Local News

July 3, 2013

Nelson Pioneer Farm artifact

Do you know what this is?


This past week's Nelson Pioneer Farm artifact was a garment drafting machine.

This past week's artifact was a little tricky to identify, and the Herald did not receive any guesses from people online or via traditional mail.

Nelson Pioneer Farm Curator Kelly Halbert has done some research on the garment drafting machine on dispalt at the farm.

Halbert wrote: “Garment Drafting Machine as invented and patented by A. McDowell, The McDowell Garment Drafting Machine Company, 6 West 14th Street, New York, USA.

Dressmaking in the late 19th century was an acquired skill. Patterns were unknown and directions unheard of. The latest fashions “from Paris, France” were published with pictures, (drawings, not photographs) in magazines, such as Godey’s, Patterson’s, or the Delineator. These stylized drawings didn’t offer any patterns, it being assumed that the dressmaker knew what she was doing and would create her own.

The McDowell Garment Drafting Machine was used to create a pattern by moving the slides along the brass form – lengthening or shortening each seam that would be used to construct a garment. The basic design of the bodice in this machine is typical of the “waists” or tops of dresses from the 1870’s even though the pattern book is dated 1891. The Instruction book then offers adaptations for the fashions of the day: the French Basque, the Polonaise or the Princess. It also provides instruction for skirts and capes.

'Today, unless a lady’s dress is properly shaped and well made, all the beauty that nature may have bestowed on the figure, or art given, the fabric covering it, is considered lost; and the pleasure she might have given those surrounding her is thrown away,' pg ii, instruction Book, 63rd Edition, 1891.

The McDowell Garment Drafting Machine is currently on display in the Mott General Store at Nelson Pioneer Farm and Museum.”

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