Fashion Trends & Habits

When I was growing up, Easter and Christmas were two times of the year, I was guaranteed to have a new outfit to wear.   When I was very young, it was my grandma who did the sewing of my clothing.  Sometimes, to economize, fabric from a used garment would be recycled into children’s clothing.  For example, grandma used fabric from my mother’s older pale blue suit, to construct a coat and tam for me when I was a toddler.

As I got older, I remember my mom also sewing clothes for me.    Easter Sunday was usually the first time of the year that white shoes would be worn and they would be put away come September.   The rest of the year shoes were dark in color and mine were always black.     I distinctly remember one spring when the style was to wear a dress with a color-coordinated coat with the coat lining the same fabric as the dress.   That style must have been very popular because I have photos of several girlfriends and myself   —  we were all wearing dresses with matching coats.

In those days, as soon as I got home from school or church, the first thing I had to do was go to my room and change into “at home” clothes.   There were 3 types of clothes in my wardrobe – “church clothes & shoes”, “school clothes & shoes”, and “at home clothes & shoes” and mom made sure that I was dressing appropriately at all times.   It was a lesson well learned and that habit has carried over into the years that I was in the workforce, and even into retirement.

What is really interesting to me is the fact that, when I was a teenager, I always wanted different colored shoes –  meaning different from the white or bone color for the summer, and black, brown, or navy for the winter!    I would tell mom, “When I go to work and get my pay cheque, I’m going to buy colored shoes”.    And it happened – oh my goodness – every payday for the first little while, I would go shoe shopping.  I don’t remember which color I bought first, but I had pink, red, orange, navy, gold, tan, cream, gray, and most of the time I’d find a handbag to match.   I had a great time shopping for shoes  – some were high heels, some chunky heels, some sandals, some flats, round toes, pointy toes, square toes!     Funny how times change –  I’ve reverted back to the basics and now shop for shoes that are comfortable and not so much stylish!

When I think about my early days of sewing, especially when I was in high school, it brings to mind so many memories of the various styles of clothing back then.  Some of the more interesting styles during the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s were A-line dresses, empire-waist dresses, shifts & sheaths, mini skirts, crop tops, hot pants, bell bottoms, palazzo pants, and jumpsuits.  Sportswear grew drastically in popularity during this time for both men and women.  Two piece suits or leisure suits, consisting of matching tops and bottoms were very popular, as were one-piece jumpsuits.

Dresses were called A-line when the garment flared out from under the arm at the side seam, to wider at the hemline.  Empire-waist dresses had the bodice attached to the skirt at just under the bust line rather than at the waist line.  The best way to remember the difference between shifts & sheaths is that a shift dress actually shifts – with the bottom having a wider skirt than the top; meanwhile, a sheath dress is narrower, with pretty much identical measurements at the bust and the knees.

While I remember  “mini skirts”,  I decided to do a bit of research.  Google is a wonderful thing!  I found some interesting facts which I’ll share here.

“In the 21st century, it’s easy to associate all 1960s fashion with short skirts, but the short skirt was not really worn by many until 1966 and not nationwide until 1967.”

“By 1966, Mary Quant was producing short waist skimming mini dresses and skirts that were set 6 or 7 inches above the knee.”

“The length of a typical late sixties short mini skirt.”  

  

“The fashion trend took off because it was so different and to wear it well you had to be youthful to get away with an outfit that was so controversial, particularly among adults.”

The link to read the whole original fashion article is www.fashion-era.com

I can attest to the controversy over the length of those mini-skirts.   Many a good conversation took place between my mom and I before I was allowed to sew a mini-skirt.   I don’t remember my skirt being quite as short as the above picture either!!   To be honest, mini-skirts weren’t very practical —  but when you are a teenager, practicality isn’t really in the forefront of your mind.  It’s all about style at that age!

Thoughts of mini-skirts has brought to mind thoughts of “hot pants” – but that is a whole other story which I’ll leave for my next article.

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More Crafts – Flowers & Art

Grandma’s garden has also had its influence on me.  My grandma had a vegetable garden, but what I remember most, was the large area of her garden space which was dedicated to flowers.   As I recall there were many varieties, but I especially remember the pansies, dahlias, gladiolas, and the snapdragons.  The snapdragons were amazing – so velvety to the touch, and if you pinched gently,  each little blossom would open.   I’m certain that my love of flowers came from watching Grandma tend her flowers with loving care.   I not only love to see flowers outside and inside a home  – it has overflowed into my love of flowers in other mediums such as fabric and other art forms such as paper tole.

3-D paper tole is the art of creating dimensional pictures by layering cut out sections of the same image on top of each other.   It is believed to have started in Venice in the 17th century but by the 18th century was a lost art.  It re-emerged in the 1970’s and is now more refined with greater dimensional effects.  Though it stems from decoupage, a paper craft involving cut pieces of paper shellacked onto wooden furniture and other objects, paper tole has re-emerged over the years in several different forms.

Paper tole, also known as three-dimensional decoupage, is the art of handcrafting three-dimensional pictures from flat prints.  This is a fun and easy way to make 3-D effects with your favorite pictures and prints. This art is created by skillfully cutting, shaping, sculpturing and gluing cutouts obtained from identical prints, and assembling these components using silicone, to create a 3-D picture.  Though there are a number of ways to use paper tole, one of the most popular is to frame the image in a deep wall frame and display it as wall art.  People often employ the same techniques used in making paper tole when creating handmade greeting cards and other paper crafts.

The techniques used in paper tole are specific and quality projects involve specific skills. Precise cutting with no tattered or cracked edges is the key to creating the pieces that are reassembled onto the project.   The basic tools needed for beginning a project include a precision cutting tool such as an Exacto® knife,   a cutting mat,   a series of 5 identical prints, silicone, and glue.  There are many more tools that can be used to create advanced projects.

Assembly requires patience while the artisan carefully attaches the separate pieces onto the print.  An understanding and knowledge of perspective are also an important skill.  After cutting, shaping, sculpturing and gluing,  the pieces are painted with a clear finish coat and left to dry.   When the picture is finished, it is then mounted and framed.    Learning paper tole takes time and attention to detail along with patience but is very interesting.

Once the technique is learned, it’s easy to make paper tole pictures.   The pictures themselves are not expensive, but the matting and framing could become very pricey depending on the type of material chosen for the frame,  the number of mats, and the size, of course.

Poppy

When I took my course on learning how to do paper tole, my first picture was that of a poppy.  Imagine my surprise to find the exact picture online!

Many arts and crafts centers offer classes for both beginning and intermediate level artists. Projects can range from basic, such as a single flower, to extremely detailed and layered scenes such as landscapes.    Buildings, people, animals, birds, flowers, and nearly any other image imaginable can be crafted in this art form.  I find pictures of flowers to be fairly easy to assemble and would recommend this for beginners.  Bird and animal pictures require a feathering technique, so would be best left for a more experienced crafter.

In addition to classes, there is an abundance of books available that demonstrate paper tole through explicit instructions and photos.   Now we also have access to the Internet and Google and there are a wide variety of excellent videos that show the process.

I am so glad that I spent many childhood days with my grandmother and observed her tending to her plants.   It’s given me a basic appreciation for flowers and color which I’ve extended to include art forms such as paper tole.

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Crafts and Such

In addition to learning how to embroider at a very young age, I also enjoyed “Paint by Number” projects.  Christmas was a time when I would get a new picture, complete with the brush and oil paints.  I learned, by trial and error, to paint all of one color and let it dry before attempting to paint the next color nearest to it.   I think that learning to ‘paint by number’ was the basis for moving on to painting on fabric when I got older.

Artex was the ballpoint fabric paint fad that swept the domestic landscape in the 1970’s while Hobbytex was the Australian version.  I used to love to paint with Artex and had a good assortment of colors to choose from.  Artex was sold at home parties – similar to Tupperware – and one could purchase a case that would serve as a storage container as well as a carry case to make it easy to take along to the next party.   Pre-printed designs could be purchased, or one could put designs on their own fabric.  Thus, dish towels, pot holders, tablecloths, pillowcases, and articles of clothing all became targets for Artex!

While Artex seems to have fallen by the wayside,  Tri-Chem is still around.   Tri-Chem was founded in 1948, has a line of over 270 paint colors, stencils, iron-on designs, and accessories that are distributed and sold in over 50 countries worldwide.   To be honest, I didn’t know that Tri-Chem was still available until I was doing some research for this blog post.   My days of painting seemed to diminish as other crafts came along.

While most of my crafts involved needles and thread or a sewing machine, there were times that I tried my hand at other mediums.  Evening classes were very popular back in the ‘70’s and I attended various classes including How to Cut Hair, Cooking with your Microwave, Macramé, Paper Tole, and several others.

What is Macramé?  When I Googled Macramé, this is what I found:

“Macramé (MAC-ruh-may) is the art/craft of tying cordage into knots in such a way that they form a useful or decorative shape. This was a very popular craft in the 1970s in the USA that is now being revived in the form of jute jewelry and knotted purses. Using all types of knots and additional decals such as beads, you’ll be able to create your own macramé crafts in no time.”

Macramé was not only popular in the USA, but also in Canada.  Macramé is an easy, affordable craft to learn. It requires very few tools and just some simple knowledge of basic knots.

After practicing the common knots in class,  it was time to pick a pattern.   There were extravagant patterns – some holders were designed to have a glass shelf which could hold a lamp.   The holders were all fastened to a small ring, perhaps no more than a 1 or 2-inch ring, which was covered with the cord as well.   That ring would then be put onto a ceiling hook which would then display the holder.    My macramé projects were not extravagant.  I went on to pick a fairly simple pattern for making a holder for an indoor plant.  I made a number of smaller holders for indoor plants – and if I recall correctly, the largest plant pot holder measured about 4 feet from the ceiling hook to the base of the holder.    I had used a silky cord for this project and purchased an artificial fern to display in this holder.  I really was quite fond of the finished project,  and it moved from home to home with me for quite a number of years.

While I had a booklet showing all the common knots and instructions on how to tie them;  today we can just “Google” to find videos and articles that teach the common macramé knots one can use to create a variety of macramé projects.

I found an interesting article on YouTube showing how to make a bracelet using knots and beads.  Square Knot Loops Bracelet Tutorial by Macrame School   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjSWdBdDFVQ

I sometimes wonder what grandma would think about how information is shared today, and how we can just “Google” to find answers to questions and every pattern or book that one can think of.

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Learning about Patterns and Fabric

While I had seen my grandmother and my mother use patterns, it wasn’t until I was in Grade 9 and taking Home Economics, that I had to purchase a pattern of my own.  I still have that pattern (for a shift dress to be made out of cotton), as well as every pattern that I’ve purchased since then.   Yes, I have quite a collection of patterns and many are vintage.

My Home Ec teacher was an elderly lady with graying hair.  She was a fabulous teacher, and although I already knew the basics, I still learned many tips and tricks for sewing from her.  Not all the students in my class appreciated learning to sew.   Not all were patient, and having to rip out seams was not their forte.   I do believe that I developed my patience from grandma because I’d seen her having to rip out stitches from time to time.   While it is not the most likable task, it is a part of sewing.    “As you sew, so shall you rip!”  is a saying that I’ve adopted.

It was from my teacher, that I learned all the aspects of garment construction “by the book”.  As students, we learned how to measure each other, then how to determine the correct pattern size, and how to read a pattern and figure out the requirements for yardage.   It was from my grandma that I learned how to move the pattern pieces around to “save” on yardage – grandma had her own ways of doing things and there were short cuts and cost saving measures too!

I remember discussing colors with grandma.  She believed that blue and green were not to be used in the same garment.  I don’t remember if it was a general color rule of the day, or if it was just a color rule that she had.   Well, imagine when I came over with some blue fabric for the main part of the dress, and a matching blue and green herringbone check for the bodice.  I don’t remember the whole conversation, but I do remember the dress that defied grandma’s  “blue-green rule”.

By the time I was in high school I was sewing most of my own clothing.   Having mastered patterns, I moved on to sewing garments out of various fabrics.  I don’t remember in what order I sewed these, but I had a summer coat from blue boucle, a 3-piece suit of burgundy corduroy, some dresses, blouses with frills and lace, and skirts.  One year I tackled  a spring and fall coat made out of tan wool, which required embellishment of hand stitching about 3/8 inch from the edge of the collar and lapel.  In the process of sewing suits and coats;  I learned about interfacing, lining, zippers, welt and patch pockets,  sewing belts, as well as buttons and button holes.

One of my after school activities was attending  4-H Club, and my group was involved with sewing.  I don’t remember all the details, but I won a silver rose bowl for Best Record Keeping which was presented to me by the President of RBC.  The rose bowl is real silver —  I still have it — it is very well tarnished!!

One summer I participated in attending Farm Girl’s Camp, which took place during the Exhibition Days in my hometown.   That year I had entered a 2-piece navy suit into a sewing competition.   I remember it well, as I had an issue with one of the front collar pieces and it had a tiny hole…….what to do, as there was not enough fabric to cut out a new collar piece.  My mom came up with the idea of hand sewing a small pink flower embellishment to each of the collar fronts, covering that tiny hole.   I was so worried about my outfit not being “good enough”, however, won 1st prize and accepted a certificate on stage one evening during the Exhibition.

The year that I was in Grade 12,  for our Home Ec project, all the students worked on sewing  a dress to be worn during our commencement exercises.  Each student could choose a pattern of their own, so every student’s dress, although white, could be a different style and fabric.  It was definitely a work in progress,   some being more successful than others.   While I worked on my commencement dress in class,  at home I was working on a full-length pink gown to wear the evening of the year-end dinner which we attended with our escort and parents.   My gown had a lace bodice and short sleeves, with the skirt a sheer fabric over a satin underskirt.   To this day, sheer is not one of my favorite fabrics to work with as it is very slippery as is satin.  However, the gown was completed, and I wore it, and received many compliments!

Sewing my own gown made me appreciate all the hard work that goes into sewing these fancy gowns.  Grandma had sewn many fancy gowns for bridesmaids over the years and it “wows” me to this day when I think of all the work she did back then.

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Influenced by Grandma!

My passion is sewing – I’ve been sewing since I was a child.   I remember quite clearly, sitting on my grandmother’s knee; as she pedaled that old treadle machine, she showed me how to guide the fabric under the needle and I learned to sew a straight seam.   I can clearly hear my grandmother telling me to be very careful and NOT to get my fingers under the needle, as it would sew right through my finger!   To this day,  when I’m sewing, I hear that reminder in my head.    Thank you, grandma!

I loved to spend time with my grandmother.   She was a very kind and generous person, with all sorts of crafty talents.  I believe I’ve inherited most of her talents.   Grandma could embroider, knit, crochet, sew, cut hair, bake and cook amazing foods, and grow beautiful flowers!

When I was very young,  grandma would spend time reading stories to my brother and myself when she looked after us while my parents would go shopping!    Grandma would sit in her wooden rocking chair with one of us sitting on the left arm and the other on the right while she would hold the book and read to us and have discussions about the pictures.   When dad would come to pick us up, both my brother and I would be hiding behind the heater in the living room.   Dad would ask grandma where the kids were, and she would say “she didn’t know” or something like that.  Dad and grandma would converse a bit, and finally, dad would say “okay kids, time to go home”!  We were always sad to leave saying, “Awwwww, do we have to?”

Grandma made a bit of extra income by cutting hair for other people.   Quite often, I’d be over at grandma’s so I would watch her cut hair and wonder if I could ever do that.    I did take a class in cutting hair when I had young children and went on to cut my children’s hair when they were young.   Grandma was the person who would give my mother a “Toni” –  home permanent wave – and with whatever solution was left over, I’d get my hair done as well.  If you have ever had a Toni, you will clearly remember the “smell”!

Another way grandma generated income, was by sewing for others.  She would sew the bridesmaid’s dresses for numerous wedding parties.   Some were sheer fabrics and others made of velvet – not easy to handle those types of fabrics, I have learned.    I loved to see those gowns being sewn and was always amazed by how gorgeous they looked.   Grandma also made my flower girl gowns – I was a flower girl twice when I was very young.   I remember having to stand up on the table so grandma could get the hem marked properly.   She made a headband adorned with tiny ribbon flowers and embellished the gown with tiny embroidered flowers on the bodice.  Such wonderful memories.

One of the first things I learned was how to hand sew – I had several cardboard pictures which had holes the size for a shoe lace punched along the edge of the pictures.  The kit came with yarn laces, and the object was to learn to “sew” in and out of the holes till the picture was outlined in the yarn.    From that, I graduated to using a real needle and embroidery thread and grandma let me pick the color of thread that I wanted to use, and there were many to choose from.   To this day, I still am attracted to all the many colors of thread and fabrics!

Back then flour sacks were taken apart, bleached, and hemmed to become dish towels.  Grandma had a good selection of iron on designs to choose from.  I would pick a design, grandma would iron it on the fabric, and then it was ready for embroidery.  She taught me how to make tiny stitches, as well as lazy daisy stitch and knots; and how to begin and end each color of thread and then start the next color.  Part of the learning process was to ensure that the back side was neat and tidy and practice does make perfect!

Grandma made me several matching pillow cases for my “hope chest”.  At first, she would do the hand embroidery and then crochet a lacy border right onto the pillowcase fabric.   In her later years, she crocheted the lace first, and then just hand stitched it to the pillowcase edge – enabling the lace to be removed and applied onto another pillowcase when the first wore out.   I still have a set or two of pillowcases that I’ve never used and am saving to pass on to my granddaughters.

I remember one year when I was about 8 years old – the Sears and Eatons catalogs came out and I found a child’s sewing machine which I had on my Christmas wish list for Santa.   Unbeknownst to me, my grandmother and my mother were both dealing on electric Singer sewing machines.  Grandma asked me if I wanted her treadle machine.   I said, “No!” and went on to tell grandma all about the sewing machine that Santa was going to bring me.   At Christmas, I was thrilled with my little sewing machine, a hand crank model.    How silly of me – those old treadle machines are still popular today!

You can imagine my surprise when I visited grandma and she had a beautiful electric machine which could stitch out a variety of fancy stitches, do a button hole automatically (when the button hole attachment was attached),  and sew backward and forward.   Shortly after, my mother got her electric machine (just not quite as fancy a model as grandma’s).

Between sewing on my own little machine, and practicing on grandma’s new machine, and then on my mother’s machine, my seams were getting better.   My mother was expecting a baby, and mom ordered yards and yards of white flannelette and cut out diapers.   Mom showed me how to sew a hem, and I was allowed to hem those diapers…….I think there was 3 dozen.    Mom also cut out little gowns and jackets for the baby, some were pale yellow flannelette and some were pale green flannelette.   It was at that point that I learned to sew a curved seam.   I got a lot of practice with the gowns and jackets.  The baby was a girl!

As I got older, grandma would teach me how to knit and crochet.  With her help, I managed to complete matching sidewash sweaters for my fiance and myself.  That was back in the late ‘60’s.  Although I haven’t used those skills very often, I prefer to crochet rather than to knit.  I haven’t perfected those skills but I did learn enough to be able to crochet a sweater for my son when he was a toddler, and I’ve done some simple blocks for potholders and baby blanket or two.

The hand sewing skills I learned from grandma gave me enough confidence to pursue petit point when I was a stay-at-home mom.   One year I went all out and made a set of matching pictures for my mother and another matching set for my mother-in-law as Christmas gifts.    I also started a set of three larger sized pictures for myself.   Life got in the way, and while I finished the first, it took many years till the second picture was finished, and the third is still in progress.   I’ve started many different crafts since the petit point, and do hope that I will get that third picture finished so that the set can be framed.   That petit point picture is on my list of UFO’s (unfinished objects).

When I was in Grade 9,  I chose Home Economics as one of my subjects.   It was there that I got my own sewing supplies.  We had a list of items that we needed for class.  I still have the little scissors that we were required to have in our sewing kit, as well as the first project that I made – an apron!     Grandma made me a pale yellow knitted pincushion, and that is the only pin cushion that I’ve ever used.   It’s a constant reminder to me of grandma and how much I’ve learned from her.Fancy Sig  sized

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