My Guy

A great man has left us. Many of you know that I’ve been a caregiver for my husband for the past couple of years. He went into a huge decline earlier this year, and we made the decision to have him admitted to hospice. He passed away very, very peacefully early in the morning of May 18, with his son and me holding his hands. The world has lost quite a character.

James was a talented cook, who could do anything in the kitchen. He could go to a restaurant and then go home and replicate what he’d had. He won almost any chili or shepherd’s pie throwdown he was in. And his soups were amazing. He could do impressions that would rival a Vegas performer, and man was he funny. He would also be rather surly — I called him Archie Bunker, and I wasn’t alone in that — but he melted around little kids and especially babies. He’d shave whenever the grandkids came over, because they didn’t like his beard. His favorite movie was Full Metal Jacket, as he was a 34 year veteran of the Marine Corps. He never let me hear his drill sergeant voice, because he said “you don’t WANT to.” His boys, however, said it was legendary, especially when he’d line them up to see who had broken something. Yet this man, so larger than life, and such a clown, cried at every wedding he went to, including watching Brie Bella and Daniel Brian of the WWE get married. He was an Iron Marshmallow.

I miss him so much, and once the dust settles, I will have a huge hole in my life, not only because of him not being here, but because of the time spent caring for him, especially in the past year. I’m not sure yet how that hole will be (slowly) filled. I know that I plan to spend more time on my business. I will be spending a lot of time going thru the house, as I may downsize. If not, I will consider it to be a Swedish Death Cleaning. Meantime, my stepson has been helping out, and is amazed at the number of sewing patterns here, so yes, I will definitely be working at getting them listed.

And I plan to take some time for me. I took off for a couple of days last week, and drove to Atlanta to see the Madame Gres exhibit at the SCAD. I will be sharing pictures here soon. Then I went to a cabin in Tennesse and was just still for a couple of days. It was SO nice, and truly a spiritual experience. I plan to see all of the lower 48 states, and will likely be going to New England with my daughter and her three kids — four, three and 18 months. (I’m gonna need all the prayers, positive energy and good juju for that one!)

So I’ll be back on a more regular basis in this space. Hang in there as it revs up, and meantime, enjoy this video of my husband being my husband. What a goofball he was.


The Horror of It All

I’ve been gone a while. Hubby has been in the hospital, quite ill with heart issues. It was very dicey for a while, but he’s finally moved to the rehab hospital and should be home in a week or two. I’m starting to get into the swing of things again, and listed a few things in the shop this morning. I’m also working on getting the house in order, and restoring some mental stability to the dogs, who freak out when we are gone, much less for two weeks. Lots of work to do before their papi comes home, but I’m getting there.

I mentioned some time back about the horror themed quilt I made my son for Christmas, so I thought I’d share some quick and dirty pictures, done by the bachelor guy. This was done with the help of a lady at the local quilting shop, as I have done very little quilting in the past, and that was not done with a clue as to what I was doing. My machine gave up the ghost midway through, and the quilt shop did the quilting, but I was happy with how it came out, and he was INSANELY happy with it. Let’s just say, we talked on Christmas Eve about one thing we were thankful for, and when he said “horror movies”, I knew I had a winner on my hands.

The background, as you can see, is a blood spatter print. The pattern is in Irish rings, and includes prints of old movies like Dracula, The Fright, Frankenstein, etc, as well as newer movies like Alien, Predator, The Shining, Chucky, It, and a bunch more. There’s a bit of Dia de los Muertos, and the Deathly Hallows emblem from Harry Potter. I sourced fabrics from Etsy for the most part. The Harry Potter print came from a Walmart remnant. The binding is kind of a reverse blood spatter, from a remnant that I already had. It is bright red with tiny white polka dots.

The back was sourced from Spoonflower, and is a print of quotes from The Sandman. Not horror, I know, but it’s my son’s favorite graphic novel series. He mentioned in the fall that he plans to get a tattoo of Death from the series, so I went looking and voila! Found this print and knew I’d hit it. As you can see, the panels run vertically and repeat across, so there’s not a ton of quotes, but it hit the target and he was flabbergasted to see it. I bought a Sandman Tshirt on Etsy that features Death on it, and planned to put a panel in the middle of the back, but the black of the T shirt and the lighter gray didn’t mesh well, so if I get my act together, I’ll make him a pillow from it to go with the quilt.

What do you think? It’s definitely not perfect, but I felt accomplished that I got it done, and my son’s happiness with it made it all worth it.

sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion, Vintage Kids

Frugality at Its Best

Advance 4442, ©1947.

I love this pattern. Vintage boys’ patterns often go overlooked, in part because, like mens’ patterns, there just doesn’t seem to have been as many printed. The looks are a bit more dated that in little girls’ styles, but they are so cute. What makes this one special though, is that the coat is constructed from a man’s suit. It’s upcycling, before it was cool.

It’s from 1947, so it’s post World War II, where the US was beyond fabric rationing (which didn’t apply to home sewing anyway). Businesses were starting to thrive after the war, so many families could afford a new coat, but apparently the frugality of the war extended to the years afterward. Remember, these moms were raised in the Depression era, and many remained frugal their entire lives, so it’s not surprising that they were using fabric they had on hand to construct new garments.

These days, a lot of sewists get their fabric from thrift stores, especially using vintage sheets in all sorts of patterns. Have you ever thought of repurposing a man’s suit into something new? I have this ebook in the store on how to mend mens’ suits, and of course you can buy this particular pattern in the webstore. I’ll have to do a bit of digging but I think I have a woman’s suit pattern made from a man’s suit as well, though I think it is included in one of my books. Have you ever upcycled a man’s suit? What did you make? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

1950s fashion, designers, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Echoes of the New Look

Christian Dior rocked the fashion scene with his 1947, which was ultimately called “The New Look.” Gone was the fabric rationing of the era. The pronouncement that Paris fashion had not only survived the war, but that it was back in new and exciting ways was obvious, as Dior showed his “Corolle” and “Figure 8” styles. These styles were minimalist while over the top, with voluminous skirts, requiring yards of fabric never seen before. He stripped down to the details when showing them, keeping colors deliberately muted and hats very simple. The Bar Jacket is iconic, and seen in museums all overthe world.

Bar Suit, 1947. Photo: Vogue.

Echoes of the Bar Suit are seen throughout the late forties, fifties, and early sixties. It returns in the 80s, and is seen even today. Sewing patterns are reflective of its popularity. Remember, this is a time when sewing pattern companies and fashion designers sent representatives to Paris with their only assignment being to replicate the styles seen in the fashion shows. This brought Paris fashion to housewives in America, making real style attainable. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, designers were not always given attribution, so it would take some deep diving to find which designer matched with which “Paris Fashion” pattern, but they definitely exist.

When I saw this pattern the other day, I saw the echoes, with it’s tiny “flap” (they don’t call it a peplum). It’s a one piece dress, as opposed to the Bar Suit, which is two pieces, but wouldn’t you agree that there is a definite influence here?

Marian Martin 9133, ©1950.

It’s not exact, of course, but it’s like hearing echoes of one musician in another’s music. The influence is definitely there.

sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

The Ultimate UFO

You, like me, may have some UFOs around your house. UFO, in our world, means “unfinished object”, and I have several. I have a crewel embroidery pillow that I’ve been working on. I don’t even like crewel embroidery, but I found this vintage crewel kit that features a bunch of different flowers. Since my mom loved flowers, and my dad did crewel embroidery until shortly before his death at age 92, I decided it might be a nice tribute, so I started it. But again, I hate crewel embroidery. Hate doing it, hate how it looks, so I don’t know if I will ever finish it. I also have not one but two embroidered baby quilts that I started but haven’t finished, because it flares my tendonitis and I decided that my daughter likely wouldn’t like them anyway. I guess unless my boys have kids one day, I will likely never revisit them, and even if they do, I still will probably leave them as UFOs.

A lot, if not most, of crafters/sewists have at least one UFO in their space. So imagine when I came across this. This is truly the ultimate in UFOs — 1740s silk that was cut into a dress. It was a mystery, and these women unravelled it. Here’s the short version:

Fascinating, yes? Well let me tell you, it’s even more so when you read the long version. Amazing, yes? That those pieces survived in a bag for almost three hundred years, all while being made into three different garments along the way. Perhaps in the year 2300, someone will find my baby quilts and finish them. It’ll stil be earlier than I’d get them done.

Celebrity, designers, family stories, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Oscars Season

Oscars night is a big deal around here. I call it Pretty Dress Night, and my husband has zero chance of watching anything else as I enjoy the parade of fashion. It’s been this way for years.

When my now adult son was six, he had strep throat on Oscars night. We knew he wasn’t going to be going to school the next day and, being a huge movie fan even at that age, he begged to stay up to watch the Oscars. I think that Harrison Ford was going to be presenting one of the last awards, and he wanted to see him, so I relented. Since that time, it’s been tradition for us to watch them “together.” I have quotation marks because when he went to college, we were on AOL Instant Messager during the awards, and now we might get together, or we might be texting the whole time, but we always watch them together in one form or another. To say that he is a huge film buff would be a gross understatement.

Around the time of the first Oscars we watched together, our video store had a contest for choosing the winners. I got stuck waiting in line and just dashed off my guesses and put them in the box. I won. I got ten free rentals, which the ex used. That was fine, because I didn’t watch a ton of movies — I was working evenings and home schooling three kids during the day. The ex, on the other hand, always tried to see the Oscar nominated films. He couldn’t believe that I won, given my lack of film viewing, so the next year, he brought me the ballot from the video store and challenged me to beat him. I did. And I won another twenty movie rentals, which he again used. Now he was unhappy, because he went to the time and expense to watch all these movies, and I may see one Oscar nominated film a year. So he did it again the third year in a row, and I won again. Twenty movie rentals, but now the video store required showing ID in order to get the free rentals, so he couldn’t get them.

He swore that I told them not to rent the movies to him. I didn’t. I think we eventually used them up, but after that, he refused to compete with me. My oldest, however, did not. It was ON. Year after year, he tried to beat me and failed. Finally, maybe four or five years ago, he finally beat me. I don’t pay as much attention to the buzz as I used to, but now all of the kids and I have a running contest to see who guesses the most accurately. We usually come in pretty close. But really, I’m just there for the clothes.

It’s funny to think that the Oscars weren’t a huge event when they started, and have only gotten huge since the seventies or so. Now, it’s the red carpet night, arguably even bigger than the Met Gala, which is only watched by fashion fans. Oscars night is seen by anyone who loves movies, so its reach is massive. This is huge for the designers who want to get their designs out there. I listed the book shown above in the Etsy shop the other day. It’s a great view of the Oscars up to the early 2000s, and has tons of photos, black and white and in color, of the stars of the day. Meantime, I’ll be on the couch with popcorn, passing judgement on the stars on Oscars night. Who’s gonna join me?

1970s fashion, designers, sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Vogue French Boutique

I listed this pattern in the Etsy shop today. I’d never seen a Vogue French Boutique pattern before.

The French Boutique series seems to have been a shorter lived series that was distributed between about 1976 and 1981. Most of them are designed by Christian Aujard, though Renata has a couple as well. These were lesser well known boutique designers in Paris at the time. Renata, the designer of this one, was known for creating loose, comfortable styles.

I love this one. I’d wear the blue version with boots. It looks unbelievably comfortable, doesn’t it? I think you could get through Thanksgiving with this style and never feel the need to loosen anything after the feast. The top would be great with jeans, but would work with loungewear pants as well. I do prefer the belted version though — unbelted, it reads maternity.

I’m going to be keeping my eye out for not only more French Boutique patterns, but also Renata. Her aesthetic reads as contemporary even today.

1920s fashion, sewing, sewing patterns

Excella and Pictorial Review

I found out a few months ago that there was a connection between Pictorial Review patterns and Excella patterns. I verified this over the weekend when I realized that I had a men’s pattern from Pictorial Review that I’d also had in the past as Excella.

I don’t know the year on these, and would love to know if they were published at the same time. Look closely at the Pictorial Review, and “last pattern 1928” is written on it. I don’t know if that pertains to this pattern, and it would be hard to say. Though sewing pattern catalogs included some men’s patterns, they didn’t include many, so finding a reference to them from now-defunct companies would be a difficult task.

I saw an article at some point that mentioned the connection they had, but darned if I can find it now. I went searching, and here is what I found. This first mention of Excella in ads was in 1922. Excella patterns were touted as being simple, and that completed projects would exactly match the illustrations. They even had ads saying that if you incurred any loss in creating a garment with Excella patterns, they would reimburse the customer for every penny of loss. Imagine that today!

In1924, Excella began advertising their “Pictograf” which was similar to Butterick’s Deltor, in that it was the name they gave to the instruction sheets. Pictograf later became associated with Pictorial Review. In fact, in 1927, ads are seen for “Excella Pictorial Review” patterns.

In 1934, ads are seen saying that some stores contracts had ended with Pictorial Review, and that they were selling Excella patterns in their place. Pictorial Review patterns were still being sold however, as ads were seen for them up until

Excella ads were seen up until early 1938, though not as frequently as in the earlier years. In contrast, Pictorial Review liquidation sales were seen as early as 1939 and Pictorial Review Magazine isn’t seen after 1940.Any mention of the pattern line disappeared in late 1942. My grandmother worked for Pictorial Review as a fashion editor in the early to mid 1920s, and I believe, from family history, that they were absorbed into McCall’s when they closed.

I would consider this parallel selling of patterns to what Butterick and Vogue did. Vogue would issue patterns, and when sales cooled, they were changed to Butterick and sold with different pattern numbers. I haven’t dived into this practice far enough to show an example, but I know it happened. I’m not sure if it still happens today. Interesting, huh?

1970s fashion, sewing, sewing patterns

Authentic Western Patterns

I have a great deal of western and square dance patterns from Authentic Patterns, but I don’t know much about them. They have 70s style illustrations and photos, and are pretty cool styles. All I knew was that they were out of Fort Worth, Texas. Then I went looking.

I found that Authentic Western Fashions, Inc. was established in 1970, after Bob McClelland, Sr, a fabric salesman, found a gap in the market. He was the inventor of the infamous (in vintage sewing circles) three armhole dress. I’ve sold a lot of three armhole dress patterns over the course of time. It’s exactly what it says it is: a wrap dress with three armholes. Still very popular, so if you have one, you’re a lucky camper. But apparently, Mr McClelland spoke with fabric salespeople in the course of his work and found that there weren’t a lot of true western style patterns on the market. That’s how Authentic Western Fashions came to be.

McClelland hired Marlene Syms, from Oklahoma, as his designer, and off they were to the races. Specific fabrics were sold as well: stretch lame and iridescent eyelash fabric. Imagine how eye catching these were! Of course, it goes right alone with the country stars of the era with their spangles and sequins, so I guess it’s not really a surprise, though I’d love to see the actual fabrics they were intended for.

Within four months of creation, the company had patterns in several hundred stored nationwide. Plans were made to expand to English riding costumes, as well as cheer and twirling outfits. Though I’ve never seen those, a 1976 article mentions body suits, pantsuits, square dance dresses, and even bush jackets for men. I have a number of western wear patterns for men, women and kids, including a lot of square dance outfits.

It appears that Ms. Syms unfortunately died in 1976 as a result of a car accident in Oklahoma. Though a classified ad is seen looking for a printerman in 1977, the last mention of Authentic Patterns is in a store ad in 1979. It may be that they hired another designer, or perhaps they were still selling Ms. Syms’ designs, as westernwear is fairly classic in style, so it could withstand a certain amount of time without looking dated. No mention is seen of the company in ads after that point.

sewing, sewing patterns

Home Ec

I took Home Economics in eighth grade. There were two semesters: cooking, followed by sewing. I only took the cooking semester, because there were boys in shop class, which meant I went off to wood shop for second semester. What a waste of my time.

I’ve always been interested in home economics classes as they pertain to sewing. I’ve come across a lot of home ec books over the course of time and have read the fascinating book The Lost Art of the Dress, which recounts the history of home ec classes and how the women involved influenced fashion. It’s interesting stuff, if that is the kind of thing that you, like me, nerd out over.

I came across a couple of books that talked about teaching sewing in schools and found the details interesting. They correlate quite a book with the aforementioned book’s timeline, in that sewing at home ebbed and flowed. The late forties were more of an ebb in home sewing, and the 1948 book I found said that in a study of a tenth-grade high school class, only one student had ever used a sewing pattern, only a third of the girls’ mothers sewed, and less than half of the classes’ homes had a sewing machine. That’s a lot of idle machines. Students started by learning to sew a simple gingham sewing bag which was used to hold supplies, and then gradually advanced to sewing garments.

An 1894 book by the Superintendent of the Philadelphia schools, it is noted that sewing began being taught in schools in 1880 and began to be a part of the regular curriculum five years later. Instruction began in third grade. The city provided supplies like pins, thread, thimbles, needles, scissors (regular and buttonhole), cotton for sewing and darning, dressmakers’ scales, emery bags, and paper for drafting patterns. One square foot of muslin was given to each student and was replenished as necessary. The city allotted six cents per student for these supplies.

Classes started in third grade with the most basic of principles: posture while sewing, and how to correctly position one’s hands. Right- and left-hand position were taught separately. Drills were in threading needles, taking a stitch and drawing through fabric, and how to hold scissors. Sewing instruction began with turning the hem, basting and then sewing the hem. Frequently these skills were taught using paper first, instead of fabric. They then learning how to overseam on turned edges, and how to cut a straight line. If students were successful in straight cutting, they were allowed to bring towels and washrags from home to practice hemming.

Second semester of third grade taught back stitch, running seam, half back stitch seam, raw edges of seams to be overcast, hemming of towels, napkins and desk covers. Actual sewing began this semester, with creation of sewing bags, pillowcases, oversleeves, iron holders and bibs. The most amazing thing to me is that in this semester, third grade, with a bunch of eight and nine year olds, they began teaching pattern drafting, by creating patterns for bibs and simple waists (blouses) with straps over the armholes. Most home sewists today don’t know how to draft patterns, and they were teaching babies! Amazing.

In fourth grade, reversible seams were taught, as well as square patches. Hemming of tablecloths and sheets were done, and pillowcases, dust caps, pen wipes and other little projects were sewn. At this point, students were taught how to sew on a four holed button. Drafting projects included yokes, under waists with seam over the arm, and book covers. Second semester, students learned gathering and darning, made plain aprons and book covers, and learned to sew buttons on shoes and basic mending. Drafting projects included under waists with under arm and shoulder seams, aprons, children’s and baby dresses.

Fifth grade lessons were done in narrow hems and fells (flatting the seam, turning it and then sewing it down), tucks and fine gathering, darning, French fells, angular patches, and buttonholes. Sewing projects were drawers, combing capes, shoe and stocking bags, aprons, under waists and plain skirts. Drafting of drawers and under waists with one dart and with spring (curve) to fit the hip were taught.

Sixth grade paid attention to buttonholes, and also taught round patches, herringbone and feather stitches, gusset and bias seams. By this time, girls learned to make chemises, blouse waists, night shirts and flannel skirts. They drafted chemises, gored skirts, dress sleeves, night shirts and blouse waists. Seventh grade taught French gathering, tailored buttonholes, cutting and fitting of plain garments like night dresses, corset covers, and men’s shirts. Patterns were drafted for these garments.

Eighth grade found students cutting, fitting and sewing garments of all kinds, with special attention to men’s shirts and garments that fit the students. Drafting was done for dress waists, sleeves and skirts.

The Philadelphia school system employed 41 sewing teachers to instruct 58,000 students in these skills. They really invested in the program, and the girls, by the time they graduated eighth grade, would have learned all the basic skills to draft patterns and sew their own wardrobe, as well as for family members. Keep in mind that this was also all hand sewing! Amazing, isn’t it?