Advance Pattern Company

Advance Pattern Company produced patterns under the Advance brand name from 1933 to 1966.  They were sold exclusively by J.C. Penney company.  The company was sold to Puritan Fashions in 1966 and ceased production under the Advance name. 

You can find a list of Advance pattern numbers and the associated image at the vintage sewing patterns wiki.  If you have an image and number to add, you can also do that.


Fabric Yo Yos

NorthernWarmThings,YoYo Maker

NorthernWarm YoYo Maker

In case you haven’t noticed, yo yo’s are experiencing a revival! 

There are new yo yo makertools out to make yo yos easier to make, and I’m seeing tutorials everywhere on the web showing you how to make them.  The best one that I’ve found is by Heather Bailey.

Yo yos were very popular in the 1930s and 40s when folks made quilts (more accurately coverlets) from them. The lovely scraps of 30s and 40s prints became colorful scrappy quilts. You find these quilts by themselves without backing and mounted onto a backing. Sometimes you’ll find them in a pillow.
Yo yos can be made from any kind of fabric that will lie flat when gathered. Used clothing in interesting prints, scraps from a clothing project or fabric squares bought for their colors are all used in making yo yos. Look for already made yo yos online on etsy and eBay.





CW Enactor Advice on Buttons to Use

I was browsing the net the other day and happened on a wonderful site with great advice for folks who want authenticity in recreating civil war era fashion.  I think the site is mostly used by civil war enactors. 

Here’s a quote on use of buttons for the era.

Button use will really depend on the garment; flat trouser buttons work for trousers, but you’d be more likely to see four-hole white china buttons (sometimes called “milk glass”) on a boy’s white shirt or underdrawers, or white or calico buttons (color-patterned with a tiny design) on a boy’s print shirt, for instance. A boy’s wool coat might use a self-fabric covered button, or even (non-military) molded metal buttons. So it all depends on the garment and its use, as well as the economic level of the family. For girls, look at white four-hole buttons for undergarments (petticoats, drawers). White china seem to be the most common for those garments, and four-hole buttons can be stitched on securely making an X in front and a square on the back, which is very strong and stable (instructions are included in the pattern booklets). For dresses, I’ve yet to see any girl’s dress from the period that uses carved wooden buttons myself, or any notes that recommend them. This makes sense once you take into account laundry methods: wooden buttons do not long survive a cycle of boiling and scrubbing! They dry out and crack and crumble. The most common buttons for girl’s everyday cotton dresses seem to be the plain or patterned china buttons, quite small (under 1/2″), and fairly numerous (every inch or so). That’s *IF* buttons are used as the back closure; another totally valid option is closing a girl’s dress with hooks and eyes (not bars) down the back, which makes them a bit more flexible, size-wise, as you don’t have to cut permanent holes into the back placket to set hooks, as you do with buttons. I’d avoid wooden and most metal buttons for girl’s dresses. Small mother-of-pearl buttons can work (from 3/8″ to just less than 1/2″); avoid anything plastic looking, which generally rules out most of the button selection in my town…. which is why I tend to opt for hooks/eyes for my own girls. Ebay can be a good spot for button purchases sometimes, though you’re bidding against collectors in many cases. Vintage store stock of some of the basic calico or white china buttons are quite sturdy, so long as you don’t send them through a modern dryer (gets them hot, and makes them more brittle.) If you’re having trouble finding suitable buttons, just go with a #2 or #3 hook and eye. One exception to the “no wooden buttons” idea is the seed button–but that’s not a generalized item, and fits with late-war Southern Blockade ersatz scenarios, not into generalized norms for girl’s dress closures mid-century.

What are Transfer Patterns?

Vintage embroidery transfers have regained popularity today and the hunt is on for lovely designs from the past. Today designs can be programmed and machine stitched on the new embroidery machines. Improved fabric paints, dyes and markers allow these great old designs to be used by even the needle-challenged. And, of course, those who love hand-stitching still use them to create lovely vintage designs.

Early Butterick Transfer

Early Butterick Transfer

Here’s a quick history. Embroidery transfers have been available from many, many different companies for well over a hundred years. Early transfers were perforated patterns — the design was composed of small holes in the paper and transferred to fabric by forcing black powder through the holes. Embroidery designs transferred to linens by rubbing and/or moistening the pattern made a brief early appearance, but the hot iron process quickly became the norm.

Most companies produced hot-iron transfers that were single-use — the unused pattern had raised ink that transferred to the fabric. If the design is composed of small dots, it’s a Numo style pattern. Designs often were offered in a choice of blue ink (for white or light fabrics) or yellow (to show up on dark fabrics). Expect to find only one or other in an envelope: although it may be marked “blue and yellow,” there should be a separate stamp telling which actually is enclosed. Many companies eventually switched to a lighter or “electric” blue that would show up on light and dark fabrics. A few companies used green ink or the Silver-Tex process.

Mail Order Transfer
Mail Order Transfer

A flat ink transfer, especially if red, may be a multi-stamp pattern that fades as the transfer is used. But if the flat ink is blue, yellow or green, it’s probably a single-use transfer that has been used. Do remember that these designs, while not able to be used by ironing on to fabric, can be scanned into embroidery machines or hand traced using tracing paper.

The most thorough history that I’ve found on line is on the website. I credit them with this information and please pay them a visit.

What are Tagua Nut Buttons?

The Tagua Nut, commonly known as “vegetable ivory”, earned its name from its ivory-like color and texture. With the near extinction of animal ivory, tagua nuts have become a highly valued commodity by artisans and consumers alike. Twenty percent of all buttons were made of tagua nuts in the 1920’s which accounts for the number that collectors find today. Ecuador continues to offer tagua buttons and enjoys a thriving tagua jewelry market too.
Some other names for tagua include Rain Forest Ivory, Corozo (also spelled Corrozzo), Binroji Nut (Japanese), Steinnuss (German), and Coquilla Nut.
A tagua nut is the fruit of a palm tree, primarily Phytelephas macrocarpa, which flourishes in tropical rain forests from Paraguay to Panama. Natives replant palm trees for their seeds instead of logging them, which saves a bit of the rain forests. They polish the shell of the seeds and typically carve them into the shape of a button, living creature, or beautiful jewelry. Just think: an object much like a gem with all the qualities of ivory, but without harming wildlife.
Where tagua nuts grow high up in South American palms, there are about 40 shelled seeds to a cluster, called a cabeza. Harvesting them appears totally harmless to trees and forests. Modern day  tagua vendors can toot their horn for indirectly saving elephants, whales, walrus and other species. We are so fortunate to have a natural, organic, resourceful product in plentiful supply.

Prayer Shawls

No, they’re not shawls for praying…(although you could use one that way). They are shawls that are given to those in need of comfort. The maker (knit or crochet) prayed for the recipient while making the shawl and many shawls are blessed in a church ceremony before being given away. Every time it is worn, the recipient is reminded that they are not alone and that others care deeply for them as God cares for them.

Groups of knitters and crocheters have sprung up all around the country to create prayer shawls as a ministry of love and caring. There are a number of books and a website that give the history of the movement and patterns. But there are free patterns online at Lion Brand Yarn and many churches list their favorite patterns online.

Cotton Blend or Poly?

Aside from a burn test, which takes some set-up, time and effort, it is nearly impossible to tell from the feel and look of a fabric whether it is a cotton/poly blend or poly.  I recently found a quick and easy way to distinguish between the two.

Fiber-Etch, a liquid used in embroidery or cutwork embroidery, dissolves any plant fiber including cotton, linen, and rayon. Since this product removes plant fibers, it is also useful to determine fabric content. With blends of plant fiber fabrics, the blended fibers will remain. For example, a cotton/polyester fabric will, when this product is applied to a small area, remove the cotton fiber and leave the polyester fiber.

So cut a small sample, paint on the Fiber-Etch and watch to see what happens.  If it all disappears–it’s all cotton (or rayon or linen).  If some of it disappears, it’s a blend and if none disappears, it’s poly.

Here’s a video demo on how to use Fiber Etch.