Category Archives: Looking Back

What My Mother Wore – Fur

The luxury item every woman wanted in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s was a fur coat, especially a mink coat.  Fur was a status symbol popularized by the actresses of the day.  Glamorous stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, and others wore fur in their movies, and were photographed attending gala events wrapped or adorned with furs.1940s Fur Coat NYC

Besides mink, muskrat, fox, raccoon, beaver, squirrel and rabbit were commonly used to make coats, capes, and stoles.  From the end of World War II through the 1950s the popularity of furs soared and became an important accessory for the fashionable woman.

Growing up,  I remember watching the rerun of an  “I Love Lucy” episode from 1951, The Fur Coat, with my mother in which Lucy doesn’t want to take off a beautiful mink coat even to sleep.  I also liked to pet the furs my mother  brought with her from New York which mainly stayed in the closet.  I was especially enamored with a little scarf-like stole with a head with a mouth clasp that clipped onto the fur.

Mid 1950s - Suit worn with Fur Stole

In present day, the wearing of fur is controversial, and is more likely to bring the wearer scorn than admiration.  Animal rights organizations have brought the realities of the cruelty of the fur industry into the public’s consciousness.  Synthetic fur became available in the 1950s and is an alternative that is being used by some designers.

What do you think today’s coveted fashion items are?

Strawberry Needlebook Project

I used my strawberry embroidery to make a needlebook!  It’s both decorative and very practical.  I had needles speared on little pieces of felt stashed all over the place that now have their own home, sweet home.Strawberry Embroidered Needlecase

I used this tutorial by Amy of Nana Company to make my needlebook with batting and hand quilting.  I also consulted her follow-up post, “Little Books”   which shows her many adorable little books and her revisions to the way she makes them.  I used the suggestion to change the opening for turning (which you later have to slip stitch closed) to the inside, but I didn’t want to omit a button on mine.

Quilting NeedlecaseI used my rotary pinking blade on the felt, and added a few pieces of trim to make it as pretty as can be.

Needlebook InteriorNeedlebook Interior with Rick-RackStrawberry Needlebook on Aida

I have these cute little craft frames that I got at Goodwill.  I’m thinking of using one  for the snowflake stitched on linen motif and stitching a few more.  As of yet, I have no plans for the free hand embroidered bird and flowers.
Small Frames for Stitchery

Amongst my old and new  paper needlebooks are two that are reminders of a different era – needlebooks given out as promotional items.  They  most likely date from the 1960s; one is from Speedee Mart 7/11 and the other is from Farmers Insurance.  This led me to think it would be fun to collect old needlebooks or other vintage sewing items.  Promotional Needlbooks and others

Do you have any sewing collections?

Crafting with Flea Market Fabrics

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That’s the name of a book I love that I bought in a used book store.  It’s by Deborah Harding and was published by Reader’s Digest in 1998.  Flea market is the term that is used, but this applies to fabrics bought at estate sales (a great source), yard sales, thrift stores, and even items stored in your own linen closet or garage.

I was reminded of this book after browsing in antique shops.  If you have these items, what do you do with them?  A lot of times, they’re just stored away and not enjoyed.  Some things, like an antique quilt, you wouldn’t want to cut up,  but what about partially stained linens or part of a tattered quilt?  What if a beautifully embroidered dresser scarf you have is just not your style?  The book has ideas of ways to adapt these items for everyday use instead of just saving them.

The chapters of the book contain projects for embroidered linens, chenille, quilts, lace trims, handkerchiefs, kitchen linens, and doilies.

Some visual glimpses:

A dresser scarf used as a door window covering…

Embroidered Dresser Scarf Used as Door Window Covering

pillowcase dolls….

Pillowcase Dolls

cats with handkerchief dresses…

Vintage Handkerchiefs as Cat Dresses

a Christmas handkerchief used as a focal point in a quilt wall hanging…

Christmas handkerchief used as center for quilt wall hanging

embroidered towels as pillow covers…

Embroidered Towels Made Into Pillow CoversTURES

days of the week embroidered towels made into a coverlet…

Tea Towels Made Into Bedspread

and an embroidered tea towel made into a tea or toaster cozy.

Vintage Tea Towel Made into Tea Cozy

Look at all the beautiful things vintage kitchen linens were made into in this photo: curtains, placemats, chair seats, and napkins.  So charming!

Vintage Kitchen Linens Remade

Besides the projects, the book has interesting information about the history of and collecting the subject item of each chapter.

One project I found on Pinterest from Karoline of Cherished*Vintage uses vintage tablecloths and embroidered pillowcases to make wire coat hanger slipcovers.  So pretty!

The always creative refashion blogger, Beth, of The Renegade Seamstress, made a gorgeous dress out of a vintage Vera tablecloth.  How stunning!

What is your view on these vintage fabrics: store away, use, or repurpose? Do you have a project you have made with pieces of a quilt, tablecloth,  or other vintage item?

Antique Store Finds

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Over the Labor Day weekend I browsed through several of the many antique stores in the rural town of Ramona, California.  I enjoy looking at vintage embroidered linens and kitchen items, sewing things,  childhood things, old books, and just about anything.  It’s like exploring someone’s attic or garage for old treasures.

Some of the things I saw were pretty embroidered dresser scarves, fabric, and quilts…

some old sewing machines…

buttons prettily displayed, and wooden spools standing in a wooden case.

I love Portuguese yarn dolls – this one has a lovely apron.

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My mother had one of these Witch Needle Threaders made in Germany.  Why don’t they make these anymore?  They’re so easy to use – with a press of a lever the needle is threaded.

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Only a few of the finds came home with me: “vintage” rayon fabric, notions, and cookie cutters.

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I love the little shell buttons with the notches.  So pretty!

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A Pressing Matter

The iron I use most often is this General Electric Cat No 43F33  with a cloth covered cord.  It was made in the USA in Bridgeport, Connecticut circa late 1940s or early 1950s and has been in use ever since.   Its settings are SYN-RAY-WOOL-COT-LIN.  My mother ironed with it on a weekly basis while I was growing up.  I like its heft.  In comparison, other irons feel like toys.  I also have a steam iron I use as a backup.

I’ve never had a reason to stop using it.  Do you have something old or passed down that you use for sewing or other household activities?

Records from Christmas’s Past

As a child, I watched the then new Christmas television specials that are now classics: “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”.

I still have some Christmas golden 78 records (yellow vinyl) put out by cultural icons The 3 Stooges, Dennis the Menace and the Original Disney Chipmunks.  The Disney chipmunks later had to compete with Alvin and the gang in the battle of chipmunk singing.

I especially remember listening to the 3 Stooges’ hilarious  “Wreck the Halls”  when everything came crashing down at the end.

Another favorite TV Christmas special was “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol”. That one is no longer shown, although I think it was shown again this year in a version edited to add more commercials (boo).

A favorite Christmas movie is “Scrooge”, the 1970 musical version of Dickens “A Christmas Carol” starring Albert Finney.

I saw it in the theater when it first came out, and was captivated by the songs.  I especially love the exuberance of the three songs at the end “I Like Life”, “Father Christmas”, and “Thank You Very Much” with all the townspeople singing and dancing in the street. Now I can enjoy it every year.

Merry Christmas!