Maud Humphrey

Maud Humphrey

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Vintage Sewing Books

I love books. All kinds. When I was a kid, my mom used to drop me off at the public library for an entire Saturday while she ran her errands. I'd even bring my lunch. Yeah, I was a little bit nerdy. Then, when I was first married, I worked at that same library for five years until I quit to stay home full time with my little ones. I love being a stay-at-home mom, but if I ever had to work again, the library would be my dream job. Well, either that or the fabric store!
I used to think that maybe I had too many books. But then I saw a recent episode of the show "Hoarders" and I felt much better about my two book shelves. The show profiled a couple who had an estimated 500,000 books piled everywhere in their home, with practically nowhere to walk or even sit without having a tower of books fall on top of them. I guess there is such a thing as having "too much of a good thing"!I love everything about books...the way they smell and the way the pages feel. I love vintage books even better. And if a vintage book happens to be about sewing and/or dolls, then I'm in love! The books above illustrate the vintage sewing books in my collection. The one on the top left is "The Mary Brooks Picken Method of Modern Dressmaking". It has a 1925 copyright. I forgot to get a close up of it, but below is a picture of two of it's pages.

Mary Brooks Pickens founded the Women's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences. Starting in 1915, she wrote 96 books on sewing and fashion! She offered correspondence courses, along with classroom instruction in dressmaking, millinery, cooking, fashion design, beauty, and homemaking. It attracted women from around the world, and enrollment in her courses climbed to almost 300,000, making it the largest school in history devoted solely to the education of women.

"The Mary Frances Sewing Book"--I hunted for this book for a long time before I finally found an acceptable copy that I could afford. This book can run well over a hundred dollars if found in good shape! It is a wonderful book, with a 1915 copyright, and it even has an inscription by the author on the first blank page! It says: "For all girls who love to make pretty things" and then is signed by the author, Jane Eayre Fryer. I didn't know the inscription was there until I received the book, and neither, apparently, did the bookseller who sold it to me, or it probably would have cost way more than what I paid for it! Anyway, the book is written for little girls, with patterns included for them to make all sorts of clothing for their 16" doll. It is simply delightful. This book has been reprinted and is available today, but I just had to have an antique copy. I love the way it smells and feels. Have I already mentioned that?!
Interior pages from the Mary Frances book:
One of the beautiful color illustrations:
Here's a little book I picked up for a just a couple of dollars at a local thrift store. I'm a sucker for anything baby, and this book has the cute, vintage illustrations that I love. It was published in 1944.
Interior pages from "Sewing for the Baby"
A sweet friend gave me this book just the other day. "Sue Sew-and Sew" is another delightful book written for little girls in 1931, to teach them how to sew pretty things for their dollies. It is written from a doll's perspective and almost reads like a story.

I picked this book up for pennies at the thrift store. It is a little bit more "modern", having been written in 1951, but it's full of wonderful information that's just as useful for today's seamstresses as it was back then.
Check out the sizing chart (below): Sizes have changed dramatically since then! According to this chart, I would have to sew myself a size 18 or 20 to fit my measurements! But today, the major pattern companies call me a size 12. Amazing, isn't it? I guess that's all part of our vanity issues, and the emphasis we put on being as tiny as possible.
The last book I want to show you isn't old at all. I bought it this past year at a local fabric store and have never regretted it. It's an inspirational guide to sewing, needlework, cooking and fashion. It is chock-full of vintage pictures and illustrations. The author takes you month-by-month throughout the book, with recipes to try and simple patterns to make. This would make a lovely gift for any seamstress who loves vintage things.
A glimpse of the inside, below:
I re-read my books all the time. Often times, I forget what I have until I pull it from the shelf, and then it's like visiting with an old friend. Aren't books wonderful?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Cheap Entertainment on a Sunny Afternoon!

Living in the Pacific Northwest, we have our share of rainy, gloomy weather.
Today was NOT one of those days!
Oldest son still at home made a "train" and offered rides to all the siblings.
At first, the riding mower only had the garden cart hitched to it. But every few turns around the yard, another vehicle was added until it was pulling three ride-ons.
And yes, even I, the mature, responsible mom, took a few spins around the yard!
My goofball son
And while I was acting like a kid, my five-year-old grabbed the camera and took this picture. Not bad, huh? Hope you're having a wonderful, spring day no matter where you live.

Two New (Old!) Dolls

This is Lucie. She is the prized possession in my doll collection at the moment. I was able to bring her home this weekend after finding her at a local doll show. It was love at first sight! She stands 16" tall and her head is made of reinforced wax. I have been desiring an old wax doll for awhile now, but finding one in good condition that I could afford was proving quite difficult. So when I spotted Lucie, my heart skipped a beat. When I discovered that I could actually afford her, my heart almost burst! Now, I know that not everybody appreciates an old, wax doll like Lucie, but to me, she is almost perfection. She is wearing her original outfit, socks and shoes. She has a hard, cloth body, stuffed with something crunchy--maybe straw? Her arms and legs are wax covered composition. Her hair is mohair, and looks to be glued onto her head. She has lovely, blown glass eyes.

Wax dolls should be kept in temperature controlled environments or they can melt or crack. I know that this doll might scare people who aren't antique doll lovers. My own daughter-in-law jokingly calls most of my dolls "creepy"! I keep telling her that I'm going to will all my dolls to her when I die, and in order to get any inheritance, she'll have to keep them on display! Ha ha! We joke good-naturedly about it all the time. I'm secretly hoping that at some point she'll learn to appreciate them for what they are...true works of art. Little Lucie was made in England, probably around 1860-1880. Think about it...doll makers didn't have all the tools and materials we have today, and yet they were able to create life-like human forms. Amazing, when you really think about it.

And this is Lottie. She is a simple, cloth doll, probably made around 1900, and stuffed with cotton or wool. Her face and hair are lithographed, as are her one-piece underwear (not visible in photos), boots and socks. She is not marked, but she looks very much like the cloth dolls made by Art Fabric Mills. I love this type of doll. I believe her dress and matching bloomers are original. So sweet.

I love this type of doll. So simple, yet unassuming. This is the type of doll that children played with everyday. They were dragged around and slept with, without fear of breaking. You just know that this little one probably experienced a lot of love from her original owner.
Two new dolls. Both very different. But I love and appreciate them both for what they are--works of art that were made to be loved by a child.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Bag and a Bonnet

A couple of days ago, I finally decided to sew this pattern which I bought last year. It is the "Sweet Harmony" Handbag & Tote by Amy Butler. There are patterns for two different sizes--I made the larger one. The dimensions are approximately 18" wide, 12" tall (not counting the straps), and 3" deep. There are no closures on the larger tote, but the smaller handbag calls for a zipper.

Here is my version. I followed the pattern exactly (which is unusual for me!). I love the way it turned out. I ended up using four, different, coordinating prints, all from my stash. I used up three of the fabric pieces completely (yeah!), so my fabric hoard is slowly getting smaller.

Isn't this a cute print? I'm a sucker for anything vintage looking. I bought this fabric several years ago, but I can't even remember exactly where or when. It is a Michael Miller print called "Lil Rascals". I paired it with a pretty, brown floral for the sides and bottom, and a brown dot fabric for the piping on the outer pockets. I'm thinking of making this again, only in the smaller handbag size. I really do need a new purse, and this pattern turns out so nice.

Another project recently completed...a crocheted bonnet for this sweet baby doll! Let me tell you, I worked and worked AND worked a long time to finally figure out this pattern. I didn't think it would be so difficult! And actually, the pattern isn't really that hard if you are an experienced crocheter. But I don't think it worded things very clearly for a beginner like me. So I spent a lot of time, and I mean a LOT, unraveling stitches and beginning over again and again. But I finally got it!

A back view. I wish the pattern booklet would have shown pictures like this so I could have known if I was doing it right. But it only shows one view from the front, so I had to keep guessing.

This is the cute pattern book that tricked me into thinking crocheting doll clothes was going to be easy!

I'm glad I stuck with it, though. The end result is pretty dog-gone cute, if I must say so myself. But you know what's kind of ironic? I made this little bonnet, not worrying about the size, because I figured that it would probably fit at least a dozen of the dolls in my large collection. Wrong. After trying it on about twenty little heads with no luck, I finally discovered that it would only fit this little 8" Berenguer baby! But now that I know how it turns out, I can adjust the size up or down for a larger or smaller doll. I have lots of little baby dolls with bald heads, so I'll definitely be trying this one again!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

More Snow Pictures

When the kids first headed outside, they had to squint because the snow made everything so bright.

Poor little daffodils...probably wondering why they bothered blooming so early!

At the neighborhood park, just down the road.

A Strange March Occurrence

Daisy, our beagle
We woke up this morning to that strange, eerie light shining in through the bedroom windows that could only mean one thing...snow!
Delilah, not too sure about the white stuff
Now, snow around our parts isn't uncommon, but we don't usually get very much, and never this late in the year. I can't remember ever having snow in March before. Hello...Easter is only a little over two weeks away and there's snow on the ground! About three inches.

I took these pictures before the kids were it was just me and the critters. Kind of peaceful. I'm sure there will be a frenzy of activity once the little ones make the discovery. Gloves and hats and snow pants will be a-flyin'. It will take longer to get dressed than the time they'll actually spend outside. But it will be worth it. Because it's snow.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Doll Show Goodies

A sweet, vintage bunting for Baby Dear

Yesterday, I went to a doll show with some of my doll club friends. What fun! First, I found a flannel doll bunting which I knew would be a perfect fit for Baby Dear.
Then I picked up this lace-edged, linen hankie. In pink. I can just see it becoming a special doll dress. I love the crochet edging. And did I mention, it's pink?
I fell in love with this little bisque doll at first sight. She only stands about 12" tall, and has a rivet jointed, kid leather body. Her bisque head is perfect, but alas, she has lost her left arm. So I will be on the lookout for a new one for her. She still has her original, mohair wig, although it is a bit sparse. Nothing that a sweet, little bonnet can't remedy.

She was made by the German doll manufacturer, Armand Marseille, probably over 100 years ago, and is marked "AM 3200 DEP".

I have a delicate piece of pink handkerchief linen and some old cotton laces that I think would work up nicely into a new dress for her.

I bought this high chair for Sophie's dolls. She has a smaller high chair for her little babies, but her big babies just won't fit into it. So she was thrilled when I brought this one home. She immediately plunked my 20" Madame Alexander "Puddin" doll into it and it was a perfect fit! I may paint it, once the weather warms up. Pink, of course.

And last, but not least, a sweet cradle for Baby Dear. I believe I will be painting this pink, also. Or maybe white. And if I get really industrious, I'll make a bedding set for it. I have so many vintage reproduction fabrics that would work well. Baby Dear has a cradle "all her own" in the book, so our Baby Dear needed one too. It sits on the floor at the end of Sophie's bed. I love watching Sophie put Baby Dear to bed. Doll shows are the best!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Dressing a Bru

Recently, a dear, elderly friend from my doll club asked me to dress her doll. This little sweetie is a Bru Jne, an antique French doll made around the turn of the last century. Now, a doll like this in good condition can cost as much (or more!) than a nice, new car, so I felt very honored that my friend trusted me with dressing her.
She stands 12" tall and has a beautiful, bisque head. While her head is original, her body is a reproduction, which made her much more affordable when my friend originally purchased her.
My friend only had one request for the dress, and that was that it had to be blue. I do agree that this shade of blue brings out the lovely color of dolly's eyes. I happened to have a piece of cotton sateen in my stash that worked perfectly, and the rest of the laces and trims are all antique/vintage pieces that I have collected (hoarded!) from here and there. The cotton netting for the skirt is just gorgeous...why don't they make stuff like this anymore? The polyester and rayon laces of today just can't compare to this netting at all. It's soft and drapey and so pretty to work with.
I added laces across the bodice, along the hem of the skirt, and down the sleeves for visual interest. The dress fastens in back with small snaps. I would normally do buttons, but my friend's fingers have trouble with small buttons, so I figured snaps would be easier for her to work with.
I love how this dress turned out. Simple, yet elegant.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Another Edith Twirl Skirt and the "Fluffy Die Coat"

I've been wanting to make another Edith Twirl skirt ever since I completed the first one. Sophia gets compliments every time she wears it, so I figured she could use another one in colors perfect for spring.
This is the main fabric I used...a buttery-soft, baby-wale corduroy that I picked up at JoAnn's several years ago (maybe six?). It is sprinkled with classic Pooh Bear and Piglet, and couldn't be any cuter. I have been hoarding it all these years, and finally decided to use a bit of it for this skirt. I'm so glad I did!
Here you can definitely see the "twirl-a-bility". Which is exactly what Sophia does every time she pulls on this skirt.
The skirt is made from five, coordinating fabrics. They are all visible, except for the pink, checkered cotton which I used for the underskirt--it only shows when she twirls or sits.
I would love to make a matching peasant-style top to go with this dress, maybe using the yellow fabric that's part of the hem band. In the meanwhile, we paired the skirt with a cute, yellow t-shirt. And because it's still too cold here to go without sleeves, we topped the shirt with her "fluffy die coat". It took me awhile to figure out why she calls this little jacket what she does, but she named it that because in one of her favorite movies "Despicable Me", one of the little girls exclaims "It's so fluffy, I'm gonna die!" when she receives a stuffed animal. This became Sophie's favorite saying, and she applied it to anything that she thought was "fluffy". Apparently, this little jacket fit her definition of the word, so it has been and always will be her "fluffy die coat".