sewing, sewing patterns, vintage fashion

Where I’ve Been and Other Stuff

Well, I’ve been gone for a while and it’s not been fun. I’ve been fighting a terrible case of tendonitis that has just left me miserable. I did something stupid that I knew would cause problems, and now I’m paying the price. I decided to start doing some gentle workouts but historically, I cannot do any type of upper body exercise at all, or it flares things up. This is the worst it’s ever been. Stupid is as stupid does. I’m trying to figure out the name of the chiropractor I went to several years ago. She adjusted my elbow, which I didn’t even know what possible, and it was the first time in my adult life that I went six months without elbow pain. I need to find her again, but I’m having problems.

I’ve also been to rheumatology and she is going to start me back on infusions for my rheumatoid arthritis, because I’ve developed a nodule. It makes my right index finger go numb, as if pain in every joint of my body isn’t enough. Sheesh. I’m getting a lot of relief from my paraffin bath (scored for $5 at Goodwill!), and recently bought these mittens and these compression gloves, so I can settle in with my mittens and my lavender neck roll and look like the mess that I am. At least it smells nice.

So I haven’t been listing much for almost two weeks because yeah, pain. Severe pain. I did power thru and have the horror quilt almost done. I do the final class today and whilst it looks kind of wonky and she will have to help me straighten it out, I’m going to tell my son that the chaos is just part of the theme. The quilting teacher is looking for help, so I may finagle some lessons from her in exchange for some social media love. Either way, I’ve learned a lot (you learn more from your mistakes, right?) and am going to probably try this again in the future. I’m going to use some of the leftover fabric to make my son’s girlfriend a horror-themed floppy hat that she can wear when they go to horror marathons at the drive in. I’ve never made a hat before, other than knitting, so I’ll probably use McCall’s 8254 and use View B.

I have plans to do a jumper dress for the grandgirls after this, but I think I have to learn to do buttonholes. That’s where either the quilting teacher or YouTube comes in. It’s insane to think that I have sold sewing patterns for nigh on 25 years but have never learned to sew other than basic seams. I’m going to keep plugging away though.

There’s a 25% off sale on all of my venues. Click here to access all of my shops. Sale ends at midnight tonight.

sewing

Horror-fying

It’s getting colder, which means I’m getting ready to go into my winter foray of sewing (poorly). I’m trying not to actually pull out my sewing machine for a while, because at the moment the sunroom table where I sew is literally covered in patterns and Aunt Martha’s transfers, and hubby will have a fit if I put more on there. It is, for the record, in his direct line of vision whilst he is on the couch (which is all day and night), so I do try to keep the pandemonium down to a minimum.

Our little town recently got a fabric store. This is a huge bone of contention between me and my husband because its been my dream to open a really good fabric store. Indiana is a fabric desert, with the sole exception (that I know of) being The French Seam, in northern Indianapolis. It’s small, but it has beautiful fabrics, and isn’t just a dearth of fleece and quilting cottons, a la Joann’s. I’ve been saying for years that I want a fabric store, and would love for it to be something like Vogue Fabrics in Chicago. We are, after all, just off the interstate. Hubby has been quite firm in saying it would never fly in our little town. He’s lived here much longer than me, so he might be right, but don’t kill my dream, man.

Then I saw that someone beat me to it. DAMN.

I haven’t been in there yet, but have been watching their Facebook page to see what they’re about. Kind of wondering if I could drop off some cards to point people my way, but haven’t decided. Then I saw that they are having sewing classes and thought, eh, maybe. Then I saw that they are doing beginning quilting classes and thought what the heck, I’ll do it. My only foray into quilting was making T shirt quilts for my husband’s boys out of their mom’s Race for the Cure shirts. They weren’t particularly well made, but at least one son appreciated it (the other threw his over the fence at me in a fit of anger. He won’t be getting it back. He’s a 50 year old brat.). I thought oh well, I can go take a class on a couple of Sunday afternoons and see what I can do.

I tried to figure out what the heck I was gonna do. The last thing we need in this house is more blankets. We have SO many. I had a memory quilt made for me last year out of my mom’s clothing, and love it. My daughter doesn’t need any more either, so making one for the grandkids was kind of out, at least for now. So I decided to make one for one of my boys. I have a bunch of my youngest’s T shirts from back in the day, and plan to make him a quilt from them, so that just left my oldest. But what kind of theme do you use for a 33 year old bachelor who is a complete free spirit who loves movies?

Why, a horror quilt, of course.

Horror is his favorite genre, so I picked out a ton ton of horror themed fabric (think: The Shining twins, Chucky, old school Dracula and Frankenstein, Freddy Krueger) for the front. The background? Blood spatter. The borders are creepy trees and more blood. I am SO creeped out by it all. I don’t like scary, even less do I like horror. The people in this class are going to think that this crazy old lady is insane, but I think it’s hilarious. Our town is super, super conservative in all of its thinking. Me? Not so much. I may need to video the reaction people have when they see what I’m doing. My friend, an expert quilter, thinks the whole concept is absolutely wonderful. This, coming from someone who goes to yarn conventions for excitement. Maybe I’m on to something?

Then I had a conversation with the Heir to the Throne, who doesn’t know I’m doing this at all. He was talking about The Sandman. Raving, in fact, about how it’s one of his favorite pieces of literature, and how Death is his favorite character. Well, now I had the back of the quilt figured out. It’s going to be quotes from The Sandman. I bought it on Spoonflower, here. See some of my other crazy choices here, here, here, here, here and here.

I’ll post pictures when I’m done. Class isn’t until the last two weekends of November.

designers, sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Van Martin and Being a Creator

McCalls 7575, ©1981,

A new listing in the Etsy shop: this track suit style jacket by McCall’s, labelled Van Martin. It’s from 1981, when track suits were starting to become a bit more stylish. The pattern is only for the jacket though. It looks comfortable, because it has an inverted pleat down the back, to give you room to move, and you can make it with anything from poplin and linen to double knits and velour. It’s pretty versatile (and this one is a bust 40, which is nice for today’s ladies).

Van Martin was a sportswear designer. I like what he had to say in this article from the White Plains Journal-News. He said [sewing] “is a means of expressing my creativity. When you cook a meal, you create something that’s never before existed, and that’s what you do with sewing.” Isn’t that cool? You may buy a pattern, even a pattern that’s existed and been owned by various people for a hundred years, but you still are creating something that’s never existed before, because you are choosing the fabric, buttons, zippers, trims all yourself and making it your own. You are a creator. I love the existentialistic idea of that.

Deep thought for a Monday, isn’t it?

designers, sewing, sewing patterns, vintage fashion

Leona Rocha

Simplicity 6433, ©1984

I listed this pattern in the Etsy shop this week and thought who in the world is Leona Rocha. Well, first and foremost, she is apparently not related to Coco Rocha, who is the first person who came to mind. I went looking, and here is what I found.

Leona Rocha was a fit expert. Born in Hawaii, she originally enlisted in the Army’s dental technician course. She used her GI bill benefits to train as a designer at the FIT, she was a past president of the American Home Sewing Association, and even wrote a book about fitting with simplicity. She was a founder of a sewing notions company called Fashionetics, and was the inventor of The Fashion Ruler while still a student, and it is still sold today. In the early 80’s, she partnered with Simplicity to do seminars about fit. At that time, she also hosted a TV show called The Sewing Show on cable four days a week, twice a day. It was a thirteen week series about how to sew at home and properly fit home sewn clothing. She later became an executive at Vogue-Butterick patterns — and married one of their executives. She ran for office on Maui, where she still lives today.

Seems like with all of these accomplishments, I would have known something about her, so I’m glad that now I do. She has left a great legacy to the sewing community.

sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Kinda Surprised

Simplicity 9846, ©1980.

I just added this pattern to the Etsy shop, and I am surprised. It’s from 1980! When you think of the 80s, you probably think of huge shoulders and Dynasty-esque fashions. That is partially right, as those types of styles started showing up around 1984 or so, but the cusp of the 70s and 80s had some very soft, beautiful fashions. The most popular Gunne Sax patterns were from 1979-1981, so there was a lot of gorgeous stuff before it got all serious.

That being said, I would’ve put this one in the late sixties or early seventies. It has a Game of Thrones or Renaissance vibe to it because of that cape, and those weren’t seen commonly in the 80s. If you take the cape away, it’s a distinctly Victorian vibe as was common in that time period. That cape definitely IS the look. Make the dress in a deep color with metallic trim and it could be Mother of Dragons cosplay. Am I wrong? Maybe, but it’s a stunning combination nonetheless.

sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Easy-Mark Patterns by McCall’s

McCalls 6181, ©1961

I came across this pattern the other day and learned something new. I noticed the note at the bottom: NOTE: the may also be used as a regular pattern. What the heck? I’d never seen that before. I noticed that at the top it is labelled an “Easy-Mark Pattern.” Turns out that McCall’s put out Easy-Mark patterns starting in 1961, starting with 6004 (a dress), 6098 (blouse) and 6050 (skirt). I guess these three were a test balloon to see how well they did. They premiered the concept at the American Homemaker’s Association Convention in Cleveland, Ohio in July of 1961. The patterns hit stores shortly afterward.

The premise was that a transfer was included so that you could easily transfer the pattern markings to your fabric. As noted, you could use it as normal too. Using the transfer meant you could use your iron to press the markings onto the wrong side of the fabric, thus avoiding the use of tracing paper, carbon, or tailor’s tacks, and avoid damaging the patterns with pins. The transfers were blue, so they were made for use with lighter colored fabric, where the marks wouldn’t be lost. The transfers were able to be used twice, which meant that if you relied on them, you could only reuse the pattern one time. Of course, patterns could be used infinitely if you didn’t need to use the transfer.

These patterns were marketed at the same time as the “Instant” patterns by McCall’s. I suspect that the Instant line may have had more longevity, as I’ve seen tons of them over the years, and this is the first time I’ve seen an “Easy-Mark” pattern. The concept would never fly today because of the cost factor. I’m sure that this likely was the root cause of why we don’t see many of these: sewists don’t like redundancy, and once they have learnt how to sew by transferring markings, they likely didn’t feel the extra step was needed. Ads for the Easy-Mark patterns were few, and totally disappeared by 1965.

What do you think? Would you use these as a regular pattern, or would you like the transfer option?

designers, embroidery, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

France During World War II

I read the vintage book Fashion Fundamentals, by Bernice Chambers recently, and wow, is it fascinating. The setting is 1947, which puts it post World War II, but before the New Look dominated the scene, so the world was fresh out of not only a war, but fabric rationing and the huge impact of the war on the fashion industry. It includes everything from bios of designers to descriptions of different fabrics and fur. Cool stuff.

What I found most interesting though, was the stories it told of France’s couture industry during the war, and how they were able not only to keep it going, but keep it in France. The Germans wanted to move the couture industry to Berlin. Lucien Lelong, the president of the Haute Couture Chambre Syndical De La Haute Couture, and though he made a couple of trips to Berlin, he pulled off the absolute miracle of defying the Germans and refusing to move. Can you imagine the absolute bravery of going against the Germans, who wanted to take occupied France’s biggest industry away from them?

Think of the impact this could have had. Christian Dior had not shown a collection yet. The entire Berlin fashion scene — iconic in its own way — might not exist as we know it. Moving couture to Germany would have completely turned fashion history on its head. I am amazed.

Add to this that the German officers and their lives liked to shop in the couture industry, and what the designers did to sabotage it, and you will laugh. They purposely made horribly awful, huge hats for the Germans, refusing to offer them top designs. This shows that everyone can be a defiant cog in the wheel of the opposition if they think it through. I just love the visual on this — imagine godawful hats in the windows where the beautiful tiny sculptural hats of the 40s should be, and German women walking out thinking they look amazing whilst the French laugh at them behind their backs.

The other thing that they did was so united. The couture industry was rationed 2/1000 of the normal amount of cloth they normally were used to. A tiny amount. OK, so they can’t make as many clothes, and marketing would be hard if not impossible, but think of how many jobs this affected. This put an entire industry under threat of unemployment during the occupation. What did the designers do? They had limited fabric to work with, weren’t allowed or able to do fabric embellishments like ruffles or pockets, so they did embroidery and beading. LOTS of it. Doing huge intricate designs kept the embroiders employed and families from going hungry.

The pivots that the French couture industry accomplished during the war amaze me. American industry faced its own restrictions, but we were not occupied, and the restrictions weren’t as suffocating. We could still get good cotton, even if we couldn’t get Asian silks or Italian wools. The French had to completely think outside the box, and did it whilst making life difficult for their oppressors. I love it.

The book will be listed in the Etsy shop in the next day or two.

sewing

Bittersweet

McCalls 7817, ©1981

My brother died at age 59 from colon cancer. He has been gone for several years now, but there’s not a day goes by without me thinking of him. He was such a voice of wisdom. He just knew things, and knew when to listen and when to speak. To say that i miss him is a gross understatement.

He loved gardening. He studied landscaping, and he was good at it. His backyard in Seattle was a thing to behold, with blooms in every season and in every corner, arranged so beautifully it could’ve been in a magazine. His favorite flower was irises, especially purple.

After he died, I started noticing irises on days that I missed him particularly badly, or when I really, really wished I could talk to him about something. This was no fluke. It wasn’t that I just hadn’t noticed them before. They appeared. For example, the week of Thanksgiving, in the third week of November the year he died, I was having a really sad day. It had been a really hard day, and I was wishing that I could talk with him about it. Later, I opened Facebook, and one of my friends said “look what I saw at church today”, and lo and behold, there were purple irises blooming at my old church in Indiana in the third week of NOVEMBER. That just doesn’t happen here. They are a spring flower, and are gone by June. I smiled. Jeff was saying hello.

This continued to happen over the years, then one day I got a call. I had been having back problems that had gotten really severe, and they had finally done an MRI. The doctor called and said there was something there. They didn’t know what, because the MRI had only caught the bottom, but I needed to have another MRI done higher up, and immediately because it could be a bleed, or a tumor, or God knows what. I was driving home from work thinking about the impending MRI and wishing I could talk with my brother, because he would’ve calmed me down. I missed him so much at that moment.

I went to have the MRI done. They put me into a dressing room where I changed into the uber-stylish gown. They started walking me down the hall to the MRI room, when suddenly I realized that there was a painting of purple irises ahead of me. I looked around, and they were on each side of the hallway beside me too. It was like my brother was hugging me. I felt his presence so strongly, and I knew that no matter what, I was going to be ok. It still makes me cry to think about it.

I went on to be diagnosed with lymphoma, with a large tumor that was pressing on my spinal cord, as well as chest and abdominal tumors and one under one of my arms. I had surgery. I had radiation. I had two and a half years of immunotherapy to put my Stage III cancer into remission, but I never once wavered in knowing that everything would be fine. And it is. Though B-cell follicular lymphoma is never cured (it lurks), I rolled through all of my treatment with only a bit of fatigue, and now have zero evidence of disease. Thanks, Jeff. I couldn’t have done it without you.

So when I came across this pattern of a quilt of irises, I did what I do whenever I see his favorite flower and say “hi Jeff.” If it wasn’t uncut, I would probably try to make it, and Jeff would watch me from above and laugh at how hilariously bad my quilting skills are. But I’d also sleep under it every night so he could give me those hugs I miss so much.

1970s fashion, sewing, sewing patterns

For You Apron Lovers Out There

I used to read Seventeen Magazine back in the day. It was aimed at mid-to-late teens, hence the name. Generally 15-17 year olds. I bought a stack of 1974-75 ones a few weeks back, and was looking at them the other day. Who knew that they had a bridal section occasionally? Not me. I had no idea that they would aim wedding stuff at that age group. The more you read, the more you learn.

Photo: Seventeen Magazine

I was looking through a Christmas gift section and came across this little gem. It’s an apron made from Handi-Wipes! Here are the instructions:

Take four Handi-Wipes. Make a waistband by cutting two strips the length of a cloth and two and a half inches wide. Stitch the ends together to make one long strip. Make the apron’s skirt from one cloth, stitching a 1/4 inch hem on three sides. Center it on the waistband face to face, raw edge up. Stitch together 1/4 inch from the edge. To add the pinafore, hold a cloth against you lengthwise, measuring from collarbone to waist. Cut off the excess (there may not be any — this is aimed for teenagers, remember). Fold right and left sides in at a slant; hem top and sides 1/4″ from edge; trim sides. With right sides together, stitch top to waistband. Hem raw edges of waistban ties. Make a halter strap by cutting one long strip. Hem edges. Adjust to fit around your neck and sew ends to apron top. For pockets, stitch a four by five inch rectangle (edges turned in 1/4 inch) to apron front.

This is a super inexpensive way to make an apron that is washable, if not totally durable over the years. Let’s get to the dollar store now!

PS Speaking of aprons, I listed this one in the Etsy store today — a hard to find XL apron pattern. I think I’ve only seen two XLs over the years.

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

The McCall’s Sew For Fun Series

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McCall’s 4376, ©1974

I listed this pattern the other day in the Etsy shop. I’d never seen this series before. It’s called the Sew for Fun series, and the patterns came out in 1974 and early 1975. The styles are the cute boho/cottagecore patterns so popular in the time. This one features a maxi dress with Gunne Sax vibes. It can be made in the shorter mini length as well.

Note: I had a pair of clogs exactly like the ones in the photo.

The patterns featured mainly dresses and tops, are were made in both Miss and Misses’ sizes, with different pattern numbers for each. There are at least two that are unisex: one is a top and the other is for a swimsuit/swim trunks. But the funny thing is those little extra patterns.

This particular one features a stuffed mouse, because every cottagecore girl of the seventies wanted a stuffed mouse, right? I thought at first that it was a pincushion, which obviously any sewist could use. And a young beginning sewist might be pleased to create her own personalized mouse pincushion, right? Only it’s not. It’s a stuffed animal, which seems a little odd paired with the cute dress. But it gets weirder.

McCalls 4416, ©1975. Photo: Vintage Pattern Wiki

Some of these patterns are paired with hats or purses, which makes sense to me. Hats were big in this era, and everyone can use a sun hat. Purses are also a no-brainer. But there are also odd items like garment bags, a wind breaker (for sitting on at the beach, not the jacket), and even a tent. Each of them has a little sewing lesson with it, which is great, but the projects they include are so weird. Like the wind breaker one. If you want to teach someone to make a casing, have them make a pair of elastic waist shorts. But I don’t make those decisions.

McCalls 4429, ©1975. Photo: Vintage Pattern Wiki

I wonder who came up with these little extras, cause they just seem so odd. I get that they were trying to make sewing fun, especially for the Miss crowd, but somehow I am not sure that they thought it all the way thru. It’s one of the more random ideas put out by the sewing pattern companies.

McCalls 4428, ©1975. Photo: Vintage Pattern Wiki