Tag Archives: vintage clothes

A mostly 1970s quilt…

It’s hard not to call this ramble something like “that ’70s quilt” or “talkin’ bout my generation” (even though that was the ’60s and has nothing to do with fiber) – something overstated but understood, jingly and annoying but common and somewhat comfortable…

But that somewhat encapsulates my feeling of the whole decade – it causes me equal parts discomfort and nostalgia.

I hated the 1970s because I hated polyester, stale cigarette smoke, musky perfumes, mustaches, “me,” disco (I kinda like that now), cheesy love songs, feathered hair, giant cars (El Caminos excepted), tube socks (I kinda like those now), my bible-beating public elementary school, my ignorant small town, plastic toys, Vietnam-damaged fathers and uncles (I didn’t have one, but most did), high-waisted clothes, acrylic, popular colors of pus, piss, and poo, the stench of leaded gasoline, dusty scents from too much unwashed macrame and houseplants and pillows and tapestries, halter tops on women and girls, too much wood, terrible architecture…

But I loved typewriters, lower-waisted clothes, back to earth movements, interpretations of 1920s and ’30s revivals, funk, longer hair, afros, craft revivals, interesting food, fantastical fiber creations, and a bunch of other stuff – mostly wrapped up in nature and creativity and the lovely analog life…

It sort of all started with this fabric. It might be older than the ’70s, but the calico and earthy colors reminded me of rustic quilts in mountain cabins comforting those who played banjos, wore patched corduroy, and brewed dandelion wine. I suppose that is more Appalachian than the ’70s, but since my parents moved us to the country to get back to the earth then, and I had a musical family who partook (and still partakes) in old time music and dance, my association is personal, though part of a definitive ’70s cultural movement.

1970s baking fabric

The fabric came from an antique mall (I think), and it’s a massive amount – some 10 or 13 yards, and it had to have been priced at $15 or less, so I bought it without a specific quilt in mind, but with the thinking that any cheap large amounts of cotton fabric = quilt backs. At the time, I also had a cousin who lived in an old house and participated in old time life whose wedding was a few months away, and I had grand ideas of making a massive rustic quilt for the couple. But that thought was short-lived – I never thought about what the top would be, and our own old house didn’t yet have a kitchen and sewing machines were packed away, and I essentially had stopped making quilts for anyone, or any bed-sized ones at all…

Fast forward a few months ago when I was unpacking and organizing my fabric stash, I found that fabric again, and also pulled out the tiny bit of my mother’s leftover stash that I’ve keep separate for fear of forgetting what was from my own past and what was from someone else’s.

1970s home fabric

Some of these are are a little earlier too, and I remember the top blue covering a chair seat likely done in the ’60s… and I vaguely recall the black or navy used for a piece of clothing for me. A bit more of this sort of calico found its way into the treetop of this piece.

Birdscene

And my old bonnet – which still fits…

(Remember the ’70s aslo had that patchworked and bebonneted character of Holly Hobbie and the resurgence of Sunbonnet Sue – I’m not sure which inspired my mother to sew a long dress with matching bonnet and white eyelet pinafore for a xmas outfit for me…)

1970s bonnet

But the fabric is awesome – baby chicks, scarecrows, kittens… I don’t want to cut this up though, so bonnet/artifact it will stay.

1970s bonnet detail

I also kept a terribly sewn dress that I remembered hating to wear because the neck or the empire waist, or something about it was too damn tight, and it was a baby style sized up to my girl frame, though I was forced to wear it around the person who gave it to me, and clearly it is faded so I must have been strapped into the thing often – or – the fabric was lousy and faded on the clothesline quickly. I think the fabric is a Liberty of London? And I have no idea why I kept it except for evidence in a child torture suit? Because I like brown?

(As an aside, I don’t get the hullabaloo about Liberty – sure, I appreciate the historic factor, but where is the fabric made? England isn’t known for its cotton crop, so it isn’t really made there, just printed. And though some of the patterns are lovely, some are a bit too romantic and twee for me, and some are just plain frumpy and if not in the know, would appear to be something that came from the big box…)

So I have no qualms about cutting it up – and I had it stored with an unfinished felted bag with pinks and browns, so it still could become a lining.

1970s dress detail

And finally, I remembered an aunt’s homemade skirt from that time – a mountain dwelling dancer whom I looked up to – I don’t know why I ended up with her skirt, but I was a tall child, and it fit me with the aid of a safety pin and I remember wearing several times when I needed to look “old fashioned” for some school pageant or living history sort of thing.

It still fits, but is nearly a foot too short for being the maxi-style skirt it is supposed to be. I am very hesitant about cutting it up, though I truly want to have less in my life – perhaps I’ll consider shortening it a bit to wear as a skit again, and then have the scrap to use, or perhaps I want to make a smaller wall quilt just out of it alone….

1970s-skirt detail

Though my thinking about ’70s fabric mainly revolved around brightly colored calicos and decisively shunned other fabrics of the decade, my mind started to wonder/wander about “cheater” cloth and if I shouldn’t just get several yards of the stuff and only add my own patch to it here and there.

I found this awesome hex pattern online and snatched it up…

1970s cheater fabric

It reminded me of my old pants.

1970s pants

(I’d like to think I caught Patches the cat leaping through the air in a trick feline circus move, rather than I’m probably squeezing her, or him? to the point of torture).

But that awesome mustard fabric is more of a canvas, there’s only a yard or less, and I think I’d rather make a tote bag out of it, so my focus returned.

I looked around for some more bright vintage calicos and was rather disheartened by the prices online – I’m used to picking up second-hand fabric (at least stuff that’s less than 50 years old) for a song…

But then this stuff is now “vintage” after all – I often think the ’70s was only about 18 years ago…

1970s cut fabric

I found a good deal on some pre-cut patches – normally I hate the pre-cut stuff because I like to use every last scrap of fabric and I mourn for the jagged corners thrown away, but I wanted some variety and this fit the bill.

And then I found a few larger cuts – the one on the left has a pleasing brown background, and the one on the right has a coy bird…

1970s bird fabric

(One of my online orders reeked highly of dryer sheets or some other synthetic stench. I can appreciate the need to scent the stash to deter fiber-munching predators, but if you sell it to others, please don’t use these chemical bombs – lavender and other herby sachets and naturally scented soaps and such work just as well and don’t cause respiratory distress in others as much… Better yet, send it out once it has aired and smells of nothing at all…)

And then I dug through my regular stash and found some prints older and newer that fit in well enough – most of these are scraps and fat quarters from the craft supply thrift store (usually 4 or 5 for a dollar), or in grab bags at antique malls, so all told, I spent less than $30 on my new old acquisitions to scratch my ’70s itch – not too overboard, but still fabric in, money out, and nothing to show for it….

1970s random scraps

But I don’t really like these colors – too primary with searing reds – I like that they’re warm and happy, but I don’t want to see them every day and I don’t want them in my bedroom with its calm and soothing hues. So perhaps it was enough to just gather my thoughts a bit and collect these few more fabrics – the total lot doesn’t take up much room and I’ve yet to lay it out or calculate to know if I even have enough for a quilt – a throw size definitely, which is perhaps what I’m leaning towards if anything at all…

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My grandmother’s gloves

My grandmother was a fun-loving petite woman who, as many women of that time, sewed her own clothing and maintained a stylish appearance even through the lean economic times in the post-depression and post-war Midwest.  I recently discovered in the 1940 census, a year after this photo was taken, she was earning only slightly less as a stenographer with large railroad company than my grandfather who sold insurance.  Go grandma!  But alas, the first of several babies came shortly thereafter and she no longer needed to sport a working woman’s wardrobe, though that’s not to say she wasn’t still stylish.  My only memories of her are of a very sick and small woman who appeared much older than her middle age.

Image

Recently my mother gave me a pair of old gloves that were my grandmother’s.  I have memories of them being at the bottom of the box of our family’s winter accessories – the glove that you always grabbed while fishing blindly for another, and tossed back annoyed. But now the palms are dried out and coming unstitched and the knitted portion battled with moths or barbed wire or another prickly country thing.

ImageThey appear to be a humble everyday glove, better for sweeping flurries off the stoop rather than going shopping downtown.  But a label still survives in one…

ImageWhat an odd mix of posh and not… though in its early years acrylic had a much better reputation than now and was used to make “cashmere-like” twinsets.  But the raccoon is interesting – I keep thinking how short the fibers must be, though perhaps not unlike an angora rabbit.  And the horsehide palm…yes, we Americans are squeamish about all things horse that aren’t riding off into the sunset, but it’s still leather just like from any other leather producing beast.  The gloves seemed to be knitted in a shaker rib, and I hope to be able to stitch up the holes without needing to actually replicate the stitch as I will never find a suitable yarn to match, though they feel a bit like a baby alpaca blend.  They also have maintained a beautiful shape and are a testament that wool has memory (I will not acknowledge that the acrylic probably brought something to the table as well).  I am curious, however, about their size – as seen from the picture above, my grandmother had tiny hands, and these are labeled a sized medium and in fact fit my man-sized paws.  My mother believes that they are from the early 1970s or late ’60s, and thinks they couldn’t be much older since they still exist, and in fact still exist as a pair, but I wonder if they might be older.  (But I’m also secretly hoping they weren’t actually my aunt’s…)  Either way, they will go back to a life being worn and won’t be the lonely pair at the bottom of the box.

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