Tag Archives: books

what is elegance?

Madame Genevieve Antoine Dariaux, former directrice of Paris design house Nina Ricci

From the start, this little volume has made a big impression.  First was the alphabetically listed Table of Contents, from Accessories through Zoology.

In the Foreword, after she asks the above question, she answers it by giving the specific definition:  “elegance” is from the Latin eligere, “which means ‘to select’.”  The lady thinks like I do – gotta appreciate that!

I also realized this isn’t a book to read straight through, like a novel. For me, it’s more of a reference book, to be dipped into as needed, required, or when a refreshing sip is appropriate.

Here’s a snippet ~

Jewellery, p. 88

  • “Jewellery is the only element of an ensemble whose sole purpose is elegance…”
  • “… an elegant woman… should never indulge her fancy to the point of resembling a Christmas tree”

Whilst her sense of elegance might not fit everyone’s, I’m finding it a great little volume to have on my shelf!

the butler’s guide

my library's copy but might need to have me own
my library’s copy
but might need to have me own
(click to go to amazon.com listing)


The weather’s turning cooler, so I’ve been busy getting out and sorting through last autumn’s clothes.  And considering what’s still needed, what’s in stash… You know how it goes.  Time-consuming, but in a nice way.  🙂

There’s some lovely washable rayon and wool jerseys in there, but there’s also at least 1 piece of woven wool.  And I don’t know if it should be washed…

I was trying to remember what former butler, now author Stanley Agar, wrote about caring for wools in the book he co-wrote (above), but had to get it out of the library to review.  Am glad I did, as there’s plenty of detail I’d forgotten.

He stresses airing out clothes before putting them away, and brushing down coats, suits, and jackets.  He details what kind of brushes to use on each type of fabric, and how to brush so fibres aren’t damaged.

Agar also stresses getting rid of dust.  Which leaves me feeling guilty for leaving fabrics out on the sewing table far too long, but doesn’t stop my habit.  Other things he recommends for fabrics include ~

Clothing Care and Packing

  • “Dust is abrasive” and in time will wear on cloth (and stash has plenty of time, doesn’t it!)
  • There used to be special brushing rooms
  • Velvet – rub gently with nap; steam in a hot shower to “liven up”
  • Tweed (wool) – can take “especially strong treatment”; brush up and down with a regular clothes brush
  • Suits – dust doesn’t adhere closely to synthetics; wool or tweed suits should be brushed every time they’re worn

Although I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for, I thought there was useful information.  Clearly Downton Abbey leaves this level of detail alone!

sort of a caftan

a quick couple of seams & a neckline finished this caftan
rayon stashed since california days
not certain i like this form – rayon is heavier & textured
possibly another iteration to come!

Things have been quiet on the blog!  Am working on my annual October (non-sewing) projects more & more, but keeping up with blog reading & writing so far.  Expect that will shift in another week …     🙂

Last week I read the library’s copy of Elegance, by Kathleen Tessaro, as recommended by The Vintage Traveler Lizzie here.

After reading about half the Tessaro book, I became more interested in reading the original volume, A Guide to Elegance, by Dariaux* , which Tessaro quotes at the beginning of every chapter.  So I ordered the Dariaux today.

Sure hope it arrives whilst there’s time to look through it!

*   “A complete guide for every woman who wants to be well and properly dressed on all occasions” Genevieve Antoine Dariaux (1964)

contemplating hats…

last summer's crocheted hat - too ruffley?  need to replace??
last summer’s crocheted hat – too ruffley? need to replace??

Inspired by Vintage Traveler Lizzie’s mentioning Susan Langley’s book, Vintage Hats & Bonnets 1770-1970, found at my local library, I was hunting through the 1920s-1930s section for inspiration for a new summer hat.

Langley’s book is full of colour photos, as well as vintage adverts for hats and dresses.  Left me drooling, gave me lots of ideas, and held a big surprise…

I found an excellent example of my last summer’s hat, ripply brim and all – it was an actual style. Who’d have thought!  There’s even a sample, which I’ll leave in the book for copyright reasons.

The “real” ruffle brim hat appears to be a stiffer straw, while mine is loosely crocheted, ripples varying according to gravity & wind. But I’ve temporarily postponed rushing to make another hat. Come summer’s heat & humidity, I know those crochet holes are  excellent ventilation!

huge pattern sale by We Sew Retro’s Katherine

“From now until Monday (November 18), the coupon code BUBBLES will get you 20% off everything in the WeSewRetro shop and a massive 60% off everything in ZipZapKap. On Monday, both pattern stores will be closing until I return to the States so don’t miss your chance to snap up some beauties. Everything purchased before the shops close will ship within 24 hours of payment.”  As noted on We Sew Retro.

Dear Katherine & her family must return unexpectedly to England to care for her mum, and she must temporarily close her shops.   Let’s all make certain they have the funds for their unexpected trip.

We Sew Retro – 20% off
Includes several overseas companies with normally high shipping costs for Americans.  NOT from Katherine’s Middle America location!

ZipZapKap – 60% off
These great patterns are practically being given away, so hurry on over!

home sewing in the 1920s, or getting ready for november’s monthly stitch

Amy Barickman's Vintage Notions
Amy Barickman’s Vintage Notions

Trolling through our local library’s listings for things vintage, I spied Vintage Notions by Amy Barickman, and requested it.  In due course it arrived, and I was surprised because it has nothing to do with haberdashery.

It’s a monthly diary and homage to Mary Brooks Picken (1886 – 1981), an American who created a national mail order Course in Dressmaking and Design, was one of the founding directors of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, was the first woman to be named a trustee of the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York), and wrote nearly 100 books/pamphlets, some still in print.

The book also has several sewing “patterns” (more like diagrams) from Picken’s publications, and they particularly piqued my interest.  You know me ~ I was soon looking around cyberspace to see what else might be available.

excuse my hand!
excuse my thumb!

That’s when I discovered there are reprints and some originals of Mrs. Picken’s books and pamphlets available today.  I ordered and promptly received one of the 3 in her 1920s One-Hour Dress series.

The dresses and variations in this 1925 booklet use the same folding process as my pinny.  Perhaps this method or process was in general use in the 1920s.  Paper patterns were quite possibly not in general use.

I freely admit to being thoroughly & happily spoilt by today’s printed patterns.  Game for giving the 1925 booklet a go, I carefully read directions & diagram a couple of times.  (Warning: Don’t think you’re gonna do this in 1 hour straight off, unless you’ve done this before!)  I think I’m ready for November’s Monthly Stitch challenge!

Pssst!  Cornell University has an online copy of  The Mary Brooks Picken method of modern dressmaking, 1925, here!

the other book

image courtesy of Amazon.com's site
image courtesy of Amazon.com’s site

The Organized Kitchen – Brette Sember

Wish they hadn’t used turquoise ink for their text colour.  Not so easy to read at midnight with bed lighting… but I was quickly interested, and it kept me awake, which might be why I forgot to include it in yesterday’s post!

All the silly things I’ve wondered about, like if hard-boiled eggs will freeze (not well) are answered.

Didn’t find much there relevant to me own kitchen (postage stamp size), but did find dandy hints for cleaning, items to use for substitutions in recipes, etc.

Recommend for others?  Don’t know – depends on too  many variables.  But do get stuck in if you find a copy in your local library.  You might pick up a hint or two!

threads’ book on fitting

courtesy of Threads magazine site, as referenced below
courtesy of Threads magazine site, as referenced below

Found several new books on sewing last week and started looking through them last night.

The first one is Threads Fitting for Every Figure.  So many books go over the same batch of information, and as I’ve several already, this won’t be added.  But here’s something interesting ~

Looking up the Amazon.com link, I read some of the reviews. They reminded me of something I read recently about Internet produce reviews in general.

The article said that companies are paying people to write positive comments about their product. Companies are also paying for people to write negative things about competitors’ products.

One way to tell the difference is to see if there’s a direct reference to the product or service.  Is it enough to indicate the person actually came in contact with the product?!  Then it’s probably a legitimate review.  If it’s a general, this-is-a-wonderful-thingey, I’d disregard it!

Getting back to the book ~

One of the reviewers said the book’s simply a collection of appropriate articles from Threads magazine, and gave some examples from her own experience as a magazine reader & saver of fitting articles relevant to her body type.

I can’t comment on her accuracy, but it sounds quite logical, and something I’ve seen Threads do before.  One or two of the illustrations helped me understand some of the fitting definitions, as they seemed clearer to me.  But that’s very personal!

An opinion?  If you run across this book, do look through it.  See if their examples are helpful to you.  If no light bulbs go on, put it back where you found it!

singer sewing book

Singer Sewing Book
Singer Sewing Book
colour photos! details on e-v-e-r-y-thing!

Talking with my Aunt the other day about my latest acquisition, Singer Sewing Book.  I hardly mentioned it before she said she might still have her original copy, too.

When she first bought a sewing machine (late 40s?) she didn’t know how to sew, but she had 3 daughters so she learned.  In those days Singer offered 8 dressmaking lessons at their stores to anyone who bought a new machine.  She still loves sewing, but can’t because of arthritis.  Needless to say, she misses it.

Isn’t it wonderful to hear something so warmly remembered and spoken of!