Sunday, December 12, 2010

A giveaway - and an adventure

It's my birthday, and there's all that general holiday goodwill about, so i decided it's high time for another giveaway.  My grandmother is also a December baby, and because it makes me think of her, this time i've picked out a great 1940s suit (wartime, i suspect, from the admonitions to conserve that are printed on the instruction sheet), number 6300 from Superior, which was the house pattern line for Sears.

The jacket has the most wonderful pockets, which join into the front dart.  The skirt is a no-nonsense eight gore number.  A tied belt softens the lines of the whole thing just a bit.
Now, here's where the adventure part comes in: i'm not positive of the size of this pattern.  It's stamped on the top right corner, but it's not a complete impression.  I think it's a Size 14, which would in this case mean a 32" bust, but it's also possible that it's a Size 16, which would be a 34" bust.  But isn't a jacket this slick worth a muslin to get the fit right?  I thought so.

What do you have to do to have a chance to win this lovely stocking stuffer?  To enter, all you need to do is to stop by the shop, pick out your favorite item, and leave a link to it in a comment here.  I'll draw for a winner on Thursday, December 16, at 3:00 p.m. EST, so be sure to make your choice and leave your comment by then!

(For those who want more details on the pattern, it's pre-cut and complete, instructions are in good shape and the envelope is quite nice; the skirt pieces appear to be unused, but the jacket front and back show wear at notches and perforations, and on the jacket front there's a small tear at the inside of the curve of the pocket, size uncertain but probably a 32" or 34" bust measurement.)

Monday, December 6, 2010


Last year, i tried out the pumpkin pie recipe i'd found in a cookbook published in 1914 by a ladies' club in Western Maryland.  It's a pretty basic pumpkin custard, with the addition of "1 wine glass of rum and brandy each" - a wine glass, when used as a unit of measure, translates to four ounces, or half a cup.  (This useful fact i discovered in another vintage cookbook.)  It makes for a very boozy pie indeed, actually too sharp to be pleasant with the pumpkin.  Even when slathered with lots of whipped cream...

So this year, i set out to tinker with the recipe, because i thought the idea had promise.  Here's my current version:

4 cups pumpkin (cooked and puréed)
1 pint half-and-half
4 eggs
sugar to taste (this can vary substantially, depending on the sweetness of your pumpkin - i used about a cup and a half, with a fairly sweet pumpkin purée)
1-2 Tbsp. molasses
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/3 cup rum
1/3 cup brandy

In a large bowl, add half-and-half and eggs alternately to the pumpkin purée.  Sift the salt and spices with the sugar in a separate bowl, and gradually stir into the pumpkin goop, mixing well.  Add molasses, rum, and brandy, and stir, being sure the molasses doesn't just sink to the bottom of the bowl.  Pour into pie shells (you'll have plenty for two regular pies, or possibly one regular and one deep dish) and bake promptly, at 350F.  I'd start checking it after an hour, but especially if you've prepared your own pumpkin (which always seems to be wetter than the canned stuff), it will probably take more like an hour and a half to bake before it's set.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Not quite as planned...

Home late, gather wood, relight woodstove, preheat oven, bake bread that had to be abandoned earlier in the day, wash dishes, fetch more wood, feed critters... collapse in a heap.

And i felt so organized this morning!  (Well, technically, that's yesterday morning now.)  But the afternoon sort of went haywire, and took the rest of the day with it.  Not that it was all bad - bits were quite pleasant - but i'm definitely ready to wrap this one up.

Here's hoping Thursday is less... unruly.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fa la la la la...

I'm a sucker for Christmas music.  And i love getting to play it with family and friends.  No formal concerts scheduled this year, but in addition to whatever we play at home, we'll have music at the Thursday sessions at O'Hurley's (the photo is from Christmas time at O'Hurley's last year, with Jacob trying out the wonderful Copeland whistle i'd gotten as a birthday present), and the beloved Eat-and-Sing at Goose Creek: a huge potluck at the meetinghouse, followed by carols, including a very silly rendition of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and my favorite traditional carol, "Good King Wenceslas" (the men singing the king's part, and the women, the page's - except for the years we decide to switch).  A few years back, the scheduled night for the event coincided with an impressive ice storm, which knocked out power to the meetinghouse, but thinned the crowd not one bit.  We went ahead by candlelight, and it was a magical evening... (though no one was quite sure what they had put on their plates at the potluck).

What's the music that makes your holiday season?

Sunday, November 28, 2010


This photo really says all you need to know about this kitten.  I'm still looking for the proper name for her.
 She's very helpful while i'm trying to do listings, make edits to the Vintage Sewing Patterns Wiki, check pattern pieces...

Monday, November 15, 2010

In which the prodigal returns. Also, a sale...

This is Eliot.
(He's one of Zelda's offspring, formally known as "Eliot, Son of Cheeky Bastard")  Sometime around early August, i made young Eliot an appointment with the vet, through the nice folks at Spay Today.  And he promptly disappeared.  They let me reschedule his appointment a couple times, but when i still couldn't find him, i went ahead and applied that credit toward getting Zelda spayed, which definitely needed to be done.  The kittens are adorable, of course, but there are only so many suckers in my circle of friends willing to adopt them.

Last night, Eliot turned up on the porch, meowing to be let in, as though nothing had intervened over the four months or so he's been missing.  He's friendly, rumbly, affectionate, and apparently healthy.  (He's also still terrible about hopping onto the kitchen counter, alas...)

But having used his appointment for Zelda, i now need to come up with more money to get Eliot neutered, and quickly.  And that's where the "Get Eliot Fixed" sale comes in: buy two or more items from Fripperie, enter "Eliot" in the message to seller section, and i'll refund 20% of the price of your items, now through November 21, 2010 (refund via PayPal - if you're not paying with PayPal, convo me first, and i'll set up a reserved listing for you, with the adjusted price).  Stop by the shop and see if there's anything you can't resist...

Monday, November 8, 2010

How did i get myself into this mess?

So, CREST - the Capital Region Etsy Street Team - is having a blog hop, with team members talking about how they got into their craft.  I don't sell handmade items in my shop (though i make lots of them), but there's still a lot of knowledge - even craft - that goes into seeking out, researching, and describing vintage patterns.  It's been an unlikely sort of path to get here...

My mother tried valiantly to teach me to sew.  And despite my resistance, i'd learned some of the bare essentials: to lay out and cut a pattern, thread a sewing machine (though as a kid, i was strictly forbidden to touch the tension knob...), do some basic handsewing and embroidery, how to shop at a fabric store.  But i really didn't want to sew.  After all, i figured i could get Mom to do it.  It wasn't until i got to college and started playing with living history - i ended up interning for the costume director at Jamestown Settlement - and i realized that even if i could find the garments i wanted, i couldn't afford to pay anyone to make them.  Mom was inconveniently far away, and not really interested in the research angle.  But how hard could it be to sew them myself?

Approximately the third garment i ever stitched was a reconstruction based on an archaeological report: no pattern, lots of grading, measurement conversion, the works.  Definitely the trial-by-fire approach.  Not, perhaps, sensible - and probably not what i'd recommend to others - but very, very educational.

A college roommate had a 1950s dress pattern.  It seemed a curiosity.  It wasn't until several years later (when i was working at G Street Fabrics) that i met a vintage pattern collector.  G Street was itself a fabulous education in textiles and sewing of all sorts, and i was by then deeply interested in costume history, but mostly earlier stuff - 19th century seemed late to me, let alone anything recent enough to be called "vintage."  It wasn't until i got back into dancing that i got interested in vintage clothing.  I made a deal with a friend that i would go to dance swing and ballroom with him, if he would go and dance English Country (think of all those set dances in Jane Austen flicks) with me.  Before i knew it, i was out shopping for vintage dresses to wear to dances.  But i'm not small, and dresses aren't cheap.  It was back to sewing, and my own serious and growing addiction to vintage patterns...

Want to check out other team members' stories?  Follow the links below:
Sandi Volpe Designs
Birch Tree Jewelry
Sew Artsy
Collage and Clover
{Life as we live it}
The Twisted Cow
Turquoise Angels
Crazy Mokes
The Dragon Nthly
The Planet Geek Chronicles
Of Cats and Crafts
RAM Jewelry Designs

Monday, October 4, 2010

Old fashioned

It's hard to argue with a good pound cake.  And this weekend, at a bake sale at the Friends' meetinghouse, i got a good pound cake.  Which, happily, had a photocopied recipe taped to the top:

Grandmother's Pound Cake
Use an electric mixer for superior cake.  Pound cake improves if stored a day or two.  Butter is its characteristic flavor, but you may like to add 1/2 teaspoon mace, or 2 tablespoons brandy or orange juice, or 1 tablespoon caraway seeds, or 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Butter and flour a large loaf pan or two or more small ones.  Set the oven at 300F.

Cream until light and fluffy
     1 cup butter
     1-2/3 cups sugar
Beat in, one at a time
     5 eggs
When creamy, fold in
     2 cups pastry or cake flour
     1/4 teaspoon salt
Spoon into the pan.

Bake about 1-1/2 hours.

Ginger Pound Cake.  Add 2 tablespoons yellow ginger to the mixture.

Imperial Cake.  Cut 1/2 pound seeded raisins in pieces and dredge lightly with flour.  Break 1/2 cup walnut meats in pieces.  Grate the rind of 1/2 lemon.  Prepare the cake batter and add 2 teaspoons lemon juice.  Fold in the raisins, nuts and lemon rind, and bake.

For the record, the one i got had caraway seeds, and i don't think that's a version i'll repeat - the rye bread association is just too ingrained.  Now, poppy seeds, with lemon, perhaps... or a hint of maple, maybe with the orange juice and vanilla... i can see lots of other variations.     

Friday, September 24, 2010


I picked up this hat some months back, visions of Easter bonnets dancing in my head.  And then i found that i had a heck of a time finding anything to pair with it: it's a straw hat, which says "casual" - but then it's trimmed with Guipure lace and hefty rhinestones, both of which say "dressy."

I'm currently leaning toward something fit-and-flare, made up in a cotton, perhaps a plain sateen, or a tiny floral print on a nice lawn.  Dress trimming might involve lace and/or rhinestones - i recently saw a '50s dress in a casual print trimmed with rhinestones (can't for the life of me find a link to the blog post now, of course), which almost has me convinced, and i'm not generally a fan of rhinestones.  I thought about pintucks, but the lace motif is so swirly, i'm not sure the strong straight lines of pintucks wouldn't fight with it.

It plainly needs some remedial steaming, and unfortunately, it looks like the veiling is past saving, and will need to be replaced - i'm holding out for silk veiling.

So what would you match with this hat?  Bonus points for sharing good sources for silk hat veiling!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Mmm, pancakes

After chatting on Twitter about canning, the delightful SarahAnntiques and i decided that it would be fun (though not, perhaps, economical...) to exchange jars of things we had put up.  Jams and jellies were swapped, and in the back-and-forth, we mused that some of the lovely, sweet-tart, fruity goodness would be simply brilliant on pancakes.

I have - from my mother, who got it from the mother of a friend of hers, many years ago - an obscenely buttery pancake recipe.  After testing it out, Sarah insisted i publish it here, for your breakfasting (or dining) pleasure:

Griddle Cakes

1¼ c. sifted flour
2½ tsp. baking powder
3 T. sugar
¾ tsp. salt
3 T. butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
¾ c. milk

Sift together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Combine egg, milk, and melted butter and add to dry ingredients all at once, beating with a spoon or mixer until smooth. Drop batter from a tablespoon onto a hot griddle (375°F for electric griddle). Cook on one side until puffed and full of bubbles that break, then turn and cook on the other side. Makes about 11 four-inch cakes.

Okay, that's the recipe as i got it. Disclaimer time: you will need more milk than it calls for. I generally add a splash at a time to keep the batter at the right consistency as i cook. And “smooth” is a relative term – you may still have tiny flour clumps, and that's fine, they'll sort themselves out. I usually make a double batch and freeze some, as they take it surprisingly well.

So pick your jam (thin ones are best for pancakes!) or syrup (don't even think about anything that uses the word "flavored" - this demands the real stuff), and sit down to a steaming stack of pancakes.  You can thank us later - wouldn't want the pancakes to get cold.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The ones i'm keeping

Picked up a little lot of four patterns recently, and found, to my delight, that all three of the adult patterns included were larger sizes.  The '60s Vogue dress and the cute little girls' skirt, jumper, and blouse will both be headed to the shop, but these two Advance patterns will be staying:

The one on the left, 3001, is from about 1942, and the housecoat on the right, from 1950.  Both patterns have a 40" bust!  And oh, the pockets on them!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

If you've been waiting... would be a good time to stop by Fripperie and take a look at the vintage patterns, sewing books, and notions: it's been a year since the very first listings were posted at the shop, so i'm having a sale!  If you enter the code "1YEAR" in the "message to seller" box, i'll take 10% off your entire order.  This sale lasts through September 12, 2010 - shop early and often!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Vintage show-and-tell

Southern Lady's Vintage has proposed a regular Saturday blog tour of fun vintage finds, and the first round is to consist of cookbooks - one of my personal vintage weaknesses.  So without further ado, here's my contribution:
This particular gem is from 1951 (though it's the 21st printing - versions were evidently out there from the late 1930s), and i got it at a bag sale when one of my pet thrift shops was getting ready to move.  (Along with some 1910s and 1920s handsewn garments, and a swell '60s birdcage hat... don't hate me.)

It's got a few recipes that look promising, like this cheddar and ale bisque:

And also some that look, well, like nothing i'd ever voluntarily eat, like the Tomato Aspic Buffet Mold below:
But the best part about this cookbook is the table of measures and equivalents, because there it has really useful translations, ones that help decipher recipes in older cookbooks, like that 1914 one i've posted from.  It tells you, for instance, that a "wine glass" when used as a measure, should equal 4 ounces, or half a cup.  It gives you temperatures that correspond to terms like "moderately slow oven" - and THAT is really handy.

Monday, August 23, 2010

In the mail

My best friend (check out her blog, here) apparently remembered how cranky i got when she went to a David Macaulay book signing, oh, 15 years ago or thereabouts, and she didn't tell me about it or take any books along for me.  "Didn't know you'd be interested," she said.  I think i sputtered indignantly.  We'd talked about how much we loved Motel of the Mysteries after all...

So today, when i found an unexpected bookish package in my mailbox containing two signed volumes, the first inscribed "better late than never" and the second, "things have a way of working out" - i howled with laughter.
Forgive my hasty - and therefore crooked - photos.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Bragging rights

So i took the nomad dress from the last post, and entered it at the Clarke County Fair - a plan i'd hatched mainly to give myself a deadline for finally finishing it.  For grins, i also took along a silk scarf i'd tie-dyed recently, and entered that as well.  Both came home dangling blue ribbons, which was kinda fun...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Long awaited...

I'm reluctant to say how long i've been muttering about making this dress, but after lots of starts and stops, it's finally done. Might do it again, but not without some more tinkering with the pattern - it's Folkwear 107, the Afghani Nomad Dress.  I'd like it a bit longer, for one thing.  It says ankle length, but it was nowhere close, even before hemming - and i'm only about 5'4" so there's usually more length than i need.  I'd want to nudge where a few of the seams land, just a bit.  But i'm really happy with the colors, and the way the fabrics behave.  It will be fabulously twirly for dancing, and perfect for wintertime in the stunning but unheated Spanish Ballroom...

The bodice is an allover eyelet worked on a linen, and the sleeves are rayon velvet and a linen damask.  The skirt back patch, underlining, and assorted other small bits are cotton.  The main part of the skirt is a rayon challis, and lots of it.  Five full widths, for a hem that's in the neighborhood of seven and a half yards.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

And the winner is...

...Carolyne Tillery, of ohhellodear - you should take a look at her shop, lots of very cute prints and hand-painted ACEOs, at prices suitable for gifts or small personal indulgences!  Here's one i fancied:

Thanks to everybody who entered!  This was fun, and i think i might have to do it again sometime, so stay tuned...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Huzzah - a giveaway!

Fripperie just reached 100 sales, and 100 shop hearts!  So to celebrate, and to thank all you fine folks, it's time for a giveaway!  I'll get right to the good part - here's the pattern i'm giving away:
It's Advance 8511, from about 1958, in a 34" bust.  Those little pleats at the neckline are awfully cute, no?

All you need to do to enter is to stop by the shop, pick out your favorite item, and leave a link to it in a comment here.  I'll draw for a winner on Wednesday, August 4, at 3:00 p.m. EDT, so be sure to make your choice and leave your comment by then!

(For those who want all the details on the pattern, it's cut and complete, pattern pieces all in nice shape; the instruction sheet has had a drawing cut out, which also took out the directions for hemming the blouse, but that part shouldn't be hard to fake.)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The ones i'm keeping

I was going to list his one.  Really.  Had it pulled out, put in order, counted and checked, and it's in fine shape.  I love the ruffles, but i've got a dress with a similar bodice, and if i really had a mind to, i could take a pattern from that.  There are already a couple of 1940s dresses in the project queue.

But when i went to write the listing, i found i couldn't get past the item title.

This is why:

I adore the drawings, and the over-the-top enthusiasm of the description!  Superior seems to have done this with a line of patterns aimed at teens in the '40s - i've seen at least one other set of pattern instructions in the same format.  I haven't been able to pin down an exact date, but suspect it's a wartime issue.  I've tried contacting the Sears archives to get dates for Superior pattern numbers, but haven't ever managed to get a response of any kind.  But there are probably catalogs out there - another research project!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fourth of July Festivities

When you walk in and hear, "Food's here, Irish is in the front room, klezmer in the basement, oldtime on the front porch - oh, yeah, and shape note in the kitchen," it is likely to be a good party.  (Okay, maybe i have weird criteria, but give me food and a chance to play some tunes, especially with people who are better musicians than i, and i'm a pretty happy camper...)

So this year, we'll be going back to Marc's, to wander happily from genre to genre playing music, chatting, and munching.  I think the blurring of the sounds between the different musical styles is a good an illustration as any of the "melting pot," and therefore a tremendously appropriate way to celebrate an American holiday.  Some years, the music's good enough that we don't bother to leave for the fireworks.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New uses for old sewing machines

A few months back, i helped my grandmother move.  She was moving to a smaller place, and one of the many things she planned to leave behind at her old house was her ancient Kenmore sewing machine.  Now, i'd never sewn on this machine, but it was in the room i'd stayed in when i spent summers at her place as a kid.  I kinda liked the cabinet.  And she told me she'd bought it with the first money she'd earned from her first job, sometime around 1939.  (Now, from the model number, it looks like it was probably manufactured a bit later, something like 1947, but Grandma is 88, so we'll cut her a little slack on the chronology... and maybe that was a different machine.)

Anyway, i wasn't about to let it stay behind.  So we had it loaded onto the moving van, and then it went from her old house to her new apartment to my parents' place, and eventually back down here, the heavy old machine having been removed from the cabinet and wrapped in an old blanket for protection on its travels.  I'm still trying to create a spot to wedge it into in the sewing area, and as the machine has waited for a permanent home, the cats have found it a prime sleeping location.  Eliot demonstrates:

And Winston does likewise:


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The CSA report, week 1

We signed up for a CSA (that's community supported agriculture, for those who haven't encountered it before) membership this year.  This is a good thing, because as much as i'd like to grown my own, i'm not very good at it.  Also, there's that living-on-a-wooded-mountain thing: i have little sun, but lots and lots of rocks.  Big, honkin' rocks, in fact.  So it's a good thing that Stoneybrook is close by with their CSA program (nice folks - i play music with a few of them from time to time).  Last Wednesday, we got our first weekly box of veggies: red leaf lettuce, kale, chard, garlic scapes, collard greens, yellow squash, and zucchini.  I've been racing to use it all up - and make room in the fridge - before Wednesday, and our next box.

So the chard and some of the garlic scapes went into some fried rice, i made kale chips (promising, though the recipe i used was too salty), and the lettuce was easy to go through in salads and sandwiches (i have a little left, but i had some from the farm market on hand when i got the CSA lot). I used more garlic scapes in place of green onions in a marinade, and grilled a little more than half the squash and zukes with some local beef tonight.  The collard greens still need to be used, but at least they're not too bulky.  The remainder of the kale will probably go into a revised version of those chips, and i'll figure out something for the last of the squash... there's at least hope for getting the refrigerator closed when i bring home tomorrow's box!

Monday, May 31, 2010

A new toy...

Sewing machines come to live with me.  I'm actually not certain of the exact count at the moment.  I had a machine in college, a fairly stripped down junior-model Singer.  When i worked at G Street Fabrics, i bought my first vintage machine, an old Singer slant with all the attachments.  Others are ones that someone was going to junk, and wouldn't i take it?  I usually do, hoping i can maybe pass it to someone who can use it.  Recently my grandmother was moving, and planned to leave behind the Kenmore machine she bought as a young woman.  Yeah, it's at my house now.

And there are others.

So i hadn't really planned to buy another machine anytime soon.  But at the auction today, there was a lovely old Elgin treadle machine, in its cabinet - in need of cleaning, but relatively intact.  And there wasn't a whole lot of interest among the assembled crowd; a Domestic in a very Art Deco-ish cabinet had just been passed over without a single bid.  And i had a bit of room in the Jeep...

I'm tickled to have a treadle machine join the herd.  The friends i know who have used them have often come to prefer them over electrics, and i'm pretty sure i'll like the control at slow speeds for fussy bits, where i'm always nervous about nudging the pedal a little too hard, and it's also nice to have the off-the-grid option.  Photos to come, but field testing will have to wait for a serious cleaning and oiling, and possibly a new belt...

What do you love to sew on?  Do you prefer a different machine for vintage projects?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Literary kitty

A bit of fluff for a rainy Monday: Fitz catches up on his reading.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Aprons and caps

The Woman's Institute of Domestic Arts & Sciences (you have to admire the sheer chutzpah of the name) published a number of little instructional booklets on dressmaking, patterns, and various types of garments, throughout the 1910s and 1920s.  They're the work of Mary Brooks Picken, who wrote staggering numbers of books on sewing and fashion over the course of her long life.  I've gathered copies of a few of the titles, and thought i'd share some of the pages from a 1922 volume, Aprons and Caps, which opens with the explanation,"Bustles, hoop skirts, and boned bodices come and go, but aprons, like table napkins, seem always necessary."

One imagines she would nod in approval at the renewed vogue of the apron after its near-extinction.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Shy violets

Ages ago, when i was little, i ran across a recipe for violet syrup, in an issue of National Geographic World.  I desperately wanted to try it out, but my mother (deterred perhaps by the range i'd have to cover to find enough violets around our oh-so-suburban townhouse, or perhaps by the experiences that had followed when, to keep me busy, she sent me out to gather acorns which later proved to have worms in them) would not hear of it.

So recently, when a friend posted something on Facebook about gathering some of the violets in her yard for salad, i mentioned wanting to look up a violet syrup recipe.  In one of those happy chances for which i love the Internet, another friend of hers almost immediately posted a link to a recipe.

I have lots of violets around my woodsy home, so there was no obstacle to making up a batch.
The steeping blossoms turn the water such a gorgeous color... and in the "Mr. Wizard" moment for the day, it turns out that the violet water acts like litmus paper, changing different colors when an acid or a base is added.  Since the syrup recipe calls for lemon juice, you get to see it turn a festive pink-purple shade...

The violet taste is a little fainter than i'd like, so next time i think i'll try more flowers in the same amount of water, and see what happens...

(Isn't that old Atlas jar great?  When i first made noises about canning, the spouse came home from an auction with three bushel baskets of old canning jars, so even though not all were salvageable, i've got oodles!)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Half-Size patterns

Pattern companies have, over the years, come up with various ways to help dressmakers fit different figures.  One of these schemes was Simplicity's half-size patterns.  If you look at vintage patterns, you run across them now and again.  I'd noticed that the bust, waist, and hip measurements had slightly different proportions.  But from the name "half-size" and the different measurements, one might reasonably assume that they were intended for women who fell in between the regular pattern sizes...

...but it turns out, that's not all.  I discovered this reading 1940s and 1950s sewing books, like this one.  It doesn't tell you all this on the pattern envelope, and if you don't really study and compare ALL the measurements, you might never know.  Here's what i learned:

Most patterns are drafted to fit someone who's about 5'6" or 5'7" - that part i knew.  Since i'm not that tall, i often have to check and adjust waist length, skirt length, sleeve length.  But a half-size pattern is drafted with narrower shoulders, a little fuller hip, and a shorter overall height - to fit someone 5'3" or 5'4".
This is really useful information, the sort that can save time and grief in fitting patterns (and as i don't have a dress form or a handy fitting assistant, the closer i can start to a good fit, the better...).  I think i need to keep expanding my collection of vintage sewing books, to cover different decades and pattern manufacturers - i don't know what other nuggets i have yet to discover!

I've got a fair collection of books, from the 1910s to the 1970s (excepting the 1930s - have to look for something to fill in that gap).  The good news is that you can now find a lot of this sort of thing reproduced online.  There's Google Books, of course, but my first stop would be - it's a great resource.  (For handy reference at the sewing table, though, it's hard to beat having a print edition in hand!)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Optimistic planting

I planted things today.

It's a triumph-of-hope-over-experience sort of thing.  I am good with small furry creatures... but plants, not so much.  Still, it being spring, i went and stuck seeds in the dirt, and maybe this year will be better than last.  I planted a little patch of native wildflowers, along with green beans, snap peas, cherry tomatoes, lettuces, and some garlic chives - that last being a batch of seeds from my friend Nancy's garden.

And if it doesn't go well, at least there's the CSA subscription to fall back on...

Monday, March 29, 2010

The ones i'm keeping...

...being a periodic peek at my pattern stash and related goodies.

Today's selection?  This early 20th century McCall pattern:

How early?  Well, that's a very interesting question.  It gives a patent date on the back of the pattern, April 21, 1908 (no patent number, which would make it quick and easy to look up, but i'm not complaining...).  However, that patent isn't for an individual pattern design, but for the "guide chart" system that keys the instructions to portions of the garment illustrations.  Yep, that little bitty fine print on the back of the pattern envelope and those tiny little line drawings are all the instructions you get...

So we know at least that it's not earlier than April 21, 1908 - but how much later?  This being a child's pattern, the sizes are given by age rather than measurement, and i know that's an indicator of an older pattern, but i don't know just when McCall switched to sizing them by measurement.  A boy's shirt is also not the trendiest of garments, so the design of the garment only gives you a ballpark on this one.  I have seen early 1920s McCall patterns that have a different, much more ornate envelope design, but don't know if that was used on their whole line, nor exactly when it came into use... more research!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Flea Market Finds

We finally made it to the favorite flea market on Saturday! We had tried the week before, when they were supposed to open for the season, but the whole operation got flooded out. But this past Saturday, it was sunny and 70-ish, so we went a-hunting...

Here's what i left with:

A small leather make-up case, a little smaller than your average train case

A tailor's ham, which will probably go to my sister, since i kept the last one i bought for her...

A sleeve roll (and i've been needing one, but new ones are expensive, and not that easy to find!)

A sewing box, containing mostly unexciting notions, but also a pair of nice Wiss pinking shears

A 1940s craft booklet with instructions and projects for crochet, knitting, tatting, and embroidery - and which turned out to have another knitting pattern stuck inside

Three issues of McCall's magazine from 1940

A school songbook with lots of popular songs from about 1915 to the early 1920s

Not a bad morning's haul, really. Would have been grand to stumble onto some great patterns, or some fabulous vintage fabric (say, just enough for that apron i want to do) - but there's always next time. The thrill of the hunt!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Pondering the Proper Plural of "Peplum"

I am, let it be known, a sucker for a peplum. Probably from the time i was a girl, and there was one of those tiny little illustrations beside the definition for "peplum" in the Webster's Collegiate Dictionary i borrowed from my father when doing my homework... (i am also one of those folks who can get lost reading a dictionary like a novel, which is probably why i remember stumbling across "peplum," instead of some more likely vocabulary word).

I just though it looked so cool, and was dismayed that they didn't crop up on the clothes i saw around me. Now, i know that this problem can be solved through the wonder of vintage patterns. A few photos for your inspiration, all from 1940s patterns:

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Requisite Snow Post

I think everyone in the Mid-Atlantic is required to do one today, so here 'tis. We've got somewhere in the neighborhood of two and a half feet of snow here, in a region that doesn't deal well with more than, say, four inches...

That's the chicken coop. There are no actual fowl visible, because they're all in the doorway of the chickenhouse, making disparaging comments about the weather. My chickens are not fans of snow.
The cats, on the other hand, are. As long as they can come in and sleep by the woodstove, after...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cold Weather Gear

Just a quick view of ways to keep warm, vintage style... if you're going to sew and wear vintage styles, be aware that they look really silly with modern outerwear. Wouldn't want to spoil the effect of all that work, would you?

Capes and cloaks are a great solution - they're quick and easy to sew, look dramatic, and in the right combination of fabrics, can be quite toasty. I lucked into a lot that had quite a few cape patterns - some have already sold, so there's only one listed right now (the Vogue, above), but there are more to come.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Nog on the blog

By way of apology for neglecting the blog through the holidays, let me share the eggnog recipe i've been tinkering with this season...

Now, this is a recipe that uses raw eggs, so if you're not comfortable with that, please seek out another one. I have the unfair advantage of having my own chickens, so i know that they live in the lap of luxury with enough space and organic feed, homemade kefir, and delightful snacks. I know when the eggs were laid and don't have to wonder if they bumped around all over creation for a month before getting to the store. Anyway, i'm pretty confident about the quality of my egg supply, so i don't worry too much about using them raw.


8 eggs, separated
5/8 c. sugar (divided, 3/8 c. and 1/4 c.)
1 c. rum
2-1/2 c. milk
1-1/4 c. heavy cream
vanilla to taste
ground nutmeg

Beat the egg yolks with 3/8 c. sugar. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, then mix in the remaining sugar. Add the beaten yolks gently to the egg whites. Slowly mix in the rum, then the milk, then half of the cream (somewhere in there, a splash of vanilla, too). Whip the remaining cream, then fold it into the eggnog, carefully, so as to preserve the foamy layer. Ladle into cups and top with ground nutmeg - bonus points for fresh grated - and enjoy! This makes plenty for six or eight. I wasn't organized enough to take pictures, i'm afraid, though it looked awfully pretty in my mother's china teacups with an ivy vine pattern...