Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Historical Plausibility of Fray-Check

If you've read my last post, then you've skimmed some of the wacky, practical, and ingenious household tips and tricks for taking care of fabric, among other things, from the 1909 edition of The American System of Dressmaking.

There was one "Helpful Hint" in particular that caught my eye, that I felt merited it's own post.

"To Keep Goods From Fraying--Keep a piece of undissolved glue with your sewing things. When making buttonholes on wiry goods, mark them with a thread. Moisten one edge of the glue. Rub over the place for buttonholes on both sides before cutting, and when dry the glue will hold goods firm so they will not fray while working."

Is this...a period recipe for Fray-Check?

At it's surface value, this is a very clever way to tackle buttonhole-making on persnickety fabrics. But does this mean that "undissolved glue" could have easily been used on other sewing projects of the time, to secure other easily frayed edges on garments? And with that, for those of you who sew with super historical accuracy ( can count me out of that, this opens up the realm of plausibility for using Fray-Check in your garments from this period...or maybe even earlier!

This is the first I have ever heard from a historical source for using a substance similar to Fray-Check, but I would like to know more about this...when I finally get around to sewing all of the deliciously frilly Edwardian garments I have desired for so long, it's nice to know that I can rely on Fray-Check for delicate and fraying fabrics!


  1. Ha, count me in the camp of not being a stickler for accuracy, too (Except for fabrics. That is very important to me. I can't stand synthetics, anyway.)
    I never thought about using glue for edges... I've thought about buying Fray-Check but never wanted to put out the bit of money :p
    I bet there were many seamstresses that had different little undocumented ways of sewing things. Just because nobody wrote about it or there aren't any extant examples, doesn't mean that there weren't women using different methods. With so many women sewing, the chances of EVERYONE doing it the right way is small, I think.

    So I don't feel guilty when I use a method that people seem to think was un-used, unless it's absolutely impossible (Such as certain machine stitches that just couldn't have been done without a machine)
    I like to rationalize away *some* of my lazy sewing behavior. ;)

  2. I am sure a lot of seamstresses had secrets they never divulged, after all, you have to compete with the competition! Perhaps they had a lot of techniques that we use today!