Friday, December 4, 2009

Decorating Your Space

A nice idea to liven up the look of a lonely and barren wall ~~ Susan Frederick, a Chicago interior designer used nine botanical prints to take the place of one large piece of artwork in the living room of her home. Many of Susan's design ideas are inspired by nature and the use of these lovely botanical prints give an indication of her appreciation of the natural environment that surrounds her home.

Photo from Better Homes and Gardens Decorating fall/winter 2009

Click here for some beautiful botanical prints

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Age of Innocence ~~ Cigarette Advertising in the 1940's

This is one of the infamous Camel cigarette ads from the 1940's that encouraged people to smoke by hiding the dangers of smoking. This ad claims that "not one single case of throat irritation is caused due to smoking Camels. " Throat specialists were sent out to examine the throats of hundreds of people from coast to coast. Included is a Smokers Report from such notables as Cole Porter and less illustrious (but just as important) people as steel worker Cyril Byrn and telephone operator Rita Edwards who liked the "mildness" of Camels. Also in this ad is the "T-Zone" ~~ T for taste and T for throat, encouraging Camel smokers to try it themselves for thirty days (and presumably become hooked for life).

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Melancholic Victorian Scene

This print is from the story Bessy Wells written in 1875 by Mrs. Henry Woods. Mrs. Woods was once considered to be a minor writer of the mid nineteenth century, but is now being rediscovered by academia. Poor Bessy Wells' father lies dying in his room surrounded by a reserved Doctor, a woman fearfully peeking over her prayer book, and an impoverished friend sitting on the bed wearing tattered and soiled clothes. Bessy Wells' father, once a good man, is dying from too much drink. Death was a rite of Victorian literature. Melancholic scenes such as this were so frequent because they portrayed the grueling reality of disease, poverty and general hardship that characterized so much of Victorian society. The public was susceptible to a wide variety of diseases caused by malnutrition, poor working conditions, poor sanitation and lack of public health and medical care. In 1840 the average lifespan was 45 years for the upper class, and 27 years for tradespeople. Labourers and servants lived only 22 years, on average. Women, as a rule, had a shorter life expectancy as they were responsible for the care of the ill, suffered from poor nutrition (society frowned on hearty appetites for women) and because of the difficulties caused by childbirth.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hey Diddle Diddle from Sassyshades

Finding an attractive lampshade is often difficult ~~ but no more. Sassyshades uses an eclectic mix of textiles and trims to make each lampshade unique, individual and one of a kind. Using vintage, recycled or combinations of old and new material Sassyshades has a whole selection of both whimsical and classical designs that are beautifully hand made. Check out the shop here.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

All Things Scottish

Thanks to matryoshkasbysallie on Etsy who included my Scottish Paschendale Scarf in her treasury on all things Scottish. Sallie has a really lovely shop on Etsy featuring matryoshkas (hand painted Russian style wooden nesting dolls). Sallie resides in Albuquerque and with a lifelong interest in art and a college major in Russian, she has long been a matryoshka fan .

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The 1937 Lincoln Zephyr

This beautifully designed car was one of the first "aerodynamically" designed vehicles after the Chrysler Airflow. I like the design because it looks like a version of the cars I would draw when, as a kid, I had the idea of being a car designer. I either drew them big and boxy or rounded and sleek. This car was extremely popular with its teardrop styling that made it look like it was in motion even when it was standing still. Production of the car was interrupted by World War II and then resumed until 1946. Want to drive one of these cars today? If you have an extra $100,000 you might be able to pick up a restored model at auction.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cookbook Comfort Foods

"When you can't think of what else to serve, compose a casserole. It's the hostess' best friend and the busy homemaker's helper, because usually the preparations can be finished ahead of time and the final heating done in the oven, without extra attention. So simple to fix, so pretty to serve, so wonderful to taste - that's the casserole. Take a handful of vegetables; take a pinch of seasoning and a dash of herbs; take a cup of this and a pound of that - and you have the makings for that dish of magic."
What could be more fun than a vintage 1960's cookbook?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

It's Always Time to Knit

Do you have a great pre-fall knitting project in mind? The classic beautiful looks of an Aran sweater could occupy your time. These beautiful sweaters hail from the Aran islands off the West Coast of Ireland. Able to absorb 30% of their weight in water before feeling wet, these practical yet beautiful sweaters tell the stories of the clans they originated with. A finished sweater contains over 100,000 stitches, often being reflective of Celtic art. The gorgeous designs pictured are from Vogue Knitting winter 1989-1990, the winter special issue.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Easier To Look After Than A Fish Tank

Gleaned from an unsalvageable copy of the 1937 Book of Knowledge, this double-sided color lithograph is in pristine condition with bright colors and nary a dent, tear or mark. The page measures 6 1/4 x 9 inches and illustrates 45 different fish including the paganellus, conger, bubalis and shagreen ray (fish I have never heard of, but you may have some knowledge of). I prefer fish pictures rather than arduous task of maintaining a fish tank. You might too. See the original listing for these brilliant fish pictures here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

When You're Tired of Text Messaging

A very interesting photo illustration from the 1903 volume of the Book of Knowledge with fourteen photographs with descriptions on How to Signal Across a Field. The semaphore system was used to convey messages over long distances. This illustration depicts a woman in turn of the century dress showing the use of flags. The top row shows the signal "ready to start"; the second means "the signs that follow are to be read as letters" and the third means "The signs that follow are to be read as numbers. The fourth means "cancel previous signal." Finally, the other pictures convey the message "tea is ready" each picture representing a letter. Just a little more involved than text messaging.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Remember Holly Hobbie?

Holly Hobbie (born in 1944) is an American writer and illustrator, and the name of a fictional character based on this person. In 1970 she sold her distinctive artwork of a bonnet wearing, cat-loving little girl to American Greetings. In 1974, Knickerbocker Toys licensed the Holly Hobbie character for a line of rag dolls, which were very popular. This is a sewing pattern for a Holly Hobbie doll. The doll's head is made from a white nylon sock and her hair is made from yarn. So very pretty. See more of the pattern here

Monday, June 22, 2009

I Like to Choose Dresses For Famous Celebrities

Since a lot of my time is spent sorting and listing vintage and out of print sewing patterns, I often like to play choose the dress for the celebrity. It's my version of playing fashion stylist. This one, I've selected for Kate Hudson. It's long, lean and elegant. The design is by Tom and Linda Platt whose design philosophy is “Life is complicated. Clothes should be simple.” Elemental line and form creates a simply stunning dress.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

What to Do With Your Dumb-Bells

This gorgeous 6 1/2 x 9 1/2 inch photo illustration from 1912 shows a young man demonstrating various dumb-bell moves in a series of twenty three actions. What an inspiration to all of us who have dumb-bells waiting dusty from lack of use.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

When You Don't Want To Be Pushed Around

There's something to be said for the visual image of feeding an enemy to a crocodile. For our infamous friend Peter, he'd had enough. Proud and insolent youth," said Hook, "prepare to meet they doom." He did not know that the crocodile was waiting for him, for the clock inside the crocodile had stopped. As the black pirate stood on the bulwark looking over his shoulder, Peter glided through the air and pushed him off with his foot. Thus perished James Hook.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Paper Dolls ~~ Always Fun to Play

The first inexpensive toy, paper dolls have been around since the invention of paper. While popular in Europe in the 1700's, North Americans didn't latch onto this popular hobby until much later. Illustrated above is Perry and Pam (who need help getting ready for the game) from a 1964 issue of the Golden Magazine for Girls and Boys.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Wonderful Art of Smocking

It's always amazing to see smocking transposed to more "modern" clothing (in this case, a 1950's girl's dress). This simple and decorative form of embroidery was introduced in the 13th and 14th century English countryside and used by farmers who smocked their clothes to create extra warmth and promote freedom of movement across the back, chest and arms. Practical and pretty too, the early smockers adorned their clothes with symbols that indicated where they were from and what role they played. These garments proved to be unpractical and dangerous with the introduction of machinery and were no longer worn on the farm but adapted to women's garments as a fashion element. Generally, done by hand, smocking machines were finally invented in the 1940's and have been used, more so, on children's clothing.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

It's All About Alice

It's all about Alice in this lovely treasury from lillianamarie who has included, from my shop, a vintage children's book illustration by Marjorie Torrey of Alice and the Cheshire Cat. Check out lillianamarie's very chic hair accessories on etsy.

Friday, May 8, 2009

I Have A Thing for Cars (But Not Necessarily This One)

I've always had a "thing" for cars, but as I get older I get a little bored with car maintenance, upkeep and expense (the bicycle and public transportation are probably the way to go...) But nothing beats driving a nice car at fast speeds down the nearest highway. Car styles have mirrored our lifestyles. This groovy number above was the 1975 Mustang II Ghia, an attempt by Ford to deliver a lighter model with a smaller engine in response to the 1974 OPEC oil crisis. Ford outfitted it with such swish 70's design features as a half vinyl roof, and a cranberry interior with crushed velour seat trim. Adding to the flash was an exclusive opera window that could not be opened and ensured that the back seat occupants had to beg those in the front seat for some fresh air. The chassis was based on the infamous Pinto. The color on this one was a silver metallic and it came replete with a nifty hood ornament (that was often stolen by "collectors"). I saw one on the road a few months ago. The color was a retro 70's flashy pumpkin color that reminded me of my sister's Vega. But that's another story....for another time.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Living Like a Do-Bee

Ah the sweet mysteries of life and love and fine manners. The Romper Room Do Bees were always kind and helpful and of course, mannerly. A Don't Bee was always tired and grouchy. The Romper Room show ran on t.v from 1953 to 1994 and was both franchised and syndicated so that local affiliates could run their own shows. Mr. Do-Bee, an over sized bee, taught children how to polite . There was also a "Mr. Don't Bee" to show children exactly what they should not do (like spit, cuss and hit their friends...) If you know someone who might need a refresher course, this would be the perfect book.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Featured in An Etsy Treasury

Thanks to Bellalulu on etsy for including in her featured treasury one of the items in my shop ~~ a vintage 1940's book about Peggy's Pokey and her farmyard pets. This book has 12 beautiful color illustrations and black and white line drawings by Corrine Malvern. It's the first time that one of my items has been featured in a treasury. What's a treasury? A treasury is a member-curated gallery of short-lived lists of 12 hand-picked items each. Members can feature their favorite items, items selected on a theme, or just whatever they like. Check out Peggy's Pokey here...

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Enamel Jewelry From the 1960's

The 1960's brought a new vision to jewelry that wasn't the kind that belonged to Mom. It was metal and cool and punchy and just a little "flower power."
Here's an example in those famous patriotic colors, red white and blue.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Brighten Up Your Wardrobe with Vintage Accessories

There's something about vintage accessories that can add a little pizazz and magic to your wardrobe. This is a cool black and red check satiny clip-on tie from the 1950's which was recovered from old-new stock from a men's haberdashery shop that had long ago been put away into storage. It looks brand new and what's more fun is that there are possibly no other ties like it. You're almost certain to be guaranteed to be wearing a one-of-a kind accessory when you reach back into the past.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

When in Doubt Wear Bill Blass

The timeless fashions of Bill Blass are worn by those who can even feel comfortable and up to date in his creations from thirty and forty years ago. An enduring symbol of American taste and style, his clothes set the standard for upper-class American cool that other designers would follow. Charming and personable, he was the first designer welcomed into the chic drawing rooms of New York and manoeuvred successfully through the decades expanding his line to include everything from sunglasses, jeans, fragrances, Lincoln Town Cars, furniture, linens and chocolates. Blass passed away in the year 2002, but his name and designs remain synonymous with classic good taste. This photo is a suit from Vogue Pattern Magazine 1988, a feminine uptake on classic menswear styling, clean and impeccable with modern styling and so very wearable today.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Jacques Tiffeau -- Master of Modernism

While reviewing the gowns worn to the Academy Awards I realized that there's nothing more attention getting than elegant simplicity. (Case in point, Angelina Jolie) Some designers just get it. According to Diana Vreeland, Jacques Tiffeau was "in tune" with designs that created heightened visual impact based on color, cut and design. Jacques Tiffeau (1927-1988) was one of the more popular designers in the heyday of the miniskirt. His design to the left (a vintage 1960's pattern from McCall's) is stunningly simple. It's constructed of six panels with a bias fold-over collar, pockets in the side seam line and a zipper in the back center seam line. Plain and simple, yet modern , easy and elegant. He said, "The secret of good clothes is to keep taking off, simplifying, trimming down—yet to capture the shape of the human body." As tastes changed in the 1970s Tiffeau was accused of merely "rehashing" his old styles and was never again able to regain the spotlight. He ended his days quietly as a fashion design instructor.

Embroidery for Your Home

Who doesn't love the look of vintage hand embroidered linens? While the cost of vintage linens is sometimes out of our reach, there's nothing to prevent you from duplicating these designs. Learn a few easy stitches and you'll be hooked. Literally. Start with an easy project and you'll be amazed at how quickly your skill level develops. The art of embroidery is also soothing for the soul and a perfect airplane, bus, train, at the beach activity or half-watching t.v. activity. Search out patterns and designs that inspire you and soon you'll be inspiring others with your new and artistic skills.
A tremendous resource on the Internet is, a site maintained by a hobbyist-expert in needlecraft, Mary Corbet. Beautifully organized with tips for the needleworker, from beginner to expert, you'll find a whole range of tips, references and resources, including a fantastic video library of stitches.

Photo from Embroidery Inspired By Wrought Iron Designs, Coats Sewing Group Book No. 1024, copyright 1968. (Tuscany Refectory Cloth. )

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Go Back in Time to Sew Something Fabulous

I love to reach back into the past to sew something just a little different. This swimsuit cover-up has beautifully elegant lines that put those customary tunic cover-ups to shame. With a little ingenuity you can create a magnificent wardrobe by using vintage patterns. . Sizes for vintage patterns vary and while patterns can be adapted (if you know how) it's easier if you just know your own measurements. So go back in time and search out those vintage patterns (I might mention here that I happen to have a whole growing selection on my etsy site). You'll be happy you did.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

It's Time to Take Up Sewing

If you can read, you can sew. I was one of the fortunate few, before major education spending cutbacks, who had exposure to 'home economics' with a strange but creative teacher who taught me how to make fruit salad and sew the ugliest pair of pajamas I have since never worn. She made us use ugly fabrics and repulsive sewing patterns that would have stunned a fashionista into a permanent state of schizophrenia. Somehow I graduated with the knowledge of what not to do and decided what I would do: teach myself how to really sew by the only means available, by the book. Yes, you too can learn to sew via the learn from a book method. The book pictured is from the 1950's and is a valuable resource for those who need and want to learn more. Buy one new or used or borrow one from your local library. Just get sewing!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Christian Dior

Christian Dior ( 1905 – 1957), was an influential French fashion designer, best known as the founder of one of the world's top fashion houses. He was responsible for the "New Look" in fashion in the 1940s (volumous ballerina skirts) and dressed stars such as Marlene Dietrich and royalty such as the Duchess of Windsor.
This is a beautiful A-line dress from Christian Dior, late 1960's. The dress has cut-away armholes, a shaped bodice front and back with a v-neckline and back zipper

Sunday, January 18, 2009

What to Wear to the Inauguration

I wasn't invited to an inauguration ball, but having to choose something out of my wardrobe of patterns, this could possibly be the dress. Not white. Maybe black. A little daring in red. ( I would have to begin sewing it tonight if someone would only invite me.) This gorgeous pattern is a Badgley Mischka design. Mark Badgley and James Mischka have been hailed by Vogue magazine as one of the top ten American design teams for their glamorous, wearable and stylish evening wear and accessories. Their designs have been worn by Madonna, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jennifer Lopez, Sharon Stone, Jennifer Garner, Julia Roberts, Kate Winslet, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ashley Judd, Terri Hatcher and moi.

Oh So Fabulous Schiaparelli

The Italian designer, Elsa Schiaparelli 1890-1973, had a love of rich fabrics and her designs frequently had a surreal twist. ( Which means no staid flowers in her designs.) She mixed with the famous cubist and surrealist artists Man Ray, Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia. Fabric and accessories were often designed for her by Dali, Jean Cocteau and Christian Berard.

The scarf pictured is a beautiful twenty-three inch signature square scarf with sold rust border with brown, rust, cream, silver blue squares in the inset made in Japan by Glentex. Hand-rolled, 100% silk. The design is superb. The tiny squares are outlined in varying colors and make the scarf truly come to life with texture and depth.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Elephant Girl Loves My Virginia Johnson Scarf

Elephant Girl loves my scarf. I was performing another random search on Google when I discovered her blog and she mentioned my scarf made using lovely Virginia Johnson merino wool (which since has found a home in Copenhagen with a lady who has great taste!) I've made another one with the material that I have left. You can see the first one on

Now You Can Twitter Me

I just signed up for a twitter account. Looks like fun (when and if I can figure it out). How do I send messages and how do I reply? Well, I'll have to devote some more time to the technical aspects after I devote more time to resolving some issues with my google analytics account. Technology is supposed to make your life easier, but honestly today I opened my e-mail account to discover 521 messages. At least I'll never be lonely. And when all my chores of daily living are done (like the eternal pile of laundry) I can always answer my e-mail.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Emilio Pucci

Emilio Pucci ~~ Heir to a Florentine family, Pucci was famous for his designs distinguished by marvelous cut and construction and his Pucci prints. Marilyn Monroe was buried with one of his dresses, and his designs were worn by everyone from Sophia Loren to Jackie Kennedy. After Emilio's death in 1992 his daughter, Laudomia Pucci, continued to design under the Pucci name. Other designers who have worked for the label include Stephan Janson and Julio Espada. This dress and coat combination is a wonderful example of his tailored, streamlined designs. The coat is set-off with large buttons and is cut to emphasize the neckline. A seven-eighth sleeve length serves to highlight the arm-line and make the figure seem longer and leaner than it really is. Up swept dart lines in the coat and dress add to this illusion. A beautiful design from a master designer.

Friday, January 9, 2009


This is a late 1960's design from Lanvin. The House of Lanvin continues to produce beautiful designs and is the oldest design house still in operation. For me, Lanvin reminds me of my Grandmother. Her favorite scent was Arpege (also worn by the late Princess Diana, among others). It is a luxurious, gentle, floral fragrance with notes of honeysuckle, jasmine, roses and orange blossoms with accents of vanilla and sandalwood. It was reorchestrated in 1993 and doesn't smell quite exactly the same. Definitely not as sweet, but a lovely reminder of a person who played an important role in my life.