Category Archives: antiques

Just the tiniest little present for Christmas

This post was inspired by one little Christmas present I got last year, but shows in fact much more than this.

Already some years ago I got fascinated in tatting. This crafting technique became popular in the 19th century and derived from a pastime of ladies in the 18th century: To show off their gracile hands and wrists women knotted cords in a special kind of way, using shuttles to do so. The results must have been long cords but only very few objects decorated with these have survived (I found this pair of baby shoes in the V&A-collection, though I am not entirely sure if this was really done with a shuttle. In any case it is not, as the description says, tatting, if you look closely you’ll see that the cords are only arranged in a loop pattern, the rings are not connected to each other as they would if they were tatted). The shuttles were comparably large (appr. 15cm long) and richly decorated (see this or this). Maybe you know the portrait of young Marie Antoinette holding such a shuttle.

In the 19th century this technique was developed further, the shuttles became smaller and a variety of knots was invented, now enabling to produce loops and rings connected to each other and in doing so, a new kind of lace-making was established. Depending on the complexity of the pattern and the forms used, one or two shuttles are needed as well as a small hook, for example a crochet hook.

I have never been good in learning one thing really well because I am too soon distracted by some other thing I want to learn. For that reason my only finished tatting project has up to now been my last finished one, that was in 2012:

very simple tatted lace, made with one shuttle

But of course that doesn’t prevent me from still wanting to learn it properly and from buying tatting-related things.

Let’s start with the most basic and indispensable one, the shuttle. Still today tatting shuttles can be found in haberdashery shops, for example from Prym. These are made from plastic and comparably light. I started with them and they are ok. But as soon as I had found an old one I switched to this one. These are often made from horn, are heavier and therefore can be dropped more easily through the loops, additionally I have the feeling they are even smoother than the plastic ones. Others can be made from Ivory, tortoiseshell or bone.
I found the two shuttles below in the middle on a flea market (paying 1CHF) and an antique fair (paying 3CHF)- Both have a little chip but function perfectly. So if you plan to start tatting you should stop at the market stalls with the untidy and jampacked boxes of small things, maybe you are lucky, too. The light one is presumably horn, the dark one could also be some kind of early plastic, I am not sure about this.

my two standard horn shuttles in the middle (the project on them has been in this state since early 2013), the modern plastic shuttles on the right
my two standard shuttles in the middle (the project on them has been in this state since early 2013), the modern plastic shuttles on the right

On the left you see two more shuttles. The one with the plaid pattern is made from metal, the paint seems to be something like laquer or enamel. Unfortunately it is pretty damaged and the paint chips easily so I can’t use it anymore. The horn one on the far right I already showed once after my trip to London in 2013, I found it on Camden Market (post doesn’t exist anymore). It has inlays made from metal and mother of pearl. With something around 20-30£ it wasn’t cheap, but I found some online afterwards being sold for three-figure sums, so it seems to have been a good deal after all.

Already quite some time ago I found a small cardboard box on a flea market in Bern, filled with tatting material. Unfortunately the seller wasn’t present and I was asked to wait. Because I had promised my already very tired boyfriend to leave instantly I was forced to leave it behind but I was lucky and re-discovered it some months later and bought it.

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As you see there is also a lot of other stuff inside.

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I love this piece of black velvet with all the samples sewn onto it. Maybe I should frame it? What you can easily see is the distinct effect of tatting, loops and rings with tiny picots.

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Two other shuttles, horn or tortoiseshell, and a tiny little glass dog that has absolutely nothing to do with tatting 🙂

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In the back you see a pretty clever box made from fabric-covered cardboard. In front of it lies a tatting pin (that thing with the ring and the chain), some lace and well, I guess you know scissors and a crochet hook.


These fork-like things are meant for hairpin lace, a completely different technique, but not less interesting. In the lower right you see an old postcard from Wila, a small town of less than 2000 souls somewere in the canton of Zurich.
Well, and if anyone could tell me what that cylindrical thing in the middle is, I would be very grateful 🙂
The pale part can be moved freely around the middle axis.

Well, you might ask “Where is the bespoken present?”. It’s here:

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An early 20th century box for a tatting pin as seen above. I was able to have a quick look inside to see that it actually came filled before my boyfriend snapped it away and refused to give it back to me, but paid the seller and had me wait one long month until Christmas to see it again. And when I was finally able to unpack it, I was quite surprised. Not one, but two pins, at least one of them never used. The other one is a bit rusty but I can’t say if this comes from having been used or from aging.

to give you an idea of the size I put a standard crocket hook beside it.

And the fun bit to finish: I have no idea how these are used. Yes, of course, they serve the same purpose as does a crochet needle, which is mentioned in a lot of tutorials you find. And I know one illustration that shows how it is held: the pin like a crochet hook and the ring slid on one of your fingers. And then? I assume the ring enables you to drop the pin when it isn’t needed without entirely losing it. But I imagine the pin would tangle with the thread and the dangling shuttle when it is hanging on the chain freely.
I searched Google, I searched Bing, I browsed the Antique Pattern Library, but I couldn’t find a single image of how to use it, the only image I found online shows the pin alone (here on page 5, the aforementioned illustration with the pin held is  printed in a modern book on tatting, so I can’t show it).

Is anybody of you experienced in tatting and has ever worked with such a pin?
If not I will just try to use it someday, maybe it will work better than I can imagine now, who knows?
So much for today, love


A new one in the team

Every now and then I write about the little helpers without all the sewing projects I post here wouldn’t be possible. They do have their own tag and once in a while they even get a post all for themselves (some of these posts were deleted when my blog moved to the new url a year ago, at the moment there is only one post left online).

I am talking about my sewing machines. Whereas many bloggers sew after historical patterns most of them use more or less modern sewing machines and don’t talk about them a great deal. But antique mechanics fascinates me and despite the lack of space I can’t help allowing another machine to join my “collection” every now and then. Apart from having to be somehow interesting to me they do have to work. Apart from 1,5 exceptions all my machines can still sew and are still, more or less often, in use (1,5 because one is actually working but the wire needs to be replaced and without this being done I don’t dare to use it, the other may even be working but I never tried, it is even older than the other and I want my father to check the wires and change the plug before I try).

The age of my machines ranges from the early 1900s to the late 1960ies. The oldest two are handwheel-operated and not very handy to work with, these are the ones I use least. The two I use most are my 1948 Singer Featherweight and my foot pedal-operated Pfaff 30 from 1932.

Today I want to show you the newest addition to the family, but there is a little story behind. Last year in Spring my father and I were browsing ebay for fun, searching for special sewing machines and children’s ones (my father collects the latter). This all went via telephone and emails because we live 700km apart. Amongst all the other fun and/or interesting links he sent me the auction link to a General Electric Sewhandy. As it turned out, this model was copied by Singer with the well-known Featherweight.


As you can imagine this was an auction on (I can’t imagine finding the GE on german ebay). My father knew he would fly to the US later that year so he won the auction and had it send to a friend of his. We already were a little confused when the link with the tracking number said something about a 40 pounds-package (the GE-machine was supposed to weight 12 pounds). But my father didn’t want to cause any extra work and decided to wait until he got to the United States himself in the summer, we couldn’t think of anything really going wrong.


Well…it did. When he finally came to open the package he did not find, as expected, a cute 30ies green GE sewing machine, but a massive beige 60ies Bernina. Bummer!

All attempts to contact the seller were ineffective and so he had to decide what to do with it. The GE would have fitted into his suitcase, the Bernina definitely was a piece of luggage on its own and the airline asked a ridiculously high price for it. But my father didn’t have the heart to dump it. So many accessories came with it, the manual, the case, everything was there and in pretty good condition and the machine itself was working.


On the spur of the moment he removed the needle, put all loose parts and his intended hand luggage in his suitcase and headed to the security check with the Bernina to board with him. Technically a small sewing machine as hand luggage shouldn’t be a problem, still it is advised to inform the security personnel beforehand because it is a rather unusual object to take with you. Well he didn’t have the time to do so and this machine was everything but small. And being 40 pounds it was just a tiny bit heavier than the 16 pounds allowed for hand luggage.

my right hand isn't even capable of holding the camera properly
my right hand isn’t even capable of holding the camera properly, please excuse the blurryness.

Well…it worked! Back in Germany he bought a power transformer to make it work with the 230 V  voltage here in Europe and when my brother came to help us with the move to our new apartment, he brought the Bernina with him.

My dear, welcome home!


It is a Bernina 730, a very strong and reliable machine built from 1963-1982, mine is the record variant. According to the serial number it was built in 1969.


What makes the 730 special is the then new knee lift. This is not, as with other machines I own, used instead of the foot pedal, but serves as a third hand to lift the sewing foot. Until today this system is available for most Bernina machines.


And another thing makes this machine special: To sew decorative stitches it was long necessary to insert little discs into a certain slot. The shape of the disc determined the stitch. That meant that you were able to use a vast variety of stitches, but that you had to store all discs in a separate box. The 730 has a dizzying mechanic inside that makes it possible to chose from a set of decorative stitches without changing any discs at all.

no wonder this country is also famous for its clockworks
no wonder this country is also famous for its clockworks

I already sewed a little bit with it and it really works great. I even sew knits and it feels ok (I hate sewing knits, but I need to reduce my storage)! What I haven’t tried out yet is how the decorative stitches look but I see no reason why they shouldn’t work.


And because all these machines get far too little attention on this blog (and maybe on others, too), I plan to introduce a little series related to them so stay curious!


See you soon, love,



Last minute crafting ideas

Well, what should I say? I didn’t finish the Christmas dress.
I am not far from doing it, so I am still positive (though not entirely sure) to wear it for Christmas Eve.
The last weeks have simply been too much. I am not at all content with the posts I wrote during this sew-along, inexpressive photos of fraying half-assembled whatevers are exactly the sort of thing I did not want to show anymore, they are nothing I am happy to share, neither are they interesting to look at, I assume.
Maybe challenges where you show only completely finished garments are more my kind of thing. So I am not sure if I should join a sew-along anytime soon again.
To throw me even further back I spent half the night awake with stomachache and shivering. As you can imagine that leaves me a bit off today.

Only very short what I have done on the dress, in case you are still curious: The dress itself is done. The belt is ready to be attached to it as are the collar and the jabot. I still have to add the closure (hidden press buttons), stiffen, assemble and attach the cuffs and cut the velvet border for the hem.

Now while I try to recover and clean this mess that is supposed to be a Christmassy-decorated flat, I will leave you with a scan of some Christmas motifs I found in the December 12th 1925 issue of my “Schweizerische Unterhaltungsblätter”.

click to enlarge
click to enlarge

I won’t translate the text, but will only paraphrase it:

These are supposed to be Christmassy-looking nativity set animals and comets that can be realized in a variety of techniques.
The easiest way would be to cut them from eg. paper and glue them together to use as table decoration or for a door frame. Very quick as well would be to do this as appliqué in felt or cloth. To use as cushion cover, book sleeves and the like you can also make them, very modern, from cut leather. And of course simple painting them is quickly done and highly effective as well.
The wreath is meant to be copied as a complete circle and can be used for doilies and similar things, but also for leather, wood painting or embroidered items.
The bookmark [I suppose they mean the motif on the far right] is made from sheepskin and very solid, it can easily be cut with scissors. You can deepen the lines by dampening the leather with cold water and retrace them with a pointy object, a needle or something similar. An alternative would be to burn the lines.

I think the motifs look very special and unexpectedly abstract, nothing I would connect with old fashioned christmas decoration.

See you soon, and if I won’t manage to post in the next two days,

Merry Christmas to you all!

Love, ette

How to combine colours – table from 1924

I found this interesting table in a 1924 Dressmaking book. Actually the “Women’s Institute Library of Dressmaking” consists of multiple books, but I only own Volume 2 which covers “Harmony in dress – Beautiful clothes, corsets and dress foundations, silhouettes, colors, fabrics, good taste in dress, millinery and accessories, the dressmaker and tailor shop, european shops”.

This table gives you hints on how to combine different colours in street and evening wear, arranged according to wether they can be used as a second major colour, for accents or only in small doses as trimming. I wouldn’t agree with all the given advises from my modern point of view, but it is very interesting to see what colour combinations were modern and considered interesting  90 years ago. And it can provide help when choosing fabrics and colour combinations to recreate a garment as correctly as possible.

click on the image to see it in full size
click on the image to see it in full size


See you soon, love


Principles and how to overcome them


I don’t like altering clothes. I like to sew new ones and I have no problems with fixing a lost button or a broken zipper. But I don’t anymore buy things to remodel them. I used to do but somehow it never turned out how I wanted it and was always a lot more work than expected.


Additionally, I don’t like to alter old clothes. I mean, these things have survived 40 or 60 years without manipulation and I know how valuable unaltered things from previous centuries are for costume historians because they are so rare. A large shop in Berne selling Vintage and modern clothes alters vintage dresses on a grand scale, because most clients want their skirts to end above the knee and not at mid-calf length. The vast majority of these altered dresses dates from the 80ies, but every now and then you see something older amongst them, too. This altering makes the dresses uninteresting for me (because I like my dresses to end below the knees), but it also means less and less dresses in their original state. Because of this I do not buy these altered dresses and I only buy dresses that fit me. Even if a little shortening or two centimetres less circumference would make them look perfect, usually I don’t buy them and hope they’ll find a more fitting client, in the truest sense of the word.


But this spring another user of my favourite sewing board sold a beautiful late50ies/early 60ies wool shirt dress I wasn’t able to resist, despite it being too large and I threw all my priciples overboard. Because the sleeves and the bodice were made from one piece of fabric that made fitting issues at the shoulders nonexistant, this seemed to be a pretty easy one to be altered to fit me.
And so I did. All I had to do was remove the skirt, shift the side seams to fit my size and re-attach the skirt. Because the wool was so easy to gather I didn’t even have to remodel the pleats.
It was obvious that the skirt had been altered before, there were multiple seams in different threads at the waist. So I wasn’t the first to manipulate it and I was, I admit, a little relieved not to have destroyed something completely untouched (because of the thick fabric and the curved seam underneath the arms I had to cut away the fabric, too. I know, something you never ever should do, shame on me).
Because one button was missing I had to remove the one at the bottom and sewed the buttonhole close so it would be less obvious. Grace to this fine striped pattern it works quite well. I added a small hook and eye to  the waistband because the dress tended to gape, as there wasn’t a button to hold this narrowest part of the dress.


I thought this quite weird and it took an accident to solve this mystery. A few months later the same woman sent me a whole set of hemming feet for my 1932 Pfaff. Before she sent the parcel she asked me if I would be interested in a belt to match the dress, she had found it and hadn’t even known a belt existed. Yes, of course I was! And obviously, with a belt you have far less concerns with a gaping waist 🙂


It has been finished and in my wardrobe quite some time now and I love it. The hem looks a little pointy in the centre front, I think I will add a little press fastener to keep it in place.
The fabric is, as you can imagine, quite scratchy, fortunately I own a shirt with the exact same sleeve length to wear underneath.


Dear Ravna, thank you so very much for selling me something that has already become one of my favourite dresses!

dress: Vintage/altered by me – tights: Fogal – Shoes: wonders – handbag: made by Goldkind – scarf: belonged to my grandaunt – gloves: Vintage/Fizzen – brooch: Antique/Flea market – fragrance: Nina Ricci-L’air du temps

See you soon, love


PS: Forgive me to have skipped this sunday’s Christmas dress post. My weekend was equally parted in work, meeting friends from my favourite online sewing board and being sick. Needless to say the latter third was the time I had planned to use for sewing instead of sleeping and whimpering. I am trying to catch up but the pattern needs more adjustments than expected which makes me progress slower than expected. At least the plaid isn’t the problem 😉

They call me nightshirt

Today let’s talk about how you should not treat an old dress and how you should not buy anything that looks cute.


Many many years ago (must have been 2006 or little earlier), I bought one of my first vintage dresses: A pale pink shift dress of pure silk taffeta. If I recollect correctly, I bought it as a 50ies adolescent dress without ever checking this information. And if I recollect correctly as well, I only wore it once, to wear to a goth disco with satin corset, gloves and black laced boots. I stood out, but I loved it (oh, and pink clip-in extensions)!

what things you still find on your myspace-page...
things you still find on your myspace-page…

I never considered giving it away (hey, it was old and pink!), but I never really wore it. I feared it could be too fragile and when on earth could you wear a pink silk dress?

Meanwhile it moved with me three times and I have learned a lot about fashion and historical sewing techniques. I never know how to style this thing and my boyfriend always says it looks like a nightshirt and I shouldn’t wear it outside. So it lurks in the back of my wardrobe and never really sees the light (if it is really a nightshirt it is also a creature of the night, maybe it’s manipulating me and doesn’t want to see daylight? Help, it’s alive!).

But once in a while I try to wear it, play around a little to defuse this out-of-bed-look and in November I dared to wear it to a concert  (Mozart’s Requiem, a very dear colleague participated and generously invited me and my boyfriend, check out the choir’s website if you life in Switzerland and like classical music). I took the opportunity to have a closer look at it.

an awful lot of handsewing going on inside
an awful lot of handsewing going on inside, the buttons are secured with a thin pink ribbon.
The front. The bow is just decorative, the rest of the band is bias binding made from the same fabric.
The front. The bow is just decorative, the rest of the band is bias binding made from the same fabric.
are these buttons handmade? it looks as if, don't they? To me it seems as if they consist of a ball of wrapped yarn and invisibly attached silk fabric.
are these buttons handmade? it looks as if, don’t they? To me it seems as if they consist of a ball of wrapped yarn and invisibly attached silk fabric.

Coil zipper in the centre back as well as the absence of any old seams or other traces of manipulation make me date this dress into the 1960ies. But I am still amazed of all the hand sewing and old techniques used (I have never seen such a perfectly hand-sewn zipper. You need a magnifying glass and have to look at the back of the seam to see that it isn’t machine sewn). Maybe this was made by someone who had learned sewing already years or even decades ago and still used all this techniques when making a dress for a granddaughter?

Now, back to the dress as a whole. It is a little too large, not the best premise to make a pink shift dress look NOT like a nightshirt.

oh, wait until you see the front, this is going to be fun!
oh, wait until you see the front, this is going to be fun!

And my boyfriend is right, styled wrongly it could really look like “oh, hello Mr. Postman, sorry, I just woke up”

yeah, the hilarious shoes again!
yeah, the hilarious shoes again!

This is how I wore it this evening. Paired with a black cardigan with pink and red embroidery and patent leather high-heels (I switched later to black smooth leather t-straps heels, these somehow felt a little too…*ahem* kinky to wear in a church).


And yes, lots of make-up. Idea is that nobody wakes up with perfectly shiny red lipstick applied.

dress: antique/Das Puppenhaus, cardigan: Voodoo Vixen, high-heels: Christian Louboutin/2nd-hand Secondo Bern, handbag: flea-market, necklace: gift from mum
dress: antique/Das Puppenhaus, cardigan: Voodoo Vixen, high-heels: Christian Louboutin/2nd-hand Secondo Bern, handbag: flea-market, necklace: gift from mum, fragrance: Prada, Amber

Now, what do you think? Nightshirt or wearable? I am still convinced that it really was meant as a dress because of the zipper and the globular buttons, both wouldn’t be very comfortable in bed. But still, it has this air of lingerie….

Dare anybody of you to pin this photo :-P
Dare anybody of you to pin this photo 😛

Now that you have managed to read everything I might reveal that I wanted a “styled” photo to appear in this post first. My idea was that the verdict could be different, depending on what of the two stylings you see first. I would have loved to post this in two different blogs, one with nightshirt-photos first, the other with styled photos on top. I bet it would have made a difference. So are you sure you decided how you wanted to and not depending on what you saw first? 🙂
(I fear I have been reading too much Daniel Kahneman in the last time, but his book is really interesting)

See you soon, love



Charity shops can be quite expensive if you aren’t wary Getrödelt, gefunden, gefreut

German version below!

Somehow I always miss to post what I found on flea markets. Either I don’t make it to write a post in time or I think it isn’t that interesting to show it here. But now after a “few” months’ break, another “Getrödelt, Gefunden, Gefreut!“-Post, hosted as each month on Beswingtes Fräulein’s blog “Beswingtes Allerlei“.

The past few weeks have been different and somewhat insecure. After having additionally worked in the museum until September it was hard to adapt to the one salary I earn at the bookshop again and until two weeks ago it wasn’t clear if I could raise my pensum there (luckily I can!). So this month’s motto should have been: Saving. And really, I cooked more often so much I was able to eat leftovers at work instead of buying something for lunch, I reduced my consumption of take-away coffees to as good as none (I think I bought two, one was sponsored by my boyfriend)and I said to myself not to go shopping anymore unless I really needed something. Excluded from this were flea markets and used items, though I think I didn’t visit a single flea market the whole month, don’t have to tempt myself unneccessarily 😉

Well, I am far from being perfect and so I have to admit that this is also the month I bought the most shoes since…well, very long. Five pairs, to be honest, three of them new. Yes, shame on me (but they are so beautiful and were so reasonably priced….oh).

I don’t even know why I begged my boyfriend to stop at this charity shop. I felt I just needed a little shopping feeling and though this would be less dangerous than going elsewhere. Because he really hates this particular shop he only accompanied me a few minutes and left then to wait in the car. Baaaad decision. Right after he had left I picked up a pair of black leather boots for half the price (he wouldn’t let me buy shoes, he hates how many I already own) and then to make things worse I found this amongst the antique books:

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And yes, I bought it. With 40 CHF it was quite expensive, but I still think it was a good buy.

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A very big book “Lehrkurs der Selbstschneiderei” (training course to home sewing), a smaller appendix with patterns for knitting and crocheting and even a postcard to order other books from this publisher as well as a pay-in slip.

The appendix is not overly interesting to photograph:

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But the book itself! It has no date given, but judging from the illustrations and photos it should date from the 1930ies.

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And it covers really everything remotely connected with textiles. Dying and weaving…

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..different kinds of stitches and embroidery (yes, in full colour!)…

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…how to decorate and finish seams and hems…

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…knitting and crocheting for children and grown-ups…

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…photos of beautiful finished projects…

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…different collars and even hat decorations and alterations…

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…ideas on how to alter a basic pattern to give it a new look…

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…and last but not least some fashion illustrations…

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I really hope to use it in the future, though I have to admit I tend to forget these kinds of things when working with patterns and just do as I am told or as I already know. But I really would like to try some of these ideas and at least I paid so much for it, would be a shame if I wouldn’t use it.

Auf Deutsch

Nachdem ich meist entweder das Datum verschlafe und nicht rechtzeitig fertig werde oder ich die erstandenen Dinge nicht für interessant genug erachte, hier nun endlich wieder ein “Getrödelt, Gefunden, Gefreut”- Beitrag von mir.
Eigentlich sollte ich diesen Monat ja sparen, aber aus welchen Gründen auch immer musste ich in diesen Trödelladen und war als ich rauskam um ein dickes Buch und ein paar Schuhe reicher, aber auch um einiges Geld ärmer. Das Buch “Lehrkurs der Selbstschneiderei” hat mich komplett mit Schachtel, beiliegendem Heft, einer alten Bestellkarte und Einzahlungsschein 40 Franken gekostet,  etwa 34€. Ein Datum lässt sich nirgends finden, aber anhand der Fotos ist es aus den 30er Jahren.  Im Heft finden sich Schnittmuster für Strick- und Häkelprojekte, im Buch selber gibt es dann weniger Schnittmuster (vor allem Basisschnitte zum vergrössern), aber umso mehr Verarbeitungstipps, Anleitungen und Ideen. Und vom Färben und Weben über Stricken, Sticken, Schleifchen machen bis hin zum kompletten Herrenhemd und sogar  Hutänderungen ist wirklich alles dabei. Zwischendrin immer wieder Fotos von Beispielobjekten, farbige Seiten und unzählige Beispiele für Krägen, Details, Verzierungen, Borten, Knopfleisten und was-weiss-ich -nicht-alles. Eine Fundgrube, wahrhaft. Dumm nur dass ich solche Bücher meist genau dann im Schrank lasse, wenn ich nähe und die Schnittmuster nach Anleitung oder Erfahrung zusammenknüppel. Ich hoffe wirklich ich bessere mich in dieser Hinsicht und setze zumindest ein paar dieser Ideen um, wär doch schade drum (um die Ideen und um das Geld 🙂 )

See you soon, love,





slow, slow, slow as you can go (Christmas dress pt. 3)

Depeche Mode found the right words to describe my progress, I am just hesitating with everything.


The agenda:

Ich bin in Stimmung, erste Nähte sind gemacht!
Endlich hab ich angefangen
Probemodell sitzt, ich kann den richtigen Stoff zuschneiden
Ich bin ein Streber und nähe jetzt mein zweites Weihnachtskleid
Plätzchenessen ist doch irgendwie auch Nähen, oder?

I’m in the mood, the first seams are done!
Finally got started
Toile is fine, off to cut the real fabric
i’m a nerd and start my second Christmas dress
Eating bisquits can be considered sewing, too, right?


As I already told you I wasn’t sure on how to arrange the plaid on the dress. Should I leave it as plaid (=changes the look of the dress significantly, could look a little boring), should I cut it on the bias (=would look like the pattern, but could cause problems with the pleats, fabric on the bias acts different), should I combine both (=bias cut the bodice, straight cut the skirt)? I was confused, somehow scared to ruin anything, close to completely shutting down. So I decided to take on step away from the project and sought for advice.

All fashion prints shown in this post were published in 1920ies issues of "Le petit echo de la mode". I only own single pages of these issues so I can't give you exact dates.

Le petit echo de la mode - parva sed apta

I searched for plaid- and lozenge-patterned dresses or garments in 1920ies fashion plates to see how it was done back then. First thing I had to learn:

The pattern is always treated alike in the whole dress. If the bodice is cut in straight grain, the skirt is, too. At this point I said good-bye to my half-straight-half-bias-idea.


The only thing that can indeed be cut differently are little details. Facings, pockets, collars and things alike.




But because I had already decided to use the pink velvet for these parts, this was of minor importance for me.




But what I did learn was that it didn’t look at all weird to have a complete dress cut in plaid in straight grain and that it even seems to have been more common than bias cut dresses.




Indeed I found dresses with lozenge pattern as it is shown in the pattern I’m using, but it is quite unclear if these used woven plaid (what would cause the fabric to stretch) or if they used printed fabric whose pattern was completely detached from its weaving structure. This one for example could most likely be a printed fabric:


Whereas this one looks like a standard woven plaid fabric. Obviously the pleats don’t seem messy at all (my fear when cutting it on the bias). But grey, dear friend, is all theory. Until today fashion magazines show us dresses and patterns that look so different when seen in real life. So maybe I should not use a fashion plate as a reference for fabric behaviour.


So let us come to the most important part of all this chitchat: What did I make of my little plaid-roundup?


Nothing yet. All I have done is marked the velvet parts. But I was somehow busy, somehow lazy this week and didn’t manage to do anything to the plaid at all. So my motto this week was really all about nibbling bisquits.

Auf Deutsch:

Weil ich mir ja doch recht unsicher war was den Karo-Zuschnitt angeht (schräg, gerade, teils-teils), habe ich mal ein paar Modezeichnungen aus den 20ern zusammengesucht und verglichen. Es gibt eindeutig mehr gerade Karos als Rauten und wenn etwas schräg geschnitten wurden dann Taschen, Belege u.ä., aber es wurde der Rock immer im gleichen Musterverlauf wie das Oberteil gearbeitet.
Mal abgesehen von dieser Erkenntnis und ein paar Markierungen auf dem rosa Samt habe ich diese Woche nichts gemacht. Ich halte es also mit der letzten Zeile des Mottos und sinniere bei einer guten Packung Plätzchen über dieses Projekt nach.

See you tomorrow, I will show you my newest vintage sewing haul, love


History is at my feet (HSF #21)

I know this post is a little late, but I had to find some of the older pictures of this project to get it done. So I only posted a little image on facebook to officially complete the challenge in time, but of course it will get its own post.

The 21st HSF-Challenge was “Re-Do”. This means, you could do just anything, as long as it matched one of the previous challenges (and I strongly believe with 20 challenges to chose from, you could really do next to everything). I think my project would best fit into the UFO&PHD-challenge (Un-Finished-Objects and Projects Half Done), but could also be related to the Tops&Toes-challenge.

Everything started with a little discussion on Anne Elisabeth’s blog “Munich Rococo”. I was unable to find this discussion, but it has to have been in late 2012 or early 2013. I think the context was that many things, pictures and artefacts from bygone eras can only be fully understood when used. One of the examples was a footstool, these tiny little stools you can see in what feels like every second interior scene from the 18th century onwards.

You see a footstool next to the wingbacked chair on the right Early 20th century 3D-image (damaged, armrests, tablecloth and sewing box on the far right were glued onto the image to create a three dimensional effect. The cabinet doors can be opened
You see a footstool next to the wingbacked chair on the right
Early 20th century 3D-image (damaged, armrests, tablecloth and sewing box on the far right were glued onto the image like the fringes of the carpet to create a three dimensional effect. The cabinet doors can be opened)
Chromolithography, own collection

The question was, what for was such a footstool. To rest you feet on, that’s for sure. But why? Because the feet shouldn’t touch the ground? To protect silk slippers and stockings from hard wood planks? Those who had some re-encactment experience knew the answer quite well and with it came a second answer: why did they vanish?

The answer is really so simple: To keep you warm. In rooms without central heating the floor is really cold so resting your feet on the floor would leave you with a pair of chilled bones and flesh in a very short time, leading to colds, flus and bladder infections. By resting you feet onto a little footstool, the feet were kept away from the cold surface and didn’t cool so easily. And when living, building, heating and isolating changed during the 20th century, these little helpers became dispensable.

Well, I am one of the girls that is always cold. I manage to have cold hands and feet the whole year, but in winter I am simply freezing, especially when I sit down and read a book or write something.
As you can imagine, I was destined to get such a footstool for myself.

I don’t know when exactly it was, but one afternoon a friend and I made a charity-second-hand-shopping tour in Berne. And amongst all the stuff I bought that day was this:


Cute little footstool to restore, because it was really damaged.

view from below
view from below

The straps that where meant to support the whole thing and your feet on top of it were completely torn.
When I removed the upper fabric, I found another layer below:

bullen nails partly removed, a glimpse inside
bullen nails partly removed, a glimpse inside

Both fabrics completely removed and I was left with this:


You see a thin layer of wadding inside the outer fabric, the black fabric underneath and on the far right the footstool. The edges are covered with jute. Now let’s remove this molleton thingy in the middle:


From left to right: the black fabric you already know, the removed molleton, the whatsoever plant-like filling and the disembowelled footstool. You see the straps hanging down. The jute edge was intact and because I have no experience in upholstery I left it like that.

I removed the jute straps and stapled new ones to the wooden frame:


Do you recognize what it is? These are ribbons to be cross stitch embroidered, these terrible, old-fashioned ribbons to hang on your door to repel welcome your visitors. I had these because a mother of a former friend of mine had embroidered very much back in the 80ies and gave me all the stuff she still had. They are very strong and wide enough to serve this purpose. The jute you see behind the straps comes from the same context. I didn’t want to drop the filling all over the place when using the footstool, so I added this layer to the bottom.

Like this it stayed since march 2013. I was scared to cut the new fabric and to fail. Somewhere in between I repainted it. I had planned to remove all the paint and just add some clear coat to protect it. Unfortunately the wood had changed its colour. Some parts were very bright, others remained as dark as the paint on them had been. Maybe this was low quality wood and it had always been like that, not meant to be shown ever again. Well, anyway. I had to decide for a darker colour to paint it, but I wanted the structure to shine through, so I searched for wood stain or glaze. Considering the colours of the fabric I wanted to use, I imagined a reddish, honey-like brown. Yes, I found it but only in so large tins I wasn’t willing to buy them for such a tiny project. So I went with a very dark, blackish brown. I am not completely happy with the paint but for my very first project it is ok. And then it took me until two weeks ago to move on:

Instead of wadding the outer fabric, I wadded the inner one. A red cotton leftover, wadded with pure wool, the one I had already used in my cape.



I nailed it to the frame on one side before adding the filling. Usually you use coconut fibres to fill upholstery, but this wasn’t available in a standard hardware store. In the pet division I found an alternative: hay!

you see the red fabric in the back already attached. Next step was to flap it over and attach it to the three other edges.

When I had finished, it looked like this:

cute as well, isn't it?
cute as well in red, isn’t it?

To attach the outer fabric I bought gold-coloured bullen-nails. You can already see the fabric lying in the background in the photo above. There is a little story to this fabric, too:
When I was in Lyons in autumn 2012 for a hands-on training, I was given the task to do some research on Philippe de Lasalle, a lyonese silk entrepreneur and designer of the 18th century. Every year in november, the Marché des Soies takes place in the Palais du Commerce in Lyons. When I went there in 2012 I loved to see all the different dealers, look at all the silks and I spent hours watching a group of silkworms eat their way through a bunch of mulberry leaves. Beside the silkworm breeder, one stall was of particular interest to me: Tassinari et Chatel. This enterprise is one of the oldest silk fabric producers still existant in Lyons, founded as early as 1680. In the 1760ies, Etienne Pernon, the director of this enterprise which was called the “Maison Pernon” back then, started a very successful cooperation with Philippe de Lasalle, the very Lasalle whose life I was researching. In 1779 the managment was passed over to his son Camille Pernon and the cooperation persisted until 1789, when the french revolution forched de Lasalle to flee and leave all his equipment behind. Whereas Camille Pernon was able to withstand the changes and resumed to business as soon as possible, Lasalle seems to have been unable to find a place in this now new world. No trace of any business activity can be found afterwards, the machines that weren’t destroyed during the revolution he gave to the city of Lyons to train weavers and silk designers on them. He died in 1804.*
But back to the market stall of Tassinari et Chatel. I knew they still weave some of the old designs and they offered piles of different silk leftovers (I mean, they make interior silks for walls and upholstery, so their leftover panels could be as long as 4 metres). I was unable to find a Lasalle weaving amongst them but was very tempted to buy some other designs I had come across during my research, though they were terribly pricy. Fortunately in the end I found a basket with small leftovers, approximately 50cmx50cm-large pieces of silk. Five different pieces in a bag for 25€. One of these was to become the cover of my footstool. To me it seems like a design from the first quarter of the 19th century, unfortunately I found nothing in any museum database that comes remotely close to this design, so I can’t show you anything to compare it with.

Now, I fear I have already talked to much, so I will finally show you the pictures:

Ta-Da! Baby-blue silk deliciousness with kitschy animal-putto-cuteness
Ta-Da! Baby-blue silk deliciousness with kitschy animal-putto-cuteness
the golden bullen-nails. It is not perfect, but considering haw many holes already were in the wood I am quite content.
the golden bullen-nails. It is not perfect, but considering haw many holes already were in the wood I am quite content.
while the old bullen-nails were placed diagonally on the corner, I placed them on both sides of them.
while the old bullen-nails were placed diagonally on the corner, I placed them on both sides of them.

And to show the size, it is really small.

the most ridiculous shoes I own and I couldn't resist wearing these knee highs because the colours are so close to the silk
the most ridiculous shoes I own (60ies boudoir-style) and I couldn’t resist wearing these knee highs because the colours are so close to the silk (yes, these are robots :-D)

 What the item is: A footstool. Bought the footstool itself for little money in a charity shop. gave it a new glaze, a new filling and a new fabric cover.

The Challenge: #21 Re-Do (UFOs and PHDs, Tops & Toes, Make, Do & Mend)

Fabric: red cotton, pure silk from Tassinari & Chatel in Lyons, France

Pattern: Just traced the old fabric to get the right size for the cotton layer and the right amount of filling. The silk I pinned to the cotton and cut around it.

Year: Early 19th century, though the footstool itself looks a little older with this swung legs. But it could have been reupholstered (the footstool itself might date from the first quarter of the 20th century)

Notions: Jute and strong woven ribbon, hay, wool batting, nails, bullen-nails, dark brown glaze

How historically accurate is it? Well, I can’t say anything about the carpentry. The jute and the ribbons I attached with staples rather than nails. Hay could be accurate, as could be the wool batting. The cotton cover is not acurate, the silk certainly is, though it was woven on a modern loom and not on a historical drawstring loom.

Hours to complete: 2-3, complete with painting and everything.

First worn: Stands in front of the sofa as is used when sitting on it with the laptop on my knees since last week.

Total cost: Five silk scraps in a bag cost me 25€, this was a little more than half of one, so let’s say 3€. Because I bought a lot in the charity shop the day I bought the footstool the seller asked 40CHF for everything, thinking of what I bought I would say I paid around 5€ for the footstool. Bullen-Nails, glaze and nails did cost quite a bit, so let’s say 25€?

In full glory
In full glory

See you soon,


* Sources for the above paragraph: 
Belle M. Borland: Philippe de Lasalle. His contrbution to the textile industry of Lyons, Chicago 1936 
Marie-Jo de Chaignon: Philippe de Lasalle. Dessinateur de soierie à Lyon au XVIIIe siècle. In: Soie en Touraine, Tours 2003, p. 14-21
Liliane Hilaire-Pérez: Inventing in a world of guilds. The case of silk fabrics in Lyon in the XVIIIth century. In: K. Scott [publ.]: Interiors, Decoration and Design. Essays in the history snd Aesthetics of material culture in 18th century France (no year and place given)

chocolates and silk

It has been months since I participted at Beswingtes Fräulein’s Getrödelt gefunden gefreut.

First because the date always collides with the due date for the HSF-challenges and I didn’t manage to write two posts in such a short time, second because sometimes I can’t decide what to show you and plan too large posts in my head I never even start to write.

And since we know that we will move again in a few months, this time into a smaller flat, I suffer from a total flea-market-ban. I already have too much things to move into the new flat, it really wouldn’t be wise to buy much more (though it is so hard!).

But a few days ago when having a close look at old books and some incunable pages my favourite antiquarian bookshop had put out for me I couldn’t help dropping into a lovely antique shop just next door. The owner knows me and knows in what kind of stuff I am interested in.  When I asked him if he had something for me he said no, only a pin cushion box he would assume I am interested in. But I thought being already there I could as well have a look. Unfortunately I had to tell him that it wasn’t a pin cushion at all and the sight of the pins in the already very damaged silk really hurt. But it was so lovely I had to buy it.


It is quite large, maybe 25cm diametre. The motif is flocked or maybe painted onto the satin, which is, as cleary visible, very fragile and damaged, much of the warp thread is disappeared. On the bottom left you can see a small signature (it is hard to decipher, I assume it says “Chembine” but I can’t find anything online)
The bottom is covered with a patterned paper I am pretty sure is not original but was added in the 2nd half of the 20th century.

The inside of the lid proved my assumption it being not a pin cushion at all, but some kind of chocolate or praline box.

“Au Vieux Gourmet” in Nancy, a french city appr. 300km north of Berne.


I love love love this Robe de Style motif and the cute little doll the  woman is holding in her hands. This may be the main reason I couldn’t pass on this one, even if it was quite expensive with 30 CHF (appr. 25€).

And because this was really the only thing I bought this month I thought I could show you its little brother, another chocolate box I already bought over a year ago in another antique shop only a few metres away from the other one.


Silk, again. This one in a dark red and ruffled, topped with a tambour embroidery in silk and (fake?) gold thread, a golden lace attached to the side.


You see, the silk is damaged, too. The seller assumed it to be a little younger than the new one above, maybe from the 1930ies. And she gave me the hint of it being a chocolate box.

The inside is a little more interesting because there is some paper lace still in place, though very torn and dirty.


While the 20ies box looks great inside (but as I said, I assume it being changed later), this box doesn’t look as nice. Maybe this is the reason the seller asked only 10CHF for it (appr. 8€). I have to admit I never searched for these boxes, so 10CHF being cheap and 30CHF being more on the expensive side is a very subjective evaluation, I have no idea what these things cost elsewhere.



And now you might ask how I use this box without completely destroying the paper lace (because I do use it, I try not to collect things I can’t use because I have neither enough room nor enough money to buy everything I like).

I use it to keep some of my jewellery. To protect the paper lace I covered the whole inside with a sheet of acid free wrapping paper. Like this nothing touches the inside and the lace and the material doesn’t harm it either (if I would use standard, acid, paper it would make the old substance brown and brittle, it would disintegrate sooner or later as you can see with old books, who sometimes just fall apart because of the acid in the paper itself)


Though I do already have so much boxes and old tins I really love these silk covered ones and I can’t promise that I won’t buy some more if I find some.


And I really hope the next post will be about some sewing project again. 😉

See you soon, love,