Following in another’s footsteps (or stitches!)

17 Dec

Or, when opening a pattern envelope is like stepping into a time machine.

Today I received a pattern in the mail that I had bought from the lovely  Midvale Cottage on Etsy. I’d been looking for a 1950’s princess coat pattern for ages and then this lovely specimen in my size turned up. Jackpot! It is Vogue 1588 from 1957. I thought that envelope was a little bulky when I got it, but look what came out when I opened it!

Clockwise from left:

1. Two instruction sheets, one for advanced sewers and one with ‘basic’ techniques such as bound buttonholes.

2. Advertisement for Vogue Pattern Book – “Vogue patterns and salted nuts are just alike! One calls for another…and another…and another…” Yes, I’m sure nuts and sewing are closely related.

3. “Attention! Cut, Mark, Sew!” Little instruction sheet on how to mark cut fabric correctly.

4. One receipt from The J.L Hudson Company, Detroit Michigan. The pattern cost $2.94 on March 4th, and the buyer was warned that ‘this recepit should be carefully preserved for the correction of errors and must accompany all goods for credit’. Well, that, or so that a seamstress in late 2009 can marvel at the remnants of another time.

One of my favourite parts of sewing from vintage patterns is the feeling of following in another sewer’s footsteps (or stitches!). Just like dressing in vintage clothes lets you imagine the ladies and gentlemen of decades ago, and what they were doing and dreaming when they wore those clothes, using a pattern that has been cut up and marked by someone else gives me a similar thrill. I’m not particular about using pre-loved patterns – as long as all the bits are there, I’ll give it a go! I have found pattern pieces tacked together with pins, notes written in pencil annotating instructions and little sketches of pattern adaptations. If the pattern is factory-folded, you might find advertisements or subscription sheets inside.

I love finding these scraps of the past and am grateful that they were preserved. Maybe one day, in 50 years or so, another sewer will make a new version of one of my favourite patterns?

As a side note, I was thinking of making a tutorial on how I covered the shoes I wore for the Christmas Ball. Would anyone be interested in this?

21 Responses to “Following in another’s footsteps (or stitches!)”

  1. Original Mischief December 17, 2009 at 10:38 pm #

    Yes please! A tute on the shoe covering wizardry would be fantastic!!!

  2. Kassie December 18, 2009 at 12:57 am #

    Oh how fun! Inside one vintage pattern I have, there were pieces of beautiful fabric the original owner left in there from the 60’s. Little surprises like that make my day!

  3. Kathleen December 18, 2009 at 1:28 am #

    You are a gal after my own heart! To me the history that accompanies many vintage sewing patterns connects one to not only a timeless piece of fashion, but to a real person, who purchased that item and left their mark. The extras in this Vogue coat pattern (which is GORGEOUS) are absolutely delightful! Thanks so much sharing them. 😀

  4. sarah December 18, 2009 at 3:07 am #

    Ah! There’s your coat pattern! It’s lovely – are you going to make it up in red?

    I love finding notes and things in vintage patterns – twice I have found fabric all cut out but unassembled! Once it was complete (an apron, I sewed it up and gave it to a friend); and currently I have an incomplete pair of girl’s shorts I’m not sure how to finish as the fabric is very distinctive. (I’ve got a while to worry about it, it’s much larger than my daughter!!)

    Can’t wait to see you tackle this coat!

    • whipstitchsewing December 18, 2009 at 10:03 am #

      Finding fabric is a total win – like finding half finished embroidery that you can finish off! I will have to wait a while on the coat, summer is so hot here that I have a few months before I even need to think about coats and wool. So I’ve got lots of time to find the perfect red fabric!

  5. Debi December 18, 2009 at 3:08 am #

    Oh yes! Tutorial on the shoes!!! yipppeeee

  6. ZipZapKap December 18, 2009 at 4:01 am #

    Finding emphemera in a vintage pattern makes my day. I particularly like finding alternate pattern pieces cut from a newspaper of the day, like in this 1943 blouse pattern – check out the last picture..

  7. Stephanie December 18, 2009 at 4:23 am #

    Yes, a shoe-covering tutorial! Yeah!

  8. KLyons December 18, 2009 at 7:39 am #

    YES! Bring on the covered shoe tutorial! Please!

  9. Veronica Darling December 18, 2009 at 7:40 am #

    Yep, I’d love to see a tutorial!

    Also, do you live in Brisbane? I thought perhaps you’d mentioned that before? Anyways, if so, I’m going to Redcliffe for Christmas, and know there’s a big op shop on the main road, but is there any other little ones around?


    • whipstitchsewing December 18, 2009 at 9:53 am #

      No, I am an Adelaide girl 🙂 Sorry I can’t help you with the op shops! Brisbane has some great shops though, much better shopping than Adelaide in general!

  10. Kat December 18, 2009 at 9:19 am #

    I bought a vintage knitting book from the op shop once that had notes written in it by the previous owner. I thought it was really cool that I could see what this lady had done to adjust the pattern all those years ago when she was knitting it.

    p.s I would love to see a tute for how you covered your shoes. They were gorgeous!

  11. Katherine M. December 19, 2009 at 6:38 am #

    I love it!!! You bought that pattern before I could snatch it. I only hesitated because it really wasn’t my size. SO it was meant for you:) And I would definitely be interested in a tutorial on how you covered your shoes – starting with what shoes you recommend for this process….

    • whipstitchsewing December 20, 2009 at 11:26 pm #

      Oh I hope I can do it justice… will have to wait a while though, it’s midsummer here!

  12. Andi B. Goode December 19, 2009 at 5:42 pm #

    I’d definitely be interested to see how you covered your shoes! I was actually going to ask you…
    -Andi x

  13. Abigael December 19, 2009 at 6:00 pm #

    Oh yes please to the shoe tutorial! That’s such a handy skill to have!

    Also that coat pattern is delicious! I too have been searching for the perfect princess coat that I can wear with big skirts! I shall have to keep an eye out for something similar (or put to use what I’ve learnt this year and just draft it up myself). I already have the most delicious turquoise wool/cashmere blend from my old job in Sydney, and some red wool too 😀 I totally can’t wait to see this when you get to making it!

  14. tiddleywink December 21, 2009 at 3:58 am #

    Yes please pretty please, a shoe-covering tutorial!

  15. Andi B. Goode December 22, 2009 at 5:13 pm #

    It was cool that they’re doing Lindy! But the movie was made in 1956 so rock ‘n’ roll was already getting popular…the first true rock ‘n’ roll song was 1954? I think. I’m not sure how the dancing developed, though, I must admit. I can only tell you about the music. Hehe. But it awesome nonetheless. =]

  16. Harriet Graves January 14, 2010 at 3:06 am #

    To give you some further background on where your pattern came from; JL Hudson was the premiere department store in Detroit. This was back when Detroit was really THE hub of the auto industry and there was tons of money in the area.
    It was at least four floors, with lots of mahoganey paneling and those tube systems that the sales person sent to an unseen cashier and then the tube was returned with receipt and change.

    Your lady undoubtably bought her fabric for her coat there also. Whatever she chose, it would have been of the finest quality.

    How I miss that store!

    • whipstitchsewing January 14, 2010 at 9:32 am #

      Wow thank you! Shopping, especially for haberdashery, would have been an entirely different experience back then… I can only dream!

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