Friday, July 25, 2008

Vintage Needlework Patterns

Welcome to the Patterns Ala Carte blog. I'm April and I've been collecting vintage and antique needlework patterns for a few years now. I sell restored patterns on my Etsy site ( as well as things I make from the old patterns.

I've been a seamstress and crafter since birth pretty much. This particular zoo started when I saw a beaded purse in an antique shop. Loved the purse, HATED the price. Plus it wasn't in useable shape. I really love old things, but I want to use them, not display them or pack them away. So I was off to learn how to make a beaded purse myself.

That was a few years ago and there's a lot more information out there now than there was then. I spent countless hours tracking down the patterns and then figuring out what the heck "purse twist" was. I'm the proud owner of 2 spools of it now - spent way too much on ebay that day!

During my search, and the on going wait for the NYC Clerk to get back to me (he keeps promising to dig stuff out of archives; it's been 4 years now...) I ran across an absolute TON of patterns for needlework of all kinds.

Considering how much trouble I initially had finding the patterns and instruction I wanted, I figured I'd gather up all the info and start re-writing it. I make samples of the things I really like, mostly purses of course, but other items as well. Since I knit, crochet, tat, weave, spin and sew I can pretty much follow any pattern so I also proof everything and sometimes add some editor's notes to ensure clarity.

The materials called for in the old patterns are either no longer made or called something else. One of my favorite books is a textile dictionary which identifies things like "crash", "albatross", and "surah". Great names but not very descriptive of the fabrics. Knitting needle sizes have also changed over the years. Plus the age old sizing discrepancy between different manufacturers. I have a metric gauge and do A LOT of test swatches!

So I pretty much try to find the modern equivalent for yarns, fabrics, tools and list them in with the patterns. Even the color names have changed! Absolutely hate it when I see those framed Godey's prints in the antique store. They're now separated from the original text and who knows what the heck they were calling pale pink in 1895?

So, as you can see, I keep pretty busy. Not so much that I don't want to hear from all of you. Especially if there's someone out there with information on The Hiawatha Bead Company. I found out that they were a trade name of the Home Needlework Guild, in turn a subsidiary of Dritz-Traum, but then the research dead-ended. Found Hiawatha ads as late as the fifties, but I'd love to fill out the info. Which is why I keep bugging the NYC Clerk....

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