Thursday, August 1, 2013

A lucky find

For the past few months my success rate at garage and estate sales has been pretty low. Not many listings of items that I might be interested in, and when I did stop by the finds were minimal. My luck changed last weekend and if I could find a nice sale with hidden gems like these every few months there will be no complaining about quantity, when there is so much quality to find.
Here is the hidden treasure that I found at this sale.

Madeleine Vionnet by Betty Kirke, with a forward by Issey Miyake.

Book:  Madeleine Vionnet by Betty Kirke
This book is so gorgeous I can't even begin to tell you. As it states on the cover wrapper, "Madeleine Vionnet was the greatest dressmaker in the world. Considered a genius for her innovations with the bias cut - one of the most difficult and desirable cuts in clothing design - she is legendary among haute couture designers and her dresses are considered masterpieces".
I could get lost in this book and study it for hours, her designs are so clever and you can see echoes of her techniques in everything shown today. 
The book includes photographs of her creations and patterns for many of the designs, mixed in with a biography tracing her life and the developement of her couture house through her retirement. She lived to be 97 and saw the influence her work had on designers such as Balenciaga who was a great friend.
This dress, in the section called "Quadrants" is from 1932. I could see this looking completely modern at a formal event today.  The name is "Bias to Grain".

Vionnet book, dress # 14

Another one I particularly liked is this one that is also in the "Quadrants" chapter, called "In-Out-In" and uses a shape called barrel cuts.  Below is the technical drawing, which shows the 3-dimensional petals that form the skirt. 

Dress from Vionnet book

Drawing from Vionnet book

I have just looked through the book and read a few chapters, it deserves some further study. I wish I had a reason to attempt one of these styles, it would be a fun challenge.  If you are looking for a book to put on your holiday wish list and you like fashion history I recommend this very much (and you have a generous gift giver to suggest it to  - quite expensive as new).
More estate sale goodness, I also picked up these books.  Those paperback Singer sewing books are really good reference volumes, the photographs are fantastic.  I refer to the Tailoring book all the time, if you ever see it snap it up!

                more Singer sewing booksMore Power Sewing book and Couture Sewing book
By this time my arms were getting tired, and I had other stuff to do that morning so I tore myself away from the sale, but not before adding whole bunch of nice muslin fabric. I do claim that I rarely make muslins and OK, that is true for myself, but when it comes to sewing for other people I definitely will do one.  Should I tell you that this haul was claimed for less than the price of a couple of fancy coffees at you know where (something that my inner cheapskate never lets me purchase anyway). Which is great, because then I have more mad money for estate sales.

Here is a sneak peek at something that is just about completed. Not really a muslin...let's call it a "denim" instead of a muslin since I often use old denim to test things. Actually it is a preliminary version in anticipation of an item for my mom. Hey, I just made a dress for my sis, gave the black denim jacket to Alice, working on a garment for mom. It's time to get back to some selfish sewing :)  That could happen as I just ordered 3 Vogue patterns this morning on the sale. Eeek. Uncontrollable in the face of new patterns. Oh well, a very minor vice.


happy unselfish sewing to all, Beth

No idea what this plant is but I should try and get another one, the tag is tucked away somewhere. It is a lovely vine that is putting out all kinds of flowers this year.

vine flowers


  1. The Vionnet book is a steal! Great score!!! And I understand about the pattern sale...I thought this was a great batch of fall patterns from Vogue.

  2. I have that Madeleine Vionnet book and it's truly wonderful. I look wistfully at the patterns and dream about making one (or more) of them one day. One of my favourites is the long dress you highlighted above. Do you think you will sew any of the patterns?

  3. Awesome find! No need to have a "reason" to try your hand at drafting one - the mind whirls at the possibilities! Maybe make an amazing dress and have a fancy date night! Can a favorite charity use a gown as a fundraiser, like a silent auction? Or why not pursue knowledge purely for academic reasons? Before I had children (aka, when I knew of this thing called Free Time), I spent many hours deconstructing commercial yarns and figuring out how to replicate them via handspinning. I also liked to look at knitted lace and figure out the stitch pattern. No compelling reason, it was just fun!

  4. I'm not positive, but I think your plant is a calibrachoa.

  5. That's a great book! Making something from the schematics is on my bucket list.

    If you decide to use the schematics to make something, check out Kathleen Fasanella's blog at Fashion Incubator. She made at least one garment several years ago and wrote about the process.

  6. That is a great book and a great score!

  7. That book looks absolutely fascinating - great for daydreaming even if not to try to apply any of the amazing ideas.

  8. I've read about that Vionnet book, what a lucky, lucky find, I think I would never put it down, the patterns are so amazing.
    Don't wait for a reason to sew any of the styles, if you sew one of those dresses, you will find a reason to wear it :-)

  9. I love that book! I definitely need to put that on my wish list! Great find!

  10. You struck gold! I love Vionnet, too.
    You know, I do like to sew for others - when the recipient is someone I like and I know will appreciate my work, it is very satisfying. But it sure does feel good when you can get back to your own projects!

  11. I have the Vionnet book and I agree -- it is a stunning publication. Someday I'll work up the courage to attempt one of those designs!

  12. How wonderful to have the technical drawings! I'm going to have to check that book out myself because my favorite part of looking at beautiful dresses is figuring out how they were made!

  13. The Vionnet book is a great find. I love to look through my copy. If you get inspired to try sewing your own Vionnet dress, there is a Japanese book, titled Vionnet, that has scalable patterns and pictorial instructions for 28 of the dresses in the Kirke book you purchased. It was the result of the instructors at the Bunka Fashion College to reconstruct her designs in actual size. Fashion Incubator has a very good review of this book at I have this book, and have used it to make a muslin of one of the dresses. It was an interesting exercise, and my admiration for Vionnet increased as a result.

  14. Congratulations on the great find! I think that book was waiting on you! What a great looking jacket and I love the color! I was very surprised to read you often use "Denim" for muslin!

  15. Oh that Vionnet book is a find! I would be making those dresses up, occasion or not! I don't know if you use a different name there, but here in Australia that plant is called Mandevilla :)

  16. Oh wow, what a find! The Vionnet book is incredible. I am sure I would never actually attempt any of the patterns, but just having them is a joy.

    I bought, hmm, something like 17 patterns this month. I feel you on the pattern addiction.

  17. What a lucky find for sure! I'll have to keep my eye out for one - I love dresses from the 30s designed on the bias. Sewing one for myself is on my bucket list. Thanks for sharing!


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