Sunday, 23 September 2018

Dark lovebird

One side-effect of buying vintage patterns at auction is that you tend to acquire 'sewing ephemera' as part of the lots. This has included my Art Deco repair kit and some of my vintage haberdashery stash, but also numerous old reels of cotton.

Different brands, but the same size of reel

There is just something about old cotton reels which takes me back to my childhood. Having a mother and grandmother who both sewed, they seemed to be everywhere. Looking at them now, as well as the chunky shape and the tactile quality of the wood, part of the appeal is that the shades had names, not just numbers.

The Dewhurst spools have shade numbers only

Dewhurst's 'Sylko' brand, which was the most widely used at the time, seems to have started off with shade numbers and it was other brands ('Sylviette' is a new name to me) that used names. But then Dewhurst's joined in. Most of the names are fairly descriptive, but occasionally you get something wonderful, like 'dark lovebird'.

All the greens - I have no idea what 'reseda' is

Dark lovebird is in the centre, light reseda below it

There were slight changes to the label over time, but the brand remained largely unchanged. Even when the new synthetic 'Trylko' thread was introduced, on up-to-the-minute blue plastic reels, the shades were still named; 'blue cactus' is a another favourite of mine. I would love to know how the names were chosen; did Dewhurst's have an official 'shade-namer'?

Newer reels at the front

Given the growing concern about the environmental impact of plastic waste, I wonder if we will ever move away from single-use plastic cotton reels; either by encouraging re-use or replacing them with something more sustainable?

A few have been re-used to store a second thread

Finally here's a sneak peek at another recent auction buy – a wooden sewing box on legs. It's a bit battered, and in need of some TLC, and will get its own post at some point. For now though, here's a picture of how the dimensions of the lidded top section were clearly specifically chosen to accommodate wooden cotton reels.

Form following function!

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Spring fashions, 1966

After last week's horoscopes, I thought I'd look at the actual patterns which appeared in that issue of Vogue Pattern Book - the Spring 1966 issue.

Vogue 1569, by St Laurent, on the cover

The contents page shows another view of the suit, and the hat.

The blouse is also from Vogue 1569

Two fabulous hats appear in this feature, 'Spring in Town'.

Left to right - 1559, 1566 (both by Dior), 6680

'Spring Colours' shows some of the fabrics available this season.

Left - 1563, right - 6691

Left - 1560, right - 1562

St Laurent's 'Mondrian' dress appears in this issue.

Left - 1556, right - 1557

There are also patterns by Italian designers. (So. Much. Hair.)

Left top - 1564 (Galitzine, 2 photos), left bottom - 1552 (Forquet), right - 1555 (Fabiani)

The feature 'Evening Extravaganza' does not use the pattern art, instead the models are completely redrawn.

Left to right - 6636, 6628, 6634

The article on how to sew lace has little in the way of actual instructions, but lots of pictures of Vogue patterns made up in lace.

Left to right - 6630, 6635, 6629, 6642

'The Vogue Touch' is all about embelishments: replacing buttons with frog fastens, adding trims etc.

Left to right - 6683, 6722, 6692, 6716

Bold fabrics and another amazing hat in 'The Softened Look'.

Left - 6719, right 6686

And finally, back to colour (and big hair) in a feature on suits.

Left - 6696, right - 6712

Sunday, 9 September 2018

It's all in the stars

Hedy Lamarr in 'Ziegfeld Girl', costume by Adrian

Something a bit different this week. It's actually nothing to do with actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr; but I needed a star-related image, and this one was too fabulous not to use.

When I was looking through some of my old copies of Vogue Pattern Book I came across a lighthearted article, 'An Astrological guide to your sewing personality'. As I did learn to sew very young, from watching my mum, my assessment seemed quite accurate. So read on, and see if yours is a match as well.

Aries - 21 March to 20 April

Taurus - 21 April to 21 May

Gemini - 22 May to 21 June

Cancer - 22 June to 23 July

Leo - 24 July to 23 August

Virgo - 24 August to 23 September

Libra - 24 September to 23 October

Scorpio - 24 October to 22 November

Sagittarius - 23 November to 21 December

Capricorn - 22 December to 20 January

Aquarius - 21 January to 19 February

Pisces - 20 February to 20 March

Finishing with Hedy again

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Retro in the round

Yesterday I had a day out to Morecambe and the wonderful Midland Hotel to go to the vintage festival Vintage by the Sea. As my dissertation is about vintage dressmaking, I counted this as a research trip! A little shopping did get done as well. Meanwhile, earlier in the week I successfully bid on a lot of sewing items which my friend F had spotted in a local auction. And the thing which connects these two events? Many of my acquisitions are circular.

First up is this lovely little box from the auction lot.

So deco!

Around the side of the lid is a list of the contents.

Some of the contents

The full list is: Needles and Cottons, Safety Pins, Hair Grips, Silk Hose Mending and Darners, Knicker Elastic and Threader.

When I opened the box, I found this.

Threads for every possible colour of hose

Underneath were two other items.

The complete contents

There was a final surprise when I took out the spool of hose mending silk, with its packet of 'Flora MacDonald' needles.

Advertising opportunity

The sewing box also in the lot included name tapes for 'Mary Timm'. Judging from the remaining contents of the Handy Pack, Mary never laddered her stockings, but did use a single hairpin (I'm really hoping that it was to pick a lock) and needed to replace her knicker elastic. The mind boggles!

Moving swiftly on to my Morecambe purchases.

Most of the vendors were selling clothing, but there was one stall with a good collection of buttons. I bought a few cards, but my favourites were definitely these, which carry on the Art Deco theme.

I really need to make something which uses these beauties!

The complete button haul

My final purchase was this. My hats all currently live in cardboard boxes, but this is a far more stylish storage method.

It even has the keys for the locks

Admittedly not entirely round, but it would fall over otherwise

I especially loved this luggage label, from the days when rail travel involved suitcases being placed in a separate luggage coach.

Case to be taken off at Sheffield

All I need now is a wire-haired fox terrier, and I'm well on the way to recreating this 1930s poster for rail travel!

From the days when dogs needed tickets

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Confession time

Yes, I know that I'm meant to be working hard on my dissertation, and most of the time I am indeed working hard on my dissertation. But I've discovered (no great surprise here) that not doing any sewing at all really doesn't agree with me. So to get my stitching fix as efficiently as possible, I decided to make something using a pattern which I'd already made up: that way it would already be altered to fit, and I could get straight on to the sewing.

I'd come across a lovely, buttersoft and very drapey cotton several weeks ago when I was in my local fabric shop - I got chatting to two of the assistants who were 'dressing' one of the window display mannequins, and somehow ended up helping them with the trim placement. Apparently they were going for 'old lady chic'; a look which I think pretty much describes my entire wardrobe!

Remembering this fabric, I decided to remake Vogue 2787.

Vintage Vogue from 1948

I had all sorts of problems making this originally, not helped by my never-mind-the-drape-feel-the-print approach to fabric selection. Oddly enough, the crisp cotton I chose didn't hang in the same manner as the toile made from an old bedsheet! I managed to fix a lot of the problems, and frequent laundering of what was now a favourite dress eased the crispness.

The first version of 2787, aka 'The Feedsack'

In fact, the problem now is that after several years of said laundering, and despite a few mends to fix wear and tear, it is definitely past its best. So a replacement, in a far more suitable fabric, seems like the way to go.

In a couple of weeks, all I've managed to do is the front. Although to be fair, that is quite a job in itself. I remembered that sewing round the curves was really tricky, so used my 1917 hand-crank Singer for the job - it worked a treat.

Progress so far

Now onto the back.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

People who live in glass houses . . .

As part of my studies I've just finished reading Second-Hand Cultures about, unsurprisingly, how second-hand goods fit into consumer culture. In one section, a woman with a love of the 1960s explained how as well as clothes and homeware she also collected items such as 1960s plasticine and sellotape.

I thought that was a bit extreme, until I spotted some safety pins lying on the table, bought in a collection of dress patterns and related sewing items earlier in the week. I could have just unpinned them from the card and put them with the rest of my safety pins (having once been wardrobe mistress to a dance troupe, I always have a lot of safety pins around - old habits die hard!), but I liked the card itself.

So here, by way of 'fessing up, is some of the vintage haberdashery I've acquired over the years. In my defence, it is there to be used. Old snaps and hooks and eyes come in a variety of sizes which just aren't available now, and are useful for things like dress plackets. Vintage bias binding feels softer and much more pleasant than the modern variety.

Other things are simply more attractive, such as the Dorcas pin tin with its black paper lining. Admittedly it is nigh-on impossible to open, but at least there is no chance of dropping it and all the pins falling out. The other pins are from my grandmother's workbox, so almost 100 years old and still rust-free. Several of the bias binding packets advertise 'boil-proof' dyes, from days when laundry practices didn't involve washing at 30 degrees. Some of the Newey hook and eye packets (but not, oddly, the snaps) advertise their royal appointment - I'm quite taken with the idea of Queen Mary doing a bit of mending in her spare time!

The safety pins which prompted this post

The 'Newey' logo through the ages, and other brands

So many brands and widths of bias binding

More Newey products