Posts Tagged ‘Vintage’

A Stroll Through Yesteryear’s Fabric Shops Late 1880’s – 1919

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…
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The Elusive Obsoletes – The Dating Game Continues

In the British world of antiques, a divy is a diviner, one who can tell it’s the genuine article upon sight. Perhaps you’ve experienced a shiver down your spine when you find a vintage fabric; you just know it’s old and the real thing at first glance. So, your divy instincts having performed admirably, you know you have something old, but exactly how old and and exactly what is it? Fabric identification without the aid of selvage markings, provenance or an expert can be tricky. Most of the time there is no positive answer. But there are clues to put you somewhere in the ballpark. Often width, color, design, weave and appearance can be good indicators. Widths, while iffy and weak signals, nevertheless can generate a time frame. Generally, by the early 1930s narrow widths were replaced by 36″ to 39″ for most all American dressmaking cottons and by the early 60s the standard was 42″ to 44″ though some  36″ widths cottons lingered on for another decade. One notable holdout is Liberty of London lawn still being manufactured in 36″. This can be a deterrent in pinpointing fine old lawn, particularly with retro designs now in vogue. Regardless, finding natural and early synthetic fabrics in 36″ to 39″ or narrower widths should trigger your inner alarm system into action. Color, designs, patina and fancy weaves are stronger giveaways. Old catalogs, ads, pattern and fashion magazines like the Delineator, reference books such as Dating Fabrics by Eileen Trestain, 1998, plus your personal knowledge are useful tools for a decade-by-decade comparison of fabrics. Unwashed old cottons seem to impart a certain glow or patina, mostly due to mellowing and special finishes now outdated. Novelty and variations on basic weaves can help define fashion trends of the day. For instance, iridescent chambray and basket-weave cottons were the absolute rage in the late 1940s-early 50s; finding those fabrics in 36″ is a good clue to their age. Fabric typing can be downright frustrating. Some plain-weave cottons such as batiste, lawn and nainsnook are still with us but whether old or vintage, their similarities after washing make them virtually indistinguishable from each other. Two other long-gone family members, mull and longcloth, are nearly indistinguishable from nainsnook and lawn whether new or washed. Voile with its raspy-tongue feel and frosty soap scum appearance is easily identifiable; however it is still being manufactured. Old voile had wide satiny selvages; most today are narrow. The separating line for muslin and percale is when thread count…
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Updating Vintage Fabric Information?

Image via Flickr   As we were updating the information in our Vintage Fabric section here at Fabrics.net we discovered web sites that we had forgotten.  Many of these web sites have been updated too so we found new information.  If you enjoy learning more about Vintage Fabrics or enjoy looking at the styles of yesterday we are happy to share these new/old web sites. Kent State University Museum where you can view online collections or view current or past exhibits. American Textile History Museum has ongoing exhibits as well as featured exhibits. American Institute for Conservation has interesting posts and blogs about conserving textiles. The Costume Gallery has an extensive data base covering history of fashion, costume, textile history and more.  An amazing collection!

The Hunt for Vintage Cotton: In Search of Warp Ends

This hunt for and knowledge of vintage cottons column was inspired by several queries to fabric.net about Indian Head and a nudge from Judith. First, the revival of cotton, saving us all from the polyester blahs, is due in large part to quilters demanding premium muslin and the southern heirloom ladies for insisting on fine swiss. However, between those two extremes is the loss of wonderful now-obsolete yard goods. Older sewers know the joy of sewing with such cottons and miss their existence; younger ones will never know the infinite variety no longer within their reach except through second-hand purchase. Two and possibly three of these lost fabrics deserve special attention. Their disappearance has us puzzled because there are still practical uses for them and they would be a welcome sight if they were to reappear. Indian Head — in answer to questions for Andy about this fabric, the communications staff at Textron Inc. provided this information: the Indian Head brand label has been known since the 1820s, the cloth manufactured by Nashua Mfg. Co. in New Hampshire. Textron, having just changed its name from Atlantic Rayon Corp and seeking diversification, bought the firm in 1945 to meet the growing demand for postwar fabrics. In the early 50s, Textron sold the Indian Head operations and a new company, Indian Head Inc., was formed. The fabric was highly regarded and a popular seller. Elizabeth Dyer, Textile Fabrics, 1923, described the fabric as a heavy cotton muslin with more yarns and a smoother finish than many muslins; sturdy, substantial, warm, inexpensive. Used for white skirts, petticoats, girls dresses and middies, boys’ suits, men’s nightshirts, aprons, luncheon sets and table covers. Grace Denny, Fabrics, 1953, reports fabric was available in 36″ and 44″ widths for white; 36″, colored. Fairchild’s Dictionary of Textiles, 1996, lists fabric as a well-known cotton crash first woven by Nashua in 1831. My memories of this serviceable fabric are from the mid-40s to 1960. I used it for summer casual dress and sportswear, including countless maternity shorts. I do not recall seeing it after that time nor have I yet found any source stating its demise. It may be in a later Denny book which always features a glossary on the latest obsolete fabrics. If any of you know when it was discontinued, let Judith know. Cambric — I wish I had the pleasure of sewing more with this fabric when I started to sew in 1946. However, white cotton cambric went out of fashion in that…
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The Great WWI Paris Designer Label Scandal

Which One IS the Toni? I am indebted to author and collector Thelma Bernard whose research serves as the basis for this column. She unearthed the following information from her vast collection of old publications and felt it would have universal interest to vintage garment collectors as well as to collectors of all vintage items. This is Part 1 of a two-part series about fraud, sweatshops and the law in the vintage textile industry. For the past 20 years, vintage textiles has been a popular and growing field for collectors. Clothes and accessories in particular have been bringing premium prices, both at auctions, online sites and local stores. Collectors speak of pride about their garments, hats and shoes that they have acquired by inheritance or purchase, particularly those with a provenance or bearing a Paris label. Nothing quite so elegant as a Worth or a Georgette or a Paquin. But are these labels genuine? Are these garments first rate house designs or secondary workmanship, a conspiracy to defraud American women? Step back into time and then rethink your collection. The explosion occurred on March 1913 when the Ladies Home Journal published a story by Samuel Hopkins Adams, an American journalist and author who played an important part in exposing corruption in business and politics including child labor and the patent-medicine business: Dishonest Paris Labels:  How American Women are Being Fooled by a Country- wide Swindle “The American woman’s slavish and insistent demand for things Parisian has brought about a swindle that today permeates almost the entire dressmaking and millinery business in the United States.” If, for example, a woman has a so-called imported gown with a Worth label sewn in it the odds are overwhelming that it is fraudulent; or a Paquin or a Drecoll or a Doucet label, or any other French label. If she has in her hat a Georgette, a Talbot, a Reboux, a Marie Louise or any other Paris label, it’s a hundred chances to one that the hat was made in America and the label is a forgery.“ “Fraudulent Paris labels are today being used broadcast by the millinery and dressmaking trades of America. The houses which are not guilty of it are the rare and notable exceptions. Some idea of the extent of the practice may be gained from the fact that the manufacture of the false French labels for American-made garments has become a specific branch of the trade-mark weaving industry. The forgeries are woven by machinery and are sold in lots…
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Vintage Thread Chart & Photo Gallery

Limited to Wooden, Foam, Plastic and Other Type Spools and Thread-Related Items up to 1972 (Note: We are not a source for and cannot supply prices for vintage thread) Thread Chart Picture Galleries: Spool Sizes and Shapes Labels – Misc. Labels – Misc., Belding Corticelli Richardson Labels – Meyer Thread Co, G. Hall Jr Co, Keystone Thread, Dragon Thread, Glasgo Thread, Hammond and Hammilton Co, Dexter/Collingbourne/Virginia Snow Labels – American Thread Co., Globe Silkworks, Gudenbrod Bros., Paragon Thread Co., Sears, Talons Labels – Coats & Clark Ads Ads Page 2 Printed Literature Thread Memorabilia Cabinets / Furniture Crochet, Knitting and Tatting on Wood Spools View Thread Chart   Notes About Thread The thread industry as it is known today, according to the Modern Textile and Apparel Dictionary [George Linton, 1973], began in 1806 when Napoleon issued the Edict of Britain during the Napoleonic wars which forbade importation of silk to the British Isles. Up to that time all thread was made of silk; largest suppliers were Clark and Coats families based in Paisley, Scotland. This ban made the manufacture of cotton thread inevitable. From then on, improvements in spinning and other textile machinery inventions and operations enhanced the thread industry. See history of Clark/Coats under those headings in the thread chart which represents a overall picture of thread industry. It should be noted that a thread was developed by Hannah Slater, wife of Samuel Slater, in America in 1793. Slater, known as the father of the cotton industry in America, formed the Phoenix Thread Company shortly thereafter. However, Mrs. Slater’s thread was made from long-staple Surinam [Dutch Guiana]cotton and was not ideal for hand or machine sewing. Thread sizes in 1912 from The Drygoodsman’s Handy Dictionary style=’mso-bidi-font-weight:normal’>Relative Sizes of Needles and Thread style=”mso-spacerun: yes”>  [Source —1922 Singer Sewing Machine Manual] CLASSES OF WORK NEEDLE SIZE COTTON SILK Very fine silks, chiffons, lawns, batistes, etc. 9 200, 150, 120 000 Fine silks, lawns linens, cambrics, muslins, etc 11 100, 90 000 Shirtings, sheetings, muslins, dressmaking, etc. 14 80, 70, 60 0-0 , C, A Lt. woolen goods, flanels, heavy silk, etc. 16 50, 40, 30 B, C, D Cotton Yarns and Spool Cotton: Cotton yarns are numbered from a basis formed in reeling by which a skein is made up of 80 threads 54″ [1-1/2 yds] long, also called a lea or rap. The number of yarns is determined by the weight of hanks made up of 7 skeins of 840 yards each; one hank weighing a pound is…
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Vintage Thread Chart

Brand   Company   Label Information  Spool Length, Diameter &   Spool Shape, Type of Wood or Substance  Scrollwork/ Decoration Est. Age   Fiber  Size or Count  Type of Thread  How Wound  Comments & History  Willimantic  Willimantic Linen Co.        Wood     Silk           1871 or earlier. Eastern Connecticut was a great silk thread producing region.Willimantic is one its historic textile towns. Willimantic is Algonquin for land of the swift running waters        6 cord     Wood     Cotton              Aunt Lydias  American Thread Fall River MA  Name on paper label; strong, smooth  1-3/8" D x 2"  Wood, dyed red     Cotton     Button, carpet  Parallel      Hercules  American Thread  Name on paper label; special service; fast color; will boil  1" D x 1-3/8"  Wood     Cotton  40  Mercerized  Parallel           For strong sewing  1-1/8" D x 1-3/8"  Wood     Cotton  36           Intrinsic  American Thread Co. , Willimantic CN   Engraved; top label Glacé Finish left twist; 4-cord. Bottom: Star logo  1-3/4" D x 2-3/4" Wood     Cotton 12   Waxed      Kismet  American Thread  Name on paper label  2-1/2" L  Wood     Cotton  00  Mercerized  Crosswise     Liberty  American Thread Co.    1″ x 1-1/4″; 1-1/4″ x 1-1/2″  Wood     Poly           Spun Dee  American Thread  The Anything Thread  5" L  Wood     Poly  50  Parallel        Spun Dee  American Thread Co.  Paper; top, red & S and D logo with Spun Dee logo design in center; bottom, Spun Dee* the anything thread* 100% polyester – wording circles label, American Thread and Star logo in center   1-1/2″ D x 1-3/4″  wood; plastic  Clear plastic with SD all- over logo covers thread only  Poly  50           Star  American Thread  Name on paper label; sewing cotton   7/8"D x 1-1/8"  Wood     Cotton  50  Mercerized  Parallel     Star  American Thread  Name on paper label; 6 cord  1-1/8" D x 1-1/2"  Maple     Cotton  50           Star Twist  American Thread Company  Name on paper label; will boil, 6 cord  7/8" D x 1-1/8"  Wood     Cotton  50  Mercerized  Parallel     Star Twist  American Thread  Name on paper label; will boil  1" D x 1-1/8"  Wood     Cotton  50  Mercerized        Star Mercerized  American Thread  Paper label; will boil  1" D x 1-1/8"  Wood     Cotton  50  Mercerized  Parallel     Star Deluxe  American Thread  Paper label; will boil  7/8"D x 1-1/8"  Wood     Cotton  30  Mercerized …
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