Today I died and went to vintage sewing pattern heaven

I was out running some boring errands today and decided to stop in at one of my favourite vintage clothing stores just to have a look around. They had some vintage fabric and while I was looking at it one of the owners started chatting with me. I mentioned that I love using vintage fabric for the clothes I make and she told me she had a box of vintage sewing patterns in the back if I would like to have a look at them – of course I said yes! I wasn’t really expecting to find much, but that box was an absolute treasure trove and I ended up coming home with five patterns! If I could have afforded it I definitely would have bought more, but I’ll be going back very soon to pick up more!

Most of the patterns were from the 60’s and 70’s (sadly none of those were in my size), but when I reached the bottom of the box, my heart almost stopped as I saw patterns from the 1920’s and 30’s! I’ve never seen patterns this old in my city, nor have I ever been able to buy any online, because they’re usually incredibly expensive. I actually had to restrain myself from scooping them all up because it was an unplanned for expense that I couldn’t entirely justify. I narrowed it down to five patterns, three of which I knew would fit my older sister (the one I’ve been working on Operation Sharon Tate with!), one I thought might fit another one of my sisters (and even if it doesn’t, it was way too incredible to leave behind!) and one that was in my size.

I checked them when I got home to make sure there were no missing pattern pieces and they all appear to be complete (sadly minus an embroidery transfer for the dress that is in my size, but I can always try coming up with a design myself, try to replicate the original, or find something online that would look nice). I also did a bunch of research online to try and date the patterns and was able to come up with some rough estimates (this is one of the resources I used and it was very helpful in dating two Hollywood sewing patterns!).

This pattern roughly dates to about 1935 and the timing of finding it was perfect! My sister is in town and finally got to try on the dresses I’ve been making her – which was such a thrill! Two of the dresses need very minor alterations which I will be doing ASAP, but they look absolutely gorgeous on her and it was one of the proudest moments of my life to see her in them! While she was trying on the dresses we decided that it would be good to make a slip to go with one of them and I was planning on looking for a pattern online, so it was amazing to find this one in her size less than 24 hours later!

This Hollywood pattern (featuring Ann Shirley) roughly dates to 1939 and is for the same sister. I’m going to be bringing her to look through the rest of the patterns as well, because most were actually in her size! It was tough to decide which ones to pick up for her, as they had several incredible dress patterns from around the same time period, but after seeing her in the dresses I’d already made yesterday, I thought that this particular style would look absolutely stunning on her so I made sure to snap it up.

This pattern is one of my favourites and is also for my older sister! It was much harder to date this one but from what little I was able to find out, Chatelaine started making these patterns available in 1928 and late 20’s to early 30’s seems about right from the style of the skirt. If anyone has any information about these patterns or any thoughts on when they could be from, I’d love to hear it, by the way! These skirts are gorgeous and just the kind of thing I’ve been looking for!

Another favourite! The “Belrobe” (or instruction sheet) for this pattern very luckily lists the exact dates that it was patented! August 19th 1919-January 23rd 1923. I’m not sure why two dates were listed, but I hope someone with far more knowledge of vintage patterns will be able to enlighten me. I have another one of my sisters in mind for this pattern and I’m already dreaming of making it – the tough part will be sourcing non-polyester versions of the kinds of fabric the pattern calls for, which can be really tough, at least here in Canada. I’m hoping that with a bit of dedicated hunting I can source some better quality fabric because I refuse to resort to polyester satin again, the destroyer of all my best laid sewing plans, especially for a project as special as this. If anyone knows of possible sources that might ship to Canada, or can give me recommendations on what other types of fabric might be suitable if all else fails and all I can find is polyester, I’d love to hear it!

And the last pattern…

McCall 3442 – this is the one that is sadly missing the embroidery transfer. I love that it came with this piece showing the finished garment! This is the only printed pattern I found today and the instructions are printed directly onto the pattern pieces (aaaaand are pretty much non-existent and of the “slash here”, “gather this edge” variety, but at least that’s something!) and so is the year! According to the date on the pattern pieces, this pattern is from 1921! Technically this is a pattern for a girl and not a woman, but since it would fit me, you’d better believe I plan on making this dress, even if I only wear it around the apartment!

Unfortunately this pattern and the skirt pattern don’t come with direct recommendations for fabric, though in the instructions for stamping the transfer on the back of this pattern, silks and woolens are mentioned, as are “wash materials.” With the skirt there is no indication at all, but I know it definitely needs to be something that can hold those inverted “plaits” well. I think I have some a few vague ideas for fabrics that could work nicely (such as linen for example), but I am in no way an expert when it comes to fabric, so once again, I’d appreciate your suggestions!

I still can’t believe that I actually own these beautiful patterns – or that I found them so close to home and was able to purchase them for an absolute song compared to what they would typically go for online! These are now the oldest original patterns in my collection and I can’t wait to sew them!

Now, time to finally drag myself away from the pretty patterns and go make dinner because I’ve been alternating between staring at these in awe and trying to research them for the last five hours or so!

Advertisements

Art Experiments: My non-art art

I’ve realized over the years that the collages I make might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they’ve always been a really good way of working through a lot of the chaos in my head. By kind of shutting my mind off, going on automatic and just letting my hands and my subconscious guide me, I’m able to focus that chaos and show it to myself more clearly so that it can start to make sense. It can be a peek into my darkest fears, or just a way to be creative without worrying about not knowing how to draw something or how to put something into words. The collages I’ve been making these days have been a mix of ones I understand once they have taken shape and ones I might not get for a long time (if ever), but enjoy looking at.

Most of the collages I’m going to share today might be kind of…dark, but they are probably the best ones I’ve created since I started making collages again after years of not feeling able to.

This goes without saying, but I’m still terrible at taking photos and it was really hard take these without massive amounts of glare obscuring the images. Maybe one day I’ll bite the bullet and invest in a scanner or something…anyway, onto my non-art art.

Book of Death

This is one of the few where I actually experimented with collaging onto a canvas. It was really hard to photograph and it looks kind of muddy in this picture because of the way the glare is playing off of the fixative I used to seal the collage. I made this after a day spent watching way too much news. I had to get the darkness out of my head and onto the canvas. Actually, that’s how most of these were created…

Beach Mystery

The only other collage I’ve made so far where I collaged directly onto a canvas. This collage is one of my favourites, with all the women popping up out of nowhere and random hands and arms. It was inspired by Agatha Christie and Edward Gorey. I don’t have any words for this one really, other than I love the way it makes me feel to look at it…

The bus

This one is…a head scratcher, but a fun head scratcher that I really enjoy looking at. I might actually frame this one and put it on my wall, ridiculous as it is.

The Absurdity of War

This collage is the only one I actually properly named after making it. First it was just the images, which are all photos from Life magazine during WWII. It felt like something was missing after I finished the image only version. I’ve been practicing different forms of writing partly to teach myself to stop being such a perfectionist and learn to give up control a bit, such as Dada poetry and the cut-up technique. This collage features a poem written using the cut-up technique that I put together later in the same day. Afterwards I realized it was meant to be part of the collage…

Shocking, unemotional rejection of the elements of time
Efficient, detached, some of the episodes suggest Babel,
There is a daring attempt to engage the exploding capsules.

Celine and Kafka, Medusa’s face, we find that the image is out own.
The effect is hypnotic…we are compelled to listen.
It is a style made small, deceptively plain,
So scorchingly personal that it is unique.
Vignette after vignette stays in the memory.

Reminiscent of the painting of Bosch
powerful and profoundly disturbing
Lucid as a gem, wholly in command
Gratuitous in its brutality.
Yet this is where its particular
power lies, coiled to strike like the serpent

Scene illuminates adjacent scene;
By the savage purity.

The Absurdity of War II

Wow, this one could really do with a proper photographer taking a crack at it, or a scanner, it looks blurry as hell. The only writing on it says “And that her only child was living.” A kind of a sister collage to the original Absurdity of War, this one also contains images from WWII era Life magazines (no worries by the way, no original magazines were harmed in the making of these collages!). I’ve realized that when it feels like the present is echoing the past in such a terrifying way, this is the kind of “art” I create as a way of coping.

I watched a documentary awhile ago on the Dadaist and Surrealist art movements called Europe After the Rain: Dada and Surrealism (which can be found on YouTube as of the time of writing) and a quote from it really spoke to me and was part of what made me jump headfirst into experimenting with art and writing again as a way to try and channel the way I’ve been feeling:

“Dada thrives on contradictions, its creative and destructive. Dada denounces the world and wishes to save it.”

I don’t know if I’ll share more of my “art experiments” (as I’ve been calling these collages and the more recent writing misadventures), because I don’t know if anyone would be interested and I’m no longer used to sharing this kind of stuff…it feels so oddly personal, like letting someone take a glimpse into my mind, my heart, or my soul. At the same time, it might just push me to keep creating, keep improving, and keep puzzling all of this weirdness out…

The Summer of Music, Art and Writing

Wow…it seems like every time I write I say I’m going to try and post more, and then I promptly vanish for weeks on end again. I’m having a weird year. Mostly good, but I think that now things have slowed down and I’m not in non-stop panic mode like I was last year and at the beginning of this year, I’ve finally been able to start processing things and I’ve been struggling with depression quite a bit. I’ve been doing a lot of work on myself and working through a lot of stuff though and even though things are really tough at times, I’d still take my darkest times now over the way things were before, because even though I get really depressed, I’m still in a much happier place than I was and am more at peace with myself than I’ve ever been.

I’ve been doing a lot of sewing, but I’ve also started writing poetry and stuff again, which feels really good. I’ve written more in the last month or so than I had in the last 11+ years. I thought that I couldn’t write anymore and that the writer in me had died, so it has been really good to see that I was wrong about that.

I’ve also been making a lot of collages in the last two weeks or so, which was always the only kind of visual art this non-artist could create. I always feel best when I’m creating, no matter what form that comes in – writing, sewing, making collages. I’ve also been drawing a lot and though I’ve never been great at it, I really love to draw, so it feels really good to be doing that again too.

I’ve been playing a lot of guitar and teaching myself a ton of new songs. Recently I taught myself to play David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs album from start to finish, which I’m really proud of. It was the first time I’d ever taught myself to play an entire album. Playing it has been a great way of relieving stress and working through fear – especially the kind of stress and fear that comes from probably spending a little too much time watching the news. When it feels like the world is in flames, I pick up my guitar. At this point, I honestly don’t know what I’d do without it.

I’m more myself than I’ve been in over a decade, but at the same time, a much better version of that self. It feels really good. I’m just sorry that between the gloomy times and the periods of intense creativity, I haven’t been around much.

I’ll write a separate post with some of the collages I’ve been making, but I’ll end this post with one of the songs I’ve been playing the most this summer, because it just feels right to show you why my neighbors probably hate me by now…I don’t really care though, this entire album is absolute perfection* and no one heals my soul like Bowie.

*Seriously, if you haven’t heard this album, you really should check it out. It just might be one of the best albums of all time and is definitely one of my favourites. Bowie was an absolute genius.

Words of someone who has no words tonight

I don’t really even know what to say, but felt like I needed to write something tonight.

My city was hit by a tornado tonight. I’m fine, everyone I know is safe as far as I know, there were no fatalities and only minor injuries have been reported so far. For now, for me at least, the panic is over. I’m lucky.

When I heard the emergency alert and realized it was a tornado warning, I had a full blown panic attack. Before the tornados last year I hate to say I never took tornado warnings in my city as seriously as I should have, because tornados just didn’t happen right in the city. After what happened last year, and now again tonight, I can’t not to take it seriously anymore.

My city was (and is) already in a state of emergency due to flooding this spring. There are people whose homes were damaged by the tornados last year who are still struggling to repair and recover. This is the new normal with climate change. Things like this will keep happening unless we do everything we possibly can to fix or to least put a halt the damage we’re doing. That absolutely terrifies me. The idea that even if we do put a halt to the damage, these kinds of disasters could continue with the same frequency and intensity as we’re experiencing now because of the level of damage already done terrifies me. The fact that humanity as a whole isn’t doing everything within our power to try and stop this is fucking terrifying. And I don’t understand it. On a good day, I don’t understand it, and this was not a good day.

I’m lucky. I’m damned lucky. There are completely devastating and destructive natural disasters that happen all over the world that are so horrifying I can’t even begin to imagine what they would be like to live through or try and recover from.

There isn’t a point to this post. It’s probably disjointed and rambling, but that’s kind of where my head is at tonight, thinking about all of this.

I’m a mixed up bag of emotions. I’m sad and scared but also angry. I’m angry because we could be doing so much more to combat climate change, but it’s just not happening and we have people in positions of power who refuse to believe (or admit) that climate change is even real. That makes me so mad and depressed and scared.

I’ll try and write something more fun and sewing related soon. I’ve been non-stop busy lately and last month was really hard so I haven’t been around as much as I’ve wanted to be, but I’m going to try harder to post more (and get caught up on my emails! I’m so behind on that and I’m so, so sorry to everyone I’ve left hanging) I’d better end this post here though because it’s already a mess, I just needed to get this out tonight, even if it did come out scattered.

My heart goes out to everyone who has been affected by natural disasters in my city, and around the globe. ❤

Singer Automatic Zigzagger!

Awhile back I was at a thrift store in my neighborhood with one of my sisters and her keen eye spotted something I’d been trying to track down for about a year – a Singer Automatic Zigzigger!

I started looking for one of these beauties last year before I got my Singer 403A. It was so wonderful to finally find one! This model is for a slant needle sewing machine, which my Singer 403A Slant-O-Matic actually is! Now, my Slant-O-Matic comes with it’s own cam system for doing the same kinds of stitches the Singer Automatic Zigzagger does, but it could still be fun to see if I can make this work on it! Though, the Automatic Zigzagger is for class 301 machines, which is a previous generation, so chances are, it won’t work on the 403A…Oh well, knowing me, I’m sure I’ll get another slant needle machine eventually! I can very rarely resist sewing machine attachments when I come across them in the wild, especially since I never know what kind of vintage sewing machine will end up in my home…

These remind me of the cams for my 403A! You can do a blind hem, arrow and zigzag stitch with these three, and the one currently attached to the machine makes a domino stitch!

It even still had the instruction booklet!

And a little pamphlet advertising some of the other stitch patterns you could purchase for your Automatic Zigzagger!

Speaking of vintage sewing machine attachments and machines…I did end up sadly parting ways with two of my vintage machines prior to the move – my White model 1099 machine, and my Singer 128-13 (which I’ll admit I stripped for parts). Of my vintage machines I only kept my Singer 403A Slant-O-Matic (of course!), my 99K from 1941 (the only non-functional machine I kept, because I plan on finding the parts and fixing this one up eventually so I can use it), and the Singer 127 vibrating shuttle from 1915 that I turned into an electric machine (which is why I stripped the 128-13 for parts, most if not all, work on this machine). It was sad saying good bye to those two lovely machines, but I’m happy with the ones I kept and my one modern machine.

That said, at the same time, I’m getting that itch to find another vintage machine again…I’ve been able to resist a number of vintage machines I’ve seen out and about in the last eight months or so, but I definitely have a mental list of machines I know I couldn’t resist if I came across them. Now all I have to do is try not to go purposely seeking them out, or I might just magically wind up with another machine!

Instead I should see if I can play with this wonderful Automatic Zigzagger! (The doom that will surely lead to me tracking down a Singer 301! *cough*) They look like SO much fun in the old commercials!

Thank you so much for spotting this awesome little guy, Sarah!! ❤

Simplicity 8920: A Marcia Brady Nightmare Fuel Fail of a Dress

Awhile back I finished this absolute costume of a 1970’s dress, using Simplicity 8920:

I had such high hopes! This was going to be so much fun! I was going to look just like Marcia Brady! If only I knew…

I made view 1 over the course of a few weeks, because I kept putting it on the back burner to work on other projects. I’m not sure what I think of the finished dress. I love the pattern and the fabric I chose, it was fun to make something so in your face! But wearing it on the other hand…let’s just say I’ve tried it on a few times, but haven’t been able to bring myself to wear it in earnest just yet. I think what’s killing it for me is unfortunately the massive collar, which kind of overwhelms my petite frame and features. I think I might try this pattern again but make the collar smaller.

The fabric I used for the collar and the band were also a huge problem – the satin did not want to behave. It wouldn’t iron properly no matter what I did or how much time I took working at it and it ended up causing major frustration. Next time I’ll definitely use another fabric. I ended up being so frustrated with how this project was going that it lead to me taking even more breaks from this dress, and then finally rushing to get it finished because by that point, I knew it was a bit of a mess and I probably wasn’t going to wear it. So I didn’t finish it as neatly as I could have or normally would have.

I hemmed the dress before getting mad at it, so the hem is pretty darned good at least! I think I used the wrong kind of elastic for the sleeve, so it ended up being kind of a mess. I had to insert the zipper two or three times, because I kept doing it wrong, and by the time I finally got it in, I had already given up.

Then, joy of joys, when I was about to give it a final press, I dropped my iron, making part of it come loose. I thought I had fixed it, but oh boy, did it ever get messed up on that fall! It pretty much burns and/or melts fabric now no matter what setting I put it on. Time to start looking for a new iron!

This project was a bit of a fail all around, but luckily I had enough projects that were actually going well that it didn’t really get me down or lead to a string of failed projects, as has happened in the past when I’ve lost confidence after a project went wrong. I don’t know what to do with this dress now though. Keep it as a reminder of the project? Hold onto it in case my niece wants to use it for a Halloween costume one day in the far off future? Save it in case I’m ever magically invited to/decide to have a 1970’s costume party? Donate it? I’d appreciate any ideas, because I’m kind of at a loss.

If I’m going to do anything other than keep it in my closet, I definitely need to re-do the buttons, they aren’t evenly spaced out and I should have put the first one up higher on the band. There is a lot of this dress that I would fix and finish better, if I could bring myself to pick it up again, but the more I look at it, the more I dislike it because of that awful satin. I definitely don’t think I’ll be messing with Fabricland’s cheap satin for awhile after this, it ended up letting the entire project down, just as it did with the dress I originally made using it. Polyester satin just might be my new sworn sewing enemy.

On the plus side, I love the main fabric of the dress, which I found at a thrift store, and I love the vintage buttons and zipper I used. Maybe I could fix this wreck by replacing the awful satin with another purple fabric, if I can find something nice that would work. That could at least ease the utter loathing I feel when I look at that damned satin…

I’m so sorry I failed you, my queen!

Operation Sharon Tate part 2/Style 3837

Today I wanted to share the third dress I’ve made as part of Operation Sharon Tate, the ongoing project I’ve been collaborating on with my sister, where I’ve been making her late 1960’s and 1970’s clothing.

This dress is yet another muslin/toile, since my sister lives out of town and needs to try these dresses on and have them properly fitted before I can really dive into the projects for real, but I really like it so far.

I used Style 3837 for this dress, and made view 3:

This pattern is from 1972 and is STUNNING. You can find some truly gorgeous Style patterns from the 1970’s and they’re quickly becoming one of my favourite pattern companies for 1970’s patterns. I only wish they were easier to come by!

Since this dress was being made for my sister, once again I took some progress pictures to send her that I’ll include in this post. Including this one of a very real problem I was dealing with while making this dress:

My cat fell in love with this pattern and dress and I kept finding her snuggling up with the dress and pattern pieces or instructions while I was in the process of making the dress. At every single stage of making it, Cali found a way to rub up against, cuddle, paw and sleep on this dress and otherwise infuse it with her love – and fur. Pins be damned, the wanted this dress!

The first progress photos I sent my sister! You can see from the second photo that the front panels were just ever so slightly off, which drove me a little nuts. I almost took the dress apart to try and align them properly, but decided to wait since I might have to alter the dress anyway. I did better on the back of the dress at least! And in the last picture, I had to show off my very nearly invisible hem to my sister (and now the internet), because it’s one of my favourite sewing techniques and it always makes my day when I can come as close to nailing it as possible.

I used elasticated thread for the sleeves, which took a little trial and error to figure out since it was my first time, but my trusty 1960’s Singer 403A got the job done! It certainly isn’t perfect, but I’m pretty pleased with it. I took some close up photos of the inside and outside of the sleeves, complete with the remnants of Cali’s nightly snugglefest with the dress:

Somehow I didn’t photograph the dress once it was finished, probably because we kept having a lot of gloomy, rainy, flood warning filled days where I couldn’t take pictures, but I did take two photos once the sleeves were on, so close enough!

As you can tell, I still haven’t figured out a good set up for taking photos, but I’m hoping to get to it soon, I’ve just been incredibly busy and haven’t had a chance to think about it properly or set anything up. Sorry about that!

I really love this pattern and I hope I’ll be up to the task of making view 1 soon, which involves a lot of yummy shirring and embroidery! I can’t wait to even make this view again! If you come across this pattern and love 1970’s fashion, snap it up! It is SUCH a fabulous pattern!

My sister can’t come down for a visit soon enough! I’m so excited about her trying these dresses on and then re-making them even better for her – on top of just being excited about seeing her and my niece in general! On pins and needles until the summer…