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!