Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Magic of Memory

The small box looked familiar. I came across it recently as I was emptying my mother’s apartment following her transition into nursing care at the retirement community, where she has lived for many years now. It was tucked in among her “Christmas-things storage box”, and was marked by its plainness.

This small label is the only   identifying aspect on the box.

This small label is the only identifying aspect on the box.

But when I opened it, I saw myself as a very young child – no more than 4 or 5 – standing in a Woolworth’s Five and Dime store, captivated by the tiny figures, six of them, arranged in their segmented box.   Six little musician figures, made out of cardboard, pipe cleaners, spun cotton, and paper mache.

The magic of memory From that Christmas in 1954 or ’55 on, they were always part of our magical Decembers. I used to look forward to having them reappear each holiday season, with their whimsical faces, their sparkly coats and golden instruments. They were a child’s joy.

But then, in my early twenties, life took me elsewhere, to another state and another part of the country. I no longer went “home” for Christmas, because home had become my own house and my own family. And so it was, that for over 40 years, I had not seen these little men, these tiny musicians with their constant smiles and happy demeanors. In fact, now I realize, with the passage of so many years, I had forgotten about them, never realizing that they had continued to be part of my mother’s holiday every year. But then – I found them, not much worse for the wear of so many years. Their little cone-shaped hats now all had a wrinkle at the top, the top of the bass violin was missing, and one head was a little askew. But to me they looked perfect.

The little guy in blue doesn't look too worried about his broken instrument!

The little guy in blue doesn’t look too worried about his broken instrument!

The accordion player looks a little mischievous!

The accordion player looks a little mischievous!

The confident conductor is on the right, while the little guy with the cymbals looks a bit shy.

The confident conductor is on the right, while the little guy with the cymbals looks a bit shy.

This little band of elfish musicians now have a new home here in Pennsylvania. I am struck by the knowledge that they share a decade provenance with so many of my vintage patterns; they are contemporaries, frozen in time but completely at home in this decade 60 years later.

I like to think these petite musicians are happy with the thought that there are now new children to delight within our growing family. They certainly look happy! I suspect they are playing a traditional Christmas Carol with great gusto and with sound loud enough never to be forgotten again.

The magic of memory

Joy to the World!

Joy to the World!

And now, with two weeks to go in December, it is time to bid adieu to 2014.   I wish you, all my readers, a most blessed Christmas and holiday season. 2015 will find us in a new sewing year, full of promise and excitement. I do hope you will join me in early January. . .



Filed under Mid-Century style

Dress Forms and December Decisions

The quintessential trademark of a dressmaker is undoubtably the figure of a dress form (or dummy, as it is called in some parts of the world). I am not sure why it took me so long to purchase one, but in the past year and half since I have had mine, it has daily reminded me what an invaluable tool it is for fashion sewing. Among its obvious aspects of usefulness are, of course, 1) for fitting, 2) for pinning and sewing of certain seams (like a shoulder seam), 3) for marking hems and making sure they are even, 4) for design and draping (for those fortunate enough to be versed in this art), 5) for displaying of one’s current project, allowing scrutiny of any imperfections which need to be addressed, and 6) for steaming/pressing certain curved seams.

I also have found it to be the perfect medium upon which to “audition” fabrics and styles. I can strategically pin fabric onto the form and get an excellent idea if the fabric is going to look good in the style in which I am envisioning it. Sometimes I have to leave the fabric pinned in place for days or even weeks while I make up my mind. And sometimes seeing the fabric pinned on my form will make other possibilities suddenly become obvious. Such has been the case with my plaid Irish blanket, purchased by me to make into a skirt.

 I wrapped the blanket around myself in the store - as a skirt - to test my theory.  Here it is pinned on my dress form

I thought my mind was set on making a pencil skirt out of this “throw” size blanket. When I pinned the fabric on my dress form in the length of a skirt, however, I was struck by the fact that so much of this lovely plaid wool would not be used. So I repinned the blanket in its full length, minus the fringe on one end, to see if I could make a sheath dress instead.

The blanket pinned onto my dress form.

The blanket pinned onto my dress form.

I got out my favorite sheath dress pattern and placed it on the fabric to determine if I could indeed get a knee-length dress out of the yardage I have. It will be a squeeze, but I am fairly certain I can manage it. So I have just about decided to make a dress instead of a skirt. But I have one looming question: is this going to look too much like a 1920s’ flapper dress? I think not, made out of a plaid wool. I actually think a fringed dress will lend itself to be dressed up or dressed down. Hm-m-m-m, what do you think?

Another look...

Another look…

The color combination of this plaid is one I love. After Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2015 was announced, I realized that certain blocks of this plaid pick up the Marsala color (reddish brown) which is supposed to be so popular in 2015.

Dress forms and December decisions



I must admit, I was disappointed with this color decision by Pantone. Like 2014’s Radiant Orchid, I do not think it is a color with wide appeal for the long haul. 2013’s Emerald Green still has “legs”, and I was hoping for a similar clear and flattering hue for 2015.

Getting back to my blanket/soon to be dress (or skirt): in shades of red and subtle green, this plaid should be equally versatile throughout the winter, but wouldn’t it be especially nice in this holiday month of December?  Well, that’s not going to happen! But that’s okay. If I can get to it in January, that means I’ll have at least one thing complete for December . . . of 2015!





Filed under Blankets and doll blankets, Uncategorized, woolens