Category: Vintage books

Nov 16

Support SecondhandFirst Week

 

 

SecondhandFirst Week

SecondhandFirst Week

 

Tomorrow (today if you’re reading this on the email feed) marks the first day of #SECONDHANDFIRST Week, 17-23 November 2014.

The week aims to encourage people to commit to sourcing more clothing and other resources second hand. It’s organised by TRAID, the charity doing tireless work to ensure sustainable and ethical practices in the clothing chain. It’s hoped that this will become an annual event.

Here in Bath, the Big Mend is delighted to be acting as a partner organisation, and we’ve arranged one of our Flash Mend events* in Bath Central Library on Monday 17th November. We’d love it if you’d join us any time from 1-4pm with some hand-held mending: darning would be ideal as we’ll be hoping to quietly impart mending skills to passing library users. If you’re in Bath and would like a quick darning lesson, come down and say hello, pick up a darning mushroom and try out some stitches with us.

Here are ways you can support the week:

 

Flash mend event

A Big Mend Flash Mend event

 

*Mass mending events in public places

 

 

 

4
comments

Mar 25

Mend with Mother

 

 

Minolta DSC

Mend with Ma this Wednesday

 

The Big Mend this month will have a Mother’s Day theme. So there’ll be FREE CAKE for all mums this Wednesday 26th March at the Museum of Bath at Work, Julian Road, Bath7-9pm.

We’d also love it if you’d come along and share your mending memories with us. Memories of watching things repaired at mother’s knee, perhaps; memories of Granny darning, maybe. We will be beginning to record mending memories in our imaginatively titled Mending Memories Notebook and warmly invite you to add yours.

I’m aware that many of us don’t have mothers (myself included) but I hope that won’t deter anyone from coming; there’ll be FREE CAKE for motherless souls too… :*-)

If you are in or near Bath and haven’t attended one of the Big Mend sessions, here’s how it works. We always meet on the last Wednesday of the month to tackle whatever’s in our mending pile – or, at least, a small portion of it. Tools and materials* are laid on, as far as possible, though you might want to bring along matching thread, or the perfect button, if you’re picky about such things. Or your sewing kit, if you’re attached to your particular needles, sewing scissors etc. There’ll be advice and suggestions on how you might go about your textile repair, if you’re stuck. We don’t charge, as such, but ask a minimum £2 donation to help cover the museum’s costs.

The more is most definitely the merrier, so if you like the idea then please share this post with someone else who you think might appreciate it. Thanks. Oh, did I mention the FREE CAKE?

 

*we’re always happy to accept donations of sewing tools, haberdashery or scrap materials that we can use for textile repairs. If you have anything that you think might be suitable, please get in touch.

 

5
comments

Oct 16

Red Dress – 1946

 

 

1940s jumper dress pattern c/o seller BessyAndMaive on Etsy

 

My mother was making me a dress. All through the month of November I would come home from school and find her in the kitchen, surrounded by cut-up velvet and scraps of tissue-paper pattern. She worked at an old treadle machine pushed up against the window to get the light, and also to let her look out, past the stubble fields and bare vegetable garden, to see who went by on the road. There was seldom anybody to see.

The red velvet material was hard to work with, it pulled and the style my mother had chosen was not easy either. She was not really a good sewer. She liked to make things; that is different. Whenever she could she tried to skip basting and pressing and she took no pride in the finer points of tailoring, the finishing of buttonholes and the overcasting of seams as, for instance, my aunt and grandmother did. Unlike them she started off with an inspiration, a brave and dazzling idea; from that moment on, her pleasure ran downhill.

 from Red Dress–1946 by Alice Munro

 

Red Dress–1946 comes from Alice Munro‘s first collection of short stories, Dance of the Happy Shades published in 1968. By chance, I was already reading this before the announcement last week that Munro had won the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature; I had no idea that she was even tipped, but she’s a delightful choice.

Munro was an author my mother enjoyed; they were contemporaries, growing up in very similar North American cultural spaces, and some of the stories in this collection centre on girls in small towns during the first half of the twentieth century. Reading Munro seems to bring my mother (rather long gone now) back into reassuring proximity.

This story is one of my favourites, not just because it features sewing (informed by some understanding of the process) but for the way it reveals character so economically through it. It also nails how mortification and extreme fear of social embarrassment are the air an adolescent breathes. If you want to read some Munro – and like sewing – I’d recommend that you head straight for this delicious little volume.

The 1940s jumper pattern from which the image comes is available to buy over to BessyAndMaive‘s Etsy shop.

 

 

4
comments

Feb 11

Swiss darning

 

I have to confess a new addiction. Without a couple of lines a day I start to feel cranky.

Don’t worry. It’s only Swiss darning! Yes, this mending technique is very more-ish indeed. It’s perfect for thinning areas that haven’t become properly holey yet: the sole of a sock or the elbow of a sweater. It can also be used to reinforce areas in anticipation of heavy wear. There are really wonderful decorative possibilities (Tom is the master!) but I am currently plodding along with the very basic version.

First, a few practicalities. Unlike regular darning, this can be worked from the front of the garment, which I really like as you can see exactly what you’re doing and it feels much more controlled. A darning mushroom is useful to keep your work well supported, though don’t over-stretch it. The yarn you choose should be the same weight and type of fibre as the rest of the garment; if wool, you want to aim for roughly 15-25% nylon content for improved wear. Bespoke darning yarns are ideal as they tend to have that proportion of nylon, but it’s also fun to experiment with odds and ends so it’s worth testing whatever leftover yarn you happen to have lying around  (tapestry, for example). Make sure you’re using about an arm’s length of yarn: more and it will be prone to tangle, less and you’ll be forever finishing off and restarting. Use a yarn-darning needle, meaning a blunt one; a pointed one will tend to split the fibres.

I invested in three pairs of John Arbon Textiles‘ Shetland wool socks a couple of years ago, and they were so comfy I wore them to death. They all became very thin across the ball of my foot; I think this indicates the high wool (or low nylon) content of the body of the sock; the contrast toe caps and heels appear to be made of something more robust. This pattern of wear might also indicate my lack of slippers, a situation which has now been rectified.

Swiss darning completed

You can see the thinning here.

Swiss darning in progress

The method for Swiss darning is to follow the line of the knitted stitches. With stocking stitch this means going in and out two holes above, in and out two holes below. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. You quickly get into a rhythm and learn to identify the right holes. Keeping the tension even takes a little getting used to.

Swiss darning

Shh! Darning in progress.

Swiss darning in progress

I was using up odds and ends of darning yarn, so repaired the other sock in navy blue (and it didn’t look quite so good).

And here’s my second pair, one sock down. I’ve experimented with different ways of working in the ends, and I think I’m getting generally better at it.

By the way, that green stuff is a vintage skein of Botany mending yarn. As Swiss darning consumes a lot of yarn, you do need quite a bit to complete two socks. These skeins are ideal for the job, but I haven’t found any new darning yarn available in any quantity. Just smallish cards. If you happen to know where to buy the stuff in bulk, please let me know.

IMG_3095

Next I plan to unpick the inferior darning job I did on my blue socks and rework those, still in a similarly bright colour. And then I’m looking forward to reinforcing some elbow patches. I find this such a soothing, satisfying way of mending a knitted garment; it really does feel like an authentic, robust way of rebuilding a fabric. Here’s a page from the vintage needlework book I was following: Dressmaking and Needlework by Catherine A. Place, published in 1953. I hope you’ll have a go too.

IMG_3040

 

6
comments

Dec 04

Keep-it-simple Christmas decorations

 

 

A local magazine asked me to put together the following brief article about making your own Christmas decorations. And I mean brief: the word count was 250-300 words (the briefest of briefs) so there was no space to explain or give instructions. But  it offers a few thrifty ideas to pursue, so I thought I’d post it here on the blog. If you’d like instructions – or even a film from me – explaining how to make any of these, just leave me a comment or email and I’ll be happy to demonstrate; I’ve been meaning to dust off the camera for a while now.

 

Place-marker cotton reels

Place-marker cotton reels

 

OK, so here’s the article…

 

Think laterally this year and make your own beautifully thrifty Christmas decorations.

1. Use what you have in the cupboard.  Jazz up sewing materials; coax a paper-clip into a circle with some jewellery pliers and position in a cotton reel to make a jauntily festive place-marker. Or thread buttons onto looped wire for a napkin ring, finished with a scrap-fabric bow. Turn functional kitchen items decorative; upend a jam jar to create a voguish snow globe*, and hang cookie cutters as tree bling.

Jam-jar snow globe

Kitchen bling

 

2. Display kitchen ingredients. Pull dried cinnamon sticks and star anise out of the spice cupboard to look and smell the part. String fresh red chili peppers this Christmas and they’ll slowly dry for your cooking throughout 2013.

3. Gather natural objects. Bring in pinecones and garden greenery.

4. Recycle broken paperbacks. Cut page lengths into 2.5cms /1”-wide strips. A pair of children’s scalloped craft scissors gives a fancier edge. Glue or staple strips into loops to form a paper chain.

Book paper chains

Old book paper chains

 

5. Turn newspapers into hearts. Old wrapping paper, greetings cards and catalogues also work for heart garlands. Consider investing in a specialist cutter (like a giant hole punch) if you’re making lots; good but slower results come from drawing round a template, such as a heart-shaped cookie cutter, and cutting out with scissors. Machine-stitch hearts together vertically or horizontally, with gaps close or wide to suit. Red thread sets it off nicely.

Upcycled garlands

Before: a newspaper, a sweater, a scarf, a map

 

6. Upcycle old clothes. Transform a precious wool garment accidentally felted in the wash into another pretty garland. Cut out graded circles (3 slightly different sizes look good). Arrange rounds pleasingly before stitching together on a sewing machine. Strengthen with a second line of stitching before decking the halls.

 

Scrap paper and felt garlands

Deck the halls with… junk!

 

I’m selling packs of 100 pre-cut book-page links in my Etsy store. I am also happy to supply you with finished chain, if you prefer. You can  see some of the finished paper-chain currently decking the halls of Topping Books, Bath, where you might also be interested in a lovely event this Thursday 6th December with Scandinavian Christmas author Trine Hahnemann, 6-9pm.  I’ll be there, sniffing the lingonberry gin fizz! Hope to see you.

 

* snow globe remarkably similar to this one spotted in Anthropologie, Chelsea for c, £22 pounds. Dear Reader, make your own!

 

 

 

10
comments

Dec 15

Christmas at War

I’m going to be making-do-and-mending with the Museum of Bath at Work this Saturday, helping them to celebrate a World War II-style Christmas. Pop by between 10am and 4pm on Saturday 17th and you’ll likely find me wreathed in brown-paper chains with a ton of darning mushrooms and other selected vintage notions, including some gorgeous Fair-Isle knitting patterns. The museum’s usual entrance fee applies, but you’re guaranteed to really get in the mood; re-enactment group the Blitz Buddies will be there, and I hear there will be music and dancing to make the experience come alive. Incidentally, this event kicks off the 70th anniversary commemorations of the Bath Blitz next year. Bath was bombed as part of the retaliatory Baedeker raids on 25th and 26th April 1942. You can find out more at the Bath Blitz Memorial Project. If you have memories of Bath during the war, the museum would be delighted if you’d come along on Saturday and share them.

The Christmas at War organisers have broken it to me gently that I’m expected to dress the part. I’ve decided to go land-girl style, sporting a Fair-Isle tank top. Fair-Isle knitting was a great way to use up stray odds and ends of yarn (one had to unpick worn-out knitted garments and re-knit) but its popularity during World War II possibly owes as much to an interesting rationing loophole: whereas knitting wool was rationed (two ounces of knitting yarn took one precious clothing coupon), mending cards not exceeding one ounce were exempt. Yarn producers cottoned on to this and duly produced mending cards in an array of colours to meet the demand. Cunning, eh?

Mrs. Sew-and-Sew darns

There were, of course, five Christmases celebrated while the nation was at war. The festivities of 1939 weren’t so different from those pre-war, though new blackout restrictions ended the sight of lit Christmas trees in front windows. Rationing hadn’t kicked in yet, and people spent quite freely on gifts, in spite of the Chancellor’s injunction not to be wasteful.

1940 was the first real wartime Christmas. Britain was under siege. The Blitz had kicked off in London in September, and November had seen the devastating bombing of Coventry. Food rationing had begun in January. Practical Christmas gifts were in: gardening tools, books, bottling jars and seeds, with the most popular gift that year being soap.

Clothing and textiles were rationed from June 1941, and food rationing increased to its peak by Christmas. Petrol and manpower shortages prevented home-delivery of shop goods, so people now had to carry their purchases. Wrapping paper was very scarce, and toys were in short supply and (when they could be found) shoddily made and expensive. Home-made or renovated gifts were the thing. Yet this was an optimistic time because, with the Allies now in the war, Brits felt they would definitely beat Hitler.

By Christmas 1942, two popular gifts had succumbed to the ration: soap and sweets. In order to prepare for the festive season, food coupons had to be saved for months ahead. Homemade decorations were the order of the day; the Ministry of Food made the helpful suggestion that, though there were ‘no gay bowls of fruit’, vegetables could be used instead for their jolly colours: ‘The cheerful glow of carrots, the rich crimson of beetroot, the emerald of parsley – it looks as delightful as it tastes.’

Christmas 1943 saw shortages at their height. There was little chance of turkey, chicken or goose, or even rabbit. Much Christmas food was ‘mock’ (i.e. false): mock ‘turkey’ (made from lamb) and mock ‘cream’ and ‘marzipan’.  Make-do-and-mend presents were the order of the day; magazines printed instructions for knitted slippers and gloves, brooches made from scraps of wool, felt or plastic, and embroidered bookmarks and calendars.

Mending threads

Vintage mending threads

Christmas 1944 was probably the least joyful of the entire war. People had hoped it might be all over by Christmas, after the Allied Normandy invasion of June,  but mid-December saw the Ardennes Offensive with thousands killed on both sides. German air attacks (now V1 and V2 rockets) began in June, with 30 hitting England on Christmas Eve. One surprise benefit of the pilot-less doodlebugs was that blackout restrictions could be lifted, so churches lit their their stained glass windows for the first time in 4 years. DIY gifts were once again a necessity; the book Rag-Bag Toys gave instructions for making a cuddly pig from an old vest, and a doll from old stockings.

The unconfined joy of VE Day 1945 suddenly makes a lot more sense to me. I think I will be relishing my Christmas turkey and tree lights as never before this year!

The Museum of Bath at Work can be found on Julian Road (the Lansdown Hill end), tucked behind Christ Church.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7
comments

Sep 26

The Bath Brocante

On Saturday afternoon I wandered around the corner for a constitutional and happened upon a little corner of France here on the Eastern fringes of Bath.

Alice Park Brocante

Ooh la la! What a great poster!

The Bath Brocante is a new venture from antiques dealer Katherine Gilmore.

La Brocanteuse!

La Brocanteuse elle-même!

Katherine conceived this as a monthly outdoor event taking place during the relatively clement seasons of the British year. Brave Katherine! Happily, she brought rather a lot of jauntily buntinged canvas along with her too, though in the event the weather turned out to be surprisingly kind; it didn’t rain and was actually warm! So much so that Katherine hardly needed her beautifully embellished tweed jacket at all (which I had to take a close-up of because it was officially adorable and I am nothing if not fixated by such details, especially when they include Liberty fabric. Katherine is probably issuing a restraining order as I type…).

Revamped jacket detail

All the occasion needed was a little music — like this, perhaps (please be patient as it doesn’t play until 21 seconds in) — and maybe the relaxing clink or two from an adjacent boules game? I’m sure these could easily be arranged.

Brocante bunting

If you like what you see, The Bath Brocante series next year will run on the 2nd Saturday of the month (remember the formula, folks!) from May onwards. Do contact Katherine if you’re a French-inspired trader or maker interested in booking a 2012 stall. The brocante’s blog is over here, or you can email Katherine at this carefully disguised spam-defying email address: gilmorekatherine AT hotmail DOT com.

Bath Brocante cushions

Jaunty cushions made from vintage textiles

A bientôt, mes amis!

 

 

4
comments

Sep 21

Harris Tweed Centennial

There’s a decided nip in the air these days which is driving me to winterise my wardrobe. The boots are back on, and I’ve ferreted out my trusty brown & cream window-pane check Harris tweed suit from the darker recesses of the cupboard.

Harris tweed, justly dubbed the champagne of fabrics, happens to be celebrating 100 years of its anti-counterfeit Orb trademark this year*. It has the distinction of being the only fabric in the world governed by its own Act of Parliament: the Harris Tweed Act 1993, stipulating that it must be handwoven on the island of Harris at the home of the weaver. In fact, it’s the only handwoven fabric produced in commercial quantities. This explains why it retails at a hefty £75 a metre.

Harris Tweed orb mark

100 years of the Harris Tweed orb mark

Expensive it may be, but it’ll probably outlive you. My Harris tweed suit came from Jigsaw about 15 years ago and has remained completely  impervious to the elements, moths etc.

If you have a need for tweed, why not enjoy this footage of Glasgow’s first Tweed Ride which took place on 7th August? Don’t they look stylish?

The Harris Tweed Ride from Jamie Vincent Gillespie on Vimeo.

Or, how about a map for the tweedophile in your life? Admittedly it’s of an area some distance from Harris. And the name ‘tweed’ doesn’t actually derive from the River Tweed at all, being an unfortunate nineteenth century misreading (allegedly by a London cloth merchant) of ‘tweel’, the Scottish for twill.  Ah well. Close enough for rock ‘n’ roll.

Tweeddale

1959 Bartholomew's map of Tweeddale

* for fellow nit-pickers, the orb trademark was granted in 1909, registered in 1910 and started being stamped on cloth in 1911.

6
comments

Jul 12

It’s Darling! Summer Spectacular

It's Darling! summer fair 2011

 

 

It's Darling! summer fair flyer back

I’ll be at the It’s Darling! vintage & artisan fair again this summer on Saturday 16th July, bringing my specially selected batch of Scrapiana vintage haberdashery, textiles, handmade items etc. Oh, and lots and lots of strawberry emery grit, just in case you’ve got a yearning to make your own vintage strawberry needle-cushions (as featured in Mollie Makes magazine). Last summer’s It’s Darling! event was the very first of its kind, and the fair is really going from strength  to strength. I hope I’ll be sitting next to the lovely Faith Caton-Barber again (and her glorious bespoke wearable Something Fabulous creations). I’ll be featuring Faith in greater depth on the blog very soon.

If you’re planning a day (or even a weekend in Bath), don’t forget that there’s a new exhibition of film costumes (Dressing the Stars) opening at the Fashion Museum, Marilyn’s costumes are still on show at the American Museum, and the Roman Baths are open till late (10pm in July and August – last entry 9pm). Hope to see you on Saturday!

4
comments

Jun 23

Thanks for the emeries

‘The Strawberry Emery is nothing new, but it is so very useful and easy of construction, there is no reason why every needleworker should not possess one. Woolen goods represent the fuzzy nature of the strawberry better than silk or …’

Home Needlework Magazine, Volume 4, 1902.

Tantalizingly, that’s all I can make out of it on Google books, though I’m grateful for that glimpse (who knew that ‘fuzzy’ was such an old word?). As proof of the relatively long history of strawberry emeries, even from the Edwardian vantage point, here’s an earlier reference from 1852 when they were already well established (pick it up from near the bottom of the first column, at ‘Knitted Berries and Fruit’):

From Godey’s Magazine & Lady’s Book, Volume 45, 1852.

And in the same volume was this which I felt compelled to share.

Still my beating heart! How lingerie has changed, even if the content of crafting magazines doesn’t appear to have altered as much as one might have thought! I don’t expect to be seeing sheet music (a staple in Victorian women’s magazines) in Mollie Makes any time soon though. I love that the strawberry emery has such a long history and is now (I hope) enjoying a well-deserved resurgence in popularity. Do you think we can do the same for the saucy little sick-room cap?

 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

5
comments

Socialized through Gregarious 42
make PrestaShop themes