Friday, December 20, 2013

1930's Crepe Paper Flower Making Pattern from Successful Farming Magazine

Easily Made Flowers for Decorations

Whether you are decorating your bonnet or creating a centerpiece for your Holiday table, these crepe paper flowers will surely impress. These patterns include directions to make quite realistic flowers including Chrysanthemums, Wistaria, Calla Lilies, Hyacinth and Roses, to name a few. Made as single stemmed flowers or strings of garland, like my favorite flower and vine Periwinkle. It's not just that I love it's playful name, the color is almost impossible to describe. Not blue, not lavender... it's Periwinkle!! Get the Pattern HERE.

This 1934 Newspaper article shows how to decorate tin cans with crepe paper flowers for an elegant table decoration.

We are all familiar with the red crepe paper poppies distributed on Veteran's Day. Their origins trace back to 1918 and are still made by disabled veterans as therapy and sold to generate funds to continue the process of rehabilitating our brave veterans. You can read more about the Memorial Day and Veteran's Day poppies at The American Legion Auxiliary website. But the story of how the poppy became the symbol of the blood of soldiers is a moving one and I post a snippit of it here in hopes you will read more and think twice before passing by that decorated veteran with the little red flowers.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below 

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lt. Col. John McCrae

The poppy, as a memorial flower to the war dead, can be traced to a single individual, Moina Michael. She was so moved by Lt. Col. McCrae's poem, "In Flanders Fields," that she wrote a response: 

. . . the blood of heroes never dies
But lends a luster to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders' Fields.

On impulse, she bought a bouquet of poppies – all that New York City's Wanamaker's Department Store had – and handed them to businessmen meeting at the New York YMCA where she worked. She asked them to wear the poppy as a tribute to the fallen. That was November 1918. World War I was over, but America's sons would rest forever "in Flanders' Fields." Later she would spearhead a campaign that would result in the adoption of the poppy as the national symbol of sacrifice.

_____ from the American Legion Auxiliary Website

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

1950 Laura Wheeler Designs Mail Order Pattern Catalog with Free Handbag Pattern

Laura Wheeler was a powerhouse of Mail Order needlework patterns. Perhaps as early as the 1930's, patterns for knitting, crochet, needlework and crafts were distributed through syndicated newspaper advertisements. This 1950 pattern catalog offers patterns for 25 cents for huck towels, crochet shrugs and sweaters, fascinator hats, dolls, holiday decor and more. It even includes a pattern to make a handbag. 

1950© Laura Wheeler Designs Needlework Pattern Catalog

You can view all of the patterns in this Vintage Laura Wheeler Catalog and download it for the handbag pattern. Or you can simply download the pattern for the handbag. Either way, enjoy perusing these fabulous patterns that turn ordinary household items into cheerful and beautiful fashions and decor.

1950© Laura Wheeler Handbag Pattern - Prints on 11 x 17 paper

Monday, December 16, 2013

101 Ways to Save With Your Sewing Machine

101 Ways to Save was published by the Domestic Sewing Machine Company, established in 1861, known as the American Domestic Sewing Machine when it became available in Europe. It was a popular brand and readily available, even sold by Sears. The company was active into the 1950's when it was sold under the brand White. I was able to find quite a story about the Domestic machines at Alex Askaroff from the Sewalot site is the keeper of the best resource for researching sewing machines and the curious histories behind them. Visit to learn more.

The Domestic Sewing Machine Company

This marvelous little pattern book was published around 1955. It must have been one of the last things published under the "Domestic" name. Inside there are patterns that are easy and quick to make gifts, clothes and takes us back to the origins of "upcycling". 

101 Ways to Save with Your Sewing Machine

With quick and easy patterns to elegantly transform your wardrobe, or DIY window shades, you'll find tips that save Time, Temper and Money in this 1950's booklet. Download HERE for more fun patterns that are easy to sew and wonderful gifts to make and give.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Corset and Keeping Laced UP

A few months ago I stumbled upon this curious gadget in a thrift shop. The price was right at two dollars and the object itself was such an interesting thing that I had to have it.

The Amsley Waist Former

Mrs J. A. Amsley of Peoria Illinois

From many hours on Google and researching the maze of Google Patents, which is almost as entertaining as getting sucked into the YouTube vortex, I have not found the patent Mrs J. A. Amsley applied for. I did, however, find lots of similar versions which leads me to believe that keeping one's shirt tucked in was a major problem.

Mrs J. A, Amsley's Waist Former

(I have received an update from Linda Aylward, Special Collections Assistant from the Peoria Illinois Historical Society. Mrs. J. A. Amsley was Filena (Felina, Philena, Fene) Amsley.  The first time she is listed in the Peoria City Directory is in the 1881-1882 edition.  She worked as a saleslady for Schipper & Block department store.  The 1880 Federal Census lists her along with husband James A. (Albert) Amsley on Fayette Street.  She was born in Ohio ca. 1859.  From 1910-1921 the Amsley's lived at 513 N. Monroe.  He is listed as a traveling salesman.  The Illinois death index indicates that James died November 26, 1921 and Filena died January 28, 1930.)

Mrs J. A, Amsley's Waist Former

This little hook, about an inch and three-quarters in length, has a very sharp pin attached that opens 270 degrees. From the description, it appears that this little object will keep the shirt (waist) attached to the corset front AND hold the skirt waistband and belt in place as well. As I sit here in my jeans and pullover sweater I am not quite sure that marvel or dismay is the right word to describe how I am picturing this. I am old enough to remember the pre-pantyhose days of garter belts and girdles, so the mere idea that anyone would actually choose corsets to wear (for whatever reason) baffles me.

Turn of the Century Waist Formers Patent Applications

While researching these ingenious little gadgets I realized that another "tool" every woman had in her possession was the humble button hook, useful for buttoning shoes or corsets. I have my grandmother's hooks and matching manicure set. They are not in the pristine state they once were but they are beautiful nonetheless. 

Marion Iserman's Corset Hook

My Grandmother's Button Hook and Manicure Set

If you are curious about undergarments and the unique terminology you might enjoy this page from The Ladies Treasury of Costume and Fashion called an Overview of Underwear and please visit the page of free Historical Patterns to download.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Prims Sunburst Slippers Pattern

I have uncovered yet another pattern that originated from the Home Economics Department of the Educational Bureau of William Prym, Inc, a button and notions manufacturer (now part of Pryms and Dritz) that introduced metal blanks suitable for covering with fabric for home sewers. And just in time to make as gifts to give this Holiday. These simple to sew felt slippers feature, as all the Prims patterns did, a Cover-Your-Own-Button as the centerpiece of the Sunburst toe decoration. 

Prims Sunburst Slippers

Even with a regular sew-on button, these sweet slippers will be sure to please whomever they are made for. This free downloadable printed pattern prints on an 8.5" x 14" (legal) size sheet of paper and features three sizes. 

I have earlier posts with more fun Prims Patterns. 

Prims 1960s Jumpsuit Pattern

Prims Yumm-Yum Lounger and Cap for a Little Girl

Prims Precious Pets Lingerie Case

Prims Clothespin Caddy

Prims Camelot Casual

Prims Whale of a Kari-All and Toy

Prims Convertible Tote Bag

Prims Masquerade 4-in-1 Hat

Prims Cutaway Bolero

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pretty Pleats - Kent State University

I adore the art of sculpted clothing, particularly tucked, smocked, plaited and, well.... pleated. So imagine how excited I was to learn about this exhibition at Kent State University's Stager and Blum Galleries through June 29th of 2014. Curated by Sara Hume, the exhibition covers the art of the fold spanning over 200 years of fashion. But instead of organizing the collection by date, it is arranged by technique so that a contemporary smocked garment may be studied alongside another, decades or even centuries older.

Pretty Pleats - Kent State University 28 June 2013 - 29 June 2014

Included are garments by Mariano Fortuny, Mme. Grès, Issey Miyake, and Christian Dior exhibited with folk costumes as well as 18th- and 19th-century gowns.

To learn more about the exhibition "Pretty Pleats" visit the Gallery Home Page.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

1950's Aunt Jemima Face Apron Pattern

In 1955, ads for a series of mail order "Face" or "Girl" aprons appeared in Newspapers across the US. This "Mammy" or Aunt Jemima face apron was available through Laura Wheeler and Alice Brooks pattern companies. For twenty-five cents you could have this pattern delivered directly to your door.

1950's Aunt Jemima Apron Pattern

What strikes me as curious is that the same face apron was also issued but with a fair skinned "Girl" represented in the newspaper ad. 1955 was the year Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to vacate her seat in the front of the bus in Montgomery Alabama, which was the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement in America. Odd that these images, which are such blatant stereotypes, would be so available.

Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University

But the "Jim Crow Mammy" image had been in use since the 1800's as a commercial identity for selling a vast array of household goods from baking soda to coffee to dishes and linens. It was in the late 1940's when Quaker Oats enlisted their third Aunt Jemima, an image that would become a American Icon. The more recent figure of Aunt Jemima is a much altered figure from the earlier version and certainly less racist.

We may consider the images of the "Dutch Girl" less racist but still represents a stereotype image.  So how about downloading this simple "Santa Face" Apron Pattern to celebrate the holidays.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Keeping Your Scissors Sharp

Several years ago I inherited a box of buttons and bits that belonged to my grandmother. Orphaned at a young age in the early 1900's when her parents succumbed to the Great Flu Pandemic, she and her sister grew up in Saint Rose's Orphanage on the East side of Milwaukee. There she learned to sew. And she was an avid sewer and a doll doctor in the 30's, 40's and 50's. I remember her magnificent and intricate doll clothes on the porcelain dolls in the curio cabinets with the glass doors. Not to be played with. 

She was my greatest inspiration. And though she never taught me to sew or crochet, I remember that whenever I saw her she had a project in her hands. Her industriousness was her gift to me. The OCD I could do without but perhaps the two go hand in hand.

In this wicker box, with a leather cover, all cracked and aged, along with some of the tiniest glass and brass buttons I had ever seen, was a little oval stainless steel (or nickel silver) scissors sharpener. This little object intrigued me. A little over two inches long, thin and lightweight, I experimented with an old pair of scissors and was pleasantly surprised at how well it seemed to work ... for cutting paper. But surely it should work for fabric cutting as well. After all, it must have been her handiest method for sharpening her own scissors. And she cut a lot of fabric sewing clothes for her 8 children. 

My Grandmother's Kenberry Scissors Sharpener

I started doing a little research. These little sharpeners were produced and either sold or given as promotional objects by a vast array of companies like this from the Sealtest Milk Company. I found this one on an Etsy shop.

Promotional Scissors Sharpener c1950's

They also came in a variety of shapes, like these cardboard and hammered metal sharpeners with a stainless steel honing rod.

Or this plastic paddle shaped sharpener with a ceramic honing rod.

The ease of use of these small hand held sharpeners must have been part of their charm. I remember the traveling sharpener man who made the rounds to our neighborhood about once a month. He would sharpen my mother's knives and scissors. Before such services, the self sharpeners were an asset not to be parted with.

I purchased this Gingher sharpening stone 30 years ago. As you can see it has not been used a great deal. I found it difficult to control the angle and it's awkward managing of the pitch and pressure seemed like a sure way to ruin the edge of my precious cutting shears. 

Imagine my surprise to find these little portable sharpeners available again. These little Fiskars sharpeners have a ceramic honing rod and work the exact same way as the little sharpener in my grandmother's button box.

However you manage to do it, keeping a sharp edge on your shears is a must for ease of cutting the cleanest edges of all of your fine fabrics.

There are all sorts of u-tube videos suggesting sandpaper and tin foil as quick methods. Try them first with your paper shears. Just to be on the safe side.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Amber Jane Butchart - Guest Blogger - Looks at Home Sewing Fashions of the 30's

Amber Jane Butchart, fashion historian and author of Theatre of Fashion, posted this guest article on 1930s home sewing fashions and the paper sewing pattern. Read more of her post on Tilly and the Buttons HERE.

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Amber Jane Butchart's Fashion Miscellany

Amber Jane Butchart's Fashion Miscellany

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

USDA Agricultural Extension Bulletins

Extension work began as early as 1785. It was developed as a means to reach out to rural America and assist with aspects of farm management and education for the isolated families. Early Farmers' Institutes were established for the dissemination of information on Agriculture, Manufacturing and Arts. Speakers traveled around the country doing demonstrations, conducting classes and handing out informational publications. Topics such as soil analysis, geological surveys and chemical inventions were brought to the countryside. Topics expanded to cover aspects of animal husbandry, pasturing, crops, fencing, manures and market fairs. These institutes would develop into the State Agricultural Colleges throughout the country as the Market Fairs would become the State Fairs.

In the early 1900's the Institutes would sometimes hold separate sessions titled "Cooking Schools" for women where nutrition and methods of food preparation were demonstrated. Women were encouraged to attend and the number of women lecturers grew. Sessions were arranged for children to participate in any number of features such as music and arts. As popularity of the programs grew so did the funding.

By 1908 Iowa, Indiana, Colorado and Nebraska and many other rural states, had women's organizations with trained instructors in home economics. Many of these women's "auxiliaries" offered prizes for girl's culinary exhibits at the farmers' institutes. They met and had annual dues to support the expenses of their meetings and workshops. At the same time the farming institutes began separate institutes to encourage farming in the younger generation. Boys were instructed in farm work while girls were instructed in home arts and personal hygiene.

1927 Vocational Tech Classes - Wisconsin

By 1916 the "Institutes" began to decline. The work they had carried out was now part of larger Agricultural Colleges. Home demonstration work among farm women was gaining in popularity while women were schooled in small scale poultry management and vegetable gardening, butter making and developing cooperatives for selling eggs and other products. It was the birth of wide spread home economics study. The colleges reached women by offering study clubs, demonstrations and printed Bulletins. 

Clothing Construction 1925 - Google Doc

This publication from 1925 details the process of instructing various techniques of pattern drafting and dress form construction throughout several states. It does not teach the art of clothing construction, rather it is the report detailing the success of the Extension program.

Though many of the original institutes no longer exist, their offspring are thriving. Home economics are in the curricula of most high schools in the US. Clubs such as 4-H, Boys and Girls Clubs, and Scouting offer kids the opportunity to experience agriculture, nature and the arts. University Agricultural Extension services still produce informational bulletins with information that ranges from home canning and turkey roasting safety to pond management, growing mushrooms and orchard management. All of these publications are government printings and are in the public domain. 

During the Depression, as part of the WPA, similar visiting lecturers were employed by the government to visit rural communities and teach skills. John Colt, my professor of painting at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, was one of these lecturers. He traveled around Wisconsin teaching rug weaving to women in small towns and rural areas. In the 40's this was one of the ways women could earn money and by the proliferation of old weaving looms stowed in old barns it was something that many women attempted.

1945 Women's Measurements USDA Publication

This 1941 publication on Women's Measurements was a product of the WPA. The entire documentation of the process of measuring and recording measurements is detailed in this publication. The standards for women's sizing would change again but the measurement guide and chart may still be of use especially for women sewing with vintage sewing patterns. 

Download the Sewing Chart HERE

I have a collection of many of the earlier bulletins which are still valuable for the detailed information contained in them. Click on any of the Vintage Sewing Booklets linked on the left or visit for current publications.

A History of Agricultural Extension Work in the United States 1785 - 1923 by Alfred Charles True published by the United States Government Printing Office - Washington 1928©

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Easy Holiday Decor

Easy To Sew Christmas Ideas

This pamphlet for Holiday Decor from Coats and Clark's features Indian Head Cotton fabric, Bondex trims, Boiltex rick rack and Coats & Clark's sewing thread. Easy applique hostess apron, square or oval tablecloth, Christmas tree skirt and stocking. Download pattern HERE. 

Easy To Sew Christmas Ideas