Old fashioned sewing


Tonight I’m sharing a few excerpts from a French vintage sewing book: Initiation à la Couture Familiale (it could translate as “Introduction to home sewing”). It’s actually a series of two books from 1960 and 1961, which were intended as school manuals or for the home sewer which didn’t have the chance to have sewing lessons at school. They were supposed to give girls and young ladies good fundations to sew quality garments. I found them at the Forney library (a specialised library in Paris devoted to craft, fashion, design and such which I adore, lots of interesting books there. Definitely check it out if you live in Paris or nearby!) some time ago. It’s funny to read the foreword now, because we don’t study sewing or any other home related matters in school nowadays, so it seems very dated when really it wasn’t such a long time ago. My mom had sewing lessons at school in the 60s and I didn’t in the 80s. I personnaly think it’s a shame, every boy and girl should learn some basics in sewing, knitting, cooking and such, it would be very useful!

The text I’m showing you here is from the first section of the first book, teaching different kinds of stitches. By the way if you’re able to read French I suggest you read the French version of this article, because it’s a bit more comprehensive. The reason I’m sharing those pages today is because when reading this it struck me as delightfully old-fashioned. About the simple stitch is says that “We no longer stitch by hand, but use a machine”. Who would think it necessary to clarify this nowadays? All the other stitches are explained as hand stitches, and are supposed to be done this way. Including the overcasting stitch. A modern book would explain you to use your machine zigzag stitch or use a serger if you’re lucky enough to have one… They also make a difference between regular clothes and underwear, mentioning when a stich or seam finishing (pictures below) is more adapted to lingerie. I haven’t seen many modern book talking about lingerie stitches or seam finishes, except if they’re devoted to this particular subject. Who wears those fine and fancy petticoats and slips today? A few vintage fashion lovers. I do love slips, I find them very elegant and feminin and useful, and I think they are very pretty objects, but judging from how hard they are to find I guess they are not many of us. And among those, who take the time to sew them?

Those pages are from the section describing the different types of seams. There again most of them are made by hand, and they point those that are useful for lingerie. I also like that cotton fabric isn’t the only or even the main fabric mentionned here. I feel like wools, rayon and silks have a more central place.

That said and old-fashionness put aside, those techniques are still totally appropriate today, whether you want to sew by hand or to adapt them to using a sewing machine.

Lucky finds, October 2015

Hello dear readers! I have many things to share with you. Sewing projects but also several inspirational things, as the past few months were rich with good findings. I have been to a few garage sale the past weeks, which I haven’t done a lot this summer. As you probably already know if you’ve been around for some time I like vintage clothes and old books and magazines. I entered the world of garage sales when we were looking for decor props for our wedding and I got hooked. We don’t have estate sales in France (or at least they’re not the thing they are in the US and there are not as many), so we’re left with garage sales to try and find interesting goodies from the past. Sadly it seems that the tendency here is more for people to throw their old patterns away because they think they won’t be interesting to anyone nowadays, which I find really sad, and which makes finding old sewing patterns a bit of a challenge. When I see the posts on the WeSewRetro Facebook group and other groups for selling vintage patterns, it seems it doesn’t work the same in the US where people seem to find patterns much more easily. But I’m still hoping to be able to find interesting patterns here someday (or talk enough about this around me to the people I know to be able to salvage some from the dumpster ’cause they’ll know some people could be interested). Anyway, back to the subject! I made some good findings last Sunday at two garage sales, and I wanted to share them with you.

As you might have guessed after reading the introduction, I didn’t find any pattern per se, but I did find many sewing related magazines, from different periods of the 20th century. :) At the very start of my first visit I discovered a pile of magazines in front of a booth. I couldn’t believe my eyes! The lady told me that she grabbed almost all the magazines she found in her attic, which belonged to her grandmother, saving just a couple for herself. To other ladies went by while I was quickly browsing through them to decide what to bring home, and I was quite happy to have been there early. In the end I bought almost all of them. ^^; There is a catalog from the Louvre dating from 1935, with a part on clothes but also some housewares, and about ten issues of “Le Petit Echo de la Mode” from 1937 to 1939. Those are fragile, two in particular are a bit damaged. I might do copies or scans of those to keep another “safer” version.

Among those magazines were also two pattern catalogs from 1917-1918 for “Les patrons français Echo”. I didn’t know this pattern brand, I’ll try to look into it. Those went directly into the “I’ll take them” pile without thinking! ^_^

On another booth I found this little book title “Je serai couturière”, which means “I will be a seamstress”. It’s a collecting of sewing advice previously published in the “Modes et Travaux” magazine, grouped together in one booklet to create a sort of sewing reference guide. It was published in 1952 and has 79 pages organized in sections (how to use a pattern, sew sleeves, necklines, closures…).

Then somewhere else I found three issues of that same magazine the book was made from, Modes et Travaux, dating from 1967, 1973 and 1979. Inside you can find some sewing inspiration and knitting and crochet patterns. That’s all for sewing magazines, now let’s see some knitting ones. I don’t knit so I usually skip those, but recently my mom (who used to sew but now mainly knit and crochet) told me that she was disappointed at the modern knitting magazines, that she used to find more interesting things back in the days. So I thought “Hey, I’ll look for things for her!”. Those weren’t very expensive so I guess it’s not a huge loss if she’s not interested in any of those, and I can use then as inspiration maybe. If I knew how to knit, I’d definitely make some projects from those magazines!

There is a Phildar magazine without any date on it, but from the style I’m guessing 70s or 1980-1981 at the latest. I hope she’ll find some things of interest in this one. The other two are much older, so I’m not sure she’ll like them, but they were amongst the pile of fashion magazines from the 1930s and I thought the idea of magazines around knitting patterns + a novel (which the title “Tricot-roman” means) was fun. And then two Phildar devoted to babies clothes. This is not a hint to a big reveal, it’s just that there were some cute clothes inside, they were really cheap and I foresee possible other babies in my mom’s future as beside me my mom has two other children, both younger than me.

And then some materials. First two pieces of lace, one that I intend to cut and use as appliques and the other to sew on the border of a future piece of clothing. Under them you can see a piece of fabric I also got at the garage sale. We call that king of fabric “madras” in French, I don’t know if there’s a special name for that kind of cotton check fabric in English… I love that type of fabric, but didn’t have any in my fabric stash. I fell in love with the colors and considering the crazy amount of yardage I got for the price I paid it was a steal, and I couldn’t let it pass. And now I’m off to think about my next sewing projects. ;p

1916 dress project

Summer approaches, and with it the end of my sewing lessons. Realizing that, I started a project last week that has been in my mind for some time, and was delayed by my pregnancy: making a dress from a 1916 magazine’s pattern. There are many unknowns in this project, which might turn out very easy or, as I suspect, quite challenging. That’s why I want to use the remaining lessons to start it with an experienced seamstress beside me. And I hope to share the process here with you. :)

The magazine is La Mode Illustrée from January 1916. It was published during the war and you can feel it when you read the front page article, which talks about lifestyle changes: reducing costs, having less employees, even women looking for a job! It seems a little bit strange to read this nowadays. I like reading those old magazines, they give you an insight at what life was for some people in those days. The dress I’m interested in is shown on the “afternoon dresses” page and described as a dress of broadcloth and velvet (I think, not 100% of my translation here). In the description they write that this dress was designed so that an older dress in a narrower style could be used to make it, lengthening the velvet band at the bottom if needed.

What do you think of this dress? Would you wear it? I do find it really promising, it looks nice and elegant. And although I think the journey in itself will probably be interesting, I do hope to have a wearable garment at the end of it. I fear I might have to make quite a lot of alterations: I doubt my measurements match those of the average women of that time, and they probably wore corsets under their clothes, which I’m not going to do on a daily basis. I actually prefer to wear my corsets on the outside. I couldn’t find any measurements on the magazine or the pattern sheet, so I have no idea what size this thing is supposed to turn out. It will be a surprise. ;)

Spotted: Couture Casual Wear Homme

Hello ! I’m posting a quick update tonight to tell about a book I just discovered today: “Couture Casual Wear Homme”. It’s a french pattern book for menswear! It’s not that often that we get to find new patterns for the men in our lifes. It just got out yesterday and I haven’t been able to see it myself yet, I got the info on the Internet and read about it on the author’s blog. The patterns seem to cover a wide range of casual clothes and could turn out to be a good basis for more evolved pieces with modifications, if the initial patterns are well made. Here is the cover:
If you want to read more details you can go check the french version of this post or head over to the author’s blog, here and here. She’s also having a game to win the book here.

I won’t stay longer for tonight, I’ll try to add a few more stitches to the t-shirt I’m working on before going to bed. I’m finally trying to sew with knits! I’ve been quite afraid of knits and have been avoiding them so far, but no more (or so I hope). Appart from that it’s been rather slow sewing-wise around here lately. I had a lot of other things to handle (like work, being pregnant and preparing for the baby’s arrival and organising Mr Robots’ birthday this month for example) and didn’t finish much. -_- I can’t say for sure but it seems this is changing though, I might have things to share soon (beginning of July ?).

Spotted: Fait main 3/2013

I don’t have any sewing to show yet. Not that I’m not sewing, but I do it on an irregular schedule and I find it hard to finish anything… Did my “boulet” skirt bring me bad luck? ^^; I’m not as enthousiastic about my current projects as I’d like now that I see how they will look like in the end, and I don’t have much motivation to work on the little finishing details. But I hope to have something new to share soon!

In the meantime I still go on buying new stuff for new projects, mainly sewing magazines. ^^; My husband isn’t so happy about it, and I know I should wait, but what can I do? The magazines won’t be for sale forever, and I like looking at inspiring pictures, especially when my own sewing doesn’t go so well. I like dreaming about new projects (which doesn’t help me being more efficient). Last week I saw the current “Fait main” (meaning “hand made”) magazine and decided to get it. It’s the first time I’m buying one of those, I thought I’d share the patterns I liked.

The two patterns for which I bought the magazine:

The description says this skirt is inspired by the 80′s. I’m far from being an 80′s fan (come on, I was a child then, most of the clothes were ugly!), but I find the skirt quite nice. I think it could also be made without the buttoned opening down the center, with a zipper at the side (and then look less 80′s).

A nice dress with an unusual shape which looks very comfortable (thanks to the knit fabric). I find myself wanting comfy clothes right now, so I like this.

Other patterns that I liked:

For my future children? I don’t like the gathered-bottom pants they show with the fox tunic, but the tunic itself is nice. And I really like the mouse dress and owl playsuit.

I’m not entirely fan of the cover outfit, but the tunic looks refreshing and the capri pants have some nice details, so who knows? I might make it one day (after I’ve made the ton of others projects I have in mind XD ).

Two pieces that could be nice if I knew how to knit:

The other pieces are somewhere between “I don’t really care” and “mmm, maybe one day”.

They are: a knitted coat, two felt sewing accessories, some patchwork accessories (bag, laptop sleeve, small pouch), a knitted baby blanket (I don’t like the colors or pictures very much), jackets, a very simple skirt, a jacket + skirt set for teens, two cross-stitch patterns, a tunic and a pair of pants for plus size women, a knitted cushion, a crochet granny plaid, a remote holder for the couch and the following outfit, with a pretty weird pair of pants:

There are also some reviews and a few articles about exhibitions or events, and creative people or companies, which are interesting. It costs 5,50€. Overall, there are fewer patterns than in the Burda magazine but maybe a tiny bit more articles, some patterns I really liked and thought were original, others that didn’t do much for me, but not that many “what the hell” pieces (as you can sometimes find in Burda magazines). Plus unlike Burda they don’t come up with stupid titles and descriptions for their pieces… In conclusion, here is the preview of the next issue, which comes out next Friday:

Spotted: J’aime le Liberty (I love Liberty)

Friday evening I went to check the craft section of my favourite Fnac store in Paris (because it has a big craft books section). I caught a couple new releases that I’m going to share with you. First today is “J’aime le Liberty” (or “I love Liberty”), a new translation of a japanese craft book. I forgot to take a picture of the cover so I’m showing you the official picture I found on the Internet.

As the name suggests the book is all about clothes and accessories made of Liberty fabric. If you like Liberty (as I do), you might enjoy looking at the pictures. They added the names of the different prints in the picture description, which is nice. It can give some ideas about how this or that particular print will look once transformed into clothes. It’s exactly why I took this picture:

I was suprised how nice the print (Caesar if I’m not mistaken, I forgot to look up the name in the book…) works for this dress. I already knew this fabric, but wasn’t sure how it could be used, because of the big  and busy print. I think they did a wonderful job here: the big print works well for a long dress, and the flowing skirt and bottom frill go well with the feather print and add fluidity to the structured motif. Okay maybe I’m overthinking here, but I like this combo.

The clothes style is quite classic for japanese books. Nothing really caught my eye because I already have a good number of japanese sewing books, but others seem to like it. You can see some more pictures on those blogs: Lalouandco, Elle vit sa vie, Flo’p.

Puces de Saint Ouen: findings

Here is my last post about our flea market expedition. It’s time to share the lovelies I brought back home with me!

Even though I like many vintage styles, for various reasons I don’t really buy genuine vintage pieces of clothing. I don’t know many real vintage shops and don’t like to buy clothes online, the styles aren’t always what I’m looking for and the price tag often puts me off. In the end I prefer to look at vintage pieces online or in old magazines to get inspiration to sew my own interpretations of my favorite styles. I’m sharing this to describe my state of mind when I left for the flea market: I didn’t intend to spend a lot, especially not in clothes, maybe get some patterns, magazines or lace (I love lace).

While most of the clothes, as expected, didn’t really tempt me, I was surprised to find myself drawn to one type of clothing: lingerie. The pieces that really caught my eye were mostly cute petticoats and delicate slips, lace and ribbon adorned. I love those items that, to me, are expressions of feminity and and elegance, because they shown an attention to all details, even those you can’t see. They’re useful, sometimes essential for a successful outfit, but they’re more than that. They’re not just functional but also pretty and well made. I love that. You can’t find pieces like that easily nowadays, and I don’t feel confident enough to make them myself yet. So of course while I wasn’t the one who was looking for clothes at the beginning, I eventually gave in and came back with two petticoats from the 50s or 60s. To be honest I had been thinking of buying some petticoats for some time, so this wasn’t a complete surprise. And those two were my size and just the length I needed. They don’t have the same amount of puffyness, which will allow me to wear them for different occasions.

This one is the fullest. It’s a little less pretty but still nice with the lace insertion in the middle.

This one flares just a bit, it will be perfect to wear with simple outfits at work. The elastic needs to be changed, but the petticoat is beautiful.

What do you think? Isn’t it nice to wear such lovely undergarments? I wish we could wear nice clothes more often.

The rest of my findings were more typical of what I usually buy: no lace this time, but old magazines and patterns.

From a first shop I got some patterns from the 60s or 70s for room/nightwear (there are 4 outfits), a vintage magazine without any cover and a very nice special issue that focuses on blouses embroidery. All of those were found in an old box in a corner of a shop that wasn’t at all specialized in sewing or clothes. It was quite a lucky finding! The coverless magazine is full of wonderful houseclothes/nightgowns/blouses inspiration. It also has some embroidery motifs. How I wish I could still get the mail-order patterns from this! The motifs in the embroidery magazine are full-size with a text description of the stitches to use and, my favourite, sketches of blouses embellished with the motifs! It gives you ideas on how to use them. This magazine already inspired me some embroideries.

Lastly, I got 5 patterns from 50s or 60s magazines.

Now I regret not taking one or two more patterns. ^^; The patterns were published in magazine and are one-size only. I have no idea of what size I might be in 50′s France, so I will have to measure and probably alter them. The series Casey recently did on pattern grading will be useful! Since they were inside magazines there is more than just the outfit pattern and its instructions: instructions and measurements for other projects, embroidery motifs… It’s fun to discover.

Here you are! My Saint Ouen flea market report is now complete. It was a really fun and fruitful trip! I will surely go back now that I know the place a little, but not two often, that would be bad for my wallet. I’ll try to take more pictures next time.

Spotted: Little black dresses and Paris shops

Those are two new books that I spotted recently. Let’s start with “Ma petite robe noire”, or “My little black dress” in English.

It’s a translation of this book: “The Little Black Dress: How to make the perfect one for you”. Since there are plenty of reviews on Amazon I won’t go into to much details here, especially since I didn’t get the book but just looked at it in the store. The idea of this book is to give you enough explanations so that you can create a dress that fits you. I found it funny that the title is about little black dresses, since the book can be used for any dress. It starts with a little background on black dress though, and why they’re a basic item. The author then follows by explaining how to create a dress slopper, and then explains how to alter it based on three dress styles: one name after Audrey Hepburn, that is a classic shape, then a wrap dress pictured below (my favourite!) and another one that I don’t remember. Before the alterations part there is a chapter on fabrics and how to choose a dress design that suits you and your body type.

The book seems nice and beginner-friendly, with lots of step by step pictures. But for me it feels a little mixed-up (for lack of a better word). I find it’s somewhere between a pattern making book, but then it lacks variations, and it’s only about dresses, and a project book. I have what I feel are more thorough books on pattern making, so I’ll probably pass on this book. But others might (and surely do considering the Amazon reviews) find it interesting. One thing worth noting: it seems from what I read on the reviews that the author explains how to drape the dress on a body or a dressform, not how to draft paper pattern, and suggest you have a friend drape your dress on you.


“Divines merceries pour créations de rêves” means “Divine notions shops for wonderful creations”. It talks about notion shops in Paris and shares projects made with materials bought in those shops. The history of this book amuses me: it’s a actually a translation of a japanese book! Which means that some japanese people decided to write a book about notion shops in Paris, contacted French creators, made the book, and some time later a French publisher decided to translate it. This is a weird journey. ^^ The book describes four shops (La Droguerie, Entrée des Fournisseurs, Ultramod and Le bonheur des dames) and four creators (Céline Dupuy/Mlle Kou, Hélène Deslais, Hélène Le Berre and Anne Loiseau). A section is devoted to each shop. Each section first describes the shop and what you can find there, with pictures. Then there is an introduction about the artist and finally a few projects made with materials from the shop. The instructions and patterns for the projects (accessories and jewelry if I remember well) can be found at the end of the book. It is not the kind of books I’m looking for, but for those interested it is very nicely made. And I was happy to discover Le Bonheur des dames, which seems to be a very interesting shop that I will try to visit.

Back to a normal life

Hello there! See, I haven’t forgotten this blog, my tiny crafty place of the Internet. I’m really sorry I haven’t been around for all those months. It’s not that I didn’t have anything creative to talk about, far from it. But time seemed to disappear so fast I didn’t have any left…

I feel it’s not that easy to come back after being away for such a long time. Of course, you can’t help but wonder if there will be anyone to read those words at the other end of the ethernet cable of Wi-Fi waves. Because sharing supposes a recipient. You’re unsure of what to say or how to say it. Should I explain? Should I start as if nothing happened with my latest project? I’ve decided in favor of going back smoothly, with something that would relate to what I talked about last summer. You might remember this beautiful gem I found at a backyard sale, the collection of a 1898 fashion & beauty magazine. It’s a real pleasure to browse and read and I’d like to share an excerpt with you tonight. Of course the magazine being in French, unless you can read this language you won’t be able to appreciate the original text. You will find an English translation after the scans, that I hope will be understandable. The language is probably a bit too modern, I lack knowledge in English from the end of the 19th century, but I hope it will still be enjoyable. A little glimpse of what they though was proper conduct then, and a clue as to what as occupied me those past months and kept me away from here.To the english translationOriginal text :

English translation :

Parisian life


Civil and religious weddings

Without a doubt, everybody is supposed to know, and everyone think they know what is to be done, what we should do when we get married, when we give our son or daughter in marriage, or when we’re simply invited to a wedding. However, how many mistakes are done by those exact persons who think they’re extremely knowledgeable in the worldly usage! It occurred to us that it would be useful and pleasant for our readers to remind them what they, their husbands and their sons must do, because it is usually women who are the guides and advisors in wedding ceremonies.

The civil wedding usually happens the day before the religious wedding. The fiancé go pick his bride at her parents’ home. She gets in the car with her parents, where she has the place of honor. The fiancé follows in a second car with his family. The bride and groom’s four witnesses then take a seat in cars supplied by the bride’s father. Besides, all of a wedding’s expenses are at the charge of the bride’s father. The bride enters the city hall with her father; the groom’s mother enters with him.

After the ceremony, the newlyweds exit together from the city hall and the husband brings the young woman to her car, where her parents are waiting to take her home. The husband goes with his father and mother, as he did on their way in.

Depending on the young couple’s wealth, even if the civil marriage is free, it is customary to give something to the city hall lads; this is the groom’s responsibility.

The religious wedding is the biggest ceremony. It occurs, most of the time, the day after the civil wedding. The guests, either through a letter or through vocal invitation, go to the bride’s parents place. Of course, the groom and his family arrived there first. The bride, who appeared at the last moment with her father and mother, goes into the first car. The groom follows in the second car with his own parents. The witnesses are in the third car. Young girls, even when there are two of them, shouldn’t go alone in the same car as men, except when they’re close family.

In the church, the bride goes with her father; the groom follows with his mother; then come the bridesmaids and best men, the witnesses and the guests. It isn’t necessary, of course, to remind you that ladies take the left arm of their partner. The father of the bride leads her to her place.

After the ceremony is over, the couple, together with their parents, receives their guests in the sacristy. Then the bride’s father usually offers a brunch at his house. The couple gets alone in their car, which should be, if possible, a coupé.

Bridesmaids and best men are chosen among brothers and sisters, cousins and intimate friends of the bride or groom. They are introduced to one another during the contract evening. The day after, the best man is to pay a visit to his bridesmaid family. The day of the religious wedding, the best man will go take his bridesmaid at her house, with a car. The same morning she would have received from him a pink bouquet with lace and white ribbons. In the company of an older man and lady, they will go to the bride’s place. The best men’s duty is to take care of the guests at the church and seat them properly.

The closest relatives of the bride among the bridesmaids and best men take care of the charity. The young man offers his right hand to the young lady, she takes it with her left hand and rests on it. The best man will carry her bouquet in his left hand. In the purse presented to the guest by the bridesmaid, only silver coins should fall.

During the week following the ceremony, the best man will pay a visit to his bridesmaid, in her family.

Lucky finds n°1

The past couple of months I’ve been doing a few garage sales. I’m not a regular visitor of yard sales and flea markets, but I’ve been thinking about it more and more lately. Seeing all the gems people find at such sales (especially in the US it seems) has motivated me to go and look for old sewing related things. I was lucky to have several of such sales organized where I was spending time during the week-ends. My first “hunt” was on French Mother’s day, on May 29th. We went to have lunch with my mother, and just as we arrived in her town we saw a big sign for a yard sale happening just that day. We did a little family trip there after eating, and I have to say it was an excellent idea, as I came back with two wonderful items!

Wonder n°1

This engraving (which I got with the frame) is from the old French magazine “La Mode Illustrée”. The frame isn’t in the best shape but it’s useful as a protection for the plate. I’ll see if I keep it or not. I think this would be lovely hung on the wall of my sewing corner. ^_^

Wonder n°2


This is a collection of magazines called “Le journal de la beauté” (“Beauty magazine”) going from November 28, 1897 to November 1st, 1898. The binding is a little damaged and some pages are folded or have small rips, but it’s a real gem!When I saw this big book with its unusual size and the year engraved on the edge, I instantly thought of the old fashion magazines collections I had seen at antique bookshops. And I was right! I was so happy when I opened it.

It was love at first sight. All those drawings, the old-fashioned texts and pieces of advice, it’s just perfect! I intend to take my time and fully enjoy this book, picking little bits of texts here and there, savoring the insights of what life was at that time and the wonderful outfits.And as if this wasn’t enough, I found a small bonus hidden at the end of the book: a piece of paper taken from “Le Petit Echo de la mode”, which seems to be from the 30s (although I’m no specialist of this time period, so I could be wrong). I don’t have any picture of it yet, I found it afterwards. I’ll show it later.The best part of this is that the whole lot cost me… 3 euros! Since I’m used to prices on Ebay or specialized shops in Paris I just couldn’t believe it. I’ve been so lucky!! I’m really happy I found those items. The only problem is to find where to put this wonderful but huge and fragile book. ^^; Of course this got me totally hooked on yard sales and I after that I wanted to go to more, even though I knew I probably wouldn’t get that lucky each time. We have an expression for this in French that says it’s beginner’s luck. I’ve done other sales since this first one and for now I’ve always found something interesting, although I have to admit not as impressive and uncommon as this book. But this will be the subject of a future post.