My Favourite Window

November 18, 2015

A Great Day at the Dump...

Vintage sewing patterns galore!

It's more common for my prowling around the reclamation shops associated with waste transfer stations, to result in hauls like this...

or this...

or a combination of both with the odd dress making pattern tucked in to stop the plates from knocking together.

I haven't sewn much in the last decade, and these patterns aren't the beginning of renewed interest. They are likely though, to make their way eventually into my Etsy shop, Dunedin Street. I say eventually because I take my time over preparing them. 

I have worked out that I can spend two hours on a single pattern; sourcing it, counting the pieces and checking that they belong, what their condition is, ironing them if they are badly creased, photographing aspects of the pattern and researching unusual features - including value! 

Today's huge haul appears to have come from one professional dressmaker and half a century's worth of accumulating. I bought most of the pre-1980s patterns but there was the same bulk again representing that period alone. Sifting through them on the back seat of the car (scattered there for photographic purposes), I discovered at least six different brands. 

These included Academy, which as far as I can tell was a New Zealand company producing cheaper versions of British and Australian styles into the 1960s.  Also represented above are Weigel's, Maudella, Butterick, Simplicity and Vogue. There are patterns for fathers and mothers and little girls (maybe little boys didn't qualify for professionally made clothing).

There are patterns for underwear and over wear.

There are patterns that might just pay for my next overseas trip - or at least a new skirt. Bridal patterns are the most profitable for me to sell online; that is they return the effort I put into preparing them for sale.

I'm very pleased to find a 13/6d stamp on the back of the Vogue John Cavanagh pattern. This helps date it to the early 1960s, showing that it is not one of Vogue's later re-issues of style classics. Possibly though it is a re-working by Cavanagh of his wedding dress for the Duchess of Kent judging by the neckline and the slimmed down shape.

But the patterns - or rather their packet designs - that I like the best are the ones from the late 1950s and early 60s. There's a softness and elegance to the graphics, and they remind me of a time when I was completely loved and wanting for nothing. The awfulness in the World had not yet revealed itself to me and my mother still wore narrow-waisted, full skirted dresses. Her magazines were full of women dressed like those in these illustrations. 

After passing through the 1970s, when teenagers like me thought these styles were deeply unfashionable, I re-discovered them in the 1980s. Yes, these styles sourced from op-shops as well as my mother's old wardrobe were my preference when asymmetry and huge shoulders were the in thing. I do have to confess that I am beginning to collect the occasional 80s dressmaking pattern, just for the record and ahem... the hoard.

November 6, 2015

May in November

Maybe it's a little later to flower this year - but the may is heavy in blossom now: More than last year, thinks Chris who's garden I photographed this scene from this morning. Farm hedges like this one are a bit of a rarity these days and certainly won't have been 'layed' for many years. A classified Unwanted Organism in New Zealand, hawthorn, quickthorn or may thrives in Canterbury conditions - heavy soils, strong winds, and extremes of temperature and weather. In a world where species are disappearing unpredictably due to climate change it's worth questioning our attitude to so-called weeds. 

Here remnants of the hedge enclose the garden and form a glorious setting for one of Chris's plantings. 

I  love the way that this arcade which Chris has built, echoes the curve of the downs rising from his courtyard in Sefton. The hedge appears to curve too. What a stunning borrowed view this is.

Back home this seedling, of a tamer garden variety of may, is flowering in a tub outside my kitchen window. With its prolific double pink blooms it has an eat-me allure about it!

And that brings me to a poignant memory of a day just over five years ago, when  this paler seedling from the same parent, flowered for the first time. Elwin studied the few flowers and thinking of the place of Crataegus monogyna in herbal medicine tasted a flower of this species C. laevigata. He handed me one, sweet with nectar.  I thought that it was a terribly romantic gesture: as it turned out it was one of his last. 

Look how much like tiny roses the flowers are. I had thought this seedling - of the tree in the background - a bit underwhelming and lacking in vigour, but I planted it out of its tub this winter and it's growing on me.

Five years ago today Elwin's heart stopped and our May to September relationship was gone.  He would love the show of may around the countryside this year.

May, hawthorn  Crataegus monogyna
Pink may  Crataegus laevigata  'Rosea flore pleno'