Monday, November 30, 2009

Undiscovered gems

Now and again, a perfectly swell pattern gets overlooked. Such as this one.

It's a great little late '50s suit (1958, to be precise), in a great size (38" bust!), the envelope's in great shape, and it's cheap because it's missing the skirt pieces. But the skirt, to be perfectly blunt, is not the interesting part of this pattern. Dozens of other simple straight skirt patterns could be substituted, and no one would be any the wiser. No, the interesting bits are all in the top and the jacket - i particularly love that immense, fabulous collar. And as impractical fashion details go, it's probably a lot less troublesome than most...

I know the cover art is overwhelmingly pink. I promise you don't have to sew it in pink if you don't want to. Go take a look.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Indulgence du jour

Fondly remembering the Dagoba chocolate bar that used to be available in a "chai" flavor, i added to my cocoa some cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves (just a pinch), and a tiny hint of black pepper. It's pretty darn tasty.

It's also gotten a little 17th century ditty stuck in my head:

Nose, nose, nose, nose
And who gaue thee that iolly red nose?
Sinamont, & Ginger,
Nutmegs & Cloues
And that gaue thee thy iolly red nose

It's actually the second verse of "Of all the birds" by Thomas Ravenscroft, who published a number of music books - mostly part songs, in the early parts of the 17th century.

This is what comes of being a musician and a history geek.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A mystery...

Got this in a big box o' patterns, and i'm trying to pin it down, so far without notable success. It's an old pajamas-and-slippers pattern from Sears, but is not a "Superior" issue - looks more like a mail order pattern, and is in a funky, narrow, printed wax paper envelope. The search continues, but if you've got any leads, i'd be grateful if you shared them... it's such a fun little pattern!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Reconstructive Archaeology

Over the summer, my friend Nick called up and said, "I've got a gig in France in August, and i need a set of medieval clothes for it. Can you help?"

(I wish to point out that i've never gotten a gig in France. If you've got one you need filled, just let me know.)

Nick, in a former life, worked at Colonial Williamsburg, and he knew i had worked at Jamestown, for the costume director there (the unpaid internship that ate my life... and the most fun i've ever had at a job). Nick also knew that i have lots of background in medieval history. So this wasn't entirely random.

Time was short, so i agreed to make a tunic and hood, lend what accessories i could, and he would fake the rest. He needed to look late 14th to early 15th century, and suitable for a musician, so i thought immediately of the Bocksten Man and the Herjolfsnes finds. I settled on the Bocksten tunic and one of the hoods from the Norlund report. Happily, like a lot of ethnic and historical clothing, the Bocksten tunic has a very geometric construction, which makes it fairly easy to grade. Since Nick is very tall, this was an important consideration...

Took measurements and borrowed a shirt for comparison, made a muslin, checked the fit, made notes on the changes, cut out the final version, and hit the mark almost perfectly on the tunic. The hood was more painful (although it came out alright in the end). We'll have a confessional on that some other time...

I learned a few things along the way. The Bocksten Man was quite a bit taller than i'd expected, and the tunic hemline hung quite a bit lower than many garments i'd seen that were supposed to be based on that tunic. And - a detail i'd never seen in any of the redrawings, but which is plain when you look at the photos of the tunic pieces - there is a distinct, curved armscye. The top of the sleeve is cut straight, but the body of the tunic has a curve inward where the sleeve fits into it. Makes the shoulder lie nicely, and i suspect, rather improves mobility.

So, the finished product? Here (Nick apologizes for the non-period spectacles, but does need to see in order to play)... :

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What you don't get with a current pattern...

Consider this dress.

Yawn. A shirtwaist.

But wait - not just a shirtwaist. Look at the version on the left. First off, 3/4 length sleeves, which are both flattering and practical. They often crop up in 1950s patterns, but they're hard to come by now. And then, that curious little button-and-tab collar. Adds interest - it's enough but not too much. And then, we come to the pockets...

Pockets are essential. Would you go to the bother of sewing a dress, and then have nowhere to put you keys? No, neither would i. And these pockets, they are roomy, and they are stylish, with the shaped edges. And then, and then! - the button-and-tab motif is picked up with the band at the top of the pockets.

This is delightful stuff. This dress could be done in a perfectly plain fabric, and stand out just on the basis of the construction details. None of it is hard to sew, it's not fussy or complicated. It's just swell. And if you added the tiny touch of some really wonderful buttons to those details? Brilliant.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Coming Attractions

Just a quick preview of patterns that i'll be listing soon on Etsy... i'll probably spend some time this evening checking, counting, researching, and pricing.

Monday, November 9, 2009

In which thanks are rendered

Not one, but two blog posts about Fripperie (by folks other than myself) appeared in the last week! There's a pattern (and Erin picked a nice one, too...) in a gallery, here. And then a profile at Perfectly Paper where Kelly says kind things about the shop and selection... thanks to both!

On top of which, i had a sale to my first repeat customer today, which was exciting - must be doing something right, if people come back and buy again!

So i'll wander happily off to prepare more patterns for sale, and maybe manage to take some pictures of the Experimental Dance Knickers for a future post.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Well, the Showcase thing seems to be driving some traffic, and i sold the first Showcase-featured pattern before 8:00 this morning. Better yet, the customer bought a second pattern at the same time! This is the one i pulled for the Showcase:

Gorgeous, isn't it? Copyright 1949, very New Look. It came pretty close to going into the personal stash, i'll admit. It's gone, but there are others...

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I like to dance. A lot. Enthusiastically, and in full skirts (if it doesn't have a four-yard hem, why bother?)... so i end up wearing something underneath, usually bike shorts. Bike shorts are unsatisfactory for a number of reasons. They rarely stay put, and it's hard to find them in natural fibers, that last being really essential for dancing, because it gets hot in a hurry, no matter the season or the weather. (Yes, i've tried the allegedly-wicking synthetics; no luck - still feels like wearing petrochemicals.)

So i'm adapting an old pants pattern - huzzah for 25-cent patterns at the thrift store, cheap enough to slice and dice! - to make something that's kind of a quick-and-dirty version of an Edwardian set of drawers. Decided to skip the shaped waistband and try a drawstring, at least for the experimental phase... and i got the first prototype pulled off the back burner and cut out tonight.

I have to make sure the tinkering i've done to the pattern doesn't do anything really funky to the assembly process, and suspect that part ought to wait until i've had some sleep. I don't want another Norlund hood débacle (i'll tell that sad tale of woe in another post...). Hope to soon have pictures and reports on field-testing.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Planning for the holidays

Recently, at a hamfest of all places, i found a wonderful cookbook. (For the uninitiated, a hamfest is a gathering of - as the spouse puts it - mostly "cranky middle-aged white guys," for the buying and selling of radio gear...)

Said cookbook was published in 1914 by the Oakland Civic Club, of Oakland, Maryland. It's full of wonderful, vague old recipes. I was on a bit of a canning kick when i bought it, but have since discovered other gems - there's a recipe for "Poor Man's Spice Cake" that's almost identical to one my cousin gave me years ago. And there's this pumpkin pie recipe:

"4 eggs, 1 pt. milk, 3 c. cooked pumpkin, sugar to suit taste, 1 wine glass of rum and brandy each, a little cinnamon. This is enough for 2 pies. - Mrs. O. T. Treacy."

I took one look at this, and immediately rechristened it "Drunken Punkin" - and i'll definitely be trying it out this fall. Would have tried it by now, except i don't think i've got either the rum OR the brandy on hand...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Feeling brave?

Just listed this gorgeous Hollywood pattern from about 1946 - it's such a fabulous, flattering design! But somewhere in the last 60-odd years, it was parted from its instruction sheet and the piece for the back facing. It's a little daunting with an unprinted pattern, but i think it would be worth it, don't you?

As for the back facing, since the front isn't faced (presumably the yoke should be doubled), i think i would just lean toward lining the entire bodice - china silk, maybe? - and not even bothering to draft the back facing.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fun with Pattern Research

In chatting at a local history program, a friend seemed disappointed to learn that i don't have any 1920s patterns in stock right now. Turns out she's looking for something to use for uniforms for domestics, something that would be appropriate to the 1918-1922 period they want to portray at Morven Park. Never one to pass up an interesting research challenge, i said i'd look into it a bit and see what leads i could send her.

(That 1927 dressmaking book i just got is looking better all the time... and i've got another one inbound that was printed in 1922, but to judge from the plates, the content is from the teens; pictures when it arrives, i promise)

A lot of the photos online have little or no accompanying info (date, location, rights...), and so aren't the sort of thing you want to steer people to, but gave me a bit of an idea what reproduction and period patterns i could recommend. I'm pretty comfortable up through the late 19th century, but haven't done much 20th - this was fun. And who knows, maybe it'll turn into another project.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Momcat (Zelda) and the brood have returned.

The kitten who stayed behind is named Winston. The other four are still searching for names.

Most of today was devoted to a balloon launch with the spouse and the radio club, along with some students and a professor from Shepherd.

Watching some nice lots of patterns that will be wrapping up on auctions soon.

Hoping people will come out of the woodwork to do some end-of-the-weekend shopping for patterns...

...and trying to figure out just how to price a very swell but incomplete 1940s Hollywood pattern.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Art of Dressmaking

My latest find from the Berryville Old Book Shop (where they always have a fascinating assortment of books that part me from quite a lot of my disposable income) is a 1927 dressmaking guide from Butterick:

I don't know quite how they did the moiré cover, which didn't photograph particularly well, but i thought it was a charming touch.

The book has all sorts of hand-finishing details that have dropped out of more modern sewing guides in my collection - want to brush up on drawnwork, or how to apply ostrich or marabou trim? It's in here...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

New (old) patterns

Finally posted some of the recent batch at fripperie - some nice 1940s stuff in this lot, go have a look (there's more to come). I decided, as an experiment, to spring for a showcase spot. I'll be very interested to see whether it proves to be worthwhile for the shop... when your highest priced items are around 15 bucks, $7 a day for a showcase spot takes some consideration. But if it really does get people looking, might be worth losing a bit on a couple of patterns. Here's hoping...

Meanwhile, here's one of the ones that went up today, a 1940 (probably, but maybe very late 1930s) Du Barry pattern:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Wool sweater weather

Chilly and damp again today, so i finally dug out a bulky sweater. It came from the thrift store a year or so back, intended for a felting project, but i liked it so much it somehow ended up in my drawer instead. A good day to grab a book and a mug of something hot (cocoa, chai, eggnog, mulled wine?) and curl up under a quilt...

That, unfortunately, is not on my agenda today. Need to prep for the arrival of a couple hundred pounds of beef, which will involve some considerable time in the cellar, making room to move the freezer before filling it with lots of heavy chunks of cow. We ordered a 1/4 cow from a nearby farm, a new adventure for us, and we're scheduled to pick it up this afternoon.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


So then, a shot of the odd pockets, as promised:

What's hard to make out, because my camera is very balky about shooting close-ups and details, is the way the pocket has been seamed on the bias in the striped fabric/short smock view - definitely not dowdy.

I don't know if dressing like this would make me any more enthused about housework, but gosh, it's worth a try, right?

Meanwhile, rain has delayed woodcutting operations (it's getting to be that time of year, when i start to look longingly at the woodstove...) and i think the weather has also encouraged a mighty nap vortex amongst the felines. Fitzgerald and the as-yet-to-be-properly-named tabby kitten have curled up and passed out on the shabby overstuffed chair.

Momcat and the rest of the litter took off a few days ago, presumably to complete the kittens' education in the hunting arts. For whatever reason, this little guy stayed behind, and Fitz has taken over mothering duties for him. It's all pretty overwhelmingly cute. You've been warned.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Time stamps

...are for some reason behaving very strangely. I shall endeavor to figure it out in the a.m., as regardless of what Blogger thought, these last two were done at nigh on 11:30 p.m.

New Goodies

Delightedly pawing through a new shipment of vintage patterns, most of which will be heading to the shop in the coming days... lots of Simplicity, a couple Advance, and a few obscure mail order patterns that will be fun to try to trace. A fair number of 1940s patterns in this lot, and for some reason, rather more sleepwear than you might expect - the vagaries of what folks bought, sewed (or didn't), and kept, i guess.

There are two that i think will have to go into the personal stash: a 1944 Simplicity housecoat pattern - nothing like the housecoats my grandmother had - this is princess seamed, with these fabulous kite-shaped pockets (pictures later, perhaps, after sleep...); and a late 40s Advance skirt pattern, which just might pair with a swell McCall's blouse pattern i've got.

Wherefore art thou fripperie?

It's Shakespeare, from The Tempest, if you're wondering. And i'd used "fripperie" on Etsy before ever hearing it from Trinculo - i'd discovered the term years ago, on a tangent to some research on medieval guilds. Since it relates to trim and decoration and used clothing, it seemed perfect for lots of the things i'm fond of, and i shamelessly appropriated it. Wouldn't you want to be a fripperer?

A short, sweet intro, and i must be off to check on my increasingly theoretical day job...