Oooh, a goodie!

Sew and Save by Madeleine Hunt "The Key Book to Professional and Home Sewing"

My mother, in her assiduous trawling of the charity shops in my home town, stumbled upon this gem of a book, published and distributed by a local sewing school in 1953! It appears to have been the textbook for their course, which was available at least in part by mail as there is a note concerning a charge of $.50 to $1.00 plus return postage for correcting each assignment.

Assignment one included making samplers of tucks, pin-tucks, lapped tucks, gathers, gathered darts, and corded shirring. Assignment two was samplers of a shirt-waist collar, a plain sleeve, a hem with seam-binding, and a zipper at the side of dress. Obviously the target audience was not the novice seamstress, but the home sewist with ambitions of improving her craft.

Topics include fabric and style info (including non-washing-machine methods for pre-shrinking fabrics… apparently only linens and white cottons should be boiled; other cottons should be soaked in warm water, not wrung out, and hung to dry still folded). There’s an extensive section on fit (actually, about four separate sections… the layout is a bit confusing), with a large emphasis on pattern measuring (sensible since muslin-making was impractical and frowned on); at least fifteen different kinds of seams. Also a (short) section on lingerie, and a much longer section on sewing for children, with such highlights as “How to Dress the Stout and Slender Child” and “Styles to Suit a Stout Little Girl”.

I’ll post more once I have more of a chance to go through it, but I couldn’t resist passing on this princess-seam FBA (also suitable for a rounded back), which is a bit more free-wheeling than the Palmer-Pletsch method I’ve usually seen (not that I’m any kind of expert).

FBA, c. 1953

And also, this full-bicep alteration, which I know for a fact I’ve seen out there somewhere, but can’t for the life of me recall where.

Full biceps adjustment

And it begins with this lovely admonishment:

You are judged by your Appearance!

Dontcha just love the fifties?

If I were ambitious and dedicated, I’d do like Gertie or Megan and take up the challenge to sew my way through the course. I don’t think that’s going to happen. Sorry. But I will pass on whatever gems I do find! 🙂



Filed under Sewing

11 responses to “Oooh, a goodie!

  1. Wow I love stuff like this. thanks for sharing. and things have progressed, I have not heard anyone refer to an adjustment for “stout” arms, but it is in the Palmer and Pletsch book, as upper bicep. works too.

  2. that’s fantastic!! i love the adjustment for the “stout” biceps, in my head i’m picturing a circus strong woman as the model 🙂

    i guess in the 50s you could never hear how you were judged by your appearance too many times!

  3. Treadle27

    I rather like stout, it connotes strength, not flab.

  4. What a cool find!

    Maybe if it’s outside of the copyright you could scan it and save as PDF as a download, either for free on your blog, or on Etsy??) – people love reading collectables like this 🙂

  5. “prominent front”–how cute and quaint… Goes with apex point 😉
    Sew, there WERE stout people then!! The 50’s vintage pattern seem to be ALL made for “X” figures :/
    THANKS for sharing this gem!!
    Rhonda in Montreal (PR)

    • The lady who owned the book actually wrote in her measurements, 36″-29.5″-39″, which sound pretty nice and reasonable to me (curvier than I but certainly not that fifties hourglass in all the illustrations). But yeah, there is lots in this book on fitting and flattering the ‘stout’ figure… So it was definitely an issue, albeit probably not quite as common.

  6. CGCouture

    LOL! I think I need that “stout arm” adjustment, as well as the “prominent front” adjustment. Thanks for sharing, this seems like a pretty cool little book. The tips on washing are funny, I just always use the “washing machine test” if it fails that test, I know that I shouldn’t buy that fabric again. 😉

  7. I feel a post about being “STOUT” coming on soon. Cause I definitely fall under that category.

    This is a really neat find. Love it!

  8. birdmommy

    I love the reference to ‘allow enough room for the deformed…shoulders’. No beating around the bush in the old sewing books, is there?
    I have a high school level sewing/fashion arts text book from the ’50s. It covers makeup and hairstyles too. I noticed that they are pretty blunt about describing ‘challenges’. Sloping forehead? Protruding ears? Weak chin? The book doesn’t talk about ‘playing up your best features’ – it talks about trying to hide your flaws.

  9. Pingback: Measuring Patterns | Tanit-Isis Sews

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