Taking a break from the hands on sewing of the Wardrobe Architect Challenge (see here), I thought we'd take some time today to discuss my collection of vintage-retro sewing books. My small but sentimental collection came from my mother, who once worked in the textile industry and had access to what was then rare gems only available through special order. Books were borrowed, bartered, photocopied and treasured. Granted, while she made me plenty of clothes growing up (single child privileges), I don't think she particularly loved to sew but rather it was the desire to dress her daughter in one of a kind pieces that fueled many trips to the store and the stash of sewing equipment. And while our old vintage sewing machine is long gone, I'm relieved that these papers made it through the purge and have lasted long enough for me to grow up to an age to really appreciate them.
One common theme with books of the day (especially the popular prints from Japan) was that most of them did not come in neatly stuffed envelopes with pre-made sizing and all. One was expected to learn how to create a sloper (template) from their own body measurements, then draft the garment patterns based on that guide. Other books took a one-size-fits-all approach, especially for looser fitting items like flowy blouses and loose skirts. The incredible personal involvement in sewing a piece of clothing from understanding the pattern to cutting and execution is something I can certainly appreciate.
Can you tell these are from the 80s and early 90s? Those big jackets and big shoulders always give me a good giggle but they sure weren't afraid of bold prints. And just look at those accordion pleats! Can you imagine ironing them out by hand?
Probably most prized in my possession is this collection of out of print books by Life Time called The Art of Sewing. It consists of 16 hard cover individually sub-titled books which tackle various sewing interests such as creative fabric use, tailoring techniques and personal detailing. I vaguely recall being about no more than 12 years old, helping lug the books back to the car from a church yard sale. Even more lovely is that each book is covered in a unique fabric both front and back that correlates to the sub-topic inside. While working on my wardrobe these past few months, I've found myself taking this out of the storage room again and really delving into their wisdom. Hopefully they'll last another few decades and become some kind of family heirloom.