Tag Archives: vintage

Treasure!

The other week while we were on vacation, my mom and I took a lazy afternoon stroll around the tiny town we were staying in.  (I was secretly hoping that we’d find a coffee shop, but no such luck.)  We did find a bowling alley, a post office that was only open Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays and someone with what I can only call a “Shrine to America” in their front yard (complete with a fairly creepy Uncle Sam doll).

And, we found a massive junk/antique shop called “The Yard Sale.”

I’m not a big antiquing gal, but Mom was in the market for antique windows to decorate for a project, so we went in on a treasure hunt.

Unfortunately, we didn’t find any windows, but we did find something, buried among the VHS tapes and decrepit Furbies.It’s a teeny, tiny sewing machine!  It’s only 5 inches tall (6 if you include the spool of thread on top)!  It’s a vintage, miniature, toy sewing machine- and it actually works!  It’s got a real sewing needle and everything!

It needs a little cleaning, and a bit of TLC (and a new hand wheel, but that’s not 100% necessary to make it work), but it’s in remarkably good condition.

And look at this!

It was manufactured in the US-controlled zone of Berlin, so we can date it to the late 40’s or early 50s.

It even still works! (Kind of, at least.)

I need to see if I can do something about the tension- it’s a little tight.

And, this is neat!  Since it’s just a toy, it doesn’t have a bobbin.  So, when you look at the back of the fabric, you can see that it makes a chain stitch!  (The chain stitch falls apart if you look at it the wrong way, so it’s not super practical.  But, I’ve never seen a sewing machine that is quite like this one!)I’ve got a bit of work before my new sewing machine is up and in tip-top shape again, but that’s OK with me.  I think it’s pretty hilarious as-is.  It really made my day when I found it.  And I think it looks pretty cute, sitting on top of my full-size machine.What’s your favorite thrift-store find?  Also, if you know where to find hand cranks for vintage miniature sewing machines- I’m in the market!

Inspiration: Bates Motel

I’ve been churning through several feet of stockinette over the last couple weeks, and you know what that means: binge-watching Netflix.

I had finished most of the shows I had been working on, so I had to find a new show to watch.  Preferably one with sweaters.  Lots of sweaters.

Enter: Bates Motel.  A show from A&E, it’s a sort-of prequel/reboot/bizarro version of Psycho (the Hitchcock movie).  It’s actually really good, or at least I enjoyed it.  Lots of twists and turns and intrigue (and murder… and drugs… and taxidermy).

It’s based in modern-day, but the costumes have a very fifties-feel.  Which, for Norman Bates, means sweaters.

Bates-Motel-season-2[1]Lots of sweaters.

5423d7f957094809d841b0040b7755ad[1]Norman’s sweater game is on point.

13-emma-and-norman-study-the-manga[1]Even though he is a (maybe) insane murderer, and definitely creepy weirdo, I kind of want to copy his sweater action.

Want to make yourself a Norman Bates sweater, too? Try one of these vintage-y Fair Isle creations:

Fair Isle V-necked Jumper by Shetland Museum Textile Archives

8245318946_605ef2271e_z[1]Ovaltinie by Patricia Roberts

My_homemade_sweaters_037_medium2[1]South Atlantic by Rita C Taylor_SMM3462_cover_medium2[1](And, don’t forget to enter your name for a free copy of Twist & Tweed!)

Flower Loom

A few months ago, I received a little package from my mom.  Inside was a letter from my Great-Aunt Coletta and tiny brass instrument that looked like something Dumbledore would use to cast some esoteric spell.  Or maybe stab people.

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The letter said that the instrument (just about 3.5 inches long and about 1.25 inches wide) was a little loom for making flowers that had once belonged to my Great Grandmother Anna (Coletta’s mother).    Coletta wasn’t sure how it worked, and didn’t have the box or any instructions about how it worked, but if you looked closely on the height adjuster (the second spoked wheel can move up and down), you can see a name and a patent number.

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Flower Loom, Pat. No. 2011617.

My mom had done a little Googling and figured out how to make a simple rosette using the loom, and had even sent along a couple finished ones that she had made:

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Cool right?

But I wanted to know more!  What else could this little bad boy do?  When was it made?  Where did it come from?

A little more Googling later, and it turns out that the patent for the “Bucilla Floral Loom” was filed in August of 1935, and manufactured shortly thereafter.  It was designed to be super adjustable, so that you could make all sorts of flowers-different shapes, and sizes.

sizes[1]But, I still wondered what you were supposed to do with these little flowers.  Sure, they were cute, but not entirely practical.  Well, the internet provided answers for that question, too.  I found a booklet of patterns for the Bucilla Flower Loom (published in 1937, and available for a low, low price of 20 cents!)

lg_302A[1]In it, they show you how to make all sorts of things- baby blankets, afghans, dresses, jackets, and even a glamorous nightgown!

lg_302P[1]This has got me itching to break out my Floral Loom and going to work on some fantastic flowery garments!

Inspiration: Inspector Jack Robinson

Have you guys watched Miss FIsher’s Murder Mysteries yet?  If you haven’t, go watch it now.  I’ll wait.  For real.  Go watch it.  The first two seasons are available on Netflix, and you 100% need to watch them. Do it.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is a show about Phryne Fisher, a lady detective living in Melbourne, Australia in the 1920s.  She is a “thoroughly modern woman” (read: she carries a golden gun, fights for what she believes is right, and entertains a series of “gentlemen callers”).  With her faithful sidekick Dot, and the help of the charming Detective Inspector, Jack Robinson, Miss Fisher kicks butt and takes names, taking down dozens of Melbourne’s worst murderers.  And she does it all with a smile on her face and a sassy quip on her tongue.

And, her outfits.

Capture 3Oh God, her outfits.Capture 4I mean, honestly.Capture 5Just look at them.

Capture 6So gorgeous.

But, while Miss Fisher loves her fur, silk and feathers, she doesn’t wear a lot of knitting.   So, I haven’t been able to bring her up on the blog.  Until, that is, a friend of mine pointed out a  beautifully knitted vest in Season 2, Episode 11 “Dead Air”  (Thanks, Jenny!)

In this episode, Detective Inspector Jack Robinson goes undercover to find a serial arsonist who’s targeting local radio stations.  He “lets his hair down,” which in his case means a tweed jacket and fair-isle vest instead of his usual three-piece suit.

Capture 2They even oblige us with a close-up of his fantastic sweater.  (I suppose they’re really showing a close-up of some evidence, but we can pretend.)CaptureI’m usually against knit vests, but this one might have me changing my mind.  I might even make one for myself (or my husband, though I don’t think he’d wear it).  Let’s look at some Jack Robinson-inspired patterns.

Vaila Slipover by Ann Feitelson

This one’s super classic, and based on a pattern from the 1910s.  I always enjoy historical accuracy in my knitwear.  (Yes, I know that makes me a dork.  I am OK with that.)

 

4894284696_f6c85cef52_z[1]Abbey Mill Farm Vest by Anne Podlesak

I love the color scheme on this one- rich browns, cinnamon reds and sage-y greens.  So pretty!

Front_medium[1]Luke’s Diced Vest by Mary Jane Mucklestone

But this one might be my favorite.  I like the buttons, and the use of three different fair-isle patterns across the front and back.  The styling-not so much.  Why would you wear a knit vest with a T-shirt and jeans?  Come on.

 

lukesvest_z_500_small_best_fit[1]Now, go get your fair isle yarn and turn on Miss Fisher.  I’m not even joking.  Do it.  You’ll thank me.

Inspiration: Houdini

I love a good miniseries, and a bio-pic miniseries is even better.  So, when the new(ish) Houdini miniseries showed up on Netflix, I was super excited.

The show is really fun (although, I still haven’t finished Part 2).  It was entertaining, well-acted, and very interesting.  Apparently, some of the story is heavily embellished, but it still is a good show, assuming you aren’t looking for a documentary.

But, of course, the star of the show is Houdini’s amazing knit swim suit.

ms07[1]Can you imagine wearing a knit swim suit?  It would get so saggy and droopy and uncomfortable.  Much less a swim suit that covers you all the way to your knees.  It’d almost be more uncomfortable than the straitjackets and chains he wore in his act.

Want to make a full-coverage swimsuit for yourself (although-why would you?)  Try one of these patterns:

This pattern is actually vintage-it was published in the 1930s!

Knit yourself this smart swim suit by Australian Women’s Weekly

Saturday_23_September_1939_medium2[1]This pattern is from the late 40s-and is actually kind of attractive, as far as knit swimsuits go.

Going Swimming by Patons UK

image_medium2[1]Maybe you want a more modern knitted swimsuit (if that’s a thing).  Try this one, based on one from 1932, but rewritten in 2008.

The Call of the Sea by Susan Crawford

_CoverBack_MirandaSmile-b_medium[1]Would you ever wear a knitted swim suit?

Buttons! (Again!)

Like any good crafter, I love buttons.

After I wrote (in too much detail) about how much I love buttons, I received a mystery box from my grandmother.  And, I bet you can’t guess what was inside.

Buttons!

Hundreds and hundreds of buttons in every color, size, shape and material.  From every decade of the last 60 years.  They’re kind of amazing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese tiny blue buttons were held together on a great big gold safety pin.  The picture doesn’t do them justice; they’re shiny and perfect, and the prettiest shade of periwinkle.  And I think they’re going to have to end up on a baby sweater.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese tiny little rhinestone buttons were kept safe in their own little manilla envelope, away from the others.  I don’t know their back-story, but I can tell they’re very old, and deserve to be kept safe until I can find something really special to put them on.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese pretty 1-inch buttons are a super cool.  They’re resin (or something like that) that has been cast into layers, then carved out into the shape of flowers.  I think Mom said they were from 1976 (although she could have been talking about the other red, white, and blue buttons) when everything turned all patriotic for the Bicentennial.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese are actually buttons!  They are some sort of plastic, and about 2 inches across.  My mom thinks they were originally on one of my great-aunt’s dresses back in the fifties.  I think they are super weird and super fantastic.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are so many more gorgeous buttons!  I can’t wait to find things to do with them.  From now on, everything I knit is going to end up covered with dozens of buttons.  I can’t wait!

Do you have a favorite button?  Do you have a button jar?

Whoops! A Counterpane Follow-up

Do you remember Grandma Anna’s Counterpane?  I spent hours reverse-engineering one of my great-grandmother’s bedspreads from a little snapshot my Mom sent me.  I even posted a pattern.

It turns out, I didn’t have to.  (Insert sad noise here.)

I received a package from a great-aunt a few weeks ago (one that also included a few of my great-grandmother’s crochet hooks).  In the package was also a couple of my grandmother’s old craft magazines.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis booklet, the Learn How Book, was published in 1952 by Coats & Clark.  It has a few simple projects and extremely thorough instructions on crochet, knitting, embroidery and (very usefully) tatting.  (The projects are actually pretty and practical, especially considering the publication date.  There’s even a sweater that I would totally make for myself, if I wore a girdle.)

But, right at the end of the crochet section, something popped out at me and literally made me do a double take.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s the counterpane!  The counterpane!  I couldn’t believe it!  Not more than a month after spending all that time working out the pattern from a tiny, blurry, cell-phone picture, and the pattern lands in my lap!  I couldn’t believe it!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt even used the word “cluster” for the bunches of stitches, just like I did.  Weird, right?  (Sure, the big clusters were called popcorn stitches in this pattern, but hey.  Close enough.)

I scanned through the pattern, and it looks like we both did mostly the same things, which is amazing.  Although, it’s a little hard to read the pattern in the booklet… look at that block of text!

The biggest difference I saw, though, was that they used a much, much finer gauge on their bedspread than I did.  I used a size H crochet hook, which is about 5 mm in diameter.  The booklet calls for a size 7 steel crochet hook, which is super tiny!  It’s actually less than 2 mm in diameter.  That means that instead of the blocks being about 10 inches across, like mine turned out, the original counterpane squares were only 5 inches by 5 inches!  That means, if you’re following the original pattern, you’ll need 260 squares just to make a twin-bed-sized blanket.  Talk about dedication!

I’m glad I got to see the original pattern, and I love seeing my great-grandmother’s old-fashioned handwriting in the margins of some of the patterns.  But one thing is for sure, I definitely won’t be making this bedspread at the original gauge.  That’s just crazy!

Pattern: Grandma Anna’s Counterpane

My Great-grandmother Anna was a remarkable woman. She was married at 16, lived through the Great Depression and World War II, and raised 11 children (and nearly a hundred grand-children). And through it all, she spent every free moment knitting and crocheting to keep her family warm. She even won a blue ribbon at the Wisconsin state fair for her knitting!

I never got to meet my great-grandmother, but her legacy lives on in the projects she has left behind. I like to imagine that every piece of her knitting is a friendly little “hello” through the decades to me and her other descendants.

Zimmer CounterpaneThis counterpane is based on a bedspread that one of my mother’s cousins inherited from Great-grandma Anna. The pattern has been lost, so I decided to come up with my own. The original was made with white worsted-weight cotton, like most traditional counterpanes. Feel free to substitute your favorite fiber, or change the color to give the blanket a more contemporary feel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGet the pattern here:

Grandma Anna’s Counterpane

Inter-generational Knitting

Over Christmas, I got to visit my grandparents in The Great White North (aka, Wisconsin).  In between blizzards, I chatted with my grandfather, and we started talking about his mother (my grandmother).  She was an amazing woman and an extremely accomplished knitter.  She was actually buried with her blue ribbon that she won at the Wisconsin State Fair. Pretty impressive, right?

In the process of our conversation, my grandfather mentioned that his mother made him a sweater when he was younger.  He had loved it, but it had somehow gotten lost over the last 50+ years.  She had designed it especially for him, in brown and blue, and had put deer on the front and back, since he is an avid deer hunter.

The conversation stuck with me (since I am apparently very sentimental), and the more I thought about it, the more I thought it was sad that the sweater had been lost.  It kept bugging me until I decided that I had to try and recreate the lost sweater.

I don’t have a photograph of the original sweater, but I knew that it was a sweater made for my grandpa in the fifties (or so).  I imagined it would have been a sort of traditional Norwegian ski sweater, the kind that you see on vintage postcards from Colorado.   And, I knew that it was blue and brown.

So I just guessed the rest of the way and came up with this:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m sure it’s not an exact replica, but I think it turned out pretty well.   My grandpa loves it, and that’s what matters.  I hope I did my great-grandmother proud.