Category Archives: Vintage Sewing

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

Vogue 7092, Beach Cover Up

Ever since I found the vintage nautical print terry cloth seen above, I knew it was destined to become a swimsuit cover up.  I had several patterns from which to choose, but I was favoring Vogue 7092, which is dated 1950.  I liked it because it is not a jacket, it is a stole with the sides open.  My plan was to use the terry on the inside and to use a solid white on the outside.

When I found that $2 bolt of vintage white pique, I knew I’d found my other fabric.

The pattern was listed as “one size” which meant I needed to make a few adjustments, especially for length.  I shortened the front and the back, but I also decided to take out some of the fullness in the back, mainly because I was using such a bulky fabric for the lining.

I had finished the stole except for attaching the belt when I showed it off to my husband.  He said he didn’t think I ought to hide the print on the inside as it was so nice.  And while I wanted it for the inside because of the absorbency, I could see his point.  So instead of attaching the belt to the back, I made belt loops (not seen in photos) so I could wear it either way.  I do love a reversible garment.

I love this vintage terry, which I found at the Goodwill outlet.  So with the amount of pique and the cost of the pattern and the terry, I have about $3 invested in this project.   I’ll probably use the money I saved to buy more fabric.


Filed under Vintage Sewing

Vintage Sewing – McCall’s 8348, Givenchy

In 1966 McCall’s patterns released four patterns of designs by Givenchy that he made for Audrey Hepburn to wear in How to Steal a Million.  I’ve written about these patterns in the past, and if you want to see all four of the designs you can follow the link.

I’ve been needing a few basic skirts, so I went in search of fabric.  At The House of Fabrics in Asheville I found a beautiful Donna Karan wool doublecloth, navy on one side and grey on the reverse.  It was just the thing to made a reversible wrap skirt.

If you are not familiar with the term doublecloth, it is a type of fabric in which two different sides are woven with a few threads that hold the entire thing together.  In my photo above you can see how if you pull the two fabrics apart, they are held together with some threads that are woven through both sides.

I did not have a pattern, but after looking through my collection of vintage patterns I knew I could easily adapt the Givenchy skirt into a wrap style.  I merely cut an extra front piece and left the front open.

Constructing the skirt was the easy part; concealing the seams and edges not so much so.  Actually, it was more time-consuming than hard, as I elected to do it all by hand.  There is a technique of doing this on the machine.  Ralph Rucci uses it, and it was illustrated in an old issue of Threads magazine.  But I wanted more control, and I knew that perfecting the machine technique would take practice.  Besides, I enjoy hand sewing.

Here you can see a close-up of a seam and the hem.  I’ve considered going back and top-stitching, and may still do so.

I’ve bought these buttons new in 1978.  I used them on a jacket that long ago went to the used clothing store, but I just could not let these buttons go.  Because the skirt is reversible, I used clips to secure the buttons so that they can easily be removed to reverse to the other side.

On one front piece I did hand worked buttonholes, and on the other I made eyelet holes for the button shank.

I’ve already gotten a lot of wear from this skirt.  It is a great layering piece, and is very comfortable, as it fits loosely around the waist and the fabric is quite soft.



Filed under Designers, Vintage Sewing

Vintage Sewing, Anne Adams 4926, Hat

After two projects that involved a lot of hand sewing, I was ready for something quick and easy.  I’d had the idea of hats on the back burner, and I had even bought a few patterns and made toiles.  But nothing really fit what I needed, which was a few winter hats to wear on winter walks.

I bought this pattern, Anne Adams 4926, back in the fall and while it was close to what I needed, it was not exact.  So I set about making the changes I wanted.  First, the crown was too high, so I shortened it and rounded the top a bit.  I also tapered the brim so that it was shorter in the back than in the front.

From the side you can see how I shortened the back brim a bit.  You can also see the brim seam, which should be in the back.  Since I was using more of the Harris Tweed that I used on my tweed/cashmere combination, I had to piece it, so both sides have seams.

This back view actually gives a better idea of the shape of the hat.  For some reason my front view makes it look like it sits flatter on the head.

I had the hat all cut out and ready to sew when I went to my fabric collection to find a lining fabric.  I wanted something soft and warm, and it occurred to me that this would be a good project for a lower quality cashmere sweater which had developed holes.  I didn’t have such a sweater, but I did find a cute cotton knit from the 1970s.

Okay, I know the Snoopy fabric is a bit unexpected, but I’d had this scrap forever, and was ready to use it.

The inside band is from a roll of  petersham I found a while back.

Overall it was a quick and easy project.  From start to finish, I guess I had two hours invested, and much of it was doing the stitching on the brim.

I’ve gotten two good projects from one ratty old jacket, and there is still enough to make something else.  So, should I make slippers?  How about mittens?



Filed under Vintage Sewing

Making a Scarf Top, and Thoughts on Copying

Today I’m going to show how easy the Vera Jollytop would be to replicate, but first, a few words about copyright and fashion copying.

In the United States, there is no copyright protection for fashion design.  The reasoning is that clothes are basic, useful items, and as such cannot be copyrighted.  Even though the Council of Fashion Designers of America, led by Diane von Furstenberg, has made attempts to get legislation passed, it has come to nothing.

There is rarely anything in fashion that is actually “new.”  Designers visit and revisit the past, and each other on a regular basis.   Can anyone claim ownership of a French cuff, or a ruffled hem, or a bateau neckline?  It just isn’t possible, and because of this freedom to pick and choose design elements, creativity is fostered.

Of course, the lack of protection also allows companies to make cheap versions of expensive goods.  This is the type of copying that the CFDA opposes.  I suppose that if I were Diane von Furstenberg  selling a $3000 dress, I’d be pretty irritated about seeing a copy of it selling for $60 at some fast fashion store.

I think it is interesting that copying by the home sewer seems to be above this criticism.  Designers have been selling their designs to pattern companies for many decades, and for the price of a pattern and some nice fabric, the home sewer can have her own Givenchy or Diane von Furstenberg or Dior.

But note that there is a copyright symbol next to the Vera signature on my top.  The protection was granted for Vera’s artwork, not for the design of the top.  Vera got copyright protection for all her scarf designs, a protection that is still owned by the Vera Company.  Simply put, it is okay to copy the blouse, but not the art on the blouse.

To copy this scarf top, you need two scarves the same size.  Mine is made from 20 inch squares, which fits about a 36″ bust.  The back and front of mine are identical, but that is not really necessary.  Someone has a similar scarf top on etsy that she made using two Vera scarves with the same colorway, but with different designs.

This is the basic layout of the top.  Place the two scarves right sides together, with the correct top and bottom orientation.  I’ve put in the stitching lines at the shoulders, the sides and for the drawstrings.


This diagram has the measurements for the 20 inch scarf added.  Of course, you’ll have to make adjustments if you use a larger or smaller size.

There is a 4 1/4 tuck taken on the front 1 1/4 inch down from the neckline.  That is to make the front a little lower than the back, and helps prevent choking!

The shoulder seam is sewn between a point 4 1/2 inches on the top side, and 1 1/2 inch down the side.  That leaves a neck opening of 11 inches.

The side seam starts 9 inches down from the top, and is 6 inches long.  That gives a sleeve opening of 7 1/2 inches.

The casing for the drawstrings is sewn directly below the side seams on both front and back.  The area below the side seams is left open.  They used strips of bias seam binding to make the casing and also to make the strings, which are 32 inches long.

Any questions?  Let me know if you decide to make this one.  There is nothing hard about it, just be sure to adjust the measurements for your own needs.

The best explanation of fashion and copyright I’ve ever seen is in an old TEDTalk by Johanna Blakley.


Filed under Viewpoint, Vintage Sewing

Cashmere + Harris Tweed

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m not always a fan of “re-purposing.”  I’ve seen too many projects gone wrong, and too many nice vintage pieces ruined to wholeheartedly embrace the movement.  Of course, there was a time, back in the 1970s, when I did my own share of damage to the vintage supply, so I try not to judge too harshly.

Still, I do encourage all re-crafters to take care to know what their materials are, and if they are better left alone.  Even a damaged dress from a very important designer may have historic value.

But I’m always on the lookout for great textiles in garments that are in unwearable condition.  For the project above I took a nice but stained and unlabeled cashmere sweater, and a gent’s Harris Tweed jacket that was holey and cheaply made and combined them for a pullover with a tweed front.

Back in October I saw such a sweater/tweed combination at J.  Crew.   I loved the idea, but hated the not very cozy wool, and the made in China tag.  But I kept thinking about it, and decided to just make my own, only that mine would be cashmere and Harris Tweed.

I had the sweater already.  It was one I’d bought just to layer for cold day walks because of some dark marks on the front.  But it was a very high quality cashmere, super soft and no pilling.  The style was, frankly, boring.

But it had all the hallmarks of a high quality product, including full fashioned (knit to fit instead of cut) sleeves.  There was no label in the sweater, but I’m just betting it came from Scotland.

I went in search of a tweed, and was happy to find a 1960s jacket.  Besides the Harris Tweed label, there was a Penney’s label.  A look at the interior construction shows how corners were cut to save money, but it is interesting that Penney’s was using such a high quality textile.

The jacket was so damaged with holes that I had to piece three sections to make the front of my new garment.  The texture and the plaid make the seams hard to see.

The only change I made to the sweater was to make vents at the sides through the bottom band.  I secured the edges with a blanket stitch.

I carefully centered the tweed on the front of the sweater.  I then began the process of attaching the two pieces to one another.  I used a backstitch, which due to the texture of the tweed cannot be seen on the front.

I made the pockets by facing a slit with a piece of silk.  I then turned it to the inside and secured it.

To finish, I continued attaching the tweed to the cashmere using back stitches along the edges.  I’ve really quite pleased with how it turned out, and it is getting a lot of wear.

My little brother liked it so much that he just had to give it a squeeze!

Looks like someone needs to clean their mirror!




Filed under Vintage Sewing

Sewing Project – Vogue 8804

Almost two months after starting work, I’m happy to say that my “French Couture” jacket is finished.  Well, almost anyway.  I wore it today for the first time, and there is a bit of tweaking I want to do.   First, I’m going to put a large hook at the collar so I can fasten it.  Also, I’m going to do another dart of shaping on the front.  And the fringe needs a bit more cleaning up.

Of all the dozens of tasks associated with this jacket, by far the most time consuming was the making of the fringe.  I love the way it looks, but I’m really glad I did not know how long it was going to take to make so much of it.  And I thought I had it trimmed nicely, but you can see how shaggy it is after I wore it.  I probably need to take a wide-tooth comb to get all the yarns straight before another trimming.

I decided on two pockets, which are perfect for a cell phone and a twenty dollar bill.

I’m glad I added the collar.  I think it gives the jacket a more casual look.

That silk is so beautiful, but so slippery.  I know that if I were to ever have to work in a couture atelier, I’d be in the tailleur rather than the flou – working with wools rather than silks.

I’ve read so much about how light and comfortable this style jacket is, and I’ve got to agree.  This is a very easy to wear garment.  There is no constriction at all in the arms and across the back.  It is light-weight, yet warm, and the silk feels simply luxurious against the skin.

This jacket is one of the popular sewing projects of the moment.  I have a word – or two – of warning to anyone considering this undertaking.  First, you absolutely have to be confident about your hand sewing skills.  You may have years of experience on the machine, but unless you have a neat slip stitch, forget it.  Also, patience is definitely a virtue.  All that hand stitching takes time, so this is not immediate gratification sewing.

If you insist on continuing on, then I highly recommend Claire Shaeffer’s book and dvd, Couture Sewing: The Couture Cardigan Jacket.  You might also want to get the pattern, Vogue 8804, if for no other reason than to have Claire’s step-by-step directions.  I referred to both the pattern directions and to the book.  Or better yet, attend Claire’s Sewfari  if you are on the west coast, or Susan Khalje’s class which is in Baltimore.   I’ve heard that both are excellent.

I’ve been sewing for close to 50 years, but this project proved that I have so much still to learn.  Some of the things are so simple that I’m crying that it took so long to find out about them.  Probably the biggest revelation was the marking of the top of a pattern piece on the right – as opposed to the wrong – side.  How did I not know to do this?  Claire uses a little stitched X to show the top of the piece and the right side.  This is invaluable when the fabric looks the same on both sides.

I know that many people whine about all the basting that Claire suggests, but basting really is the sewer’s friend.  The one time I skipped the basting, I ended up having to rip and restitch.  Also, thread tracing the seam lines was a huge help in matching corners.  I’ll always thread trace corners from now on.

A big thanks to all of you for being so encouraging and interested.  It helped keep me going when I was all stitched out!



Filed under Vintage Sewing