Sunday, 8 July 2018

Presents from America

My tutor, E, was in the U.S. for work recently. She also had time for a bit of travelling round, and came across a few sewing-related things while visiting flea markets. And because she is a lovely, sharing, person (and I'm not just saying that because she's my tutor!) she brought them back for me.


The buttons are one set of metal and one of plastic. We both wondered why only one of the black plastic buttons had been used.

Contrasting styles of button and card

The two copies of The Workbasket magazine are from August and November 1951. The November issue has a mailing label attached.

I love the idea of knowing who read this originally

Both contain knitting and crochet patterns, and the August edition has instructions for a patchwork quilt.

Pineapple quilt pattern

There are also articles on cookery and gardening, and book reviews. As with many British magazines of the period, there are syndicated dress patterns on offer.

Mail order patterns

Readers who didn't sew could buy dresses instead.

Dresses for under $3

Another regular feature is "Women who make cents"; short articles on ways in which women can make money.

Money-making tips, and a Christmas card advertisement

The Workbasket's masthead describes the magazine as, "Home and needlecraft for pleasure and profit", and ways to make money, either for bazaars or to supplement the family income, feature heavily. This is especially the case in the advertisements.

The August issue contains an astonishing number of advertisements for selling Christmas cards; 30 different firms in a 64-page magazine. These range from a double page colour spread to little more than a single column inch.

Woman pictured with lots of money, just in case you didn't get the idea

Other things which readers could sell to friends and neighbours included uniforms, fruit trees and stockings.

Sell nylons, get a Chevrolet

There are advertisements for learning new skills at home - although I'm not sure I'd want to be treated by a nurse who had trained via a correspondence course!

From nursing to fashion design

Christmas cards aside, the most frequent type of money-making advertisement is, unsurprisingly, for making things.

Making money features heavily in all the copy

Probably the saddest advertisement I found is this one for selling hair. You mail the hair to the company, who then make you an offer. If you don't accept it, they return the hair. No suggestion of a guide price is offered, and as you could hardly re-attach the returned locks I suspect the company worked on the basis that most people would accept whatever they were offered, no matter how low.

On a cheerier note, some of the other ads have not exactly stood the test of time. This one made me smile.

Even a MAN can do it!

As did this one, albeit for an entirely different reason.

"Living image of your own child" Not creepy at all. Definitely not.

Given that matters to do with health and safety were a bit more lax in the 1950s, I did wonder what, exactly, caused this tree to glow in the dark.

Also not worrying at all

Making money from religion seems a very dubious practice, but clearly some people had no qualms about it.

Serve the Lord and earn

However just in case you were tempted to keep the goods for yourself, or sell them and not return the cash, the sample mottos sent out are on the theme of TRUST!

The final gift from E was this pattern.

Butterick 6758, 1972

We were both intrigued by the body language; it's as if the girl on the left is being given a telling off. Also I suddenly realized how rare it is to see a woman of colour in a pattern illustration. I had a look through my pattern collection, and out of over 400 patterns, dating from 1923 to 1991, I could only find three other examples. Two are Butterick, from 1986 and 1991. The third one, rather unexpectedly, is this:

Vougue Couturier 2453, 1970

Clearly this is a whole new rabbit hole of research for me to dive down! Thanks to E for providing it.


  1. What lovely gifts! I particularly like the Butterick pattern illustration, that's so funny. You wonder what the illustrator was thinking about or if they'd been briefed to create a particular scenario. And, oh my goodness, 400 patterns!! I reckon I have about 80 at the most! xx

  2. Yes, I need to have a look online at other Butterick patterns from around that time, and see how the illustrations compare.

    A fair amount of my pattern collection has come as lots from auctions, plus people who know about my interest have very kindly passed on old patterns in their possession. xx