Category Archives: Novelty Prints

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

Happy Bug Day, Warhol Print Skirt

When I spotted this super skirt on {the evil that is} Pinterest, I had a sinking feeling.  Sinking because I wanted this skirt, and it seems like 99.98 percent of the things I see on Pinterest that I want are sold.  I clicked through (thanks Karen, for making sure the links are always there) and there it was on Adored Vintage.  And yes, it had already sold.

So why did I want this particular skirt?  One of my smaller areas of collecting involves fabrics that were either influenced by art, or which were actually designed by artists.  In the case of this skirt, the fabric was designed by Andy Warhol in 1955.

I only know this because of my obsessive reading and rereading of Textile Design: Artists’ Textiles 1940-1976 by Geiff Rayner, Richard Chamberlain and Annamarie Phelps.  The book was published in 2012, and there is an exhibition currently at The Fashion and Textile Museum in London that is based in large part on the collections of the authors.

There is the bug print, in a different colorway, and a very similar print titled Happy Butterfly Day.  The bug print was based on a greeting card Warhol made in 1954.

Unfortunately, not a lot is known about the textiles Warhol designed in the 1950s.  For a man who was a collector of everything, he was a notoriously bad record-keeper when it came to business, not letting the people who worked with him even know for whom the designs were intended.

It was remembered by a Warhol associate that some of the fabrics were produced by Fuller Fabrics, who also did the Modern Masters line.  In 1955, Warhol was still a commercial artist, years away from being considered a “master.”

I hope the lucky buyer of this skirt loves it and treasures it.  I just wish it were me!

Thanks so much to Rodellee at Adored Vintage for the use of her photos.


Filed under Novelty Prints

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

Sporty Pucci

I think most fashion lovers are well acquainted with the prints of Emilio Pucci.  Through the 1960s and into the 70s his psychedelic colorful prints were well loved by the Jet Set.  But before his brightly colored geometric prints became a must-have item for an island getaway, Pucci was also making interesting novelty prints  that he sold in his boutiques in Italy.

Emilio Pucci led an very interesting life long before he became a designer.  He was born into an aristocratic Florentine family, and was a member of the Italian ski team in the 1932 Olympics.  He made his way to the USA where he attended Reed College in Oregon on a skiing scholarship.  While there he did his first designing – the uniforms for the college ski team.

During WWII Pucci was a pilot in the Italian Air Force.  His participation in the war came to a halt in 1944 when he helped one of Mussolini’s daughters escape to Switzerland.  Her husband had been the Italian foreign minister and had been executed for his part in a plan to remove Mussolini from power.  Pucci escaped to Switzerland where he spent the rest of the war.

In 1947  some ski clothes Pucci designed for a woman friend were photographed by Harper’s Bazaar photographer Toni Frissell.  The pants were made of a stretch fabric, and Bazaar asked Pucci to design skiwear to be featured in a fashion shoot.  After the photos came out in 1948, Pucci was made offers by several big skiwear firms.  He did do a line for American company White Stag.  I’ve often wondered if the White Stag items had any special labeling.

By 1949 Pucci had opened a boutique on the Italian island of Capri.  There he first sold swimsuits and scarves, and after consulting with Stanley Marcus of Neiman-Marcus, he was convinced to turn the scarves into blouses.   He continued working with stretch fabrics, and the ski pants morphed into stretch slacks for casual wear.  They were produced in solid colors that coordinated with the colors in the print blouses and scarves.

The earliest Pucci labels read “Emilio of Capri” or “Original Emilio Sportswear.”  Pucci did not want to use the family name as it was considered to be unseemly for a noble family to be in trade.  The second label was developed when Pucci opened up in Florence, but was still also in Capri.  Both of the items I’m showing have this label.  I’ve never read exactly when this label was first used, but it did not last but a few years because the entire operation was eventually moved to Florence.


By the early 1960s Pucci was famous, and rich, and the label became “Emilio Pucci”  I guess money speaks louder than society’s expectations.

This wonderful blouse was posted on the Vintage Fashion Guild forums, and I just had to share it with you.  It is from seller Jeana at Erawear Vintage, and it has the best ever ski motif.

The colors are exactly what you would expect from a Pucci print, but the charming print makes it so much more special.

Another VFG seller, Terri of Vintage Devotion, recently found this super Pucci print that has a golf motif.  Pucci loved sports, and not just skiing.

See the “Emilio” signature in the print?  This signature continues to this day in Pucci prints.

Blouse photos copyright Erawear Vintage

Dress photos copyright Vintage Devotion


Filed under Designers, Novelty Prints, Sportswear, World War II

Mid Century Cocktail Aprons

I’m seldom so literal, but when I say cocktail apron, I mean an apron with a cocktail print.  Why settle for a fancy, frilly thing when one can have cocktails on (and off) the apron?

This is the first one I bought, some years ago.  It remains my favorite because of the colors and the simple drawings.

This one is a bit old-fashioned, and a lot more realistic.  What sold me on this one was the waistband, which was engineered to be used for the waist and ties, and perhaps as pocket trim.  I also love the recipes floating  around the drinks.

The maker of this apron tried to stretch her fabric too far and ended up with a skimpy look.  No matter; the print makes up for it.

This is a border print, but the waistband is made from the large part of the print.  These prints almost always included a smaller print (as in my yellow apron) that was to be used as the waistband.  I bet our sewer was trying to use up a bit of fabric leftover from another project.

How about that weird perspective?  A touch of the modern.


Filed under Novelty Prints

Anton Refregier, Part II

One of the things I like best about the internet is that it is possible to build a “community.”  I know that term is somewhat over-used, but here is a lot of truth in calling the network of vintage and fashion history lovers on the web a community.

The big strength of this community is that if you have a need for information about a specific area, chances are you know someone who either knows the answer, or who can find it through their sources.  It’s great that there are so many people with different strengths.  If I need information about a shoe, I know who to email.  If I need to know about Chanel construction, or magazine publishing, or California fashion, I know who to ask.

A few weeks ago a request was posted on a facebook page about a fabric.  Mod Betty saw the post and suggested the poster, Diane, email me, which she did.  I immediately recognized the fabric, not because I’m an expert on that type of thing, but because a fabric by the same artist had been posted on the VFG forums, and I did a blog post about the fabric and the artist,  Anton Refregier.

Once she had the name, Diane was able to find the same fabric pictured in a paper she found online.  It was, indeed by  Anton Refregier, and was commissioned in 1952 as part of the Pioneer Pathways series by the  Associated American Artists.  What was interesting is that the selvedge was intact, but the printing was off the edge.  Diane was able to just detect the word “Pioneer.”

Diane sent some great photos of this very important artist print so I can share them, and also to ensure the print is documented in case others are looking for information about Refregier prints.
Photos copyright and courtesy of Diane Graves.


Filed under Curiosities, Novelty Prints

Vintage Christmas Fabric

If you haven’t been into a fabric store recently, especially one that carries mainly printed cottons, you might be really surprised at the huge selection of prints.  There are novelty prints for every hobby and cartoon character and animal.  There are prints for baby, for John Deere drivers, and football fans.  There are hundreds of “retro” prints, some that could easily pass for real vintage.

I actually have a few pieces in my fabric stash that I honestly can’t say what the ages of them are.  Sometimes the width is a clue.  The above pink and red (and awesome) print is 35 inches wide.  The width is a hint, but not a guarantee that the fabric is older than last week.  I do know that this piece is vintage because it came with an original label.

Isn’t the detailing something?

This piece is also vintage.  It is a border print, and it may look like one side of a tablecloth, but it is cotton broadcloth, and was perfect for aprons, gathered skirts, and dresses for little girls.

This is a piece of cotton flannel that I bought from etsy several years ago.  It was sold as vintage, and the fabric is 35 inches wide, but I’ve never been 100% sure that it is vintage.  I’d like to think it is from 1960 or so.  I adore that script font.

I’d like to add that none of these fabrics have information printed on the selvage.  Most modern prints that I’ve looked at in the past five years or so do have a printed selvage.  “Designer” fabrics are a very big deal in the quilting and crafting world, and many have the designer’s name and even the name of the print.

Don’t miss the enlarged version.

And finally, here’s another mystery fabric to ponder.  I have two eighteen inch squares of this print that I bought at my not so secret shopping place about five years ago.  They are edged by an overlock stitch, which might lead one to think they were meant to be napkins.  However, the thread is an ugly grey.

If this is a contemporary print, then the designer got a lot of things right.  The font looks vintage, as do the colors.  The use of the harlequin type diamond print on the packages looks vintage.  The stylized Christmas trees with the atomic shapes look vintage.  I could go on, but you get the point.  It’s almost like every vintage Christmas cliche in thrown into one print.  Too good to be true?  It won’t hurt my feelings if you think it is new.




Filed under Holidays, Novelty Prints, Southern Textiles