How much did women sew in early America? A video from the DAR Museum


A few of you who are regular website followers may have stumbled across one or two blog posts where I mentioned that I’m a member of the DAR — the Daughters of the American Revolution.

As such, I follow the DAR Museum’s YouTube channel, and I love it when they give us insight into the history of sewing! Today’s “guest” video is one such study.

In this video, museum curator, “Alden O’Brien[,] discusses how much of women’s lives were spent sewing based an a study of diaries from pre-industrial America. This research was done in preparation for an upcoming 2024 exhibit on the making and meaning of sewn goods.”*

Sewing machine image on a turquoise blue background with sewing accoutrements.
Please visit for free printable sewing patterns for making doll clothes to fit dolls of many shapes and all different sizes.

If you’re fascinated by the history of sewing, like I am, I think you’ll learn a lot and really enjoy this presentation from the Daughters of the American Revolution.

And if you don’t know much about the DAR, but you’d like to learn, please visit their website. I’ve offered links throughout this blog post.

If any of you plan to visit Washington DC this summer, or if you live near DC, the DAR Museum has a collection of “period rooms” where you can go and see what life was like in the different periods of American history.

The DAR Museum is located at 1776 D St. NW, Washington, DC, zip code 20006.

As a school librarian, I have a special interest in history, and I really enjoy visiting museums.

Lately, I’ve been doing a study of Emily Dickinson, the American poet, and I’ve been working on creating a doll that looks like her.  I haven’t got my doll pattern finalized, but here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

This is a mostly pencil-drawn prototype of a doll that is meant to look like Emily Dickinson. It so far includes a head with drawn face, pieces for a torso, a neck, a back of the head piece, two legs, and two foot pieces. There's text at the top that says, "the arm is not finished yet!" Doll Clothing designer, Chelly Wood, is the designer who is in the process of building this doll to look like American poet, Emily Dickinson. The logo for Chelly Wood dot com appears in the lower left corner.
Please visit for free printable PDF sewing patterns and tutorial videos for making doll clothes to fit dolls of many shapes and all different sizes.

I’m thinking I will embroider the face onto this soft-bodied doll, and of course, I’ll make her some period-correct doll clothes. We’ll see which dolls will be able to fit into her doll dresses!

So you see, I really do enjoy history!

You may wonder what it’s like to be involved in the DAR. The ladies in my local chapter of the DAR do lots of charity work, supporting local recycling efforts, raising money for school funding, and honoring our local veterans.

It’s a lot of fun to learn about your own ancestors, too! So if you’ve ever thought about joining, I highly recommend it. However you do have to have an ancestor that was in the American Revolutionary War to qualify for membership.


*O’Brien, Alden. “Sheets Don’t Sew Themsevles: Calculating the Sewing in Pre-Industrial Women’s Lives.” YouTube, uploaded by DAR Museum, 27 Feb., 2023,

To read about my free sewing patterns and tutorials, please visit the “Helpful Tips” page.


7 thoughts on “How much did women sew in early America? A video from the DAR Museum

  1. My ancestors go way back in this country too. One of my great grandmas was in the DAR and my mom was proud of that, she had a framed certificate. And even though I haven’t seen that in many years, I still remember that Reuben Doty served in the Revolutionary War!

    1. The DAR is really a neat program. And it truly is amazing when you think of the courage those Founding Fathers (and Mothers) had, to face an established government and start a whole new one, in a land that was largely unexplored by Europeans.

      Although it must also be said that the nation was inhabited by Native families, the western tribes of which had no idea that their world was changing. The Native people of the Colonial areas took sides in the Revolutionary War but the tribes out west, where I live, were enjoying a vast area of open ranges, where buffalo (actually bison) roamed the plains in droves, and ancient trees were respected by those who enjoyed their shade.

      Ah! I love history! It’s so important to learn from the past…

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