The Long and Mysterious Journey of Sandhurst 121

When the piece of linen I had purchased arrived in the mail, I was not sure what to expect. I had bought it with the hope that it was, indeed, a piece of Moygashel linen, but I had nothing to go on except an educated hunch. I knew it was an early piece of fabric, as its width was 35”, a common width for pre-1960’s dress-goods. I liked the design in the photo from which I made my decision, although it was not a colorway to which I normally gravitate. Upon opening the package, I found the only identifying mark on the fabric to be this tag:

Gottshalk's in Fresno, California obviously sold fine fabrics.

Gottschalk’s in Fresno, California obviously sold fine fabrics.

This short length of fabric had been on the remnant table, and, being too good of a bargain to pass by, some home dressmaker in California (USA) scooped it up with all good intentions of making something out of it someday. It must have lived in a dark drawer somewhere, carefully buffered from stains and yellowing. It didn’t even have much of a crease in it. And so, after many years in dormancy, it arrived at my home in Pennsylvania. I knew immediately that it was a Moygashel linen. I could tell by the hand of the fabric, the unique, slightly funky design, and by its amazing survival virtually wrinkle-free.

Sandhurst 121

As I mentioned in a former post, my only dilemma was the scant yardage, combined with the narrow width. So, I stuck it in my fabric closet, to think about another day. One thing nagged at me, however. I really, really wanted to know what year it was from.

Over the past three years or so, I have had some luck in finding copies of old and older (1950-1980) Vogue Pattern Book Magazines. They are fascinating, and treasure troves of mid-century fashion as it relates to home sewing. I have tried to get a good cross-section of magazines from those three decades. One issue, which I tried a couple of times to get – and did not (on eBay) – finally became available to me. I loved the suit on the cover, and those mid-fifties styles are just so chic, even though most Vogue patterns from that time period were unprinted, and therefore, very difficult to use. (By 1957, Vogue was starting to produce many of their patterns in printed and perforated format.)

This is the February/March 1955 issue.

This is the February/March 1955 issue.

Perhaps you can see where I am going with this? I was looking through this particular issue once again in May of this year, and low and behold, a full-page ad for Moygashel linen clearly pictured “my” linen as one of their “new crop”. The colorway was different, but Moygashel was known for producing their fabrics “all in many colors or color combinations.” Maybe a lot of people wouldn’t get so excited about such a discovery, but I was ecstatic! Now I knew, for certain, that the linen I had purchased made its debut in early 1955. (I would be turning 5 years old a little later that year!) I even had a name for it now – Sandhurst 121. I suddenly very much wanted to sew this linen, this Summer!

There is my linen in the upper left hand corner of the full-page advertisement.

There is my linen in the upper left hand corner of the full-page advertisement.

By now, many of you know that I determined to make a sheath dress out of this scant yardage of fabric, and in order to do so, I had to reconfigure my sheath dress pattern to include a back yoke. Here’s the fabric layout, which hopefully will show how sectioning the back enabled me to fit the pattern on the available fabric:

The fabric is shown 35" flat on my cutting table.  The muslin pattern piece for the front of the dress is on the right, and the two shortened back pieces are lined up smack against each other on the left.  The yoke pieces then fit above the dress front.  I did not need facings, as I lined the entire dress in a light weight linen/cotton blend, and finished the neck and armholes all by hand.

The fabric is shown 35″ flat on my cutting table. The muslin pattern piece for the front of the dress is on the right, and the two shortened back pieces are lined up smack against each other on the left. The yoke pieces then fit on the fabric  above the dress front. I did not need facings, as I lined the entire dress in a light weight linen/cotton blend, and finished the neck and armholes all by hand.  I had to face the hem as I did not have enough fabric to do a self hem!

Many of you also know that fortune shone her happy face again on this project when I found three orange vintage buttons, which I knew would help make a back yoke far more interesting. I relied on a Vogue pattern from 1957, which has a back yoke to help me with this reconfigure.

This card of buttons cost 2 cents originally!  They seem to mimic the small orange explosions on the dress fabric.

This card of buttons cost 2 cents originally! They seem to mimic the small orange explosions on the dress fabric.  They may actually be even earlier than the fabric.

The yoke on this dress uses 4 buttons.  I only had three, but their large size still makes the proportions work well.

The yoke on this dress uses 4 buttons. I only had three, but their large size still makes the proportions work well.

A close-up of the back of the dress.

A close-up of the back of the dress.  I made bound buttonholes – very 1950-ish!

And then, another classic 1950s’ design detail worked right into this dress: I would need to move the zipper to the side in order for the back yoke to look correct. Now I will be the first to tell you that a side zipper is not as convenient as a back zipper, but it is a small sacrifice when everything else is enhanced by this placement.   After these obeisances to ‘50s’ style, I slipped right into 2014 with a bright orange, newly made belt, a widened jewel neckline, slightly cut-in shoulders, and a back slit to enhance comfort. I like to choose the best from the ‘50s, but I really don’t want to look like the 1950s.

I sent new orange linen to Pat Mahoney of Pat's Custom Belts and Buttons  and this lovely belt came back to me in the mail.

I sent new orange linen to Pat Mahoney of Pat’s Custom Belts and Buttons and this lovely belt came back to me in the mail.

Cool and summery-looking, don't you think?

Cool and summery-looking, don’t you think?

Sandhurst 121

Sandhurst 121

Sandhurst 121

Sandhurst 121

Sandhurst 121

Not every dress can have a story, nor should it. But this fabric, which began its life in Ireland, no doubt entered this country through New York City, ordered by a store in Fresno, California, purchased and squirreled away for decades by persons unknown – has now found a starring role in my wardrobe almost 60 years later. Sewing is just so much fun!

 

 

35 Comments

Filed under bound buttonholes, Buttons - choosing the right ones, hand-sewn zippers, Linen, Love of sewing, Moygashel linen, Polka dots, side-placed zippers, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, Unprinted patterns from the 1950s, vintage buttons, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s

35 responses to “The Long and Mysterious Journey of Sandhurst 121

  1. Cynsin

    What a fabulous fabric and I love the back story. So nice to arrive home and read this…thank you! Now, I think, even with a room filled with fabric, I have caught the “bug” and must begin my own quest for vintage sewing fabrics and patterns. Thought that was one addiction of which I need not worry 🙂

  2. I absolutely adore this dress on you, Karen. And I love the story behind it just as much. The colors, while you say are not your colorway, look wonderful on you. And isn’t Pat the best ever??? Her belts and buttons are just awesome and her service is great. What a wonderful job you did — as always!
    Cissie

    • You were the one, Cissie, who encouraged me to go to Pat for belts and covered buttons. What great advice! She is definitely the BEST. I’m delighted you like the dress!

  3. Patty

    Great dress! Great story. You look amazing in it!

  4. Kathleen

    Thanks you, Karen. I do love a good fabric story. Very interesting!

  5. Anonymous

    I really like the patterns and fabrics you choose. So nice, fresh-looking, and stylish.

  6. If you ever get tired of this dress, you can send it to me! It is so great and has such a wonderful story to go with it! I really love how you update it just a touch with the belt to keep it from going ’50s “costumey”. So pretty on you!

  7. Heather Myers

    You wrote a compelling Moygashel linen story, and made a beautiful flattering dress! I have an older unlined purchased Moygashel linen suit in khaki green that I will look at again because of your story.

  8. Naomi

    How wonderful to have a piece of fabric from 1955 (the year I was born !) The dress is lovely. I sometime wonder what will happen to my fabric and wonderful featherweight sewing machines when I die.
    Loved the story and the tag that came with you fabric.

  9. Pamela Smith

    I love how your sewing always has a story,thank you for sharing.

  10. Jackie

    Beautiful Dress! I would love to get my hands on some beautiful linen like yours.

  11. How exciting that you were able to find the exact print, and confirm beyond a shadow of a doubt that the fabric is Moygashel! And I’m beyond impressed that you got that dress out of less than 2 yards of 35″ fabric.

    • Now you would be one who knows how exciting such documentation can be! And – if I were an inch taller, or two inches wider, I don’t think I would have been able to squeak this dress out.

  12. A fabulous dress — great use of the fabric. Even with all the in-progress pictures, I couldn’t appreciate the scale of the fabric design until you showed us the pictures of yourself wearing the finished dress. You look made for each other!

  13. Ann

    Thank you for sharing the history of your beautiful vintage linen dress. The buttons look great on the back yoke, and appear to mirror the orange spots in size and color. I was disappointed that the photo of the ad showing your fabric didn’t show up in your post (at least, not on my browser). It seems that nearly every dress you make has a back story, which I find fascinating and inspiring.

    • I can’t imagine why that particular picture (of the ad) doesn’t show on your computer – I think you would find the ad fascinating. I am delighted that you enjoy the fabric stories I often tell! Thank you, Ann.

  14. I love that whole project! The fabric, the research, the sewing! It looks so great and wearable, too. Fantastic job!

  15. Urbanite

    You inspire!!!

  16. Joanne

    Superb summer dress with a lovely story!!!!

  17. Thanks, Joanne! I was just thinking about you – and voila! – your comment arrived!

  18. I just stumbled onto your blog while searching for wrap dress inspiration and read this post. Very interesting and the dress turned out beautifully. I often find vintage fabrics thrifting and wish I knew more about their origin. I recently found several yards of beautiful, patterned silk charmeuse that appears to be from the 70’s. Also thanks for the details in your posts on construction as a self-taught sewist its always helpful to pick up useful tidbits on sewing. Thanks for the inspiration!

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