Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Fifties Favorites: Mid-Century Movie Star Style

I've scored some pretty sweet patterns in the last month and wanted to share some of my favorites.  I've always adored 50s fashions, being a big fan of full skirts.  They're comfortable and flattering; they just make you feel pretty, don't you think?  (Disclaimer: lest you get the impression that I spend my days wearing skirts, I admit that most of the time I wear old jeans or yoga pants when I'm working at home.  However, sometimes I work at school and so I will use that as an opportunity to wear a skirt.  The other day I actually had on a dress (a Gap dress found at Goodwill for $5) and my son asked, "Why are you dressed like that?"  But I digress.  On to the patterns!)

This 1955 McCall's pattern showcases both the full skirt as well as the slim or pencil skirt look that we associate with the fifties; two fabulous looks in one pattern!
McCall's #3460, copyright 1955
This pattern envelope reminds me of Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.  That wonderful film was released in 1953 and surely had some influence on fashions in the years that followed.

 Here's a pencil skirt again, this time paired with a cardigan for another classic look, in Butterick 7900: 

No copyright dates on the Buttericks, but a couple of sources put this pattern as "circa 1956" which looks about right to me.
Classic style!  This cardigan and skirt look never goes out of style, now does it?  At least not in my book! But of course I have long since stopped caring about current trends (many of them are ridiculous-looking anyway) in favor of what is comfortable and flattering for me.  Also, notice the lady on the left of the envelope here: I think she looks a lot like Lauren Bacall.

And speaking of movie stars, next up is McCall's # 3242, published in 1955.

When I first saw this, I immediately thought of Katharine Hepburn.  This jacket, especially the plaid version, looks like something Kate would have worn.  With slacks, of course.  So very practical and sensible--exactly her style.  I also love that this one has a stamp from Younkers department store.  Those of you in the Des Moines area know Younkers.  I remember my mom taking me to the flagship downtown store for the first time when I was a little girl; I was impressed with a store that had more than one level and enjoyed riding the "electric stairs."  Sadly, the building burned two years ago and I still feel a bit sad whenever I see that corner of Walnut Street.  It was such an iconic part of downtown Des Moines.

Next, McCall's 3902, copyright 1956.

Doesn't it make you think of the slumber-party scene from Grease? Look at the kitten-heel slippers the gals are wearing.  Who wears heels with a bathrobe?  Love it!

Friday, May 13, 2016

What are you looking at: VOGUE

There's just something about the Vogue patterns...the sophistication of the designs and the envelope illustrations.  I absolutely love them.  Thought I'd share a few recent finds:
I found this one on etsy and I actually plan to use this pattern.  It's already cut, so no guilt there.  And no zippers to intimidate me either, just button & loop closures.  The only question: which fabric would be just right?
I found this Vogue Paris Original, #2576, at a thrift store a couple of days ago.  It's a nice thrift store, but not one I stop at often.  One of the little voices in my head suggested I stop there and I'm SO glad I did!  This pattern is uncut and still factory folded.  And the Paris Originals aren't as common; this is only the second one I've ever gotten my hands on.  This one was likely published in 1971; it was featured in the Vogue Pattern Catalog that year, and the next couple of years.  I'm not so crazy about that polka-dotted polyester version on the envelope, but just look at the drawing and you can see that the possibilities are endless.  By the way, according to the back of the envelope, this is an "at-home" dress.  (Did women actually wear long dresses around the house in 1971?)  Anyway, this one is now up for sale because I am not a pattern size 8 by any stretch of the imagination...so if you are, and you're interested in making this fabulous dress to wear around your house, you can find it on my etsy shop.

I've bought a couple of lots of patterns on ebay and there have been some true gems among them.  I have to say that there are few things I enjoy as much as sorting through an entire box of vintage patterns.  Seriously. And this one is just absolutely lovely:
Clearly I have no intention of (attempting) to sew this pattern, for two reasons: 1.  It's unprinted pattern, from the late forties, and I feel certain I would not have very good luck using an unprinted pattern.  I need some guidance on my pattern pieces.  2.  I can only imagine what sort of a disaster I would make trying to create all those tucks and other decorative what-nots on this blouse.  But it sure is pretty to look at and admire, isn't it?  So I'm going to frame it and hang it up in my sewing room, where I will enjoy it very much.

Now, I have one more very special, very Vogue find to share.  I still can't believe my luck, because I had resigned myself to the fact that I would never find one of these at a price that was realistic....

.........yes, it's the book:  Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing.   Copyright 1952.
It's even a first edition/first printing! Honestly, I hadn't heard of it until a few years ago when a customer who buys journals from me, and sewing-book journals in particular, asked me to keep an eye out for it.  So I lodged that into my brain, and whenever I was scouting for old books hither and yon, I'd look for this book.  And I would never, ever find it.  At the beginning of the year, I started to read sewing blogs to motivate myself to attempt sewing clothes and quickly discovered Gertie's Blog for Better Sewing, which of course was inspired by the classic Vogue book.  So then I started to covet a copy for myself. (That is the problem with the internet, isn't it?  It makes us covet stuff.  Or is that just me?) I've been collecting sewing books as well as patterns for the last few years and this is THE sewing book.  As someone who is obsessed by both books and sewing, clearly it was important that I own a copy.  My first few online searches were heartily disappointing: not only were there very few copies available, but they were all around $200.  Now, I am a thrifty gal and I'm just not willing to pay that much for an old book--because as wonderful as this is, it's still actually just an old book, now isn't it?  Yes, it is.  But I kept looking every now and then, and then one day on alibris.com I came across it listed for $45.  Normally, I wouldn't pay that much for a book, but...I truly felt that was a deal too good to pass up.  In addition, it was being sold by a Friends of the Library group and I like the idea of helping libraries.  A couple of clicks and a few days later it arrived at my house and it continues to make me quite happy.  And that's what it's all about, after all!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

What Should I do with Sunbonnet Sue?

In 2014 I shared a few of the quilts that I have from my mother's family.  When I wrote about rescuing quilt blocks earlier this week, it reminded me of this quilt:
My great-grandmother might have made this quilt.  My mom wasn't sure so we will just assume that she did, because my grandmother didn't sew.  Anyway, you can see that this quilt has some damage.  Most of it is towards the top of the quilt:
However, there are some holes as well as some mended/darned areas throughout:
There's a patch on the bottom corner:
My original idea was to take the top apart, get rid of the yellow sashing & border, and make a new quilt.  Now that I've seen the condition of the white fabric with the appliqued Sues, I'm wondering if it wouldn't be better to simply cut around the Sues and go from there?  The Sues are in good condition and I'd like to save them.  The way this quilt is now, it will just remain safely tucked away in a tote in my sewing room closet and that seems like a shame.  If I salvage the good parts, it could be a new quilt that could be used or even a few pillows too.  I like the idea of working on something that my great-grandmother made; she died when I was only four so I really don't remember her at all.

So what would YOU do with this quilt?  I'd love to hear some other ideas!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Rescued Blocks

Today was a beautiful spring day, so I took a lovely drive north to Story City and Antiques Iowa, where I have a booth.  I made quick work of re-stocking then meandered through part of the mall to see if there was anything that really needed to come with me.  Naturally, there was.  However, I exercised extreme discipline and only purchased a few select items, including these two quilt blocks:
I love Dresden Plate quilt blocks, but I don't think I could make them myself.  So it was serendipity that I found these; my plan is to make them into pillow covers.  They're 17 inches square, perfect for a 16 inch pillow.  When I was taking these pictures, it reminded me that I already had some other quilt blocks I'd rescued last summer at the Valley Junction Antiques Jamboree; there were 12 of them sold as a lot and some of the prints were so pretty that I couldn't resist.  Here are a few of them:

These blocks are hand-stitched.  There is a variety of fabrics, as you can see--I think some are feed sacks and some from old shirts; I don't think this quilter went to JoAnn's and bought yardage, it seems apparent to me that this is the real deal from back when most quilts were made from old clothes and other fabric scraps. And when I see quilt blocks for sale, I feel a little sad, because I always feel certain that the quilter never got the chance to finish the quilt.  Obviously, it's my job to finish it for her.   I think I can get these 12 blocks made into quilt over the summer....

And speaking of rescues, my sewing machine is back where it belongs today.   In February, I took it in for service because the needle position was stuck on the left side.  That issue was fixed the same day.  When I brought it home, thread was getting stuck in the bobbin like nobody's business...so back to the shop. Because sewing machine repair places guarantee their work with a 90-day warranty.  Apparently that also means that "warranty work" might take nearly 90 days.  And here's the kicker: now it only sews a straight stitch!  BUT, that's okay, because that's all I need to make a quilt, right?  And also because I'm not going to let it out of the house again!

Happy stitching!