Category Archives: Curiosities

Flock-o-Fun Birds Apron Kit, 1969

I’ve been aware of this funny little bird print for some time now.   When I first saw it, I thought it was so adorable, and so I put it on my list of things to search for.  I kept running across the print  (at a price I wasn’t willing to pay) and I began to see that it was always made into an apron and it always had the same green ties.  This was in spite of the fact that most of the examples I saw were definitely home sewn.

After years of having this in the back of my mind, I ran across the apron last weekend.  It was simply too cute to pass up, so it came home with me.  An examination of the piece led me to believe that this one was also home sewn.  So why was it that this print was always in the form of an apron, always had green ties, and was always home sewn?

I went searching for more examples, and quickly found some on eBay and Etsy.  I also found something else: several kits that included the fabrics and the instructions to make an apron.  That explained a lot.  The kit was produced by the National Handicraft Institute of Des Moines and was marketed under the name Flock-o-Fun.

Included in the kit was this letter, which explains that there are matching placemats and napkins, and that there is a pot holder kit.  It is signed by the “Club Secretary”, as this is part of the Fad of the Month Club.  A search of Fad of the Month Club and for National Handicraft Institute  found quite a few handicraft kits, and some magazine ads dating back to the 1950s.  According to one eBay ad, the company existed from 1947 until 1981.

It’s my guess that the fabric was printed specifically for the National Handicraft Institute.  That would explain why it’s not seen elsewhere.

This card came with the kit, and shows the placemats and napkins.   The photos of the kit came from eBay seller GypsyGirl6923, who currently has one of the kits for sale.  Since I first started looking for this print, the price for it has come down, and most examples that I found are very reasonably priced.

This would be a great first project for someone who is wanting to take up sewing, but is afraid to tackle a more involved garment.  And I can think of lots of different uses for the fabric.  Two or three of the panels would make an adorable full skirt, and it would make a sweet dress for a little girl.  Someone has an handbag she made from the fabric on Etsy.  Search for “bird apron” in the vintage category.

Many thanks to GypsyGirl6923 for the use of her photos.


Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Novelty Prints, Vintage Sewing

A Pucci for the Californians

I was all ready to leave the topic of Pucci behind and move on when a set of photos appeared in my inbox.  Sent by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous, they are of another early Pucci, this one a blouse made from Pucci fabric with a California theme.

The style of the blouse is very much like the last one I posted.  I can picture either of them worn over a pair of capris accessorized with sandals and a big sun hat. Both blouses have the same label, though with a different color printing.  As I pointed out in my earlier post, this is the second Pucci label, after he expanded to Florence, but before he added “Pucci”  to the label.

There is also an I. Magnin label.  I. Magnin was a San Francisco based department store that carried luxury lines and high fashion clothing.  Not only was this blouse sold at I. Magnin, it was specially designed for the store.

I think it is interesting that the blouse is signed Emilio of Capri, while the label is the later Capri/Florence one.

There is also something else interesting about this blouse, and the other two early Pucci pieces that I showed before.  One clue that people use to help identify an authentic Pucci is the squiggly “Emilio” signature found scattered within the print.  But none of these early examples have the signature.  It was not until the 1960s when Pucci turned to more abstract designs that were very easy to copy  that the signature was added.  Upon the advice of his buyer at Lord & Taylor, Marjorie Griswold, the signature was added in the mid 1960s.

I hate to think that vintage buyers might have passed on unsigned pieces because they suspected that they might be fakes.

As for the design of the print, does anyone have a clue as to the possible meaning behind those mermaid Indian girls?

If you want to know more about Emilio Pucci, tomorrow I’ll have a link to the best article on his life that I’ve ever read.


Filed under Curiosities, Designers, Novelty Prints

An Ireland – America Connection

Just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day I have a little tale of Ireland and the USA.  I posted about this dress with a superb Irish tweed over two years ago.   At the time I was looking for information about Carol Brown, which I found:

Born Lucy Caroline Brown in 1889, Carol Brown became interested in Irish woolens during a bicycle tour of Ireland in 1926.  She became friends of the Wynne sisters of the Avoca Handweavers in County Wicklow, Ireland.  Carol began importing the woolen yardage which she sold through a shop in Boston.  In 1937 she moved to Putney, Vermont and opened the shop in her home.

There she sold a variety of woolen goods – Irish tweed yard goods, woolen blankets and lap rugs, and handknit scarves, caps and sweaters.  Her interest in natural fibers led her to expand into other fabrics from around the world, such as fine Swiss cottons and Thai silks.  The shop was mentioned in a 1971 newsletter from the Amy Vanderbilt Success Program for Women, in which the lap rugs were highly recommended!

Brown became a community leader and a patron of the arts in her adopted town.  She died in 1990, just shy of her 101th birthday.

To my delight, I’ve heard from the Wynne family, of the Avoca Handweavers.  Graham Wynne adds to the story:

“So interesting to read this! I stayed with Carol and Laurie, her nephew, in Vermont in about 1972 while I was a visiting student from Ireland with a summer job in Boston. My great aunts Emily, Veronica and Winnifred Wynne ran the Avoca Handweavers having resurrected the business in the 1920′s after they returned from the first World War with no jobs and no prospects of husbands either. Carol was their USA agent and she visited Avoca most years on buying trips. She bought Irish handwoven products from other weaving firms but I think she had a soft spot for Avoca and their friendship endured for many, many years!

“I remember many cold and drafty lunches in the enormous dining room in Tigroney House in Avoca with just four of us at one end of a table that probably could have comfortably sat twenty! The three sisters worked very well together, each having her own strength in one or more areas of the business. One of their talents was how they combined colors that very often reflected what they saw in nature. The tweeds were almost indestructible and I’m sorry that I don’t have a vintage Avoca Handweavers jacket to wear in memory of them sometimes! They were wonderful, highly intelligent, versatile women – way ahead of their time in terms of “Liberation”. They never married.

“My parents, Pat and Una Wynne took over the business in 1959 (after Emily died and Win and V could no longer manage things due to age and declining health) and saved it from extinction. They kept it going as best they could, and continued to employ weavers until a property developer named Charlie Houlihan purchased Tigroney House, the land and the business. Soon after that the Hilliary and Donald Pratt bought the Avoca Handweavers from Charlie and with their brilliant business and design sense turned it into one of the best known brands in Ireland, now it is simply known as “Avoca”. There is not very much handwoven product made now in Avoca, County Wicklow but the “Old stuff” is still much loved and used by thousands of people world wide who either bought it or were given items for wedding presents!

“I have quite a good collection of rugs and bed spreads from the last period of Wynne ownership and use several of the rugs to keep warm while watching TV!

“I hope there are still many who enjoy the amazing fabric. Perhaps some of it may be re- tailored to fit a new generation of aficionados!”

You can definitely see what Graham was referring in regards to the color mixing.  I so love the sunset colors of my dress.  And Graham’s stories of his great-aunts makes them come alive!

Thanks so much to Graham Wynne for sharing this bit of his family’s history.


Filed under Curiosities

Jantzen – Made in Canada

Jantzen made their name and fortune on swimsuits, but started out as a knitter of sweaters, socks and gloves.  The company was founded in 1910 as the Portland Knitting Company.  Later in the decade someone got the idea to make bathing suits using the machine that knit sweater cuffs.  It produced a knit suit that was ribbed, and thus was a better fitting bathing suit.  By 1918 the company was renamed Jantzen Knitting Mills, and the main product was their famous swimsuits.

This souvenir postcard shows the administration building of Jantzen.  The card is not dated, but the cars are late 1920s models, and according to several sources, this building was constructed in 1929.  The growth of Jantzen must have been amazing, as the back of the cards claims that over 1,750,000 swimming suits were produced annually at the Portland facility.

What is also interesting is that the card mentions that Jantzen was also manufacturing swimsuits abroad.  It was a kind of reverse out-sourcing, where the company produced in other countries not to import to the US, but to sell in that country.  Note that in the 1920s, Jantzen was making swimsuits in Oregon, England, Australia, Canada, and New Jersey.

In 1941 Jantzen returned to the sweater business  as part of their new sportswear line.  My sweater, from the 1940s, was made in Canada for the Canadian market.  It came to me as a gift from Deborah at BigYellowTaxiVintage, which is located in Canada.

Jantzen is still in operation today, but as far as I know all their manufacturing is now out-sourced.  They do make very nice, 1950s vintage inspired suits.

Unlike many companies that were sold and resold over the years, Jantzen has retained a large archive of material, both garments and paper items such as catalogs and advertising.  The archive. located in the 1929 administration building,  is not open to the public, but it is a nice thought knowing that the archivist can reach far back into Jantzen’s history when necessary.


Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

49er Look-Alike

Yesterday I wrote about how easy it is to confuse a Key West Hand Print with that of Lilly Pulitzer.  Considering that the two were designed and made by the same team, that is understandable.  But there are other times when one item might be mistakenly taken to be something else.  In many cases it is a matter of copying.

In 1949 Pendleton introduced what had to be one of their most popular designs ever – the 49er.  It was the beginning of their women’s line, and as you might know, it is still being made today.  During the 1950s, the years when the jacket was so popular, there were a lot of other makers who cashed in on the design.  Several years ago I posted about one I found that had originally been sold at Sears.

I found the blue and grey example this week at my not so secret shopping place.  My first thought was that I’d discovered a Pendleton 49er among the Old Navy and Forever 21 trash littering the bins.  But an examination proved that this was another wannabe.

There was no label, but I did see traces where one had been sewn into the neck seam.  That was not good, because Pendleton sewed theirs onto the back yoke.

Here is the label from a vintage Pendleton 49er, that was a gift from Mod Betty several years ago.  A zigzag stitch was used to attach the label on the yoke.

The buttons on this jacket are a plastic that are meant to look like shell or mother-of-pearl.  An authentic vintage 49er has grey mother-of-pearl buttons.

Probably the most obvious difference is the way the pockets were cut.  On a 49er the bias cut pockets are mirror images of one another.  On this jacket they are cut on the bias, but no attempt was made to match them.

Note the beautifully matched pockets on my 49er.  Also note how the horizontal lines of the plaid match across the sleeves and the body of the jacket.

Interestingly, the plaids match up quite well on one sleeve…

but note how far off they are on the other side.  On the other hand, the two sides of the collar are quite well matched.

My fake does have the same type of pleat to the shoulders, and the sleeve cuffs are constructed in the same manner.  The wool is nice; not as nice as Pendleton, but it is passable.

I did buy this jacket anyway.  I like the colors, and it will be a good layering piece for the rest of the winter.  But darn it, I sure wish it had been a Pendleton.





Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Vintage Clothing

Acorn Peau de Satin, The Bruner Woolen Co.

Click to enlarge

Here’s a bit of color to brighten the day of those of us being held in the grip of winter.

This is a silk sample card from the Bruner Woolen Company.  As far as I can tell, Bruner was a jobber, or a middleman between the fabric manufacturer and the clothing maker or fabric retailer.  There was a Bruner Mill in Pennsylvania, but I don’t think there is a link between it and this company. I also found reference to a Bruner mill in  Winooski, Vermont, so it is possible that they made at least some of the goods they sold.   There were four branches of the company, in New York, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Chicago.

The big woolen jobbers like Bruner and Detmer sold to tailors and factories and stores by the use of sample cards.   The salesman would have a big case filled with his samples for the buyer to consider.   I have a case from Detmer from the 1920s that is worth a look if you have not seen it. Smaller cards like this one would be left with the buyer or mailed to them.

This sample card is a tri-fold.  The first fold had a large sample of black Acorn Peau de Satin, and the information the buyer needed to know.  Unfold it again and there were the color samples.

The range of shades offered is quite extensive, with there being thirteen different blues and ten tans.  Unfortunately there is no date, and I don’t know enough about color usage of each era to say the exact date of these colors.  I do know it is before 1922, when Bruner merged with Detmer and two other companies.  My guess is that from the 1910s.  Any thoughts?


Filed under Collecting, Curiosities