Saturday, December 19, 2015

White Christmas

Well, signs are it won't be a white Christmas here in Connecticut as it is way to warm, so I went in search of something white instead and found this blog about the Sheelin Lace Musuem and Irish crochet lace. Looks a lot like snowflakes and snow.....

                                                            Can you spot the holly leaves?

Have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

SAGANews Blog will be back in the New Year.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Taking Ironing to the Extreme

Do you like to iron?  I mean that weekly wash ironing, not the pressing and ironing needed when making something like a baby gown or christening dress. I am not particularly fond of it myself. It is a necessary chore and I like things to look nice when I wear them so I do it. But did you know there was such a thing as Extreme Ironing?

Now I though my mother was an extreme ironer as she irons everything (I had a cone bra way before Madonna- yes, it was ironed!) but the members of the Extreme Ironing Board (EIB)(yes, I am sure the pun is intended!) really do go that little bit further.

By extreme, I mean climbing mountains with the iron and ironing board and then pressing a shirt or climbing to the top of a cliff or running in a marathon carrying the ironing board and iron? Well, apparently there are people out there who take their ironing to the extreme. It started in England, in 1997, with a man (yes, a lot of men iron) who after a days work at a knitwear factory came home to a pile of ironing and decided that he would take it outside in the garden to do as it was better than just standing inside. The idea caught on and with his friends he formed the EIB and took on the name Steam. The 'sport' of ironing has not looked back.

You can see a whole lot more on the official Facebook page:

or just Google Extreme Ironing

Looking at the photos I think I will just stick to standing in the kitchen and doing my ironing!

(Thanks to my chapter member Jan for the lead to this interesting piece).

Monday, December 7, 2015

If the shoe fits.....

In a case at a local historical society is a beautiful shoe from the 18th century. It is made from a woven fabric and the edges are bound with contrasting fabric. The shoe ties with a silk ribbon bow (the piece of ribbon used is obviously not original). The heel and pointed toe would be in fashion today and then, as now, shoes were integral part of completing a women’s outfit.  But one big difference is the fact that there was no difference between the right and left shoe! Both were the same.  Also, the soles of the shoes were so flimsy that the wealthy women would often buy new shoes every week. So they have a lot in common with many of the fashionistas of today.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

SAGANews item intrigues a member

I received an email concerning the latest issue of SAGANews from a SAGA member in Australia:

As an Australian SAGA member I need to ask you for assistance. Receiving SAGANews today I am interested in the article on silk ribbon pattern weights, but am a loss as to what BB's are. 

Can you help me, I am intrigued. 

I must admit I had not thought of someone not knowing what BB's are. I emailed her the answer and am sure there is something similar in Australia, but it got me thinking about how, even though we share a common language, how something simple can be confusing!

This is especially pertinent to me, as I have had to adapt many of the words I use, as coming from England, again, the common language, but very different words and usage.

Take haberdashery. In the UK that means buttons, threads, ribbons, zippers-what Americans would term as notions, not items in a menswear department such as hankies, socks etc. Imagine my confusion when, newly arrived in  America, I asked where to find the nearest haberdashery shop!

And here is an interesting tidbit for you:

Saint Louis IX, King of France 1226–70, is the patron saint of French haberdashers. In Belgium and elsewhere in Continental Europe, Saint Nicholas remains their patron saint, while Saint Catherine was adopted by the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers in the City of London

Oh, and one question- how come SAGANews has reached Australia, but not got to me in Connecticut yet?

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Beautiful Sewing Machine

So beautiful it was a show piece in the owner’s home, and why not it is very attractive with the ornate decoration and cabinetry. Though looking at the piece on display at the historical society, it would seem to me that the owner didn’t use it too much.

This machine was custom made for Mary Wheeler, whose husband was co-founder of the Wheeler and Wilson Manufacturing Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The machine was made in the 1850’s when the company had just moved to Bridgeport and went on to become one of the city’s largest manufacturers in the decades that followed.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Costuming a Drama for Television

I have been watching a show on Public Television called 'Indian Summers', about British expats in India in 1932, which is on the cusp of change as it fights for independence.

The series is set in India, but filmed in Malaysia and some of the places used were hacked free of vegetation to be brought to life for the series. That in itself is a feat, as the results on the show are beautiful, but what of the costumes? As with any period piece, the costumes are authentic to the times and I was surprised to read that rather than raid the stocks in some film/television costume warehouse, the costumes were especially made for this series.

The costume designer, Nic Ede, took sketches, and everything from the main characters to the extras in the crowd scenes was made in Penang, including the shoes, made by a shoe maker who taught Jimmy Choo! The fabrics were sourced locally too and lengths intended for saris were turned into beautiful dresses for the woman in the series. The men's traditional items, pajamas (yes, that is originally an Indian word) and dhotis were bought in Mumbai, India from shops which are government owned and still loom the textiles today as they did in the 1930's. 

Here is the link to read more about the costumes and the show:

As with any series, it is wonderful to watch, not just the story, but the history, costumes and scenery and especially nice to see warm weather when the chill of winter is approaching here in Connecticut!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Last Issue of SAGANews

for 2015 is in the mail!

That grabbed your attention, didn't it! So, SAGANews Volume 36 Issue 4 is now in the mail. Please don't stalk your mail carrier as it can take up to 6 weeks from when it leaves the printer before it appears in your mailbox, but it is on it's way. Something to look forward to.

Here is the cover for a little teaser as to the projects in this issue.

So, let me know when you receive yours and if you like it.

And don't forget to renew your SAGA membership before December 31, 2015, otherwise this might just be your last issue of SAGANews!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Window Dressing Props

New York is a constant source of items for this blog! I am always amazed at what I find on the streets or in shop windows or see just walking around.

This vintage hankie was tucked into a recent window display at Berdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue. The window was designed to represent the movie Crimson Peak which was due to be released within that week. The window was full of debris and very dark, but tucked away in that debris was this little piece of white- a hankie.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Baroque Music Lady

Maybe this post should have gone out on October 31 for Halloween, but then maybe this lady doesn't look spooky to some of you!

She was singing (!) and dancing with her partner in Central Park, New York. They were under an archway near the lake so the music(?) echoed making it even more interesting (?). What attracted my attention was her lace dress. 

Just sharing it with you as it was rather pretty. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

History on a Pattern Piece

I recently purchased a vintage Simplicity pattern at a textile show. The pattern is a cute blouse-slip and jumper or sundress with panties. I see lots of possibilities for using the pattern and it has cute lambs to embroider or applique which made me smile! However, there is no date on the pattern envelope. You can guess at the era by the design and the packaging-somewhere in the late '50's or early 60's. (Did I say vintage-what does that make me?!)

On opening the pattern to check the pieces were all there, I discovered that the panties pieces were missing. Oh, well, the rest of the pattern was there, along with hand written notes about what to add where and dates for 1961  and 1962. That is a help in dating the pattern, but then, folded with the pattern direction sheet, I found a panties pattern-well it was copied onto pieces of newspaper. As it turns out, not the pattern pieces that were in the original pattern, but obviously one the maker thought worked better for her purposes. It is an all-in-one piece and again, has hand written instructions and comments on it, but what was interesting to me was the fact that the newspaper helped date the pattern-very accurately.

The paper is the New York World Telegram (and Sun) and dates from July 18, 1961, which was a Tuesday, by the way. The headline proclaims "Kennedy Warns Kremlin of 'Grave Danger' in Berlin". The inside page shows refugees from East Germany lining up to be processed after escaping to West Berlin. A piece of history.

Oh! and by the way if you wanted to buy a Pontiac Tempest it would have cost you $2156.63, and it is shown pulling a folding tent/trailer all ready for the summer vacations!

Other interesting items from the news columns:

It was 90 degrees in New York.

The Space Administration were planning on launching a manned Mercury space craft that day as weather had improved. It would be the second manned space flight. It had been postponed the previous day due to bad weather. The astronaut was Vigil I Grissom who, the article says was known for his ability to relax under pressure, as on hearing the news, he yawned and went back to sleep!

So I not only bought something very usable today, but also a history lesson!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Central Park Brides

While on a recent visit to New York City (acting as tour guide to a SAGA friend who had never visited the City before) we were in Central Park and were surprised to see a large number of brides every where.

Turns out, many were on fashion shoots for bridal magazines, stores etc. But at last one was a 'real' wedding photo shoot.

This bride wore beautiful lace shoes with an accent colour showing through. Her bouquet contained flowers with this colour, so I guess that was the 'wedding' colour.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Taming Pleater Threads

How do you keep your pleater threads from getting tangled?

The first time I used my pleater, my spools of thread were left to their own devices-not a good idea as they soon got tangled and rolled everywhere and even become a plaything for the household cats!

Then I saw a board with individual pegs for each spool and my husband was very good and made me one. A great solution and not very expensive. It sat on the counter in front of my pleater and the threads were always neat and the spools stayed put (sorry cats!).

Spool pegs on their board

But as great as that was, I then saw a better solution. I saw a board with the pegs attached and the pleater attached to it too, so then nothing moved or slipped when you were pleating. You can still remove the pleater when necessary, which is great. My father, visiting from England, helped with this version. He used the previous peg board and screwed it to one end of a larger board. He was thoughtful enough to cover the base board with sticky back plastic so the fabrics do not get caught on the rough surface and it can be wiped clean. He also added rubber feet on the underside to stop it scratching the table surface and also help keep it in place when pleating.

My Sally Stanley attached to its board 
with the spool board attached at the back.

So I had a great item to help me pleat and not have to worry about the threads running a-muck-
thanks to my husband and father. I have been happy using it for many years.

Then a few years I was given a 16 row Read pleater by someone who no longer required it. It is a little smaller than my Sally Stanley and easier to use if it needs to be transported (pleating at a Wee Care workshop or demonstrating at a Smock in Public day). It fits nicely in a plastic shoe box, but there is  that problem again-how to tame the pleater threads! It just so happened that my husband was given a bottle of malt whiskey in a rather nice box. I was loathe to throw the box  out as I felt sure I could find a way to re-purpose it. And I did! It is a great pleater thread box for the Read pleater. I purchased some thin dowel and cut it to fit tightly along the length of the box. My spools of thread slide onto the dowel and then when the box closes, the magnetic edge holds the threads in place outside the box. The box is about the same size as the shoe box so they sit on top of each other nicely when they are not being used.

Inside the box, showing the dowel and threads.

The closed box

So let me know how you tame your pleater thread spools.

Pleating 'washing-line' style getting 
ready to teach a smocked ornament class to my EGA chapter!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Valley Forge Retreat

The last SAGA Retreat held in Valley Forge was another great event. The SAGA board worked hard to make the event run as smoothly as possible. Of course unforeseen hitches always occur-like the loss of power to half a sewing machine class, but any problems were soon corrected. This retreat was a little different in so much as their were five teachers, more attendees and the annual meeting, coupled with the board holding their annual board meetings.

So, here are a few highlights of the retreat:

Over 50 raffle baskets-lots of wonderful goodies donated. I actually won a basket donated by Wee Care- a porcelain doll with patterns to use to make her a wardrobe of outfits.

Jann Young receiving her Artisan Master in Smocking certificate. Jann's projects were on show at the Market and will be featured in a future issue of SAGANews.

Joy Welsh won the Smock Across America 'Blue' Contest with a beautiful girls dress. Joy will be writing about this piece in a future issue of SAGANews.  There were 15 entries in the contest and each one very different.

There were 10 SAGA Past President's at the banquet on Saturday evening. Some of whom get together each year and made the retreat part of their annual event this year.

SAGA teachers taking classes, as Judith Adams, Susie Gay and Claudia Newton all took on the roll of student rather than teacher.

If you didn't make it to one of the retreats (and there were quite a few members who made it all three retreats) plan on attending next years event, the SAGA Convention to be held in Hampton, Virginia 20-25 September 2016. I know you will have a great time!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Some vintage finds...

I am lucky enough to live within easy driving distance of the historic town of Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Sturbridge Village is a tourist destination as it replicates life in the 1800’s, with houses, businesses and costumed docents. A popular place for school trips and interesting for adults also.

Outside of the Old Village, the town of Sturbridge has attractions also, such as gift shops, restaurants, a couple of quilt fabric shops and three times a year a huge vintage textile show at a local hotel. The show is held, one day only, on a Monday and marks the start of another, even bigger event in the next town, Brimfield. Brimfield is fields and fields of antiques, bric-a-brac and craft items, along with the food trucks and masses of people buying and selling!

The vintage textile show is held inside the hotel and is much easier to walk around and get to enjoy the eye candy of everything from buttons, lace, clothes from the last century and the ones before; military clothes; denim jeans-you name it you can find someone who has it! But if I am able to go, I tend to look at the booths with the lace, whitework, table linens and such.

And this year I was able to go, along with SAGA President, Lisa Hawkes and we both enjoyed a day of browsing and deciding if we needed to add to our stash or collections! We went to the last show of the year, held in early September and of course, neither of us left without a few, carefully selected, purchases. Even if we didn’t buy too much, just looking at everything is very inspiring and simulating. I came away with some ideas to think about using.

One of the most silliest, but fun items we spotted was a mink coat-for a doll!! Talk about the ultimate in dolly clothes. I don’t know if anyone purchased it…… Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take photos inside of the event, so I couldn't share that 'find' with you.

So if you are ever in the Sturbridge area in May, July or September check the website for dates of this event and maybe you might be able to attend and add to your stash or collection or just be inspired. 

Vintage Textile Show website :

Old Sturbridge Village website:

Friday, October 16, 2015

Patron Saint of Lace

A while ago very long time ago, SAGA member Jane B. emailed me a piece about the Patron Saint of Lace, actually something her son had found. Going through my emails to delete a few I found it and will now,finally, share it with you!

The information came from The Ladies Treasury magazine from 1882.

The item says that St. Francois Regis is the patron saint of lace-workers and how he became such is as follows:

In January 1640 the town authorities of Le Puy, France, posted up, at the four corners of the streets, an ordinance of the Parliament of Toulouse, forbidding under pain of heavy fines, all persons, of what degree soever, to wear lace upon their garments after the seventh day of the month of February following.

The reasons assigned for this ordinance were that so many women were occupied in working lace that it was difficult to obtain domestic service and also that is was desirable to do away with the class distinctions that the wearing of lace marked.

This naturally caused a great sensation in Le Puy and Velay among the merchants, as well as the unfortunate women who existed only by the proceeds of their lace making. They appealed to the great preacher of the day, Jean Francois Regis who procured a revocation of the edict and consequently when he became canonized, he became the patron saint of lace.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Liberty of London

An exhibit celebrating the 140 years of Liberty of London fashions is being held at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey, London, England from 9 October 2015 through to 28 February 2016.

I was determined not to follow existing fashion but to create new ones.” Arthur Lasenby Liberty
Liberty has been at the cutting edge of design and the decorative arts since 1875.

“From the earliest imports and Eastern influenced and artistic dress to present day collaborations, Liberty has occupied a unique place in British fashion. Every garment in the exhibition has been carefully chosen to enable the Museum to represent the incredible range of textile designs created by the firm as well as to present an argument about why Liberty is always ‘in fashion’”. – Dennis Nothdruft, Curator of Liberty in Fashion
The exhibition will explore Liberty’s impact on British fashion, from Orientalism and Aesthetic dress in the 19th century, through Art Nouveau and Art Deco in the early 20th century, and the revival of these styles since the 1950s. Liberty Art Fabrics and the textile design studio take centre stage as the internationally recognised leader in floral, paisley and patterned prints and dress fabrics.

Featuring over 150 ensembles and accessories, this exhibition will boast the largest number of historic Liberty artefacts since the company’s centenary in 1975. Of the items on display, the oldest include a cape from the 1890s constructed form Chinese shawls, a Paul Poiret silk robe from the 1930s and a late 1960s Macedonia print dress. These archive pieces will sit alongside high profile contemporary collaborations including Vivienne Westwood and Nike.
So if you are in London and have some time, why not give this museum and exhibit a visit?

Fashion and Textile Museum
83 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3XF

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Just in case....

If you are at the last SAGA Retreat of 2015 in Valley Forge that is great!

But, just supposing you have forgotten something you need for class? Well, it just happens that right across the road from the DoubleTree Hotel is a sewing shop! Yes, directly across the road-Steve’s Sewing and Vacuum (Details at the end of this blog post). Of course, you do not need to have forgotten something to visit the shop, after all, it is just across the road and you need to get out of the hotel at least once, right?

Then, should you have won too many raffle baskets on Saturday evening and are wondering how best to get them home, there is a FedEx office a short walk from the hotel.  The office is open from Noon until 6 pm on Sunday-how convenient is that? (Details at the end of this post)

Steve’s Sewing and Vacuum

Steve's Sewing Vacuum and Quilting of King of Prussia offers over 3000 bolts of quality fabrics, perfect for quilting or garment sewing. Steve's services all brands of sewing, embroidery, and serger machines and sells quality Bernina, Baby Lock, and Janome machines.


268 W. DeKalb Pike (202)
King of Prussia, PA 19406

PH: 610-768-9453
PH: 800-585-9453

Store Hours:
Monday – Friday: 10am-9pm
Saturday: 10am-5pm
Sunday: 12noon-5pm
FedEx Office Print & Ship Center
99 Town Center Rd
King Of Prussia, PA 19406
(610) 962-0444
Cross W. Dekalb Pike (Route 202) and head east (away from the mall) to Town Center Road. FedEx is a block down on the right.
Store Hours:
Mon-Fri 7:30 am-9:00 pm
Sat     8:00 am -6:00 pm
Sun 12:00 pm- 6:00 pm

Monday, October 5, 2015

A little reminder.....

......of things you might find useful to take if you are heading off to the last SAGA Retreat of 2015 in Valley Forge.

-Basic Sewing Supplies

-Special class requirements (any pre-class homework?)
-Artisan Card
-Address labels for your raffle tickets (or I have some you can use!)
-Kit Fees-cash or cheques made payable to the teacher
-Pens and pencils
-Name tag holder

-Tote Bag

If you are taking a machine class:
-Sewing Machine- with foot pedal; power cords; presser feet; bobbins etc.
-Cart to help transport the machine

Your Mystery of the Five Diamonds smocked insert for Barbara Meger to see and sign your Artisan card!

Any Wee Care items for donation to local area hospitals.

Raffle Basket-if your chapter has one to donate or you have a personal one, don't forget to pack it!

Table favours-if your chapter made them don't forget to bring them! (Everyone loves seeing what goodies they have to take home with them!)

Friday, October 2, 2015

A Man, a car and lace

So, can you imagine where I saw lace being used on a car? Yes, you did read that correctly-lace and car in the same sentence! I was at the weekly car show held at a local diner, here in Connecticut during August and came across lace. There amongst the vintage cars, hot rods, gleaming engines, tyres and testosterone was one special car that caught my eye.

Lace had been used to decorate the car! How? Well the owner used panels of lace and sprayed paint over them. The image it created is the decoration on his car. Talking to him, Eddie said he obtained the lace from a local petticoat manufacturer for $3 and used each panel twice, as the paint made the lace too stiff to use after that. He was very surprised to have someone actually know what he used to make the decoration on the paint job of the body work.

Eddie has owned the car since he was in high school and it is tricked out with lots of fun features that make it a little unique to say the least (the seats fold down to make a bed; there is a drinks cabinet in the back, plus over 200 lights, dice used everywhere).  Eddie calls his car 'Earth Angel'.
All I can say is -
Summer days, drifting away,
To uh, oh those summer nights...
Tell me more, tell me more!
Like does he have a car?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Byssus-Silk from the Sea

Silk is usually made from the cocoons spun by silkworms - but did you know that there is another, much rarer, cloth known as sea silk or byssus, which comes from a clam? A lady called Chiara Vigo is thought to be the only person left who can harvest it, spin it and make it shine like gold. Chiara lives on the Sardinian island of Sant’Antioco in the Mediterranean. A sign on her door says that nothing in her home is for sale.

Byssus, which is mentioned on the Rosetta stone and said to have been found in the tombs of pharaohs and some believe this was the cloth God told Moses to lay on the first altar. It was the finest fabric known to ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, and one of its remarkable properties is the way it shines when exposed to the sun, once it has been treated with lemon juice and spices.

The raw material used to make the silk comes from the glistening aquamarine waters that surround the island. Every spring Vigo goes diving to cut the solidified saliva of a large clam, known in Latin as Pinna Nobilis. Chiara dives in the early morning so she does not attract too much attention and she has company, as the Italian Coast Guard accompany her. The clam is a protected species. It takes 300-400 dives to gather 200 grammes of the material needed to make the silk!

So, if nothing is for sale, what does the lady do with the silk and the fabric she weaves from it? She gives it to those in need who call on her- couples who have recently married; women who want children as Byssus is believed to bring good fortune and fertility. Most of her visitors are Italian. If she is given a christening gown, she will use the silk to embroider on to it.

Years ago a factory was set up to weave the silk and it ran out of business in three months. It seems you cannot profit from the making of this silk on a large scale and something bad has always happened to those who have tried in the past.

Harvesting and weaving the silk has been a family tradition and Chiara was taught by her grandmother, who in turn was taught by her mother and so on for generations. There are a few other women in Apulia (the heel of Italy) who can weave the silk, but none can make it shine or dye it with the traditional colours as Chiara can. And Chiara is the only person who harvests byssus- the silk of the sea.

To read more about this incredible material please visit the BBC Magazine website

Photo from the BBC Magazine website.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Displaying Vintage Linens

Do you have a collection of vintage linens? You know the sort of thing, it may be hankies; hand towels, doilies or pieces of lace. Maybe you collect one specific type of linen or maybe your collection spans many areas. Whatever you collect, do you display them or keep them stored away somewhere?

I fall into the category of a collector of miscellaneous items. My collection contains something of everything and it is hard to know how to display them so that I might enjoy and be inspired by them, but at the same time keep them away from sunlight and dust.

Somewhere along journey looking for the ideal solution I decided that acid free clear storage pages from the office supply shop and binders was the way to go. This system affords me easy access to look at my pieces; a way to categorize the items and keeps them away from sunlight and dust.  The system also allows for easy expansion- just buy another binder and more clear pages!

I also acquired or rescued several beautifully embroidered collars. A couple of which were actually uncut. One of these even has some writing on waste area of fabric which I think is the name of the person who either embroidered or ordered it. It is very faint and illegible, which is unfortunate. These collars are so pretty that I decided to frame them and that decision made, I went with glass back and front so it is easy to see both sides of the pieces. These frames are displayed on a shelf in my spare bedroom, which is first and foremost a sewing room which I let overnight guests use to sleep in!

I still have linens and lace pieces stored in a cupboard. Pieces I hope to use to make something with one day and pieces for trimming that special piece. The pieces that are on display or in my storage folders are the crème de la crème items!

So how do you store your special collections? I would love to know. I am always looking for a better or alternative way to preserve my pieces and also have them easily to hand for inspiration.