Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sewing in the Good Ole Days

         Remember when we sewed? Department stores had bolt after bolt of fabrics and sewing notions of every description: thread, buttons, lace, and a counter of pattern books. These were huge hard backed catalogues filled with  pictures of available patterns, which were filed in large cabinets.
        These catalogues changed with the seasons and if a seamstress was alert she could be the first to place her name on the front cover and when the new one came in the old catalogue was hers to take home.
     Over the years I managed to reserve several and kept them until they were badly outdated before finally selling them and some old patterns at garage sales.
       It appears that I would have been smarter to have kept them somewhere, anywhere, even collecting dust bunnies under the bed, and listed them on today's eBay!  Today I followed a link to eBay’s collectibles RARE VTG 1940s HOLLYWOOD COUNTER Pattern Catalog 1946 and viewed a 1946 Hollywood pattern book that with only four bids had reached $316. Several pages of patterns were shown.  
      I do not remember our stores stocking Hollywood patterns but there were Simplicity, Butterick, McCalls and Vogue, which was the queen of them all. The Vogue instructions were sometimes difficult to follow and I remember once making a suit and coming to a halt when I could see no way to make the limited directions work. I remember going to bed a very frustrated seamstress and after sleeping on the problem decided to quit thinking and start sewing as the instructions stated and the garment turned out perfect.
      My daughters did not have ready-made clothing until they left home and my youngest continued the hand made trend throughout her college days. Several times I made four of five garments (all needed immediately, naturally) and put them in the mail. I expect that today's postage wouId be near the cost of the entire group.
 I enjoyed the sewing and most of all, picking out the fabrics. Occasionally it became a design project with yards of fabric spread across the dining table and pieces of different patterns fitted together in an effort to create a style I had been unable to find in the pattern books. Those were the times I became a wee bit irritable if I were interrupted by rough-housing kids running through the house.
      This prom  formal was a real problem. The shade of fabric we had in mind was not available so by combining two layers of tulle, one apricot and one beige, we were satisified and did the same with the net that was used. The tulle roses were also made of the two combined colors. there were about forty of those with tiny green leaves all thandmade. Yeah, those were the days but somehow, I'm thankful that today all that fabric is not covering my dining table.
      It was fun, fabrics were beautiful and it saved a ton of money. Not so, today.  In the past I often made a garment for a third of what a pattern alone costs today. The remnant table always called me to browse, much to the despair of my daughters. They preferred making their choices from nice fresh bolts of fabric, not a garment made from a pattern adapted to fit on a remnant..  Remnants were a bargain and a challenge I loved to tackle.
      There were occasions when the challenge was greater than I expected and I remember once when working with a Vogue pattern and a remnant of velveteen (one way nap) it took every speck of my patience and every inch of material to make my outfit. Then I discovered it badly needed a self belt and pieced togather the remaining scraps of material  to create strips that then had to be braided to hide the piecing seams. I don’t have any of that remnant left in my scrap box! I do have a cedar chest stuffed with a few favorites including the dress shown.
      As a "fabricaholic" I also have drawers stuffed full of 'bargain fabrics,' their colors and prices were irresistable.
I wonder if I would have the patience to again make a garment. I even have some already cut out, waiting.

Patterns from long ago. Back to the
days we square danced and went

      A few years back fabrics disappeared from our town. Even Walmart discontinued their stock and patterns became nonexistant. Our Gibson's continued to stock cottons but little else. Yesterday I noticed Walmart had created a new area of sewing materials but I didn't investigate the type. Nothing fancy, I expect.
      Did you know that patterns can be viewed and ordered online? I haven't but that sewing machine and those drawers of fabric are whispering to me.