Category Archives: Novelty Prints

Super Find Becomes Albatross Becomes Happy Memory

I recently found a stack of wonderful old linens at my favorite shopping place.  As so often happens, a load of donations go in after the closing of an estate, or maybe a move to a smaller house.  Anyway, I sometimes find the entire contents of the linen closet, and that usually means at least a few great novelty prints.

This souvenir tablecloth from Cuba was the best of a really sweet group of printed tablecloths.  These tablecloths were very popular in the post WWII era, and I imagine that most homes had at least one – a Christmas theme cloth perhaps.  I still have the one my mother used on our holiday table.

Tablecloths were also a great vacation souvenir, and I’ve seen printed ones with destinations from Alaska to Florida and beyond.  Most that I’ve found are not labeled, but I know of one company, California Handprints, that made novelty and printed tablecloths.  My guess is that this one, though sold in Cuba in the 1940s or 50s, was actually made in the USA.

I was really happy to find the Cuba one, especially after checking the prices on Ebay.  So I took a few photos, wrote up my listing, and put it on Etsy to sell.  I also posted a photo on Instagram, where a fellow vintage travel enthusiast saw it.  She emailed with the great news that she and her husband are traveling to Cuba soon.  I clicked over to review my listing, but found it had disappeared.  After a long search, I discovered that Etsy had deactivated the listing.

That was a bit puzzling, but the next day I got an email that stated that the tablecloth was in violation of the US embargo against Cuban products!  I sent an email back explaining that the tablecloth was made before the Cuban Revolution and the embargo.  It was probably made in the US, and then imported to Cuba where a tourist bought it and brought it back to the States.  In other words, it is not an illegal Cuban product.

No matter, as the diligent people at Etsy can’t take a chance that the selling of my tablecloth might be the very thing that allows the Cuban government to break the (already weakened by US law) embargo.  So my option was to stick it on eBay where there are several similar ones up for sale.

But it just left a sad feeling, with my happy find turning into a problem.  I had to find a way to break the evil spell cast upon my innocent tablecloth.  So now the tablecloth is on its way north, to the lucky Beth who will soon be traveling to Cuba.

And by the way, the email from etsy’s legal department asked me to please keep our email exchange a secret.  They are probably embarrassed for the world to know that legal communications are headed with “Hi there” and are signed with a first name only.  Seriously.

But enough of that!  I’m not one to hold a grudge so instead of making fun of Etsy Legal, let’s look at the great details of this print.  Aside from the sleeping guy under the sombrero in which the designer got his Latin American countries confused, the print is full of references to the fun things one would encounter in the “Holiday Isle of the Tropics.”

Cruise ships! Tennis! Skiing! Rum! Sailing!

Dancing! Show girls! Tobacco fields!

And a whole corner of the US Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay!

I have opened my annual Etsy pop-up shop, in which I try to make a few bucks to support my collecting habit.  I sell vintage sewing patterns and other vintage finds from the past year that I’ve decided not to keep.


Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Novelty Prints, Shopping

Late 1950s Poodle Print

While shopping recently I spotted this 1950s poodle novelty print apron.  I’d seen the print several times before, mainly on a facebook page that is devoted to vintage novelty prints.  I snapped a shot for Instagram, and then forgot about it.

Then a couple of days later, Susan at NorthStar Vintage found the same print but in pink.  It got me to thinking about how common a practice it was for companies to offer prints in different colorways.

So I took to the internet in search of more poodles on different colored backgrounds.  The brown and tan version above is for sale at Heartbreaking.  What made her listing so great was that a shot of the selvage was included in the description.

John Wolf Textiles was registered for business in 1946 as a maker of home decorating fabrics.  The prints were perfect for curtains in a child’s room or kitchen, and were also intended for use as aprons.  But they were also used in clothing, and today gathered and pleated skirts are highly prized by collectors.

As was often the case, the fabrics were available to home sewers and to commercial clothing manufacturers.  The prints were not exclusive to any one maker.

This dress (for trade on Facebook by Leslie Coward) with the poodles on blue and black was a manufactured item.  Note how a bit of the stripe accents the bodice.  Also note there is a band of black at the hem that was added.

This dress was sold at Sears, Roebuck.  I also spotted the identical dress in an early 1960s Lana Lobell catalog.  You will have to click to see the catalog page because I found it on Pinterest and there was no way to establish who the originator of the photo was. (This is why I hate Pinterest…)

And here is the identical dress in green, which has been sold, but was in the FrocksnFrills shop.  This dress was sold by JC Penney, under their Brentwood label.  The poodles have buttons for eyes, and you can just barely tell that the black and blue version sold by Sears also have buttons for eyes, as does the one sold at Lana Lobell.

According to the Lana Lobell catalog copy, they sold the dress in black/blue, brown/tan, and mint/dark green.  I just find it interesting that the identical dress with different labels could be purchased in at least three places.


Although this print is not an exact match, I think it is close enough to be included here. The poses of the dogs are identical in both prints, but the dogs playing dress-up are a bit less poodley. Still, I think it shows how ideas evolved and changed, or perhaps, how ideas were “borrowed”.  This skirt was sold by Cheshire Vintage.

The facebook group I referred to, Novelty And Border Print B/S/T, is a great one to be involved in if you like novelty prints, or if you just want to learn more about them.  People in the group are very knowledgeable, and someone is always posting a new find  from a catalog to help document a print.

If anyone reading has this print in a different colorway, I’d love to show it off along with the others.

Edited for addition of photo.


Filed under Made in the USA, Novelty Prints, Southern Textiles, Uncategorized

1960s Golf Blouse from Adelaar

Not only do I collect sports clothing, but I also love clothes that depict women participating in sports and outdoor activities.  The 1950s and into the 60s was a great time for novelty prints, and so a lot of what I’ve found is from that time frame.  My new blouse appears to be from the early 1960s.

The young women shown are wearing fashionable golf attire which includes some very sharp shirts.  That’s not surprising as this blouse was made by Adelaar, one of the great blouse companies of the mid twentieth century.

Adelaar was originally Adelaar Brothers, and was owned by Emil, Maurice, and Bernard Adelaar.  The company was founded in 1934 in Chicago, with Maurice being the original designer of the blouses.  The company eventually relocated to New York City where it was easier to find sewing factories to actually construct the garments.

A couple of years ago a poster at VFG told about his family’s relationship with Adelaar.

I have a lot of familiarity with Adelaar. My uncles were the jobbers that made most of the blouses that were sold in the US. One shop was in Brooklyn. The second was on Long Island. They started making them right after WWII. The height was in the 1950’s and 1960’s. At that time I would venture that my uncles employed about 150 people, mostly first generation and immigrant Italian-American women. They were producing thousands of dozens a month. The blouses were very high quality material–silks, cottons, some linens (although they really didn’t like working with linen). They had a lot of style and wore very well. In fact, my aunt (my uncles’ youngest sister) passed away last year. Cleaning out her closet we discovered a number of Adelaar blouses including some that never came out of the box. They looked and felt brand new.

When a new run of blouses came in my uncles would sit down with Manny Adelaar and “make prices”–negotiate the wholesale cost of putting the blouses together. They had a great relationship with the Adelaar’s. There were no contracts. Everything was done on a handshake and an invoice. Adelaar would then ship the material, the buttons and the thread. Then the cutters would use the patterns and make all the sizes. Eventually some of the blouses were coming pre-cut. Toward the late 1970’s there were several trends occurring: women weren’t wearing those style blouses as much (didn’t quite fit the Woodstock generation profile); Adelaar was moving more into man-made material; US production costs were rising; and overseas competition was able to shave significant costs. The cost differential was too much for Adelaar to ignore so they had to move production overseas. One of my uncles passed away in 1979. The other one closed the second shop in about 1986. During the mid-70’s on Saturdays my cousins and I would occasionally help out as sweepers, packers, etc.

He was correct in saying that Adelaar produced a high quality product.  While this blouse is a bit over-shadowed by the graphic design of the illustration, without the decoration it is still a very nice shirt.

Note the cloth-covered buttons.  And even though this blouse is about fifty-five years old, the colors of the print are still good, even though the ragged state of the label shows it has been washed many times.

The blouse, which I bought through a facebook group, is not perfect due to a former owner cutting the sleeves off.  I was able to find a photo online of another example of this blouse and it had three-quarters sleeves with cuffs that button, and so I know how the shirt looked originally.  I did not know it at the time I bought the shirt, but I’d have purchased it anyway as the price was good, and the main thing is the graphic design.


Filed under Collecting, Novelty Prints, Sportswear, Summer Sports

1950s Sports Car Themed Belt by Calderon

This belt that I recently bought from Carla and Carla on Etsy was chosen for my collection because of two things.  It fits into a general travel theme and it can be paired with my 1950s novelty print skirts. I’m always looking for this type of belt, especially those featuring travel or sports.

I’ve seen these novelty belts advertised as being from the 1950s, 1980s, or even 1970s.  I can see why there is confusion, especially with the 80s.  During that era belts were wide, and were often contoured to fit the waist.  I’ve even seen similar belts from the 1980s that were decorated with African animals or faux coins.  But this one is from the 50s, or maybe the early 60s, when novelties were very popular.

The maker is Calderon.  I don’t know a thing about the company other than they made belts and handbags at least from the 1950s through the 1980s.  Oh, and that they made a high quality product.  My belt is stamped “Handmade” and it has features that would not be seen in lower quality belts.

Note the little leather patch.  These are glued over the metal pieces that hold on each metal motif.  Also, notice how nicely the back of the buckle is lined in leather.

In this photo you can see how the belt curves to fit the bottom of the waist.  A belt this wide, just under two inches, would be uncomfortable if it was cut straight and had to sit on the middle of the waist.

If I were the type to go crazy with a theme, I might pair this belt with this skirt.

I’m always looking for similar belts, so if you happen to spot one, please don’t hesitate to let me know about it.  But don’t bother with this one on 1st Dibs, as I’ve been looking at it lovingly for quite a while now.  And I’ll be looking at it for a while longer until someone lists one on etsy for a bit of a lower price!



Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Novelty Prints, Vintage Clothing

1970s Andreno Argenti Golf Themed Sweater

I had been meaning to pick up a Seventies sports themed novelty sweater for some time, but never quite found the right one at the right price.  But several weeks ago I ran across this one that had all the correct boxes ticked.  It was blue, golf-themed, and priced nicely.

This type of sweater is a bit of a puzzle to me, mainly because I do not remember them from my younger days.  Maybe it was because I was in high school and college during the years these seem to have been made, and our tastes were a little more hippie.  Or maybe it was because I was not a part of the golfing set.  For whatever reason  I don’t remember this trend at all, and these sweaters were not limited to golf themes.  What seem to be the two biggest producers, Andreno Argenti and Cyn Les, both manufactured in Taiwan and all the sweaters were made from acrylic.  The large majority of Argenti sweaters I found were golf themed, but Cyn Les did a wide variety of these, some of which had sayings embroidered on the sleeves.

I’ve looked at a lot of these lately in the sales pages of etsy and ebay.  Some sellers have them listed as 1950s, especially a cardigan version.  But I think that the Taiwan manufacture and the acrylic fiber points to the late Sixties and into the Seventies.  I don’t mind being contradicted if any reader has a better memory of these.  At any rate, mine is from the early Seventies, with that scooped neck and long, skinny line of the torso.

I can never seem to get the color right in my photos, but here are close-ups of the machine embroidery.  It was actually very nicely done.




Filed under Novelty Prints, Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

1930s Sports Novelty Print Teddy

Sometimes you just have to break the rules.  In the case of this teddy, I broke two of my self-imposed buying rules:

1. Buy online only from sellers I know.

2. Do not buy lingerie.

I really do not buy a lot online because I greatly prefer the experience of vintage shopping in the real world.  I like being able to examine and learn.  I like talking to dealers.  And most of all I like using my skills to assess whether or not a piece is worth the price and is worthy of a place in my collection.  I also don’t buy online from people I don’t know.  I’ll not go into details, but not all vintage sellers are created equal.

I also have put an end to buying any lingerie.  It just does not, for the most part, add anything to what I’m trying to develop as a collection.  But never say never.

I was doing a rare ebay search for “sports” in the women’s vintage clothing section when this teddy came up.  At first I was sure it was from the late 1970s with those high-cut legs, but I clicked on it just to satisfy my curiosity.  The close-up photos showed an authentic-looking print showing sportswomen (and a few men as well) dressed in mid 1930s sports clothes.  But prints can be deceiving.

The bra section was interesting, with a little gusset inserted for fullness.  I also noticed the edging.  It was looking promising.

The back was fitted by way of a bit of elastic, which looked vintage.

But what sold me on this piece was actually the crotch, or more exactly, the buttons in the crotch.  I was convinced this piece was actually from the 1930s.

And when it arrived, my thoughts were confirmed.  It’s not usual to see a rayon novelty print on underwear of that period, but one of the great things about collecting clothing is there is always something to be discovered, something one had no idea even existed.


Filed under Collecting, Novelty Prints, Vintage Clothing

The Cowichan Indian Sweater

I pulled this great little booklet out of a Goodwill bin, along with some other vintage booklets about Native American textiles.  What really interested me about this one was the section on knitted goods made by Vancouver Island Indians.  I know that knitting is not what generally springs to mind when thinking of Native textiles, but the Cowichan sweater is a special story.

In the early days of ebay chat boards, I loved to read the Vintage Fashion Board.  This was in the late 1990s, or maybe early 2000s, long before any vintage blogs or other sources of information online.  It was the best vintage education I could have gotten because it was an open discussion about anything and everything about old clothes.

One discussion I remembered in particular involved Mary Maxim and Cowichan sweaters.  As ebay was growing (exploding, actually) one of the big concerns was using key words so buyers could find what they wanted through searching.  For some reason, probably due to some “expert” on the board giving bad information, sellers started using the term Cowichan to describe Mary Maxim sweaters.

The only things the two sweaters really have in common is the use of a heavy multi-ply yarn in their making and often, the depiction of wildlife.  Mary Maxim is a company that sold knitting charts and yarns to home knitters.  The patterns are pictorial in nature, with themes like fishing or bowling or airplanes, usually in bright colors on a tan background.  They are best described, I suppose, as novelty sweaters.  Cowichan sweaters are hand knit by Indians on Vancouver Island, often with geometric patterns, but also depicting local wildlife.  They are knit in neutral colors of wool.

In the course of the ebay discussion, some knowledgeable person finally showed up and set us all straight about the Cowichan.  To use the term Cowichan to describe any bulky hand knit was just wrong, and to be honest, ignorant.  It was a good lesson for me, not to rely on the word of people I don’t really know.  Do my own research and be careful with the details.  Of course it is much easier now, fifteen years later.  The amount  of information on the internet is far beyond anything I imagined in 2000.  And it helps that today I know many people online whose knowledge I can trust.

Following is the text from the booklet, Indian Weaving, Knitting, Basketry of the Northwest, by Elizabeth Hawkins.  It was published in 1978.

Knitting is a modern technique that was introduced by early Scottish settlers to Vancouver Island Indians.  Today, Native knitting is predominated by the Salish women knitting the famous Cowichan Indian sweaters, and to a lesser extent, tams, socks, mitts and ponchos.  Many women still spin and dye their own wool both because of the handcrafted touch it gives and to keep the cost down.  Many of the sweaters are knitted in the round using as many as eight needles and therefore produce a seamless garment.

There is such a demand today for these sweaters that I was recently told that on two of the Vancouver Island reserves every woman of age commercially knits.  While the southern Vancouver Island and Fraser Valley tribes are the predominant knitters the demand is encouraging a similar home industry in northern villages as well.


Geometric patterns predominate in primitive Salish design but more modern designs often incorporate wildlife.  Thunderbird, eagle, killer whale and deer are crest figures often portrayed.

Duncan Fall Fair brings forth competition among Cowichan knitters.

I thought the spindles were really interesting.  I’ve never seen a spinning wheel adapted from an old treadle sewing machine.

Note the Scottish influence in the sweaters hanging behind the happy spinners.  I love that argyle.  The snowflake is interesting as well.  It looks like other knitting designs such as Scandinavian were being appropriated into the Cowichan.


Filed under Curiosities, Novelty Prints, Vintage Clothing