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Jul 19, 2011

Tales for a Torrid Tuesday

Readers, it's hot in New York this week.  Very, very hot.  Here's what's going on:

I'm happy to report that my mother's hip surgery was successful and she's up and about once more.  She can walk (slowly) pain-free after only six weeks --a big improvement.

I picked up some snazzy vintage fabric at the flea market on Saturday -- three yards of this groovy cotton print that's going to become a shirt for Michael.  Sort of a tiger skin palette and slightly psychedelic.

I'm happy to be featured in this summer's American Sewing Guild magazine, Notions, in an article about sewing blogs entitled "The New Sewing Enablers."

The title was a bit of a shock as I don't consider myself an enabler, more of a pusher, but whatever.  It's always a thrill to see one's name in print and who cares if a few of the details are wrong.

My favorite is the sentence that reads "The bloggers are young...."  I suppose they're taking a statistical average.

Inspired by the many book recommendations I get from readers and my relative lack of shelf space, I've started putting more books on reserve at the library.  Usually after spending three weeks with a book, no matter how beautiful, I'm done with it.

Here are a few new arrivals:

I'm guessing that most of you are familiar with couturier Madeleine Vionnet, famous for her bias cut gowns.  This oversized book by author Betty Kirke is a stunning tribute to Vionnet's achievements.  Kirke befriended Vionnet toward the end of the designer's life, and was able to pick her brain about her life, her inspiration, and her techniques.  The book is lavishly illustrated and includes diagrams of the actual patterns used to make many of the designs.

Fans of Twenties and Thirties gowns will love it.

You know I enjoy vintage advertising, so 50s Fashion: Vintage Fashion and Beauty Ads, part of Taschen's Icons pocket-sized book series, is right up my alley.

While I prefer to see the ads in the original magazines, it's still fun to see these all together -- the emphasis here is men's and women's sportswear, underwear, and accessories.  What's not to like?

Good news for Cathy!  She tied for second place in the Pattern Review Vintage Pattern 2011 contest. Of course, competitive gal that she is, her first reaction was to berate me, but I think she'll come around and appreciate her achievement.  If you're one of the other 41 people who voted for her, we thank you. 

Meanwhile, on the film front, I've always been a big Alice Faye fan, and was thrilled to find Alice's 1943 hit Hello, Frisco, Hello at the library yesterday.  A lavish technicolor confection set at the turn of the 20th Century in San Francisco -- and weren't they all? -- this is fun, if not top-notch, entertainment.  I prefer Alice in her more casual Thirties black and white musicals, but she's always good company and is one of my favorite popular singers from this period.

Friends, that's it for today!  I hope to get some sewing done -- stranger things have happened, so who knows?

Any Alice Faye fans out there?

Have a great day, everybody!


  1. I have the Betty Kirke Vionnet book and I love it, if only it were a bit smaller/lighter for reading in bed!
    Has anyone tried making up any of the patterns featured in the book? I'd be interested to see how they turned out. They mostly seem to use yards and yards of fabric...

  2. this post chock full of content.
    I only had time to read the first few paragraphs, but that was enough to spit my coffee.
    I agree, you are more of a pusher than enabler.

    blogger is making me post anonymous

  3. Congratulations on your "enabler" status! It's certainly well deserved (I think not being able to sell us stuff in person keeps you from being a "pusher"... although perhaps you'll cross line come MPD day...)

    So glad your mother's doing well! My Grandmother had her knee done several years ago, and it's made such a difference to her life-quality now that she can walk around so much better.

  4. My favorite part of that enablers article is when it said you were too cheap to go to a tailor. Ouch! (but gave me a laugh)

  5. I think the average age of the American Sewing Guild membership skews rather high, making most people young.

  6. Yay for your mom after only 6 weeks. She's doing great! Congrats to Cathy - I did vote for her. She should've won, but the booby prize is good too. :-)

  7. Peter .- The Vionnet book is woooooonderful. I bought years ago, and is my "bible" ... I'm glad you have, sure you will enjoy. King regards,


  8. I have a little quilt shop and my customers refer to me as their 'Dealer'.... I like the term enabler better but if the label fits.....

    Congrats to both you and your mom, keep it up, you are a wonderful to start my days

  9. Oh this is one of my favorite standards! I like the melancholy vibe in Alice's voice here, I must pursue more of her. Thank you Peter!

  10. Your Mom is so cute!!!

    And isn't it nice that Alice Faye sings in your key?

  11. So glad your Mom is doing so well! Those dresses are glorious; and the 50's styles are so cute.

    Cathy should be proud of her placing! She's so busy now; and I bet her costume for her singing career could make her designer's reputation!

    I see Michael in a Spanish type blouse of the tigery material, and matador pants. Ole!

  12. Wasn't Alice Fay in "the Gang's All Here"? A favorite!!! Congrats on Cathy's contest win and the ASG thang.

  13. Charityshopchic: a few years ago members of the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals did indeed use the patterns in the Kirke Vionnet book. They made up half-scale garments using the same or similar fabrics as the originals. I have only seen Catherine Stephenson's in person, but it was stunning, and even more amazing to see how those crazy-looking patterns work up into wearable garments. Very cool!

  14. Ooh, what a fun post on your blog today...I am a member of the ASG and we are always trying to think of ways to make us seem more "youthful" you being a feature sure helped! And thanks for sharing your library books. I think I want to own the Vionnet seeing the patterns of how they were made.

  15. So glad your Mom is doing so well, Peter!
    Congrats on the "Enabler" article - I know I always love it when I'm lumped in with the young crowd!
    I really like that fabric, too, although I might get a headache if I had to look at it for too long!!

  16. Its good to hear that your mom is doing so well! Very good! And congrats on enabling so many to sew - including myself! You totally deserve it! Love that fabric and can't wait to see a shirt from it too! xoxo, Sunni

  17. That fabric is doing horrible things on my monitor. Waving and shimmering and.... Are you sure you want to make clothing with it? Ok, I just had to ask.

    It's great that your mom is doing so well! The pain-free part, especially. And of course you're an enabler. Don't be silly. I always feel like my sewing takes up too much space, but I only have two machines and a serger. When I think of your machines, I feel positively virtuous.

    Alice Faye is one of those actresses you never think about until somebody says, "Hey, remember Alice Faye?" Makes me wonder who will still be a household name when my kids have grandchildren.

  18. I love the ball gowns of the 1920s. Some day my children will start getting married, and that's where the inspiration for my dresses will be. I'll have to try to lay my hands on that book.

    Glad your mother is doing well.

  19. Thank you so much for the Alice Faye footage! As a little girl a "best of" Alice Faye LP got a lot mileage on my Batman and Robin portable record player, and hearing her voice sent me right back there to 1973 (by way of 1937). Thanks!!

  20. Peter,

    You are the grow light, and we, your contraband.


  21. So glad your mom is doing well! Congrats on the ASG mention and congrats to Cathy. You know that she is first place with us, her fans. I love the gowns from the 1920s. Wish I had someplace to wear them!. What a lovely Alice Faye song. Dig those short shorts walking by in the background. Kind of daring for 1937, no?

  22. You look better in a skirt than I do! Time to run some more;)

  23. I'm glad to hear your mom is healing so well. Sending lots of healing energy her way!


  24. Best wishes for your mother's recovery! My own mother had hip replacement surgery two years ago and she's walking a lot better than she did in many years before. I hope your mother will enjoy similar results.

    That book looks great. Diagrams of Vionnet patterns...hhm. Her patterns tend to be quite mysterious because all designs were draped and so many were bias cut. I'll have to see if I can get a hold of that book through my local library.

  25. OOh lovely Alice Faye (except for that hat she's wearing in the reprise, which reminds me of the tea-cosy thing I wore as a Brownie). I hope your mum continues to be well, andlook forward to the progress of the tigerskin shirt. How splendid it would be if Michael and Cathy did a joint fashion show some day!

  26. I have a copy of that Vionnet book (checked out from the library.) The copy I have has folded patterns in an envelope in the back. I'm wondering-- do the newer editions have the actual pattern sheets included? (Perhaps I should trace them off while I have them.) I'm definitely planning to purchase a copy of this book.

  27. That book on Vionnet is totally fabulous, what a genius she was! Her work was also timeless, the mark of a truly great designer! There is one black silk satin gown with cut-away shoulders that is stunning and could step right off the page into today! So many people don't know enough about her, Chanel couldn't hold a birthday candle to her! I've been trying to find a good used copy of the book, but I just may take the plunge and pay the $80 just to keep it my possession.

  28. Loved this post, Peter. Although don't you think you EMPOWER people to sew? Glad to hear your mom is mending well--my 76-yo mom had hip surgery early this year and she's back to her two-mile walks (slowly). I LOVE the dress pattern--it will be beeyootiful on Cathy. And, last I heard, the Canadian postal service has only just restarted, after a long strike.

    Have to post anonymously, but I'm really Valerie in the 70 degree-ish Pacific NW. Our tomatoes are mutants.

  29. Glad your Mom is healing well. She looks really pleased in the photo!
    That wavy fabric is really scary! It boggles the eye. But I'm sure you'll make it up into something chic! How about a pair of "voodoo shorts?"


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