Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Vintage Pattern Find

Browsing through the shelves at a thrift shop I came across this wonderful pattern.

Handwritten on the envelope is 'Xmas 1936'. I am guessing the original purchaser made one of the views for a daughter for the festivities that year. The pattern cost 25cents. At the thrift shop it was marked 50 cents, but at the cash register I paid only 10 cents! I call that a bargain for a design that would easily work today and is very suitable for an older girl. The pattern is in incredible condition considering that it is 80 years old and the only thing missing from the envelope is the embroidery transfer, but seeing the design on the front of the pattern, it could easily be replicated or something else used in its place. I love that the dress has three sleeve as well as two collar choices.

The bonus to all of this was that inside the envelope was a paper pattern for bloomers (I am guessing that is what it is from the shape) cut from a local newspaper. The date 1936 is visible on one section and the paper was a local Connecticut one from Middletown. One of the readable columns is 'Good Taste Today' by Emily Post. Another column is 'Our Children' by Angelo Patri. There is also a food programme for seven days featuring Fall dishes. It would appear the paper was published around Thanksgiving as at least one advertisement mentions the item would make a wonderful Christmas Gift.

Did you know that in 1936 a portable typewriter could be purchased for $37.50? Or that Arrow shirts cost from $2 each? Butter was 39 cents a pound and lamb was 10 cents a pound!

Even though butter is a little more expensive these days, I think I might just try the recipes for muffins and quick chocolate cake!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Hoppy Easter!

Walking around a local town I spotted this in a shop window:

The smocked insert was actually back smocking with the embroidered bunny heads made of bullions and lazy daisy ears. The bunny bodies were fabric yoyos stitched on. I thought what a quick project this would be! There was also a matching pink girls dress.

(Sorry for the quality of the photos-this happens when you only have your phone with you and the sun is shining on the window!)

Monday, March 21, 2016

SAGA Convention Registration

Registration for the SAGA Convention in Hampton, Virginia will be on 
Monday, May 16 starting at 10:00 am Central Time.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

So today being St. Patrick's Day, what could I blog about? Linen, of course!

Linen is made from the fibres of the flax plant and is one of the oldest textiles known to man. The use of flax fibres to weave cloth in northern Europe dates back to pre-Roman times. Flax fibre cloths have been found in Switerland having been left by Neolithic Lake Dwellers over 10,000 years ago. Use of flax pre-dates the invention of the wheel!

The flax plant

The flax plant is an annual with slender stems with 5-petal flowers of pale blue. The fruit is a capsule of edible brown seeds the size of apple pips. It is an adaptable plant and given the right soil (rich, loamy) it can tolearate many climates. Northern France, Belgium and Holland have been famous for fine quaility flax and it is still grown there today, but the most output these days is from the USSR.

Flax fibres vary in length from 2-15 inches. Two varieties of fibre are extracted from a stem-shorter tow fibres used for coarser fabrics and longer line fibres used in finer linens. The fibre is soft and flexible and stronger than cotton, but less elastic. The best grades are used for linen fabrics such as damasks and sheeting. Coarser grades are used to make rope and twine. Flax fibres are also one of the raw materials used in manufacturing bank notes.
So, back to the Irish connection, which is the manufacture of linen from the flax fibres. For over three hundred years linen manufacture has been an important industry, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries. In Northern Ireland practically every town and village had a mill or a factory.
By 1921 there were almost one million spindles and 37,000 looms, with over 70,000 directly employed, representing 40% of the registered working population, with closer to 100,000 people dependent on the linen industry. Now, less than 10 such companies exist and the work force is around 4,000 people.
Pleated linens at a store in the New York Garment District.

The special and attractive properties of Irish linen are:
(1) In its purified, bleached form the flax fibre is largely pure cellulose with a smooth, highly lustrous surface. It is hygroscopic, that is, it is sensitive to moisture, and absorbs up to one-fifth of its own oven-dry weight of water without being damp on the surface. The personal importance of this quality is evident when one thinks of clothing worn next to the skin.

(2) Bleached linen absorbs water from a wet surface very rapidly and it is smooth, without loose, protruding hairs. This is why flax is by far and away the ideal fibre for making towels of all kinds, glass cloths and handkerchiefs.

(3) Unlike most textiles, flax yarns and fabrics increase about one-fifth in strength on wetting … a fact which is of considerable importance for cloths that have to undergo repeated launderings, particularly in the washing machine age.

(4) Linen fibres swell when wet. In suitably designed fabrics, such as tents, tarpaulins and hose-pipes, the interspaces can be completely closed up to prevent the passage of water; in other words, to make them practically waterproof.

(5) Linen fabrics have the highest resistance to tearing because flax is the strongest natural fibre.

Shimmering linens at a store in New York City

Monday, March 14, 2016

Wooden Boxes

A good friend recently gave me a wonderful gift-two wooden boxes.

Why was this a wonderful gift? Maybe looking at the photos will tell you!

That is a view of Edinburgh from the castle- it looks very different today!
This is the label in the inside of the Edinburgh box

This view is of Oxford

This is the inside of the smaller box.

This is the side view of the smaller box.
Do you see the small 'portholes' around the sides of the box? Each one corresponds to a thread size and there were six thread sizes, so a spool of each would have been in the box and the ends would be threaded from the inside out through the portholes, ready to use! You can see where the thread spools would have been in the box in the photo before this one.

My friend inherited the boxes from a cousin and had been displaying them in her home until a recent move, when she no longer had the space, so now these boxes will be on display in my sewing room, which is what my friend intended.

Friday, March 11, 2016

What do three SAGA members do when they visit New York City? They visit the garment district of course!

The needle and button at the centre of the Garment District

Well one of the three members had a mission-to buy some silk dupioni fabrics for classes she is now teaching, so off to her favourite source the members went. After an hour there was one rolling carry-on cart full of silks being dragged off to lunch.

Sonny at the silk store
Of course, lunch had to be at the correct place- so' Stitch' it was!

After lunch the three headed to Fifth Avenue and The American Girl store. Being a Wednesday in term-time, the store was quiet, making it easy to walk around and find what was wanted. (Who knew that you could take your American Girl doll to the hair salon for restyling?).

Texting a photo to a granddaughter
Purchases made the group then headed for a pick-me-up cup of tea at Starbucks on Madison Avenue before walking back to Grand Central station and catching the train back to Connecticut.

Some of the days purchases
All in all a successful day out-silk purchased; doll accessories acquired; fun with friends; weather 70 degrees and sunny-what could have been better?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Meet Tess Ellenwood

Tess Ellenwood is leading the latest SAGA Smock Along- a Wee Care project with a picture smocked puppy (Visit the SAGA Facebook page to download the directions and start the project), so I thought it would be fun to learn a little about Tess and her life. Tess agreed to answer some of my standard questions so enjoy her answers and if I had a dollar for the times that the answer to the last question has been the same I would be quite rich!

1.      Who taught you needlework skills and when did you first start learning?
As a child, I was surrounded by grandmothers, aunts, and a mom who could sew, knit, crochet, and tat.  Even my dad was accomplished at picking up dropped knitting stitches.  My earliest sewing memory is from when I was little more than two.  My mom had cut the feet from my pajamas because they had gotten too short. I got up in the night, found a needle in the sewing box (it must have been already threaded), and attempted to sew the feet back on.  I’ve been stitching ever since.  

2.      What is your favorite form of embroidery?
I like them all, and I like to morph techniques from one to the other.  If I had to pick, I would say stumpwork, whitework, and Brazilian.  I know; I didn’t really pick. 

3.      When do you find time to embroider/sew?
I used to sew everywhere and all the time.  But since I discovered my work looks exponentially better when I stitch it under extra light and magnification, I try to find time mornings or evenings at home.  My portable project is now knitting socks; lots and lots of socks.  No magnification necessary!

4.      What inspires your design
Absolutely everything!  One time I based a design on a bar of soap.  When we went to the beach, I took a picture of the dime-store rug in the entranceway of the beachhouse rental because I really liked the palette; everyone else was snapping pictures of the ocean. Once, a furniture ad inspired a vest.  When I walk through my yard, I take time to look at the really tiny wildflowers, count their petals, and decide which stitches they could be.  I tend to see tiny pieces of things, not necessarily the whole.  I really have a different drummer (maybe we all do, but just don’t realize it), and I like to push the envelope.  As a consequence, I try a lot of stuff that just doesn’t work :)

5.      Do you attend classes and workshops as well as teach at them?
      I do.  Even if you are an expert, you can still learn; opportunities are everywhere.  The learning might not be part of the technique, it might be in the way the teacher interacts with the students, or maybe the person next to you ties knots in a way you hadn’t thought of before.  You never know where you might pick up something new.
Tess teaching at a SAGA Convention

6.      On average, how long would you say it takes for you to complete a piece, from design concept to end?
I try not to think about it.  I spend a terrible amount of time in the design phase.

7.      Do you belong to a sewing guild of any kind?
Just SAGA.  At some point I’d like to join EGA.

8.      Do you smock?
Yes.  I suppose that’s my main thing.  I’m working on some real “out-of-the-box” stuff.  Stay tuned.

The Wee Care Gown for the SAGA Smock Along
9.      Where is your favorite place to stitch?
I’m not picky; I’ll stitch anywhere.

10.  Are you married? Children? Pets?
I already touched on this in another question, but I have a husband, 4 children, and over the years, almost too many pets to count.  We only have 2 cats right now (my husband hates cats) having just lost our 10-year-old golden retriever.  We’ll probably get a new puppy soon.

11.  What is your most favorite sewing tool?
Anything that does the job.

12.  What sewing tool do you carry everywhere and why?
Scissors.  You never know when you’ll need to cut something. I once got stopped at a security check with 6 pair of scissors (dress shears, not little thread snips) in my purse. The officer knew there was something wrong with me; but back then, scissors weren’t against the rules, so they let me go.  I had been teaching a class at lunch.  You can never have too many scissors.  My name is probably still on a list somewhere.

Wee Care Puppy design

13.  What other hobbies/interests do you have?
That’s a problem.  I know I should focus on just one thing, but I seem to be hardwired to be eclectic.  I am never bored, and I don’t understand people who are.  I am only frustrated because I can’t finish a project without interruption or because I can’t decide what to start next.  In addition to all kinds of sewing (sandbox covers to christening gowns), I am a hand spinner (not a form of exercise).  I knit and crochet, cane chair seats, and weave baskets.  In other words, I am drawn to the tedious (it must be genetic because even my impatient children engage in tedious hobbies, like making chain mail armour).  I once tatted a bookmark, and at least, decided I don’t need to do that anymore; I’ll buy my tatting.  I have also managed to steer clear of scrap booking.  I’m not a quilter, but I’m currently making a quilt; and as a sidebar, I decided to design all the fabrics on Spoonflower, a custom digital printing service (yes, it’s taking some considerable time). I am and avid reader and researcher (I was a librarian at the Library of Congress for 16 years).  I also enjoy computer programming and water/snow skiing.  And don’t forget the animals…. We have housed everything from ferrets and iguanas to cats and dogs.

14.  How often do you travel to teach?
I haven’t done much traveling to teach other than conventions because I have 4 kids and a husband, who works full time.  My youngest son is just finishing up driver’s ed, though; so I’ll have a much more flexible schedule since he’ll be able to deliver himself to school and events.

15.  Have you a favourite location where you most enjoy teaching?
Not really.  All the groups I’ve taught for have been great.

16.  Where can we get to see your projects (magazines, stores etc.)?
In the past, I have had articles published in Sew Beautiful and SAGANews .  Right now, I post occasionally to my Facebook page for Tess’ Heirloom Needlework, and I’m working on a website, which I hope to have up and running soon.
Tess enjoying SAGA Banquet
17.  Have you had another type of career other than in the sewing area?
I used to catalog Slavic language scientific materials at the Library of Congress; but when we moved to rural Southern Maryland, I started teaching English part-time at the local community college.  

18.  What is the biggest enemy to your creativity?
House work!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

SAGANews Volume 37 Issue 1

So the first issue of SAGANews for 2016 is in the mail.


What will you look at first- the index to see the articles and designs we have featured or the brochure for the 2016 Convention in Hampton, Virginia?

Whatever you look at first, I hope you enjoy this issue, but remember, you will only receive SAGANews if you renewed your SAGA membership before February 2016!

If you need to renew or want to join SAGA then visit the SAGA website for all the information you need.