Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Eh - What do I know, anyway?

Once Mary finishes the preliminary work on a vintage sewing pattern donation, I get to play. Er, that is, I go through the patterns and decide which ones go into the Recycle area and which go to Trade. Poor little me. :-)

Now you have to understand that my collecting tastes are rather limited (don't even talk to me about anything post-1960), so deciding the "fate" of modern patterns is sometimes much more challenging than it should be. Condition plays a huge role, of course. And, sometimes, so does guesswork.

Inevitably there are times when I am just so wrong. There are couple of patterns in the Trade area that have been languishing on the virtual shelf for far too long. And then there's the Recycle pattern that everyone wants.

My blooper for January is the McCall's 5747 Fashion Basics baby doll dress pattern. It was the first pattern requested on the first request processed, and I personally stopped counting when we got to a dozen requests. We actually pulled the pattern out to see what it was....

McCall's 5747 baby doll dress pattern

Now -- in my own defense -- I did hesitate about this one. (Dressy, great plunging back, you can just see the skirt swinging and it's factory folded!) But something about it reminded me faintly of a maternity dress. Those tend to unpopular no matter how stylish -- and into the Recycle pile this went. Hmmph. Next time I'll know better.

In case you're wondering, whenever a Recycle pattern brings in a huge number of requests we adjust the donor's pattern points (7 more points to your account, Elva!). And we never take away pattern points even if we decide to pull a pattern from the Trade area.

And speaking of bloopers, my apologies to Lori for getting her name wrong on the previous logo entry post. (All better now.) No defense at all on that one!

May I'll add a Senior Moments label...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Yes! It's mine!

I was a little grumpy when the mailman arrived yesterday -- what with all that snow to shovel and forecasts of subzero temperatures for "an extended period". As anyone who lives near the Great Lakes can tell you, when the meteorologists start talking about an "interesting weather pattern" there's trouble ahead. (Unless you live for sculpting skyscrapers from snow.)

Anyway, tucked in amongst the ad circulars, important letters (Time Sensitive material enclosed! Open now!) and assorted bills was a small bubble-wrap envelope that turned out to be my belated Christmas present from Mary:

McCall Russian costume pattern from 1920
I've had my eye on this 1929 McCall pattern for quite a while over at the Woodland Farms Antiques pattern section. Guess I talked about it quite a bit, too -- because at Christmas Mom handed me a card with the cash and a lovely note instructing me to get that pattern. And, of course, I always do what mother tells me.

Before you ask -- NO. There is absolutely no chance that you will be seeing photos of me in a Russian costume in this lifetime. As much as I adore this little beauty, it's not going to be one of the sewing projects resolved for 2009. Unless I happen to stumble across fabric with the exact floral pattern shown on the model at left. You do the math on those odds :-)

As a pattern collector I always look for interesting styles, but graphics are probably the deciding factor when I finally get around to shelling out cash. These small envelopes with the color labels that McCall produced between 1929 and 1931 are favorites. (You may have figured that out from the Pattern Rescue mascot -- another McCall pattern from the same era.) Simplicity also made patterns with color graphics on tiny envelopes for a short period and I'm delighted to have a couple of those, too.

For fashion style, I usually find the designs from just a few years later -- the 1933 to 1935 "golden age" of Hollywood glamor -- more interesting. And I don't have any particular fondness for costume patterns. Maybe it's just the tighter framing on the small envelopes that grabs my eye. Whatever it is, I fell in love with this at first sight and should have a lot more free time now that I won't have to be checking the site to see if it's still there....

What do you think -- a shadow box with a few period notions and ribbons? A black Art Deco frame? Anybody out there with a favorite technique for displaying small patterns?

Thanks, Mom! In case I haven't told you lately, you're the best!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Best volunteer response for 2008

I'll try to avoid using the terms "pit bull" and "lipstick" in the same thought, but it's amazing how tenaciously many members hunt down requests for sewing patterns on the Post page. I've read cheery emails from people who view the Post page as an online treasure hunt, and rather grumpy emails from bleary-eyed surfers who seem in danger of holding a personal grudge because the pattern eludes them.

Advance Paris 113 sewing patternYou guys have even managed to find some rarely-seen patterns that I would have bet would never show up -- like this extravagant Advance Import pattern from the 1950s. But sure enough -- about a week after it posted someone spotted it. We wrote to the owner, our member got the needed instruction sheet, and another new member was signed up. (Dontcha just love a happy ending?)

The sheer number of sewing patterns produced over the years does make finding any particular pattern -- especially in some specific size -- quite a challenge. But we now have well over a thousand incomplete patterns on hand. And many, many thousands more vintage sewing patterns are available for the odd pattern piece copy thanks to our informal (and generally harmless) army of volunteers who've agreed to check their collections.

All new volunteers get a form letter lovingly crafted welcome notice explaining the program and requesting a bit of information about themselves, their pattern collections, and their reasons for becoming a volunteer. The answers are always fascinating and with permission I'll be sharing some of them with you throughout the year. But first, here's my selection for Best Volunteer Response of 2008. The honors go to Naomi.

Seems Naomi has been sewing since she was old enough to thread a needle and still has every piece of every pattern she's ever laid hands on. No instruction-sheet-needed posts or pattern quests for a fondly remembered oldie are forthcoming from this gal -- she's got 'em all. Definitely not someone who volunteers to give back while looking for missing pieces of her own.

So is she taking pity on those of us with less foresight or poorer organizational skills? Is she simply happy to help those who have come to the unhappy realization that a vintage sewing pattern that "appears complete" and a vintage sewing pattern that actually IS complete aren't necessarily the same thing? Noooo.

Naomi volunteered, she says, because she's deeply attached to her collection and being a Pattern Rescue volunteer gives her "a valid excuse to hang on to all those patterns".

Amen to that, sister! (In fact, it sounds a lot like the basic reasoning behind starting up Pattern Rescue in the first place. Oh no, that's right -- I was trying to help people.)

Well, congratulations, Naomi -- and may I say that I am not all ashamed to be enabling you in this obsession with sewing patterns. If someone hints that perhaps my collection has grown a bit too large, I find that a cold stare accompanied by "These are valuable pieces of the history of fashion and women's role in society" brings about a rapid change of subject. But we're honored to be your excuse of choice :-)

Speaking of enabling obsessions...

January's first Recycle pattern group will go up at 12:01 a.m. EST on January 11th. Really. Honest. No, this time I'm sure. The second group will go up at 12:01 a.m. EST on January 21st -- and by that time all the other pages should be fully up-to-date, too.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

New Year's resolution of a pattern collector

Vogue Couturier pattern 494 close-upBeing part of Pattern Rescue has come with an unexpected but wonderful fringe benefit. After nearly 10 years of being strictly a pattern collector, handling all the great patterns you guys have donated has reminded me how much I used to love sewing. And so, gentle readers, I am publicly making a resolution for 2009. By the end of the year, I WILL complete 4 sewing projects.

Of course, the last serious sewing project I can remember doing dates back about 20 years, so this is going to involve some up-front work. Like getting the sewing machine out of storage and tuned up, tracking down my notions and supplies, and -- oh yes -- returning the sewing room to a workable state.

(Guess I should have seen this coming. Why else would someone who hasn't sewn in 20 years years still have a sewing room?)


Vogue Couturier pattern 494 envelopePerhaps the best part of sewing was always the initial process. Sometimes it would be finding a wonderful pattern and then carefully selecting the perfect fabric, trim and what-have-you. Other times I'd find a fabulous fabric, and patiently wait until THE perfect pattern turned up.

Take, for example, this 1950s Vogue Couturier number that recently joined my clutter as part of a pattern lot purchase. It really didn't ring any bells from the photo, but when the package arrived I just couldn't keep my eyes off this one.

It's the wrong size, the wrong style, and probably not the easiest project in the world for my rusty sewing skills. But this is the pattern that's tipped the scale, so it's definitely at the top of the list of possibilities for now. (Anybody need a vintage size 12 party dress?)

For other other pattern, I'm thinking perhaps one my 1930s apron patterns. Or maybe one of those darling little girl's dresses? Hmm.. So many patterns!

Anyway, I'll be keeping you posted, bugging you for suggestions, and probably crying for sewing tips before the end of the year. Wish me luck -- and don't forget to bug me about how that resolution is coming!