Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Miss Lillian's Postcards: A Christmas Postcard from Father

Sender: Henry Maguire, Lillian's father
Addressee: Miss Lill Maguire, 1902 G Terry Ave, Seattle, Washington
Postmark: Santa Barbara, Cal
Date: Dec 25, 1909
Image: Potter Hotel, Santa Barbara, California. Coast Line, S.P.R.R.

This amazing resort hotel no longer exists, alas. It was still rather new at the time of Mr. Maguire's visit to Santa Barbara, having been built in 1903. It was a veritable phenomenon, in size, luxury, and accommodations, and many families stayed a month or more. Along the front were sun, shaded and glassed-in porches. Above, roof gardens provided spectacular views of the ocean, islands, mountains and the city. The grounds were elaborately landscaped and included tennis courts, a zoo, a palm and fernery building, cactus gardens and enchanting pathways. The gardens were constantly renewed to astonish the winter guests with a showy variety of blooms.

The Potter had its own post office, water system, power plant and a railroad siding that led onto the grounds to allow the bulk shipment of fuel and groceries. Directly behind the Potter the Southern Pacific Railroad built their new station with a pathway leading directly to the Potter. Alas, the hotel burned down in 1921.

Dear Daughter
Package received.
Much oblidge[d].
your Father
H Maguire

Written and posted on December 25th, 1909, this postcard from Henry Maguire conveys his thanks to his daughter for a Christmas gift received. Very sweet in its brevity, it shows family reaching out to family at this special time of year.

Season's greetings and best wishes to all my readers!

Monday, December 19, 2016

1930s Ball Gowns Put the Accent on the Shoulders

These formal gowns from December 1936 feature extra-wide skirts, narrow waists and eye-catching sleeves. Such a thrilling and elegant movie-star quality! Enjoy this eye candy as a way to de-stress from any holiday madness you may be experiencing.

Friday, December 16, 2016

1960s Ball Gown with Chiffon

You could float through the evening in this dreamy strapless ball gown from 1965. It has a full circle skirt of chiffon, drifting from a tiny high bodice of satin .

You would make an unforgettable entrance at any holiday soiree!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Scraps from the Past: A Party-Pretty Dress in a Floral Print

The pattern: McCall's 5852 is a sunny, pretty dress from 1961 that is proportioned for your height.

The scrap: Tucked inside the envelope was this narrow strip of floral print cotton. I love how the colors are still bright. Can you visualize the dress in this fabric?

Thursday, December 1, 2016

1930s Frocks with Eye-Catching Gathers at Necklines

These three ladies are wearing such smartly styled frocks, and they know it! On the left, No. 9039 features a fan yoke, one-in-piece with the petite shawl collar, and all in satin. The middle dress, No. 9027, features a V-neckline with a white vestee adding a pop of brightness. The marvelous frock on the right, No.9048, features a square draped neckline. Such yummy fashion!

From McCall's Magazine, December 1936

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Miss Lillian's Postcards: Father Remains in California for the Holidays

Sender: Henry Maguire, Lillian's father
Addressee: Miss Lill Maguire, 1902 G Terry Ave, Seattle, Washington
Postmark: Santa Barbara, Cal
Date: Dec 24, 1909
Image: Santa Barbara Mission, California. Founded 1786.

The Old Mission in Santa Barbara is still there, and looking much the same as it does in this vintage postal. See http://www.santabarbaramission.org/ for more information about this beautiful site.

Dear Daughter,
Wishing you
a Merry Xmass
And a happy new year.
Your father
Henry Maguire

Still in California, Lillian's father wrote a Christmas greeting on this postcard on December 23rd, and then posted it on December 24th. This postcard means that Lillian's father was in California for Thanksgiving as well. He is far from all his family at a time when being with family is important. 

While I have been assuming Lillian's father went to California for business, another possibility was that he went for his health. Santa Barbara at this time was a world-famous resort town, in the sense of health resorts as well as tourism. While we will never know, I think this latter possibility is the most likely reason. Lillian, after all, went to Seattle for her health. Perhaps her father suffered from health problems in St Louis as well. Staying at a resort for his health would account for the long stay in California.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Home Sewing Tips from the 1920s: A Curly Chrysanthemum Corsage for Thanksgiving

It's not too late! Here is a marvelous tip from Ruth Wyeth Spears and the 1920s for a curly "mum" that you can wear on Thanksgiving Day. All it requires is some picot-edged ribbon, which you may already have in your stash. It's a snap to make! Enjoy this tip as you prepare to celebrate with family and friends. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, from my home to yours. I am very thankful for all my readers!

And if you don't have time to make one today, have a bunch of ribbon on hand at Thanksgiving, and invite all those interested to make one to wear. Sounds like fun!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Scraps from the Past: A 1950s Flannel Nightgown for Christmas

The pattern: Simplicity 4140

The scraps: Tucked into the pattern envelope for timeless nightgowns were two scraps, one a soft yellow flannel, and the other a cute flannel print of umbrellas. Written on the front of the envelope: Joanne Christmas 1952, Mother Easter 1953, Rena Louise Nov 1954. So the sewist made three nightgowns, two for winter and one for summer, and at least two as holiday gifts (Christmas and Easter). On the envelope back is more writing: (in red) Joanne view one yellow flannel white ruffles Christmas 1952. Also on the back, written in pencil: "R. L. Nov 1954" and "Mother Easter 1953". Now that is getting mileage from one pattern, and how handy that all three wear the same size!

It's pretty clear that Joanne got the yellow flannel nightgown. And I think it is safe to assume that Mother got the umbrella print flannel nightgown - umbrellas being a great spring theme. Alas, no scrap for Rena Louise!

Are you inspired to sew a flannel nightgown for Christmas?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Eye Candy: Mid-1960s Evening Dress with Cape

This elegant formal gown with a short cape from 1965 is inspiring fashion to think about when planning for formal occasions this winter. Exquisite!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Miss Lillian's Postcards - Father is in San Diego

Sender: HM (Henry Maguire, Lillian's father)
Addressee: Miss Lill Maguire, 1902 G Terry Ave, Seattle, Washington
Postmark: San Diego, Cal.
Date: November 23, 1909
Image: Snowy Range, Near Trinidad, Colo.

On the postcard back is this description: The Snowy Range presents no scenery of the tremendous type, but frequently views wide in scope and full of beauty are seen. It is visible for miles as the train hurries along. It is eternally snow-capped - hence its name.

When I google Snowy Range Mountains, I learn that they are in the northern part of Colorado, while the town of Trinidad is in southern Colorado. I think they meant the southern Colorado Sangres mountains, which ARE near Trinidad. And are pretty snowy, at least, in winter. Plus, the train does go through Trinidad, while there are no trains near the Snowy Range mountains, that I could find.

Nov 23-09
San Diego Cal
I arrived here the 22nd. 
Oranges and Lemons look
fine.Their [sic] is fruit here
that, I never so [sic] before.
Clothing shoes and everything
else cheap as in St Louis

Happy day, another letter from Lillian's dad! He has arrived at his California destination, San Diego, on November 22nd. We don't know when he left St Louis, but we do know he was in Albuquerque on November 20th. It took two days for the train to get from Albuquerque to San Diego in 1909! 

I love his comments on the citrus fruit, which would be a novelty for him, I'm sure. I wonder what other fruit he might have seen in San Diego that he never saw before. His comment on the price of clothing was also interesting. Prices in San Diego are apparently similar to prices in St Louis.

Of more interest is what took him to California. Since he is writing, I am guessing that Lillian's mother is still back in St Louis. And since things are new to him in San Diego, I feel that I can rule out a family visit. And assume that this is a business trip of some sort. Sigh. I wish I knew!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Home Sewing Tips from the 1920s: Sew a Lovely Negligee

You have almost no cutting and only a few seams to sew with this pattern for a graceful negligee from the 1920s , courtesy of Ruth Wyeth Spears. Ruth recommends that you use a soft fabric for this dressing gown. The negligee would make a great and quick gift. If it is intended as a gift, Ruth recommends that you try to harmonize with the colors in the wearer's bedroom. Delightful!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

1930s Latest Fashion in Frocks for Winter

This winter, don't you wish you could be wearing one of these marvelous frocks? They were the latest in fashion, back in 1936.

The princess tunic, left (9020) is matched with a satin skirt. Love the row of tiny buttons and those deep cuffs.

Mixing plaid with velveteen, 9044 in the center features a handsome yoke.

And 9019 on the right features a contoured high waist - wear it with or without the belt.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Sunday, October 23, 2016

1930s Party Frock with Cape Chosen as Wedding Dress

I just listed in my shop this pattern (Butterick 4720) for a fabulous party frock from 1932. The frock features eye-catching asymmetry in bodice and skirt, wonderful and equally eye-catching sleeves, and is topped with a short fur-banded cape. Positively inspiring!

Written on the pattern is this remark: "Wedding dress pattern Nov. 18 1932". What a spectacular wedding dress this would make. Totally gorgeous.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

1960s Ethereal Evening Gown

Long and languorous, this lovely Gerard Pipart for Nina Ricci evening gown from 1965 has an ethereal and long-ago look. Gown features a misty moiré skirt, cloud white silk chiffon bodice, and a haze-blue satin sash.

Featured in McCall's magazine, December 1965.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Home Sewing Tips from the 1920s: Make a Yoke and Add a Dress To It!

In this tip from Ruth Wyeth Spears, she tells her 1920s home sewists that dresses as sketched here "are new in the Parisian mode". And who wouldn't want the latest dress styles from Paris? This tip illustrates just how easy it is to sew a very fashionable 1920s frock. Happy sewing!

Let me know if you sew a dress using this tip!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

1930s Smart Frocks

These smart frocks from 1936 were featured in McCall's magazine, and each has stylish details that make them highly desirable!

Dress 9021 on the left is sewn in angora wool jersey and sports top-stitched seams (both bodice and skirt) that release into inverted pleats in the skirt. It has double collars, the upper one of velveteen.

Dress 9042 in the middle is a deep grape-purple, with contoured seams at the midriff (difficult to see because of the dark color).

Dress 9034 on the right is a black frock with dramatic sleeves and collar, and is trimmed with velvet. Yummmm!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Miss Lillian's Postcards: A Postcard from Father

Sender: HM (Henry Maguire, Lillian's father)
Addressee: Lill Maguire, 1902 G Terry Ave, Seattle, Washington
Postmark: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Date: November 20, 1909
Image: Old Spanish Convent, N.M.

The text for this postcard states "The town of Lamy, between Las Vegas and Albuquerque, was named for the good Archbishop who founded nearby a convent, the wall of which are still standing, and who also once taught the Indians in a little adobe school house. At the time of the founding of this convent he was a missionary priest, but afterwards became Archbishop Lamy of Santa Fe."

I could find no record of this structure on the internet, and Lamy is a tiny town of about 200 people, mostly a train station stop.

Still going
Country looks bum

This brief postcard from Lillian's father is so very interesting. He is traveling from St Louis, Missouri to California. Clearly this stop in New Mexico did not impress him. "Bum" he called the countryside! New Mexico is surely much drier than Missouri, so I suppose we cannot fault him for his perception. But New Mexico is an amazing state with much beauty.

In 1909, the fastest way to get from St Louis to the west coast would be train, a long trip of several days. We do not know the reason Henry Maguire is traveling, but at least he found time to drop a short postcard to his daughter at this stage in his journey. He must have written this in a hurry, for the penmanship is not neat or tidy, and seems hurried.

It is rather fun to see how direct and to the point Lillian's father is. I look forward to his next postcard!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Mid 1960s Formal Wear - A Serene Gown

Enjoy this serenely lovely gown in wood-rose moiré from 1965. The gown falls from the shoulders in a Watteau train.

Featured in McCall's magazine, December 1965

Monday, October 10, 2016

Scraps from the Past: 1940s Toddler Dress

The pattern: Simplicity 1397

The scrap: Tucked into the pattern envelope for this cute toddler dress was a small soft cotton fabric scrap: stripes of pink and soft teal or aqua blue contrasting with gray. There is no contrasting fabric scrap, so it is hard to know if view 2 was sewn rather than views 1 or 3. If a contrasting fabric were used, would the striped fabric be used for the midriff and upper skirt? Or for the upper bodice and lower skirt? Tough decision!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Home Sewing Tips from the 1920s: A Fresh Taffeta Flower for Your Shoulder

Here is another lovely corsage from Ruth Wyeth Spears and the 1920s. This one features fringed petals of taffeta. As Ruth says, "Flowers like this are so easy to make that you can easily have a fresh one whenever you want it."

Create several, one for every outfit, for every season!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Jaunty 1930s Dresses with Back Fullness

These dresses from the December 1936 McCall's magazine look thoroughly jaunty. From the front, the bodice, waistline, and hip fit smoothly. But in back, the skirt flaunts its fullness. Who wouldn't love to have one of these back-flared frocks?

Love those hats, too!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Scraps from the Past: 70s Designer Sundress

The pattern: Vogue 1638, a flowing sundress or evening gown from 1977 and Diane Von Furstenberg.

The scrap: This piece of charming cotton floral print was left in the envelope, giving the hint that the original sewist took her inspiration from the pattern photo, and sewed the sundress version on the left.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Home Sewing Tips from the 1920s: A Smart Little Hat of Silk and Straw

Need a new hat? Want to try something that requires some serious millinery supplies? Then use this tip from Ruth Wyeth Spears and the 1920s to create your own "smart little hat" of silk and straw.

This pattern requires the following material:
  • 1/2 yard of tailor's canvas or willow (a millinery fabric, also called esparterie)
  • 1/2 yard of silk fabric
  • 2-1/2 yards of millinery straw braid
  • millinery wire
  • buckram for the flowers, as well as ribbon or silk scraps
I do believe that the extra effort required by this pattern will result in a very stylish cloche!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Sewing Room Accessories - Vintage, Please!

How is your sewing room (or closet) organized? If you love to sew using vintage patterns, perhaps you might also want to organize your sewing room with vintage accessories. I have two patterns currently in my shop that will allow you to do just that.  Simply pick your decade!

1950s: McCall's 2116

This great collection from 1953 includes a wall pincushion, a wrist pincushion, a tailor's ham, a pressing mitt, a sewing kit that holds thread, notions, and tools, and a sewing machine cover with a sunflower that snaps on. And of course, the theme is sunflowers. :)

1970s: Simplicity 5233

This 1972 collection of sewing accessories features a sewing room organizer, wall-hanging style, with pockets for notions, and tools, and elastic holders for thread. The charming bird pincushion is "Sewphie" the sewing bird, with its beak as a scissors holder, its comb as a place for thimbles, and its tail as a holder for a tape measure. The wings hold tailor's chalk, and rings on the sides of the head hold safety pins. The head and body are stuffed, with the head as the primary pin cushion.

Clever and useful! They would make great gifts, too, don't you think?

Friday, September 30, 2016

Miss Lillian's Postcards - Stella Sends a Quick Update

Sender: Stella
Addressee: Miss Lillian Maguire, 1903 G Terry Av., Seattle, Wash.
Postmark: St Louis, MO
Date: August 30, 1909
Image: Round Lake Forest Park, St. Louis, Mo.

Round Lake in Forest Park of St Louis still features this large fountain, a lovely display, and looks rather unchanged since 1909.

Dear Lillian
Rec'd your card this
A.M. forgot that I
owed you a letter,
thought you would
be home by now.
haven't seen Kate
for a long time
Just got back from 
my vacation, 
took a trip to
Chicago had a fine
time, will write later.
Kindest regards to all
Lovingly, Stella

Stella wrote Lillian's address incorrectly in this postcard, although I would think that the postman had no problem delivering it. But lest anyone doubt it, the postman crossed out the street address with a note that it was not correct.

Stella, who is a close friend or family member, writes a quick postcard with an explanation of her lateness in writing (a vacation in Chicago), with a promise to write a full letter later. It is interesting that she writes "I thought you would be home by now", implying that she thought Lillian would return to St Louis from Seattle by this time. We know that Lillian went to Seattle for health reasons (staying with her sister and brother-in-law). So she must have left St Louis with no firm plan as to how long her stay would be. Of course, I know that she chose to stay in Seattle. I wonder what all the family and friends in St Louis thought of her choice.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Home Sewing Tips from the 1920s: A Chrysanthemum Corsage

Here is the perfect small project for autumn. With her typically simple illustrations and instructions, Ruth Wyeth Spears steps you and her home sewists in the 1920s through the creation of a lovely chrysanthemum corsage from scraps of silk. Are you ready to craft this lovely accent that you can wear on a coat, jacket, or dress?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

1930s: Gorgeous Winter Coat Frocks

Featured in McCall magazine from December 1936, these coat frocks place the accent on buttons. Smart design elements make these enviable fashion. Getting ready for the fall and winter season would be divine if these patterns were still available!

View 9031 features a crisp vestee, a smart revers collar, and pairs of buttons marching down the front. View 9022 has marvelous slot seams that release in inverted pleats. View 9029 has a beautiful asymmetrical double breasted closing, and sharp points on cuffs, collar, and pockets.

Now if only I could order these patterns. Well, and those fabulous hats!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Home of the Future from 1960 - The Future is Now?

"Home of Future to Be an El[ectric One]"

For your entertainment, I would like to share a clipping I discovered recently, tucked in one of my vintage sewing patterns. From time to time, a vintage pattern includes a hand-worked pattern piece, cut from a newspaper. Most often the pattern piece is cut from the want ads or the sports pages. But every now and then, one is cut from other sections of the newspaper, and in this one, from a November 13, 1960 edition of the St. Louis Globe Democrat, there is a great article on the "home of the future"!

As you can see, the article was trimmed during the process of making the pattern piece, so we are missing some of the details. But there is still quite a bit of the article, so that we can peer into their vision of the home of the future.

 The article states:
"Harried housewives who today feel they are overworked can take heart. Paradise is just around the corner.

Word of this miracle comes from a couple of St. Louisans whose job is to keep abreast of new household developments ... long before they reach the production stage for American homes.

Women can look forward to such pleasures as:
  • ONE. Cooking a six-pound roast in 48 minutes while watching the children from a built-in kitchen TV-monitor, whether they are in any room of the house or in the yard.
  • TWO. With the touch of a button, she will be able to eliminate any offensive odors; change the lighting to fit her mood. Her floors will need no waxing; her drapes and bed clothing little cleaning and her hands will never have that "dishpan" look, because she won't need soap or detergents to clean her dishes.
  • THREE. Her family will enjoy "lifesize" television in color, they can dial in the latest movies from any theater; talk and "see" their friends by a sort of "person-to-person" television-phone hook-up, and "read" good books by listening to them on tape recordings to rest their eyes for their jobs.
Sound too far-fetched? Not according to John (Jack) Sparkman, a youngish handsome bachelor, whose job it is to hunt out such miracles and get them on display a few years before they become commonplace."

So how many modern conveniences did you spot? Here is a bit larger version of the "no-muss kitchen" of the future, as envisioned in 1960!

The picture is pretty grainy, but the caption highlights the following kitchen features:
  • "freezer units and storag[e located in] hidden ceiling storage places"
  • "ultra-sonic ranges pop up from recessed c[ounters]"
  • "floors are self-waxing"
  • "telephone-TV unit that enables the [house]wife to speak and see her family anywhere inside or around the house" (it's that boxy thing in the right foreground)
The article goes on to quote Mr. Sparkman: "The future keeps catching up too fast with the present," he declared. "Some of the futuristic household products we thought would not be available until 1970 are already here."

Do you feel that you are in paradise? Enjoy this glimpse of the future!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Home Sewing Tips from the 1920s: Elastic Shoulder Straps Make a Quick Gift

Here is an intriguing tip from Ruth Wyeth Spears for her 1920s home sewists. Detachable shoulder straps of ribbon and elastic is a gift you might not think of! Designed for use with undergarments (such as a camisole or slip), the shoulder straps are attached with tiny safety pins. Ruth suggests tiny rosettes of ribbon if you want to make them fancier.

This idea is very simple, and certainly useful for 1920s undergarments. Rather than making the shoulder straps detachable, I think it would be great to use them in place of regular straps in slips, camisoles, and such.

Friday, September 23, 2016

A Tale of Two Costumes and a Bonus Pattern for a Quick Costume!

Halloween draws near - it will be here before you know it, so time to start getting ready! I have been adding more costumes in my shop, and this costume pattern for children, McCall's 5238, caught my eye. It is memorable not so much for the costumes (though they are among the most popular you will find in patterns, year after year), but rather for the notations by the sewist. The size of this pattern is "small", meaning children size 2 to 4.

Check out the notation in the lower right corner: "Betsy, Halloween 77, 13 months".  Now it is not clear here whether Betsy is dressed in an angel or devil costume, but when I look at what pieces are cut, it is clear. Betsy, at age one, is a little devil for Halloween! ;)

And then, to the left, is the notation: "Betsy 4 Yrs 1980". Again, checking the cut pieces, Betsy got to be a witch for Halloween in 1980. 

I think it is wonderful that the mother was able to use this pattern over again. And it is fun to imagine a toddler Betsy as a devil (rather than an angel), and preschooler Betsy as a witch (rather than a princess)!

A Bonus: Vintage Pattern for a Last Minute Costume

Tucked into the McCall's 5238 pattern was a hand-written pattern for a simple "ball" costume (think snowball with white fabric...) that I am happy to share. I love the illustrations for the pattern, they are simply charming. 

If you need a costume that you can put together quickly and easily, this pattern will fit the need!

Costume requirements: fabric, ribbon or string, and newspapers or other filler.


For those who are not handy in reading cursive writing, here are the details:
  • Measure a length of cloth as wide as the distance from elbow to elbow with arms extended, and twice as long as the distance from neck to knees.
  • Fold the material in half, with the wrong side out. Stitch the side together, leaving holes for the arms as shown. Cut 2 holes out of bottom fold for legs to go through.
  • Turn the sack rightside out. Make slits at intervals near the top, and thread a ribbon or string through the slits.
  • To put on costume: Have the child step into sack. Stuff the sack with shredded or crumpled newspaper until it is round and full. Pull ribbon to gather the sack at neck, and tie.

And that's it! I can imagine a black fuzzy material would make a perfect spider (cardboard tubes for legs?). Or a ribbed orange fabric would make a pumpkin, with green ribbon. Purple fabric for a grape? Brown fabric for a nut (make a brown cap to make it an acorn?). You get the idea - have fun!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Home Sewing Tips from the 1920s - Art Deco Applique

Ruth Wyeth Spears describes this Art Deco applique as "futuristic" - it must have seemed a striking design at the time! Use this tip to create a colorful, silky, appliqued handkerchief. Perfect for bridesmaid gifts, don't you think? Relatively small effort, with an authentic result! Just remember to use vivid contrasting colors, as Ruth suggests.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

1929: Ethnic Prints for Spring

Ethnic prints are popular this spring, so it seems very appropriate to post this striking image from Fashion Service Woman's Institute Magazine and March 1929. It is a beautiful advertisement that features the "Indu-Chi" series of fabrics, "Parisian in design, latin in feeling, and inspired by the vigorous, joyful, decorative embroideries of Hungarian peasant festival costumes." Simply gorgeous.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Happy Mother's Day: Mother-Daughter Fashion from the Mid-1940s

With Mother's Day only a few days away, it seems timely to post about that wonderful fashion trend of the 1940s and 1950s, Mother-Daughter fashion! This trend to dress mothers and daughters in matching outfits certainly provided charm for the ladies in the family. In this post, I feature mother-daughter dresses from the mid-1940s that are perfect for spring and summer.

A dirndl skirt in swing length and artfully puffed short sleeves - very nice! Add sash ties or not. The style looks especially cute when contrasting fabrics are used. I rather prefer view 2, myself. :)