Of Course You Can Sew!, 1971

I plucked this book out of a Goodwill bin as it was being carted off to the place of no return. I don’t really collect sewing books, but I do have a nice grouping of them that typify the era in which they were written. A quick look through of this book by Barbara Corrigan fit the bill as one to add to the group.

My guess is that the book was written for the preteen and young teen set. The book came from an elementary school library and the check-out card was still in the book. Most of the girls (and all the readers were girls) who checked out the book were in the fifth and sixth grades, but a few were younger. The book was popular, with the card being full.

And no wonder. This was just the sort of book my twelve year old self would have loved. The projects within were just the sort of thing I was always making. There is a section on using simple commercial patterns, but most of the projects were made from squares of fabric or textiles such as towels and other household linens. The dress and bag above are typical. What was interesting was how the bag was made from the part of the towel that was cut off to make the dress. Even in 1971 textiles were not for wasting.

Many of the projects were sportswear. I remember people making similar garments from towels, especially beach cover-ups and bags.
The projects got progressively harder as one moved through the book, but lots of drawings and diagrams made the directions easy to understand. Here you see how to cut a caftan from towels.
Once the novice sewer moved past sewing plain straight seams, a gathered skirt was introduced. The skills were the same, but the addition of the gathers must have seemed like a big leap in ability.

There were also cute designs for making things from bed linens. A girl could have night clothes to match her sheets.

This was the Seventies, so of course there were ponchos.

This sewing corner would have driven me wild with envy. My sewing spot was the dining room table.

I was completely charmed by this little book, perhaps because I would have loved to have had it in my early sewing years. The text was so straightforward, without a bit of talking down to the youngsters that it seemed totally relatable, even though the author, Barbara Corrigan, was in her late forties when she wrote and illustrated the book. The illustrations were cute and modern, and while not the height of 1971 fashion, they were what girls were actually wearing at that time.

I had to learn more about Barbara, and I found she lived in Attleboro, Massachusetts. She studied at the Massachusetts School of Arts, and had plans to be a fashion designer, having been an avid sewer since childhood. But she ended up in commercial art while painting and sewing wedding dresses on the side. In the 1960s she landed a contract to design and write sewing books for Doubleday, of which this book is one. She also illustrated cookbooks and pages for Highlights for Children magazine.

32 Comments

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32 responses to “Of Course You Can Sew!, 1971

  1. Christine Seid

    Great find! The font used on the cover screams late 60’s and early 70’s – reminds me of Peter Max and Yellow Submarine. And the book is very sweet and practical.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s quite something that you talk of fonts, Peter Max and ‘Yellow Submarine’, Christine. There are quite big features on Peter Max and ‘Yellow Submarine’ in the book by Mark Voger entitled ‘Groovy: When Flower Power Bloomed in Pop Culture’, which I ordered since there was a rather smaller feature on the Saturday Morning TV show, ‘Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp’, which starred the group of ‘chimpanzees’, Lancelot Link and The Evolution Revolution who released ‘Sha-La Love You’, which was improbably covered in December 1970 over in Communist Czechoslovakia by Valérie Čižmárová as ‘Dávno nejsem hloupá’ (‘I’ve Not Been Crazy For A Long Time’), the artist for whom I run the Fan Blog, ‘Bananas For Breakfast’, where, coincidentally, I have developed a little ‘thing’ for fonts over this past year or so and I’ve also made some font use contributions at a site called ‘Fonts In Use’. I’m aware of these font identification sites, but I unfortunately cannot seem to pin down what font that is used for that title.

      This is a fascinating evocation of teen girls in the early 1970s, Lizzie, right in the midst of what I call, thanks to the ‘sister Blog’ to ‘Bananas For Breakfast’, ‘Girls Of The Golden East’, the GOTGE Era. I often wonder about some of the street fashions girls were wearing in that era in the films and newsreels of that time from Czechoslovakia. There may have been a bit of a home-making ethos current there as evidenced in the States here.

      After all, teen girls were teen girls whether they lived on the Communist or Capitalist side of the then-extant great ideological divide.

      I see, by the way, that you must be somewhere between myself and my older brother in terms of age, Lizzie!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Christine Seid

        Wow. The power of fonts! “Groovy” (the book) would take me back to my college years. Thanks for your comments.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, Christine. It was in the process of doing my occasional checking up on how my blogs are being found on the Web that I happened to discover the sleeve design used for Valérie Čižmárová’s singles from 1974 to 1977 featured by one of the site’s hosts, Florian Hardwig, at ‘Fonts In Use’, under a font called Motter Alustyle and I thought that I’d just have to look into all the other fonts associated with her singles sleeves…and her one-and-only studio album, so I now know about Davida, Cooper Black and Folio as headline fonts and exotic ones typical of the former Soviet Bloc as the fonts used for the track-listings, like Maršův Grotesk, Super-Grotesk and Zhurnalnaya Roublennaya.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Actually, that would be Super Grotesk w/o the hyphen. Don’t know where that crept in!

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        • When I was in junior high we all used that font when decorating our notebooks and whatever. We just called it Bubble Letters, but it was a real signifier of cool.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I have just written an email to ‘Fonts In Use’ to see if I can get a positive identification of what you call ‘Bubble Letters’, Lizzie! There is actually a modern font called ‘Bubble Letters’ but it isn’t this one, of course!

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      • Christopher, I just turned 66!

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        • How does that match up to the “my twelve year old self” remark when talking of 1971, if you don’t mind my asking, Lizzie? By my calculations your “twelve year old self” would have been understandable when talking of 1967 but not 1971.

          If that is your actual age you’re an exact contemporary of the French Pop star who set me on the path leading ultimately to the former Eastern Bloc, Carene Cheryl/Karen Cheryl/Isabelle Morizet – early-days stage name (1975-1978)/later stage name (1978-2001)/real name (1955-1975 & 2001-on) – who turned out to have the same birthday as me and who, until the age of the Web and stumbling across a load of old ‘Paris Match’ magazines from the 1970s in our attic back in 2004 was a closed book to me, so I now know quite a bit of the French Pop scene of the 1970s as well as that of particularly Czechoslovakia of the 1970s, the two most remarkable personalities, I think, being the two female singers with the initials ‘J.M.’, who accompanied the then Karen Cheryl in a rendition of ‘Be Bop A Lula’ on Karen’s edition of the ‘Numéro Un’ series on French TV in August 1980, Jeane Manson and Joëlle (Mogensen), also a singer with the group il était une fois, who were both American by birth but who made a career out of performing in French in France, which sort of gets me wondering about this alleged ‘Special Relationship’ of ours, but then again, France is the ‘oldest ally’ and Britain is the ‘oldest enemy’, after all!

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  2. Michellebeth

    Agreed! I would have given my eye teeth to have a sewing corner like that as a teenager, when I basically sewed everything except underwear and winter coats (yes, even a bathing suit-and-matching-cover-up). Heck, I’d like to have that corner NOW.

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  3. jacq staubs

    Sweet find! The ponchos / shift patterns remind me of Lilly and Key West Hand Print..they used the same patterns – even made a draw string handbag and bonnet .

    Like

  4. Marcia

    Oh, bring back Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp! I loved that show – so funny. And so interesting about your blog. I did a watercolor which hung over my bed as a teen – I’m sure it was a copy of a Peter Max, or at least inspired by him: a giant spotted mushroom with pastel hills and a rainbow….. sigh. That book is a great find, Lizzie. Those styles are all new again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad I brought back a few pleasant memories, Marcia! It’s really strange how, until I’d found out about Valérie Čižmárová’s ‘Dávno nejsem hloupá’ over Cyberspace some four-and-a-half decades after its recording, all of ‘Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp’, Lancelot Link and The Evolution Revolution and ‘Sha-La Love You’ meant precisely nothing to me, since, unlike its exact contemporary on U.S. network TV, ‘Josie and The Pussycats’, as far as I’ve been able to ascertain ‘Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp’ never made it onto the small screen here in the UK, but it did so certainly in France and Italy. Maybe they thought British children, pre-teens and teenagers just wouldn’t ‘get’ it. It’s still a mystery that the wonderfully-named A.P.E. could have solved how they knew about it in Czechoslovakia! Was it smuggled in through the Iron Curtain by C.H.U.M.P.?

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    • I’ve had another look-around, Marcia, for any indication that ‘Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp’ was ever on British TV and it appears that it was – on ITV, but only for three episodes (9th, 16th & 23rd January 1971), so it appears that it must have been pulled from the schedules. Why that should be may be down to complaints about animal exploitation. Recalling the famous advertisement campaign for PG Tips tea which featured chimpanzees I’ve had a look into that and that campaign was temporarily scrapped in the 1970s after complaints of the aforementioned nature, so that explanation makes sense in that context. At that time our household had the grand total of just the one TV channel that was watchable – BBC One, so I wouldn’t have watched its brief run in any case!

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  5. Charming! The cover font and design are so 70s it gives the era away before you open the book. I still sew (such as I do) and cobble stuff together on the dining room table.

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    • Just saw the other font mentions! Have you folks read “Just My Type,” by Simon Garfield? You might enjoy it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Christine Seid

        Yes indeed!

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      • I’ve taken a look at the information on that book, Liza and it sounds pretty interesting, so thanks for mentioning that.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sure! Also check out the documentary “Helvetica.” You can find it online.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks, Liza. I will do, in between investigating various other fonts on display in a whole load of old magazines and newspapers I’ve looked out, seeing them in another new light now I’ve discovered the wonderful world of fonts, as if they weren’t already fascinating enough! I just happen to have been reading a report on the ‘Black Power’ protest at the Mexico Olympics in a (rather tattered!) ‘News Of The World’ from October 1968 – the paper that I found in an outbuilding in an old barracks complex where I stayed while on an archaeological dig as a teenager at the turn of the 1970s to the 1980s – my own personal bit of ‘Modern Archaeology’, as it were!

            As a Vintage Dress enthusiast I think you’d particularly look forward to a font use submission I’m planning for a fashion feature in an (also somewhat tattered!) ‘Family Circle’ magazine from December 1970, that I think must have been in the old garage at my previous house, judging by its condition. It’s ‘font-watching’ Heaven! The pages of that fashion feature are fortunately still quite untouched, fortunately, with just a slight dog-earing and a slight touch of incipient mould (‘mold’ to Americans!) on the page corners. One of the models is a real ‘Valinka’ (Valérie Čižmárová look-alike) and the fabrics are just so much ‘glory days of synthetic fibres’ (sorry, ‘fibers’!) with Lurex, Rayon and Crimplene being very much in evidence!

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          • Sorry, that was so ‘fortunately’ I had to repeat it! 😉

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  6. A groovy trip down Memory Lane! There were many make-it-fast DIY books back then. I think the clothing was a counter to the very fussy, fiddly dress and clothing designs up to the Mod revolution of the 60’s.

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  7. The towel caftan, often with an elastic in casing below the breasts, was worn in my college dorm (1962 to 1966.) I’m glad the next level was a gathered skirt — Corrigan knew what she was doing. I watched a three part “sew a skirt” video for beginners and the youtuber was using a circle skirt pattern! The rolled hem on a long circle skirt is not “beginner” level sewing, especially when bias stretch makes your hem droop oddly after you finish it…. a gathered half apron or skirt was a great beginner project.

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  8. Those drawings look very familiar! Maybe I came across her work in Highlights for Children, a staple at doctors’ offices.

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  9. A wonderful book indeed and a worthwhile pluck from the bin of no return. What a great resource for the beginner sewer that had not had formal lessons, i.e., home economics. Love the illustrations. Thanks for sharing!

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  10. …and another thing – a case of ‘silly me’, this time, for omitting to mention this! – I have had a reply back from ‘Fonts In Use’ regarding that font on the front cover of ‘Of Course You Can Sew!’, but I won’t spoil things by telling you what it is right now, since I’m about to make a font use submission for it, so watch this space! It’s been quite instructive looking into the other fonts featured in the book and shows what attention to detail is required in font identification – even down to the shape of the dots over the lower case ‘i’ and ‘j’, at the end of abbreviations and sentences and at the bottom of question and exclamation marks!

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