Late 1880s to 1919 Part I
The First Sewing Machine -Arthur’s Illustrated Home Magazine, No. 6, 1873
A correspondent sent us the following account of the first sewing-machine invented and constructed in this country. The “ingenious machanic” was, we believe Elias Howe, afterward so famous. The account, she tells us, is cut from a newspaper printed about twenty-five years ago (ed. note — c1848). It is certainly wonderful to think what a revolution has been accomplished by the aid of this machine, improved and perfected since that day. The article is headed Tailoring Machine and is an extract from the Boston correspondent of the Worcester Spy, Vol. XLL.-80:
“I have been examining a new machine for sewing which has recently been invented and constructed by an ingenious mechanic of Cambridge. So far as I am informed on the subject, this is the first attempt to construct a machine of this kind, and it appears to me to be an eminently successful one. The machine is very correct and does not occupy a space of more than about six inches each way. It runs with such ease that I should suppose one might easily operate twenty or thirty of them and the work is done in a most thorough and perfect manner. Both sides of a seam look alike appearing to be beautifully stitched and the seam is closer and more uniform than when sewn by the hand. It will sew straight or curved seams with equal facility and so rapidly that it takes but two minutes to sew the whole length of the outside seam of a pair of men’s pantaloons. It sets four hundred stitches a minute. The thread is less worn by this process than by hand-sewing , and consequently, retains more of its strength. The simplicity of this machine and the accuracy, rapidity, and perfection of its operation, will place it in the same rank with the card-machine, the straw-braider, the pin-machine, and the coach-lace loom, machines which never fail to command the admiration of every intelligent beholder.”
And we all know the impact of that machine on our lives! Without it we would likely not have that secret addiction known as stash building. Now go back into time — Imagine what it would be like to see the bountiful array of fabrics on display, sold only long before our time; to touch and feel them, to maybe put a name or an identity to the no-name cloths in our mystery pile, to know what it was used for or its similarity to today’s material. Here’s what we might learn from a young upper class matron shopping for popular yard goods, many still within our reach today, at various periods in the late 19th to early 20th century. Be patient with her snobbery and those pedestrian thoughts she relegates to her maid and seamstress if fabric is beneath her station.
Any large emporium, late 1880s to 1899
(Because the emphasis is on popular dress or fashion fabrics, many staples have been omitted, such as sheetings and muslin; also designer imports and specialties which were not usually sold in stores or otherwise publicly attainable.)
The Gingham Table
Oh, there are so many to choose from – Everett plaids and checks, serviceable toile du nord with its linen finish, Barnaby fine zehphyr and empress cords (these two are similar to Dan River novelty ginghams), tissue novelties (similar to lawn), silk plaid, florentine silk and of course the red hospital stripe for nurses but they are all so common and boring. Mama’s maid makes her work dresses and children’s school clothes from the plain gingham chambray, dark dress plaids and Everett, and silk plaids for Sunday best. The silks are really mixed with cotton but it’s all she can afford. Ugh, although the new colors are pretty — pink , heliotrope, olive, bright pink, sky blue — I simply would have no use for these fabrics.
This photo is of calico and floral sprig stripe muslins of the late 1880s-90s.
– Courtesy Linda Learn collection
The Novelty Suiting Table
Hmm, most of these are wool and cotton mixtures, suitable for the trade class, like the fancy textures, Leeds bold diagonal plaids, brocatelles and Seville brocadines (satin designs similar to today’s brocades). The myrtle green mohair boucle is passable and a commendable price at 29¢ a yard. Grand-mama favors the all wool and mohair satin jacquard brocade and rep brocade (fine horizontal ribbing) for special occasions and the silk and wool ottomans but the colors are so dreary. Plum, dark navy, brown, black.
The imported silk and wool dress and skirting plaids are quite striking but they are for young girls. The color combinations are appealing, especially the myrtle with cardinal and gold, navy with cream, gold, brown and red, new green with heliotrope, cream and gold.
This heavy matelasse plaid with the colors forming the crossbars over the solid ground comes in a 45″ width, most unusual. I don’t care for the basketweave plaid or the black and white wool shepard check but the astrakhan camelette (soft as in camel hair) plaids of wool serge look very serviceable. Some of these would make a nice Christmas present for maid or seamstress.
The Wool Dress Goods Table
Who cannot be tempted by these fine fabrics of wool and cashmere such as Union, Manchester union, English, reversible cashmere serge, French and my favorite, India made from the finest Australian wool and reversible and stunning in old rose. At 50″ wide, I will need six yards x 95¢ equals $5.70 but seamstress will charge me $6 to make dress. But I can afford it and she will be thrilled with the scraps. The Hamilton alpaca (wool resembling alpaca) is too serviceable but Mme DeVeaux highly recommends it for a travelling gown as it resists dust.
I do need henrietta for future mournings. Mine is so out of style that I gave it to maid. I will get the saxony wool as it is blended with silk as well as the all cotton to be comfortable in any season. At least they are making henrietta in colors now; this helps on the budget for at-home dresses for Grand-mama. She still follows the ritual of receiving morning visitors daily which our generation is finally abolishing and this requires a change of dress every day for at least three weeks. I also like the French challie with its fine prints and soft colors. They would make nice everyday dresses for me, also.
The Silk Table
Is there no end to the fashionable designs and types. All are so irresistible. Mama prefers the black silks like bengaline, moire velour (similar to henrietta) and india and embossed brocades for skirts. I like my moire velour in colors and to line them with changeable satins like merveillure. They come in such pretty colors.
I notice that the new style for waists are corded striped taffetas, piques and other novelty taffeta stripes. A little too flamboyant for my taste although the new Napoleon blue is an attractive color in plain taffeta. Same for the shot checked taffeta which is heavy enough for a dress but color combinations are vulgar bright. I should consider surah for a walking dress; it is so soft and quietly colored. Also very fashionable are crepe de chines which are much cooler than taffeta.
Here’s washing chiffon but store labels it mousseline de soie and there are several other brands – Kai-Kai, Shantung and Dresden (all various lower quality china silks similar to today). Ladies Home Journal (1899) says these silks are flimsys that may be dipped into naphtha, but they always pull in the drying and their appearance will not deceive any one.
Ah! here is lining silk taffeta. It’s only 70¢ but Ladies Home Journal (1899) says the cost must be at least $1 yard for it will far surpass in wear and brilliant color. I will pass up both these fabrics but mention them to maid. Mme DeVeaux can get me swiss taffeta. She says it is non-rustling, soft, doesn’t crease and is the best foundation for summer gowns.
The Summer and Everyday Washables Cotton Table
Maid and seamstress would welcome these fabrics for summer dress occasions, especially the pongee, serpentine crepe(similar to but heavier than plisse) and empress dimity. I heard that dimity was introduced to the west by the Moors who brought that fabric with them from Araby when they occupied Spain in 800. I wonder if it resembles ours today. Mama’s maid uses momie (similar to granite cloth and other pebbly textured crepes) and pekin crepes to make her parlour drapes.
This striped London pique (similar to duck suiting) would make a nice blazer suit, of course for a younger or working girl. I like the red striped with small gobelin figures the best. The light green, delft blue and yellow are pretty colors, also. Seamstress says you have to shrink pique in a pail of hot water and add a tablespoon of salt except for all-white to prevent color bleeding. Charming prints on these challie laines (wool and cotton challis) and they are washable. The Pacific challie and nuns veiling (same as challis) are too soft and clingy.There is a large variety of figured lawns in the lotus, Persian and Dresden style and something called a new wash fabric which resembles lawn and has a silky finish. But as it is nearer the percale section, I am not sure. The Mulhouse percales make nice day dresses and aprons for our servants; quite a selection of patterns from floral sprigs to overall prints to diagonal plaids and geometric figures and washfast colors with turkey red and indigo blue most predominant. The Minerva brand is especially nice with its cambric finish (smooth, shiny, hard, resembling cambric), and there must be 25 selections to choose from. I think I will send maid and seamstress to choose their preferences.
This photo is of lovely, floaty lawn and muslin gauzes from the late 1890s to1919. The warp print at bottom right still has its original schreinerized finish.
- Top & bottom left, courtesy Julienne Stewart collection.
- Bottom right, courtesy Linda Learn collection
The figured organdies and lace striped dimity are lovely. Seamstress said she read in the Ladies Home Journal (1899) that organdy must be lined in silk or if that is not affordable, then a medium quality lawn. I am so partial to this French black organdy with its black satin scrolls intermixed with lavender and white designs. Mme DeVeaux would be able to create something spectacular for a summer evening social. The black, heliotrope and white lace striped dimity is also effective.
I don’t care for the duck suitings or cotton challies. Too gauche. Heavens! Calico, haven’t seen it in awhile but this looks decent. Of course it is not usually sold in good stores. Grandmama says about 30 years ago it was only made in a very rough texture and woven in two colors, usually a dark background with a light color flower or design. Maid’s mother still wears it making it the same way they did in the early 1870s and probably before that – four lengths of cloth for the skirt, one straight for the back, one gored on each side for the front and the other two gored down the center for side breadths, full waist with gathered sleeves to a band or gathered as a ruffle. I will buy some as a surprise for her.
The Sateen Table
I don’t see the need for all these sateens –Garner’s fine and extra fine in solid colors, Cocheco figured prints, all nice for dresses and wrappers. Checked and figured satin Milan sateens would make fancy waists or dresses; they look and feel like silk. More fancy brocade, surah, figured and striped sateens all claiming to be of Egyptian cotton and lighter weight.
Here’s henrietta plain fast black sateen – our washer woman claims this is superb dress material; doesn’t crock. All her friends use it. At 26¢ a yard, I don’t know how they can afford it. Must be for special occasions and of a style that will last for several seasons and still be suitable for making over. It is definitely a working-class fabric; I don’t think I’ve ever worn sateen. Grandmama says it is not the same quality she had during her youth; goodness, that was before the War of the States!
The Shirting Table
I count at least 60 varieties for men and women ranging from figured, striped to plain in silk, cotton, wool, fleeced and many mixtures. If I were a working woman, I would invest in several pieces, especially Beverly cotton in dark indigo with red and gold stripes. I may get this for maid’s birthday present as these are her colors.
The Lining Table
I know so little about lining but seamstress is very particular and usually buys the finest percaline and cambric linings for casual skirts and jackets. I spotted seven different grades of plain and fancy silesia, several percalines, one with a moire finish, (similar to pima but with more strength), and six different grades of lining sets. Maid says percaline is the preferred fabric for lining tight-fitting waists as it molds so nicely. The soft-kid finish cambric (dull finish) makes a nice skirt lining for lighter weight cloths. I’ve never understood using paper cambric; it can’t be washed or reused. Seems a waste of money. Maybe the theatres use it for costumes.
Luster Cloth lining and underskirting
– Delineator, summer 1899
The White Table
It’s like being surrounded by clouds, all the floaty and soft whites in so many designs and textures. Must get the hemstitched apron lawns for maid’s special occasion aprons and bordered flouncing for some summer petticoats. I will send seamstress to look at the white corded and satin stripe lawns, the checked and plaid lawns (probably what is known as shadow plaid) and the lace checked drawn openwork lawn (leno or novelty weaves) to make some summer waists. Victoria with its sheer finish is so perfect for airy cool dresses and india linon also, although it is crisper (a type of lawn organdy) and makes a fine waist.
Lawn also makes a beautiful dotted swiss. There’s some very exquisite sheer with pin dots, some less sheer with small, medium and large dots, some with lace stripes or raised zigzag stripes running between the dots and something new, colored swiss in green, corn, pink, light blue, cardinal, nile green and navy blue. This has hairline stripes between medium. dots. I am partial to the white with large tufts of dots for myself. I will add this to my list for seamstress to look at.
Grand-mama would love this vast array of mull (similar to but not as fine as lawn). In her day mull was finely woven and prized for afternoon social wear, dresses of low-cut shirred tops with billowy skirts of endless tiered flounces. Now it is suitable for economical summer dresses but mostly for children’s wear and summer underthings. The embroidered flouncing is lovely. Seamstress says india mull is smoother and more durable than Swiss mull.
Nainsnook and batiste are delightful for children. The white check, satin check and extra fine satin finish make lovely dresses and the plain for underthings. Someday I will have a use for this fabric.
Nice selection of cambric. Seamstress says Jones is very fine and slightly heavier than nainsnook and Berkely is the best quality. Both are her preferences for everyday chemises, petticoats and drawers. It has indeed a lovely linen-look appearance and is quite smooth, crisp and silky. Longcloth is similar to nainsnook but it is coarser. Fine for underclothes for children or the trade. I will have to ask seamstress if we use it for anything.
The Wool Table
There are several nice grades of broadcloths; Grandmama and Mama need a few everyday capes and those plush fake beaver ones are horrid; think I will buy this nice English wool import; it’s only $1.10. The extra heavy French storm serge with its waterproof finish would be nice also. Will pass on the covert but De’Beige cloth interests me, especially this one in a worsted diagonal. They say it’s the latest fashion trend for skirts. These lovely worsted ribs, stripe worsteds and kerseys are ideal for Uncle. His tailor fashioned several double breasted Prince Albert and Chesterfield coats and one-button frocks which he wears in style to Club.
The Velveteen and Velvet Table
Here is more cape plush I detest, even with its silk finish. My goodness, the price! $2.15 a yard and it’s only 24″ wide. The colored silk velvets are lovely. Maid says Sears has the best which cannot be surpassed by any house in the country and costs $2.50 a yard. At that price, it should be! I don’t care for the corduroy velvet; Uncle has several vests of this and it’s so tawdry looking. but it’s the fashion today, and certainly comes in a lot of colors.
Velveteen in the peacock blue and green shades are very showy but seamstress says it is not a trustworthy fabric and the colors fade unless you buy the best directly from France or Italy. Will have to ask Mme DeVeaux about this when I go for my next ballgown fitting.
The Flannel Table
Must remember to have seamstress pick up some Dresden and Persian flannelettes for tea gowns and wrappers. I like the Persian patterns and fleece back of Dresden. Wool shirting flannel and outing flannel would make nice nightshirts for Uncle. Maid uses wool farmer’s shirting flannel for her skirts and children’s winter dresses. Rather dull in blue and grey stripes or red and black checks.
The silk embroidered flannel is one of Grandmama’s favorite for winter petticoats. There certainly is a choice of utility flannels – unbleached and bleached cotton, part wool white twill, white wool, heavy blue and blue grey wool twill, the part wool and all-wool scarlets which are seamstress favorites for winter petticoats. The Mackinaw and blanketing make nice cariage lap covers.
Mme DeVeaux’s Shoppe
My next stop will be here to give her my shopping list for yard goods only she can acquire and can be trusted to sew with. They are beyond seamstress’s capability. Panné velvet and cutout cloth for trimmings on the new summer tailor suits, Louis IV muslin (very sheer lightweight similar to fine gauze), flowered silk gauzes, satin foulard, India silk and grenadines (leno weaves of checks, stripes and patterns) of silk and linen tissues.
Any Large Department Store 1900-1914
(Only new fabrics or variations will be listed)
The Colored Dress and Suiting Goods Table – Such stylish fabrics and basic colors. like the nobby lines on the this fancy Pierola and it’s 40″ wide and only 19¢ a yard. Maid could afford this for dresses or her oldest daughter now that she is part of our staff. I also like the English novelty changeable mohair (wool) granite (a crepe of pronounced texture resembling a coarse linen weave) which would be suitable for everyday skirts. The Persian theme is still fashionable but the variety of novelty checks and plaids is overwhelming; Scotch plaids seems to dominate. Still too vulgar for my taste.
I’ve not seen French Lansdowne before in silk and wool; nile color is striking. Perfect for most social occasions and the price is reasonable, 40″ wide and 98¢ a yard. I must tell Mme DeVeaux about this. And this wool viola crepe (similar to granite) is also new. What a silky texture, it looks like silk and the violet shade sets it off. It is expensive at $3.50 a yard. I suppose it would cost me $75 to $125 for a suit but it is affordable in our household. Now here is something really different and just arrived, sharkskin from France. I would look handsome in a reseda (celery color) dress.
The new cotton and wool broadcloths now come in 54″ but dull colors except for myrtle green, Alice blue and cardinal. At 42¢ a yard, they would affordable for the servants. More interesting is radium, a nice soft silk and cotton blend recommended for both day and evening dress.
Landsdowne, a desired fabric in wool and silk.
– McCalls, March 1904
Radiium, a popular silk and cotton combination.
– McCalls, November 1904
The Wool Table
The new French wool jersey and all-wool flannels are so adaptable to waist, skirts or dresses; Mama would like these. And here’s wool albatross. Despite its crinkly napped fleecy surface, it is so lightweight and soft; This would make some nice winter dresses for my daughters although seamstress says its more suitable for wedding or graduation dresses, or even an evening costume.
They are making such lovely silky wool mohair brilliantines (lustrous, lightweight of silk or cotton with wool or all wool.) It’s beautiful in cream for a spring suit. Panama is proving popular as a lightweight suiting in such a variety of plain weaves and novelties and even chiffon. It is firm like serge but wears well and sheds dust. So, too, poplin. A little more delicate are the airy plain weave melroses and batistes, nice for my daughters spring wear or a gown for Mama. I also see a twill silk and wool melrose. This French twill waisting will be perfect for the girls’ blouses and suits for the boys. Oh, there’s some wool and cotton Viyella; it is so soft, like flannel and makes lovely dresses, waists and young children’s clothes.
The Everyday Washable and WhiteTable
I must remember to pick up Indian Head which looks so much like linen but it wears better and does not wrinkle. Seamstress says to get some for my younger son’s play wear and for the kitchen maids uniforms. The cotton cashmeres (henrietta with a slight nap), gibson cloths (similar to tricot or jersey knit), and cotton versions of pongee, crepe de chine, brilliantine plus all the new novelty waisting lawns certainly will add variety to warm weather wear. I see chambray is branching out with many new prints, perfect for children and the working class. This new baby flannel, daisy cloth, is certainly snug and warm with its double nap. Maybe seamstress could make some blankets and nightwear for maid’s new grandson.
Viyella was a multi-pupose fabric.
-McCalls, October 1908
Lotus Cloth, another multi-purpose fabric.
– Vogue, Fall 1908
The Black Table
There seems to be more and more black goods lately. English whipcord serge would make a nice suit or skirt for Grandmama who seems to wear only black the older she gets. A new wool French weave called satin sollei with its 1″ horizontal bayadere (wavy) raised smooth cord effect; a colorfast black wool at 46″wide. Six yards make a dress for $6.54. Most attractive for Mama. So this is gloria silk mixed with cotton; don’t much care for the looks of it; very flat weave although it’s lustrous. Something for the trade.
London wool twine cloth – Mme DeVeaux says this resembles silk grenadine and is very attractive over a black taffeta foundation. The wool Venetian suitings look too stiff even with their satin finish. Very pricey at $3.50 a yard although it’s 50″ wide. Here’s other new blacks – camel hair suiting, English wool epingeline that has a fine velours (French velvet) cord running horizontally, wool moreen skirtings from England for petticoats and underskirts, too heavy for me.
I have never seen such heavy silk rustling taffeta for dress. Must tell Grandmama about this. Also the Japanese surah silk, an improvement over Chinese silk, and this unusual French brocaded grosgrain for waists, skirts and suits. A skirt would take 14 yards, about $7.70, certainly affordable.
I am also impressed with the lightweight silk and wool henrietta. We all need new mourning dresses. I gave my old one to maid so she would have something fashionable to wear to a memorial service for her cousins who died in that tragic Titanic affair. She can have the one I wore to that. There are many types of black cotton voiles, wool batistes, brilliantines and sicilians (same but heavier than brilliantine)
The Silk Table
One of the smartest fabrics for spring is rajah silk say the fashion books. It does looks heavy but is really light and supple and comes in an endless array of delicate tints; the rose is especially beautiful. Dress taffetas are so fashionable for waists, especially the plisse tucked taffeta, French spiral cord and French silk satin duchesse railroad cord which come in a large range of colors. The brocades are richer in design and color, very proper for the opera and evening wear.
Among the satins, the new Liberty twilled back satins are so clingy and would be suitable for eveningwear as well as handsome waists. A waist or skirt would look lovely made from this marvelous combination of silk chiffon and cotton poplin. And look at this lustrous heavy crepe peau du cygne in Alice blue, so clingy for evening wear. I’m glad louisine is still in fashion; the wide crossbar check is so attractive for dresses.
Opera crepe and other fashionable fabrics of the day.
– McCalls, November 1904
The Lining Table
Heatherbloom is all it is advertised to be says seamstress who saw it in the Woman’s Home Companion (1906) and told me to buy some for the girls petticoats, underslips and dropskirts. It remarkably resembles silk taffeta with its rustle and shiny finish but does not split or crack and is a considerable improvement over percaline. It comes in 150 shades! Can you imagine that! The ready-to-wear petticoats cost $2; the fabric is 35¢ a yard.
I’m so glad we carry accounts at our stores instead of having to wait endlessly for these new pneumatic tubes to complete our transactions. What was wrong with just paying cash to a clerk, a very simple and efficient procedure.
Nearsilk was a competitor to Heatherbloom, a washable taffeta for petticoats, which came in a stunning array of colors.
– from an early 1900s ad
Any Large Department Store 1915-1919
(Only new fabrics or variations will be listed)
The Silk Table
Silks get lovelier each season. It doesn’t seem possible I am shopping with my grown daughters for their ball gowns and that my son is home from the Great War. So much has happened. Grandmama and maid are deceased; Mama is bedridden and maid and Mme DeVeux have retired. Getting help has been a problem; the War has changed everything; women actually want to be in the workplace and why so is beyond me. I am having trouble finding domestics and seamstresses, and getting used to the short lengths and exposing my leg to mid-calf. It seems as if we have gone from hobble skirts to minarets to the even shorter bell dresses and tunic suits overnight. Our gowns are now frocks and our waists now tops. At least the fabrics have stayed stable, not so many new ones appearing in the last few years.
This is high fashion — a dolly varden floral design on serpentine crepe.
– Pictorial Review, May 1914
My one daughter seems to like this georgette; it would make a lovely floating flock. The other is looking at crepe meteor (soft, lustrous satin face, twill back) for her wedding gown. I like the new crop of crepes –ribbed, broche (woven with plain and pile weaves), canton (pebbly surface with a fine cross rib) and charmeuse (lightweight, semi lustrous satin surface and dull back, drapes well). The flowered silk poplins make into nice dress suits as does dolly varden (brightly colored floral patterns, usually bouquets), messaline (a lightweight satin face formerly made of organzine), cashmere du soie (lightweight cashmere and silk blend), faille francaise (French import), corsica (or corsicaine, French dress fabric with small squares printed diagonally on a solid ground), eolienne (lightweight blended with wool or cotton, sometimes with a fine rib or small brocade pattern and lustrous finish) and marquisette.
The Wool Table
Blue serge and mohair for bathing suits! Another public adjustment I find difficult. The new ratinés (loosely constructed plain weave with a rough nubby surface) are pretty in flecked, ribbed, diagonal and brocade patterns. They are perfect for suits and dresses in all seasons. Basketcloth has an interesting pattern. I wish chinchilla and corduroy had been available for the girls when they were young. They make nice coats as does melton. I should have my new designer look at duvetine (French; also duvetyn; soft, downy surface) and zhibelline (overcoating of long, hairy lustrous nap pressed down in one direction) for some coats.
The Cotton Table
This season’s embroidered voile is smashing. I saw it made up in a smartly styled day dress, but it looks better on younger women. Rough and coarse texture seems to be popular for casual styles. Hopsacking, homespun and seersucker are very attractive as is the smoother khacki and tussore (finely corded mercerized cotton).
Now we must add up our purchases and make a list for designer. Goodness, it will be 1920 when we next return. I wonder what new fabrics the new styles will introduce and if hemlines will continue to rise.
If you were Seamstress or Mme DeVeaux, what would your fabric selections be for Matron’s fashionable wardrobe?
The ever-versatile and popular ratine was manufactured in many textures and designs.
– Pictorial Review, May 1914
Haute couture du jour — a costume of blue tussore with long redingote of striped blue tussore and matching fabric buttons.
– Vogue, September 1908
– Color plates from Costume & Fashion, 1760-1920
– 1887 evening gown
– Street attire, 1895
– Walking-out dresses, 1903
– Fashionable hobble skirt costume, 1913
– Tunic-style coats and dresses, 1919.
- Arthurs Illustrated Home Magazine, Vol. 6, 1873 Calico dress instructions
- Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs, late 1880s, 1899, 1902, 1908
- Delineator, 1899
- Ladies Home Companion and Ladies Home Journal, 1899 and 1906, notations courtesy of Thelma Bernard
- Lippincott’s Home Manuals: Clothing for Women, 1916 –19, Laura I. Baldt
- Ads from magazines as credited
- Costume and Fashion 1760-1920, 1971 Jack Cassin Scott
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Joan Kiplinger was an antique doll costumer and vintage fabric addict who learned to sew on her grandmother’s treadle and has been peddling fabrications ever since.