Saturday, September 13, 2014

Monarch Migration - A Species Under Siege

I am sure most of the farmers in my area would call our acreage unkempt and overgrown. Compared to the tidy rows of corn and soybeans that dominate the landscape, our property probably is a bit out of control. But I like it that way. By keeping it a bit wild and almost entirely organic, it has become an oasis for many wild creatures venturing north or south, depending on the season. The Monarch migration being one of them.

Migrating monarchs have little to do with sewing or sewing patterns, but this marvelous creature and this amazing feat of nature is close to being extinct so I thought I would share these images for those who have never witnessed this phenomenon. 

I don't usually think to run for my camera when I see something beautiful or awe inspiring. I just pause and look and drink in the beauty of the moment. This time was different. 

Our property has many trees with areas of grass in between, the perfect resting area for monarchs because it is sheltered from the winds. We have been observing the migration since we moved here almost 25 years ago.

Even 10 years ago, the migration was so grand that the branches of the trees would be completely covered with Monarchs. When you walked out into the grove where they were resting they would alight and the sky would transform into a massive cloud of fluttering orange and black wings. This year I could probably count the butterflies that hang on the trees. 

I wish them well on their journey and hope against hope their species will survive and once again thrive. Banning DDT has saved the Bald Eagles. Is it unreasonable to ban the genetically modified crops that are killing the Monarchs? Could these delicate winged creatures be the canary in the coal mine? Could they be warning us about the dangers of GMO's?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Return to Elegance - McCall's 1954 Fashion Feature

After the austerity of 1940's War Era fashions, designers, with ready access to fabulous new materials, found delight once again in elegance. This November 1954 feature from McCall's magazine showcases creations from the top designers of the era. These names are still familiar and have endured the rigorous test of time that the fickle world of fashion imposes. A bit of eye candy for vintage enthusiasts but many of these or simimlar styles are readily available as vintage patterns allowing the seamstress to recreate with artistic license. 

McCall's 4868                Vogue 4884                        Vogue 4941                      Vogue 4513             Anne Adams 4662

A sampling of elegant selections from my CynicalGirl shop on Etsy.

Vogue 4270                  McCall's 5200                   Simplicity 4584                     Vogue 7512                   McCall's 9662

Elegant samplings from my CynicalGirl shop on Bonanza.

Christian Dior, Pierre Balmain, Jacques Fath, lanvin-Castillo, Jacques Heim, Maggy Rouff, Madeline de Rauch and Patou. 

Less formal but every bit as elegant are these lovely dresses for day or evening cocktail attire.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Dickey Birds - Easy to Make Dickies from the Spool Cotton Company

Dickey Birds From The Spool Cotton Company 1948

Dickies were originally worn by men as a tuxedo front or false bosom. Though "Dickey" refers to either men or women's attire, the original ladies dickey was the chemisette, or a sleeveless type of blouse. The fronts were often elaborately pin-tucked or trimmed with lace and pretty buttons and bows.

Even in the 1960's and 1970's I remember having turtleneck dickies to wear under shirts or sweaters. Though they have fallen out of fashion I often think of how practical the dickey is for presenting a more formal appearance without the added layers and bulk.

In the 1940's, when supplies were scarce, the dickey would have been an easy accessory to make with small amounts of fabric. Worn under a jumper with a V or scoop neckline, the dickey could be easily removed for an evening appearance. Or switch out the turtleneck dickey for a frou-frou lace collar for another day to evening effect. Whatever way you wear them they are practical and versatile.

The educational bureau of The Spool Cotton Company (later acquired by J & P Coats) published Stitch in Time as a bi-monthly pamphlet from the 1920's through the 1950's. Each issue had helpful hints for some aspect of sewing and needlework and budget stretching ideas. This September - October, 1948 edition of Stitch in Time featured patterns for 6 dickies with neckline and trim variations. Download Stitch in Time and make some of these lovely dickies for yourself or for gifts. You don't even have to guess the size. Prints on 8.5" x 11" paper.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Emilio Pucci - January 1957 McCall's Featured Patterns

McCall's January 1957
Emilio Pucci, Italian born designer for whom "Capri" pants are attributed, was a designer with fantastic flair.

Pucci was born into a wealthy and influential Italian family. He attended the University of Milan but received most of his education at American Universities and Colleges such as Athens, Georgia and Reed College in Oregon. He was a Facist and when World War II began he joined the Italian Air Force and rose to the rank of Captain as a torpedo bomber. In an attempt to help his friend, the daughter of Mussolini, he was captured by the Germans and tortured by the Gestapo. He would remain in Switzerland until the end of the war designing skiwear.

After the war ended he set up a haute couture salon on the Isle of Capri. From there he established salons in Rome and New York. His use of stretch fabrics and bold designs would be worn by Jacqueline Kennedy and Sophia Loren. Marilyn Monroe was buried in one of his creations.

When Pucci died in 1992 his daughter took over and expanded the business. Today the Pucci label remains a highly respected forward fashion design house.

These festive designs by Pucci for the McCall Pattern Company in 1957 reflect a playful use of color and shape. The bold designs are a glimpse into where Pucci would take pattern with the development of stretch fabrics in the 1960's. One wonders if his wartime experience as a pilot influenced his sense of pattern. Surely he encountered Dazzle painted ships in his air runs. The patterned landscape of farms in the countryside may have also attributed to his sensibilities. However they came to be, we are lucky to have these amazing designs to enjoy today.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Gifts to Make for Those Who Sew

It may seem too early to be thinking about Christmas, but lo and behold, Christmas is but 4 months away. For those of us who have always preferred to make something special to give rather than something store-bought, the time is nigh to get cracking on some of these DIY presents.

The October 1954 issue of Woman's Day Magazine featured the perfect DIY gifts to make for those who sew. And, if the growing number of sewing blogs is any indication, you may very well have quite a few on your list.

Whether your friends are seamstresses, quilters or needlework sewists, there are patterns for thoughtful gifts to make and give. You could even make one for yourself!

For those who do counted cross stitch or crewel work, this handy floss caddy keeps all the floss strands separate and free from tangling. 

Find more sewing aids to make and give this Holiday Season. Download instructions HERE.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Western Shirt - The Iconic Symbol of American Individualism

               McCall's 2118 Men's Western Shirt                           McCall's 2119 Boy's Western Shirt

The "Western" shirt is often attributed to the cowboy; that rugged individualist who forged the path across America at a time of great discovery. That early "Western" shirt was an incarnation of what we now recognize as the "Cowboy" shirt. The embellished, yoked shirt really began as a costume for the singing cowboys of the 1940's and 50's like Gene Autry.

Gene Autry - Singing Cowboy

My father was a singing cowboy of sorts too. He was a square dance caller in Milwaukee from the 1950's until his death in 1995. He wore "Cowboy" shirts with pearl snaps and a "Bolo" or string tie. Of course my mother wore the full skirt dresses with the layered crinoline underneath. It was quite a spectacle to watch from the bleachers when their club would perform their routines .... all the twirling and swirling skirts ... a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes.

The Western shirt has never fallen out of favor. It is the mainstay in many a man's (and boy's) wardrobe. No doubt Hollywood has romanticized the whole "Western" culture with cowboy movies, and TV shows that we all grew up with like Bonanza, Branded and The Lone Ranger. John Travolta gave the Western shirt a bit of a giddyup in Urban Cowboy and fashion followed with Western wear everywhere. 

             McCall's 2367 Kid's Western Shirts                                               McCall's 2366 Men's Western Shirts 

But a personalized shirt, in your choice of fabrics and trim, is the ultimate statement of individualism. And wouldn't it make the most cherished gift for that special boy or girl in your life? Original patterns from the 1950's give you the authentic look while offering total artistic license. Do Western shirts really have to be plaid or gingham? Mix your Rockabilly with a bit of calico or China silk. Irish linen with an Ultrasuede yoke? The sky is the limit. 
These father and son or daughter shirts are classic Western styles with wonderful flourishes that would be great beginnings for adding your personal touch.

These 70's Western shirts have the basic elements of the classic 50's Cowboy shirt updated for a more homogenous look. Whatever the look you are comfortable with, the cowboy shirt has a place in everyone's wardrobe.

Find these and more at my CynicalGirl shop on Goodsmiths.