Saturday, March 10, 2012

In Honor of the 1940 Census

The 1940 census is going to be released to the public in April and it's going to be big, very big. So in honor of this amazing event in genealogical circles, here's a gorgeous  pattern from 1943. If your mom or grandmother was a young woman in the 1940s, she probably wore a dress like this during World War 2.  A lot of women's clothes were quite tailored in style, mostly because fabric was in demand for the troops and the skirts had to be come slimmer and shorter to use less material. But ruffles could not be stamped out entirely. This adorable dress is called a pinafore dress on the pattern envelope because it looks like you are wearing two garments instead of just one. I love the buttons all the way down the back.

My mom has told me many things about that era. It was an exciting time to be a young single woman. There were opportunities for work and for service that were unknown before that time. And Momma worked at Camp Claiborne as a secretary which meant that when she went to a dance there were hundreds of young men lined up to dance with the beautiful young woman she was. (She's still beautiful.) She told me she danced a million miles during her time there. And dancing was fun back then. I am sure she can still show you her jitterbug moves at age 90. I'll never forget the day when I was a teenager when  she and her brother showed us how it was done.

This pattern was great because it was an early printed one. Here's what the back looks like: 

You can find this pattern in my shop here.
There are tons more vintage patterns online. If you just want to drool over those 1940s styles, visit the 1940s section of the wiki Vintage Sewing Patterns.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

What a Darling Pattern!

Scooter Skirt!

This precious pattern just sends me. Kids' clothes are so appealing  because they are small. And sewing for children is so easy because the garments are small. And the cost of sewing children's clothing is so cheap because the pieces are small.

Okay, kids' clothes are small. I think we've established that. And let's face it, clothes that would look horrible on a grownup look adorable on a kid. Very few folks could pull off view three with bib.

This pattern with the bib that covers the front of the culottes is beyond cute. And I adore that flip skirt with the button trim and bias skirt panels. And as we all know, it doesn't take a lot of fabric to sew something like this.

Patterns made for children have often been some of the most inventive ones designed. It is very common to find a pattern for a kind of kids' clothing that you can't find in the stores. The opposite is true of women's patterns. They tend to copy the styles in the stores and often publish them too late to catch the trend.

Sewing for children also opens up infinite possibilities for personal expression. I have a granddaughter who loves pink, princesses, unicorns, paper dolls and, weirdly enough, spiders. So my daughter made her the cutest dress out of a spider print material. She absolutely loved it. Kids love to wear things that show what they love. While grownups might be embarrassed to wear a blouse or shirt featuring their faves like football, convertibles or chocolate, my daughters have made clothes for their tots featuring dinosaurs, Star Wars, skulls and spiders as well as matryoshka dolls, ponies and other girly things. Kids are unafraid to announce their personal style through their clothing. How wise of them!

Children's patterns have been around as long as there have been patterns for adults. And even in eras when few folks choose to sew a woman's dress, they continue to sew for the kiddos. And I hope that sewing for children never loses its popularity. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Catalogue

Find more photos of it here in my shop
I wonder how many little boy hours have been spent in boredom while mom looked through the pattern catalogue? My sweetheart certainly has vivid memories of doing so.

There was something so magic about that catalogue when I began to sew. It was the book of infinite possibilities. You could sew a dress to look exactly like the one in the book, or go off on your own and create something unique.

I had three of these catalogues that I got in a big batch of patterns I bought and they were very hard for me to put in my shop. One is gone and two are still left for someone lucky. This one is perhaps the hardest for me to sell as it is one that I remember looking at. I can point out dresses I made, dresses my mom made and dresses I remember others wearing.

Sometimes you may start with a piece of fabric and go looking for a pattern to make up. But for me, the most fun is to start with the pattern and then go find some wonderful fabric to make out of it. 

Even though we have the Internet today, I still see women poring over the catalogues in fabric stores. There's no better way to find a pattern. And it's best if the store is not busy so that you can have three or four books (Simplicity, McCall's, Butterick, Vogue) all open at the same time while you're looking for that perfect one.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sewing for Men

The home sewer who tackles men's clothing is one brave person. Men's clothing changes much more slowy, it's better made and it's much more demanding in fit than women's or children's clothing.

That's why I'm always surprised to see a pattern like this one. If  you're up to the challenge, you can turn out a fine 1970s jacket, fully lined with all the bells and whistles including interior and exterior breast pockets with flaps.

Whew! I actually took on a really difficult project for my sweetie when we were just honeymooners. He was very patient since we lived in a small apartment and it was a surprise. He had to spend a lot of time in the bedroom while I worked away at this two-piece suit I had decided he needed. And I don't think we have one photo of that suit. And it turned out amazingly well.

Since then, I've done a few ties and dress shirts, but I've had the most success with Hawaiian type shirts. He's worn them and liked them. But it's hard to compete with the tiny stitches and precision of foreign-made men's clothing.

On the other hand, it still makes me rather ill to see what passes for well-made women's clothing. You can make a truly beautiful home-sewn outfit and beat the price of some shoddy piece of workmanship with uneven hems and hanging threads. Plus, if you make it yourself, you know it's going to fit.

The same goes for children's clothing. If you want something really nice, designer and different for your child, you should probably make it yourself. And because of their small size, you can still sew children's clothing economically.

So to whatever brave soul purchases this pattern out of my shop here, my hat goes off to you!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Mini Pantjumpers from the 1960s

What happens when skirts get ridiculously short the way they did in the late 1960s? You end up with something like this. The micro mini lengths of the 1960s created the need for the pantjumper. This cute girls' pattern allowed you to show a lot of leg while keeping those panties covered. Some patterns had  micro miniskirts but provided a bloomer pattern to go underneath.

I had a handy little cottage industry in my dorm room hemming up skirts for the other residents. Skirts got shorter and shorter each season. I remember that as a college girl, there were always boys congregated at the bottom of stairwells during class changes. Wonder why?

We weren't allowed to wear pants on campus (yes, believe that or not) but pantdresses (Or pantjumpers as in this pattern) were okay.  Go fig.

I adored my pantdresses. They were so cute. Mom made me one in a forest green floral print with a big beige middy collar. My boyfriend (who's about to celebrate our 41st anniversary with me this month) dubbed it my Scout uniform. It was adorable.

When skirts couldn't go any higher in the early 1970s, guess what happened? Right. The maxi dress. Hems fell to the ankle or mid-calf. It's refreshing today to go shopping and find skirts of all lengths. You get to choose today. We really didn't back then unless we wanted to look completely dowdy.

You can find this pattern in girls' size 14 in my shop here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Let It Snow!

Looks like the chances of a white Christmas here in northeast PA are small. But I've managed to see a few at the end of my long life. The first one was in Provo, Utah a few years ago. For the first time in my life, I was going to see snow at Christmas. And guess what? No snow there except in the mountains. And that was the year that it snowed all over Texas! So it was snowing at home and I was missing it! In fact, it did snow a little before the big day and I was happy. Last year, there was so much snow in Provo that we almost didn't manage to drive from our hotel to see the kids!

As a child in Louisiana I was fascinated by snow because I had never seen it. These snowsuits were something I never could have used. I remember my cousin used to send down her hand-me-down clothes. Some were wonderful. Others in heavy wool were completely useless.

This DuBarry pattern is a honey from the 1930s. The suits have great features including separating zippers in front, a belt to keep warmer, a cute hat pattern and even extra padding at the knee for extra wear. And the cuffs and ankles have knit ribbing. A kid could have stayed pretty dry and warm in this outfit while out having a good time in the snow.

Nowadays I don't see children in snowsuits, even up here in Pennsylvania. But this pattern reminds me of a golden time when kids played outside whatever the weather. I love the fact that the boy has a snowball in his hand all ready to throw!

You can read more about this pattern here

Friday, December 16, 2011

Jackie Kennedy Style

Wouldn't we all just want to copy Jackie O's style just once? Sometimes I find a pattern that is so Jackie, I want to swoon.

I have a lot of back stock and have no idea how this one didn't get put in my shop before now.  You can find it here.The cape with the front button and notched collar just send me. And anytime I see a pillbox hat, I think of Jackie Kennedy's style in the White House. I was a very impressionable preteen and teen while she was the First Lady. Her grace and fashion sense will always be unequaled for me regardless of who wins presidential elections from now on.

What were some of the elements of her style? Silhouette for one thing. Slim, column dresses always make me think of her. Accessories like short gloves and those glorious pillbox hats, and a string of pearls on a black dress always bring her back to me.

And since we're talking about patterns, it is amusing to me how one person can define an era. When you look at pattern envelopes, you often find one person's look copied. There are a ton of patterns from the early sixties that remind me either of Jackie or Audrey Hepburn. There's also a time when a lot of women on pattern envelopes looked like Marlo Thomas. She even had her own line of clothing. Pattern companies weren't stupid. They knew that they could sell patterns if they sold you the dream of looking like a fashion icon.