Carolyn Sherwin Bailey
The New Red Dress
LONG time ago, when your grandfather and grandmother
were children, there lived a little girl named Rachel.
She had no playthings that came from the store, but,
in place of a rocking-horse, her big brother, Joseph,
had whittled for her a fine little trotting horse. She
had a soft kitty to hold and a soft rag dolly with
black eyes and red cheeks like her own. But none of
her clothes came from the store, and her papa made all
her stout shoes.
One Thanksgiving Day little Rachel was feeling very
happy, because she had a new, warm red dress to
put on. The weather had grown quite cold, and the
brown cotton dress she wore in the summer had become
thin and old. She was, first, to have her hair combed,
and then to put on the new red dress, so that she would
be ready when Uncle John and his family came to spend
"Oh, mother," said Rachel, "tell me the story about my
new red dress—the one you told yesterday."
"Very well," said mother. So she began:
"Last spring, when it was warm and pleasant, a wise
little fairy knew that cold winter would come after a
while, and then a little girl's cotton dress would not
be warm enough; so she said: 'Where can I find
something to make Rachel a new dress?'
" 'How would our leaves do?' said some bright red
poppies that were growing in the garden.
" 'Your color is just right,' said the fairy, 'but you
will not last until winter.'
" 'How would our feathers do?' sang robin redbreast.
" 'It would take a great many to make a dress,' said
the fairy, 'and you could not spare them. No; we must
look farther still.'
" 'Maa-a, maa-a!' said Nannie, the sheep. 'How I wish
that I could lay off my coat. It is getting so warm,
and I am sure that another would grow before cold
" 'If the color of your coat can be changed,' said the
fairy, 'I believe it will be the best thing in the
world for Rachel's dress, but how am I to get it off?'
" 'We will help you,' said some strong, sharp sheep
shears; and—snip, snap they went, until Nannie's coat
was all in a heap on the ground.
" 'But the wool is so dirty,' said the fairy.
" 'Swish, swosh, swish,' said some soap and water; 'see
what we can do'; and, sure enough, the wool was soon
washed and clean and hung drying in the sun, as white
" 'How nice!' said the fairy, 'but that wool does not
look very much like a dress yet. I wonder who will
help me next.'
" 'Here, here we are,' said some strong combs, which,
queer as it seems, were called cards. Back and forth
they went, until the wool was all combed out into long
rolls, nearly two feet long and about as big around as
one of Rachel's curls.
"The rolls were scarcely finished before
was heard in the attic, and the spinning-wheel had
begun to spin some of the rolls of wool into yarn. The
wheel hummed and worked day after day until many skeins
of soft, white yarn had been made and hung beside the
" 'S-s-s, s-s-s!' hissed the big brass kettle. 'Put
the skeins in here and see what will happen to them!'
In went the white skeins, and out came red ones as
bright as the gay summer poppies.
"The fairy was just thinking what wonderful things had
been done, when 'Slam, bang!' was heard in the chamber
" 'See what my shuttle can do with the yarn,' said the
great loom, and when the yarn had been placed in the
frame back and forth flew the shuttle until, by the end
of the next day, a long roll of cloth was lying on the
back part of the loom.
" 'That begins to look like a dress,' said the fairy.
'Now, who will finish it?'
" 'Here we are,' sang out a pair of sharp scissors.
Sister Needle and myself belong to the Steel
family, and we are very bright and sharp. We can do
wonderful work.' So they went to work at once, and
they worked so fast that soon, in place of the cloth,
there was a pretty, red dress with two sleeves, a waist
and a skirt—all ready for Rachel to put on."
"What a lovely story!" said Rachel, when mother had
finished. The hair was all combed and curled now; so
Rachel put on the new red dress and went downstairs to
open the door for Uncle John.
— Cora E. Harris, "Kindergarten Review"