Friday, October 30, 2009


Advance notice:  I am running Halloween SALE in the shop this weekend.  I'm offering a special discount just for my blog readers of 20% off anything in the shop.  Just alert me in the "message to seller" box that you read my blog and would like the Halloween discount.  The discount will come in the form of a PayPal refund,  and can't be combined with any other offer. (smile)

This "hallowed" offer begins as soon as you read this post, and ends on All Saints Day (November 1st) at midnight Pacific Time.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Vintage Thingies Thursday: Better Homes & Gardens Holiday Cook Book

The charming Better Homes & Gardens Holiday Cook Book was first published in 1959.  My edition dates from 1967.

 I picked this up over the summer at an estate sale, and I have not cooked from it yet, but I have delighted in flipping through it and closely examining the place settings and garnishes.  The contents of this edition include major American Holidays such as Valentine's Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  A  few special occasion recipes have also been included, such as birthdays, anniversaries, and luncheons.  I find it very funny (but not surprising) that there is an entire section called "Foreign Fare,"  that includes recipes from  the "exotic"  cuisines of Mexico, China, Japan, Scandinavia, and Polynesia (re:  Hawaii).  The editors note on the Contents page that each recipe was tested in the Better Homes & Gardens Test Kitchen until it "rated superior."

I will be certain to show you a little more from this fabulous cookbook now and again, as I think that some of the suggestions for presentation and garnishes are very creative.  (I can't show you a lot, because this book is still protected by copyright).  The food styling has a "crafty" feel to it, and if you've had the opportunity to look through the annual Better Homes & Gardens Christmas Ideas from around the same time period you will understand what I mean. In several sections there are instructions for creating paper centerpieces and party decorations that compliment the recipes.

Of course, there is a full menu for Halloween treats such as Jolly Owls made of candied popcorn balls (click here for a similar recipe), and Goblin Frosties, or sherbet inside of hollowed-out oranges studded with cloves.  Are you decorating for Halloween this year, or having a party?  If you haven't already planned your table centerpiece, or your spooky Jack-o-lantern, why not try one of these kitschy and unique suggestions:

We're keeping Halloween low-key this year to avoid the inevitable over-consumption of candy, but we're definitely going to celebrate the tastes of this holiday. Up next:  a recipe or two for you!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

One More "Over the Top" Blog

I've been ruminating more about my favorite blogs since my last post, and there is one more blog that I'd like to share with you, Diary of a Sewing Fanatic.  Of course, I'm going to pass along the "Over the Top Blog Award" too.

I've only been reading Carolyn's blog for a few months, but I have learned quite a bit about the technical aspects of sewing from her very informative and detailed posts.  I firmly believe that she helps to make contemporary and vintage sewing more accessible for new and beginning sewists like myself.  If you're new to the craft or jumping back in after a long absence like I am, be sure to read all of her New Sewists Thursday posts.

I think her "inspired" dresses are FABULOUS. For example, this dress:

Although I watch Project Runway religiously and have heard him called a "Top American Designer" many times, I've never been much of a Michael Kors fan.  Until Carolyn made her version of his dress:

I like her version much better!

I also really like the quote by Connie Crawford on Carolyn's blog that reads, "Looking good is not about what size you wear, but how well the garments fit!" I concur. Sometimes the only way to get a perfect fit is to make it yourself!

Photos courtesy of Diary of Sewing Fanatic and Michael Kors.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

An Award and a Feature!

This has been such a great week!

First, I was tagged by Stars and Robots for an Over the Top Blog award! This award comes with a requisite Q-and-A, with the questions to be answered in only one word:

1. Where is your cell phone? Purse.

2. Your hair? Curly.

3. Your mother? Awake.

4. Your father? Napping.

5. Your favorite food? Sweets.

6. Your dream last night? Over.

7. Your favorite drink? Coffee.

8. Your dream/goal? Studio.

9. What room are you in? Office.

10. Your hobby? Collecting.

11. Your fear? Bugs!

12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Here.

13. Where were you last night? Home.

14. Something that you aren’t? Thin.

15. Muffins? Carrot.

16. Wish list item? Diamonds.

17. Where did you grow up? California.

18. Last thing you did? Read.

19. What are you wearing? Skirt.

20. Your TV? Old.

21. Your pets? Impish.

22. Friends? Loyal.

23. Your life? Great!

24. Your mood? Content.

25. Missing someone? No.

26. Vehicle? Hatchback.

27. Something you’re not wearing? Earrings.

28. Your favorite store? Any.

29. Your favorite color? Pink.

30. When was the last time you laughed? Today.

31. Last time you cried? Wedding.

32. Your best friend?  Secret!

33. One place that I go to over and over? Computer.

34. One person who emails me regularly? XaXa

35. Favorite place to eat? Everywhere.

And secondly, my Etsy shop was featured on Craft Gossip earlier in the week! How nice!  I love the editors at Craft Gossip because they share great tutorials, patterns, and projects about sewing, knitting, crocheting, and other crafts that I either dabble in or am interested in trying out.  I read a lot of blogs, and browse many more, but there are just so many great bloggers out there that it's easy to miss some real gems.  I'm really glad that you all take the time to join me here in my little niche in the blogsphere!

I'm suppose to tag some other wonderful "over the top" blogs as well.  These represent some of my "old" favorites, or blogs that I've read and enjoyed for a long time, and a couple of blogs that are fairly new to me but are rapidly becoming favorites:

I encourage you to check them out!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Vintage Thingies Thursday: a Minnesota Model A Sewing Machine

It has been a week for sewing machines around here!  For today's Vintage Thingies Thursday I'm excited to share with you a beautiful Minnesota Model A sewing machine and cabinet / treadle stand owned by Jo, one of Serendipity Handmade's readers!

This lovely "Minnesota A" treadle machine was first owned by Jo's great grandmother, Etta Propst Barger, who was born in Hickory, North Carolina. Mrs. Barger was married in 1898, and probably purchased this machine around 1910. Research tells me that this machine was made in the early 1900s, and dates prior to 1912. It probably sold for between $16.00 and $20.00.

It looks like a Singer, doesn't it?  According to the International Sewing Machine Collectors' Society (ISMACS),  where I obtained most of the information for this post, this Model A machine was made by the Davis Sewing Machine Company for Sears and Roebuck. I adore the Davis Sewing Company trading card that I found on the ISMACS website.

ISMAC also states that the Minnesota Model A is a "near exact copy of the Singer Model 27/127, the most popular Singer model at the time."  It is the Davis "Model E" machine, but was known by the name "Model A" for Sears.  It was sold by Sears and Roebuck as a lower-priced but equivalent alternative to the more expensive Singer brand, and was the "top-of-the-line machine manufactured by Davis."   This practice was not uncommon, as the National Sewing Machine Company also supplied Montgomery Ward with Singer copies. You can read more about the machines from this time period on this page, including the reasons they are so challenging to date, and about valuing machines from this time period here.

Jo told me that she had the cabinet refinished about 30 years ago. It was definitely money well-spent:

Of course Mrs. Barger put her machine to good use, making all of her clothes and also sewing for her children. Jo wrote:  "I have aprons, gowns, lingerie, napkins, quilts and one baby gown that she made. She gave it [the machine] to me and my father when I was five. Daddy and I made doll clothes and hemmed my brother's pants. I have sewed most of my life."  It's exciting to know that this machine has had a long and full life!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Christmas in October: a New Sewing Machine

I meant to post this yesterday, but time-management got the better of me!  As I mentioned in my last post, I bought a new sewing machine a couple of days ago, and I'm already in love with all 18 pounds of her.   Here's a photo:

I looked for quality, not quantity of stitches this time.  I went to a  Bernina dealer looking for an older used Activa 130 or 140.  I found a 12-year-old machine, for an exorbitant price in my opinion, that only had a few years left on the standard Bernina 20 year warranty.  However, the dealer was having a one-day super sale, which meant that I could have a new machine for a couple hundred more dollars, with free classes, free service for a year, and all of the Bernina warranties on parts and ciruitry.  I now have a new Bernina Activa 220 and a petite Arrow sewing table!  I received my Christmas presents early, thanks to my Dear Husband.  He's a sweetie!  I'm really excited, as now I have a tiny little nook upstairs in which to craft.  No more sewing at the dining table!

She sews wonderfully.  Any wobbles and mistakes in the decorative stitches are totally user error this time!  She doesn't have a name yet...I'm thinking that something of Swiss-German origin would be appropriate. Any suggestions?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

HAL is Vanquished

I returned HAL to the store today.  He can no longer terrorize my projects.

I finished what I have named my "Test Dress" using New Look 6195, even though HAL threw fits. Things were pretty hairy at the end, and using decorative stitches was a nightmare. I complained so much that even my DH tried sewing with HAL. He is much more interested in the inner-workings of the machine than that of sewing itself, so in order to ascertain whether my problems with the machine were due to user error or were HAL's fault, he challenged me to a sew-off with the decorative stitches. Of course, he ran the machine at the highest speed possible, so HAL skipped a lot of stitches:

However, my results were just as poor, even at a moderate speed. The feed dogs didn't advance the fabric evenly so in some places the stitches came out weirdly spaced and looked like this:

It may seem that my report of the needle becoming unthreaded without breaking was simply the work of an inexpert sewist, so check out this report about the Brother CE-5000, older sister to HAL:

Q.  Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?

A.  If I don't have like thirty thousand feet of thread hanging out of the needle, it comes unthreaded. (Okay, not that much. Maybe three inches. But enough to be really annoying.)

I learned that the hard way! 

I shared all of this with you for those who may be considering buying an economical, lower-end Brother sewing machine.  Don't make the same mistake I did!  I think Brother makes some wonderful electronic products (we have a great Brother printer and scanner), but  I just don't think that they do sewing machines well.  Brother produces some higher-end machines in their line, and now manufactures the Baby Lock brand. Perhaps more care is put into those machines.  Certainly many economical machines on the market are no longer made with the solid construction of years past when mechanical gears, stitch plates, and bobbins were made of metal instead of plastic.

So I started doing my homework. Some of you have shared your thoughts with me here and on FaceBook fan page, and I very much appreciate your opinions.  I read reviews at PatternReview.comConsumer Reports reviewed sewing machines in January 2005 and earlier this yearSew, Mama, Sew began a sewing machine meme this summer, and I was able to read about many different machines.  I consulted my sewing instructor and classmates too.

Sweet relief: I bought a new machine today. I will share more about her tomorrow!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Vintage Thingies Thursday: Eleanore King's Studio Secret Dress Chart

Welcome to my very first Vintage Thingies Thursday post! I'd like to thank Elizabeth for alerting me to Coloradolady's meme. I'd prefer to call it "Vintage Things Thursday," but alas, the meme wasn't mine to name.  It is right up my alley, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity to participate, even though this blog is primarily about the celebration of all things vintage!

For this very first post, I'd like to introduce you to the fabulous Eleanore King's Studio Secret Dress Chart Rule of Fourteen, that did indeed, tell the women of the late 1940s and early 1950s if they were overdressed at a glance:

According to Sharon Fisher-Larson in New Twists for Teaching Professional Wardrobe, the originator of the Rule of Fourteen was a "famous Parisian couturier" who announced in Godley's Lady's Book that "no lady should appear in a street outfit that was comprised of more than fourteen eye-arresting elements."  On the  first page in the booklet we have visual examples of the Over Dressed, Smartly Dressed, and Under Dressed woman:


Just what is that thing perched on the Over Dressed Woman's head?  It's hard to believe such a silly-looking hat was made and sold.  Though I wouldn't mind a pair of those platforms.

Included are a list of accessories to match each occasion, and a pictorial chart of accessories a woman might choose according to the event:

This edition of the Dress Chart hails from 1950.  Unfortunately, I don't have the beauty book, Glorify Yourself, in which this chart was included. It is now next on my list of vintage beauty books to acquire!  I have a feeling that the Dress Chart was the free gift with purchase mentioned in the ads of the time for this book.

And it must have been a very popular book, as newspaper articles were written about Ms. King's work.  Google News Service has digitized the September 26, 1948 edition of the Eugene Register-Guard in which you'll find the article For Safety Remember the 'Fourteen Count' to Look Your BestI suppose it was thought to be dangerous to be overdressed!

Today, the "Fourteen Count" continues to be invoked for protection against overdressing.  In a short web article entitled How to Look Your Professional Best, the Rule of Fourteen is cited as being one of the "tricks of the trade" by Dr. Everlyn Johnson, an apparel and textiles specialist at Mississippi State University.  Her contemporary list of apparel to count are as follows:
  • Each visible item of clothing.
  • Each accent color.
  • Each pattern or textured fabric.
  • Each decorative trim.
  • Each piece of jewelry.
  • Colored nail polish.
  • Colored toenail polish (if toes show).
  • Colored or textured hose.
  • Hat.
  • Handbag (3 points if it is multicolored, has contrasting trim, or has decorative hardware.)
  • Exposed handkerchief.
  • Contrasting belt (2 points if it is especially ornate).
  • Decorative, eye-catching buttons.
  • Eyeglasses (2 points if ornate or in a fashion color).
I hope that you've enjoyed this first edition of Vintage Thingies Thursday, and I hope that it will keep us all from leaving the house overdressed in the future.  As an extra tidbit, don't miss the society pages in the September issue of the Register-Guard for some lovely vintage wedding dresses.  There are also a few vintage ads to peruse too.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Make a Doll Just Like Mimi's

This is just a quick post to let you all know that the great Mimi Kirchner provided a tutorial and patterns at  The Purl Bee to make a fabulous hand sewn felt doll! I just stumbled over it and I'm so excited! If you read my earlier post about Mimi you'll know that I have recently become a big fan of her work.  I thought I'd share this find with you, in case you want to make one of these cuties:

One day, I will definitely make one of these dolls. Or several!

Photo property of The Purl Bee.

Friday, October 9, 2009

What a Pleasant Surprise!

I found out earlier today that my shop was selected to be featured at Do You Etsy?, a social networking community for people who make and sell their crafts on Etsy!  I am co-featured with the very nice proprietor of Faerie Moon Creations, who makes the loveliest glass and bottle-cap pendants featuring butterflies, birds, and the flora of the woodlands.  I am so delighted to be featured, especially as I am new to that community.  I have been very surprised by the sheer number of social networking communities out there on the Web for crafty folks.  These communities are great places to connect with others who are interested in crafting of all kinds.  I have learned quite a bit from some of the people I have met.

In other news, these two uncut and factory-folded vintage patterns made it into the shop today:

The chic McCall's suit pattern, dating from 1962, was designed by the French couture designer Claude Rivière and featured in McCall's Magazine.  I found a photograph of an earlier suit he designed on the September 1958 cover of L' Echo de la Mode, a fashion magazine of the time:

This French magazine (formerly L' Petit Echo de la Mode) included sewing patterns in its earlier history, which dates from around the late 19th century or early 20th century. It seems very akin to America's Good Housekeeping.  You can see a few photographs of the advertisements from one of the 1950s issues if you click on the link for this Etsy seller.

The Simplicity 5385 pattern dates from 1964.  I really like the long shift and wrap-around skirt design.  It has so many possible variations.  I am partial to wrap-around skirts, and as such there are a few wrap-around patterns that are in my "keep" storage containers.  One day I'll have to show you some of the patterns that I absolutely will not part with!

L'Echo de la Mode cover courtesy of

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I Hate My Sewing Machine

Perhaps hate is too strong of a word. I strongly dislike my sewing machine, and I need some advice.

My first machine was a mechanical Kenmore, circa 1987. It had basic stitches and worked perfectly well, but it weighed about 25 pounds. As I have no sewing room, that meant hefting the thing out of a closet, downstairs, and onto the dining room table every time I wanted to sew, and then doing the reverse in order eat at the table. To spare my back, I sold the Kenmore at a yard sale and set out to buy a new lightweight model.

In great anticipation of doing some serious sewing, I purchased a small Brother CE-4000 sewing machine that weighed only eleven pounds. I wanted a computerized beginner's machine with a few decorative stitches, and after reading several reviews I figured that this machine was the one:

Big mistake. I have named it HAL CE 4000.

After working on the girl's dress in sewing class for the last two weeks I figured that I would finish it at home so I can move on to another project in class. I'm having a tough time with my machine. There were some early issues with the bobbin, even though this model features a drop-in bobbin. However, the problem that really toasted my bread was the fact that I had to re-thread the needle no fewer that SIX times in one hour! The fabric is plain 100% cotton, and I believe the thread is a cotton-poly blend. The tension on the machine was perfect, so that couldn't have been the problem. After a while I slowed down WAY down and crept along in the hope that the thread would not slip out of the needle, but suddenly it would, with no warning. I found it strange that the thread did not break -- it would just slip out the needle and I'd have to thread it again.

We are using Bernina machines in my sewing class. We are sewing on the very basic Bernina 1008, a mechanical machine.  Once I thread it and load the bobbin, I'm off and running. The same was true of my good ol' Kenmore (though the bobbin tended to tangle frequently in that one). And when I take my foot off of the Bernina's pedal, the machine actually stops, unlike HAL, who stops only when his computerized brain tells him that he has completed the full stitch. Long story short, I don't like my new sewing machine.

I would like some advice, please. If anyone can recommend a make and model of sewing machine that is suitable for a beginner but still has some room for growth, I'd certainly appreciate it if you would leave a comment. Horror stories are welcome too, so I'll know which models to avoid!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

October Giveaway - DETAILS!!!

Drumroll please...

I'm happy to announce that the post about the October giveaway patterns and my Etsy shop, Serendipity Vintage, is up at The Crafty Tortoise.  She is giving away entire gift baskets filled with prizes from the Etsy shops that I listed in my earlier postOne of my patterns will be in each of the gift baskets.  There will be at least three big winners!  To enter the contest, follow the instructions in the Prize Time post on The Crafty Tortoise blog.

To earn bonus entries:
  1. For one extra entry:  follow my blog publicly with Google Friend Connect to the right, and leave me a comment along with your Etsy USERNAME letting me know that you followed.  If you don't have an Etsy account, it's easy and free to sign up for one  If you are already following my blog, follow me on Twitter or FaceBook, and leave me a comment along with your Etsy username letting me know that you did so.

  2. For TEN extra entries: purchase anything from my Etsy shop now through October 31st! Just be certain to add your Etsy USERNAME in the message to seller box so I'll know you are interested in the contest.

Now, I know you'll want more details about the patterns.  I selected three 1960s era patterns in excellent vintage condition:  all three are uncut and factory folded in envelopes with bright illustrations.  And all three are in a vintage size 16!  These three are just perfect to help you create an easy-to-sew set of basics for your fall wardrobe:

Best of luck to all of you!  I hear there are some really neat other prizes as well, so be sure to enter this one!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October Giveaway! Get ready!

October's giveaway is going to be a biggie: this time I'm giving away THREE vintage sewing patterns!

I've teamed up with TheCraftyTortoise for a special giveaway this month. A number of different Etsy shop owners have donated prizes for CraftyTortoise's very first blog giveaway.  You can win items from my shop, or any of the shops listed below! 

Some of the participating Etsy shops:
  • D-Jenn funwear for those who dare
  • ByDesigns
  • Custom and Creative Die Cuts, Scrapbooks, Cards
  • Trinkets by Lisa T handmade creations to last a lifetime
  • BlueHeartCards
  • ChristisCrochetNKnit
  • By Susan Designs
  • YellowBeatleBugg Handmade Greeting Cards
  • Favor Care Organics
  • Creative Minds
The contest will run from October 1st-October 29th on The Crafty Tortoise blog.  Stay tuned...I'll post again when the patterns are featured on her blog in just a few days!