Congratulations to Deborah Rochefort, who won the second place prize in our "Crafting with Jane Austen" creative writing contest. Deborah tells us that "This story was partially inspired by the happy hours I spent teaching little girls to sew a doll's pocket while volunteering at the Peter Burr House in Ranson, WV."
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"A Pocket for a Poppet"
The afternoon visiting began poorly: Sarah’s child immediately retreated under the side table and neither threats nor cajoling could persuade her to move.
Sarah flushed in embarrassment. While all women professed to love children, the truth was that only well- behaved children were well-regarded. Now her Catherine began grizzling, earning frowns from those assembled.
“Do come away, Sarah dear, and tell me what you think of this new pattern in The Lady’s Magazine.” Sarah gladly took the escape provided by her friend, and sat beside her with a modicum of graceful haste.
Martha smiled over her needlework at Sarah’s escape and the return to peaceful conversation now that little Catherine was no longer resisting being forced into company. She stole a sympathetic glance towards the child, who clutched her doll, peering fearfully at the adults. Perennially shy herself, Martha felt that she too would have welcomed such a hiding place in many social situations.
However, hiding would not gain Catherine good manners, or how to politely endure society. Martha set down the fine wool shawl she was embroidering, and opened her workbag, considering how to help.
She selected a square of blue calico; one she had intended for a patchwork pocket. She glanced at the child’s doll and trimmed the calico to a blunt teardrop of the proportionate size. Martha selected two more scraps of plain muslin, and cut them to the size of the blue calico. She smiled encouragingly at Catherine, then cut a slit in the calico teardrop at its blunted edge with one of its backing pieces. She began to neatly bind the slit of the two fabrics together with a strip of muslin.
Having set her trap, Martha waited like an uncommonly kind spider for her victim to emerge. Martha felt the weight of a pair of curious eyes upon her, but continued placidly sewing. Finally, little footsteps padded up to sidle beside her.
“What are you making?” a soft, high voice inquired.
“I thought your poppet might like a pocket,” Martha replied cheerfully. “It can be for her handkerchief, and anything else she might like... perhaps some sweets,” she suggested with a sly smile, and was rewarded by an answering flicker of a smile in return.
“Is it really for me?” Catherine asked hopefully.
“For your poppet, yes,” Martha agreed, finishing the binding, and proceeding to cut a strip of muslin to bind the outer part of the pocket.
Companionable silence lay between the two as Martha placed the slit top of the pocket onto its backing and began to lay the binding over the edge.
“Can I help?” Catherine finally ventured shyly.
“Certainly,” Martha replied kindly. “Here, sit by me. You can take the needle and thread. If you need help, I will show you what to do.”
Soon Catherine was happily occupied, working on her project quietly amidst the adults. Sarah gave Martha a grateful smile. Satisfied, Martha reflected that the tiny pocket had been a most profitable endeavor.