irons were used. 
A hand-sewn dress that is in the display case comes with a poignant story. The dress was made by Mrs. Westerman who lived near Lake View, Iowa in 1892. She planned to wear the dress after the birth of her baby, but both she and the baby died in childbirth. The dress was lovingly saved and her husband brought it with him when he moved to Pocahontas County.