McCall’s New Complete Book of Sewing and Dressmaking, 1957 edition, plus thoughts on sewing and self esteem

I love the illustrations and photographs in this book – so pretty, so 1950’s. The book is filled with good, practical advice and techniques, but also has interesting little asides – for example, the “no one likes herself!” section. Of course, they then go on to tell you that you can make clothes that will fit and flatter you, so you will like yourself more, I suppose. I will admit here that sewing has been a huge boost to my self esteem – yes, the clothes I have made so far make me feel happier about myself when I wear them, but it has a lot more to do with the sense of accomplishment it gives me, as well as the feelings of freedom, independence, self-sufficiency, and creativity. I’m sure that as I get better at dressmaking, that sense of self-pride will only continue to grow. Sewing, learning and creating has helped me like myself better, and for someone with life-long body image issues, wearing clothes that I have made for myself that not only fit, but that I love and enjoy wearing has helped me ease up on myself quite a lot. When I look in the mirror and I see something that I made, it puts a smile on myself, instead of an automatic frown. So, maybe McCall’s has it right.

I also love knowing that all those vintage styles that I have drooled over for decades but could never afford are now within my grasp, because I can sew them for myself! And even if some techniques are beyond my skill level at the moment, one day they won’t be! I will continue learning and growing with this process and that makes me happy.

All that said, I would love to wear just about every outfit in this book! And the women are all so 50’s adorable and chic, the photographs in this book always make me smile. I hope that you like these, I couldn’t help myself and took about 55 photos of this book so there is a lot to look at! Enjoy!


Spotlight: The Andrews Sisters, featuring “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”


(Image Source: Wikipedia)

The Andrews Sisters were actual sisters LaVerne, Maxene and Patty Andrews who sang together in a close harmony group during the swing and boogie-woogie eras. During WWII they toured extensively entertaining the Allied forces with songs such as the one I’m featuring today, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” I love these gals, watching them perform is always so fun and Patty reminds me of my middle sister. Listening to them sing or watching them perform in old videos found on youtube always puts a smile on my face. Swing music is one of my favourite things, and these girls do it to absolute perfection.


After the cut, you can watch a biography on the Andrews Sisters. I hope you enjoy it!

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Spotlight: Glamour Photography Magazine, 1956

One of my sisters gave me this magazine as a gift years back, and I wanted to share it with you all today. When I look at the pictures in this magazine, I wonder about the women who were photographed; did they do any other types of modelling? Did they like their work in magazines like this one? What were their lives like? Who were they, really? Some of the photographs themselves are truly kitschy, making use of some pretty outrageous props, or trying to depict little ridiculous stories – such as the feature “I Photographed Two Beautiful Hitchhikers.” It is an interesting look back at the so-called “glamour” photography of the 1950’s, for sure.

Now, onto the photos! I’ll put them behind a cut due to being possibly NSFW.

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You Must Relax: A Practical Method of Reducing the Strains of Modern Living by Edmund Jacobson, M.D., 1962 edition

A few years ago one of my lovely sisters gave me this book as a gift, and I’ve been slowly making my way through it ever since. It really is an interesting book and a real time capsule of the stresses of the post-WWII and Korean War atomic age, as you will see if you read some of the pages pictured.

Thus America today has been stimulated by participation in two wars in which our very way of life was threatened and one in Korea which awoke us from our dream of disarmament. Gone is the quietude of the nineties when we lived in isolation from the quarrels of Europe, protected by vast oceans. No longer are we isolated. Our attempts to maintain and to spread freedom and our democratic way of life to other lands have survived the wars and are still going on but have aroused strong reactions. For the first time in history, we Americans have become the hated targets of foreign governments. Russia, China and their satellites, formerly our friends. Their emissaries issue venomous blasts against us in the very New York where we hoped to gather them in a peaceful world organization. Over the radio and by television, we can hear and see them call us “war-mongers” and we read of their threats against out allies of Europe.

Switch up the wars and this could almost be a modern day quote.

It’s funny, when I read various books and things from the 1940’s and 1950’s today, it can give me a very eerie feeling, of history repeating itself.

Here are some pictures I took of some passages from the book as well as the various photographs from the photo insert. I hope you enjoy them, and remember to relax!

Spotlight: Goodnight Marilyn radio show

Goodnight Marilyn Radio, hosted by Nina Boski, (with regular guests Gary Vitacco-Robles, Leslie Kasperowicz, Marijane Gray and April Vevea) is a Voice America radio show that investigates the mystery surrounding the death of Marilyn Monroe.

The first season is a bit touch and go, but once the second season hits, they start going really in depth, touching on everything from Marilyn’s doctors, ambulance theories, the mob, to the Kennedy’s. They explore all the various theories about her death that have come up over the years, dissecting (and exposing!) the sources and trying to pin down what could have really happened. I haven’t finished listening to the show – I’m at about the middle of the third season – but it has been deeply engrossing. Since the subject matter is something so close to my heart, I have to take it in bits and pieces, because it can be very hard and very sad, but with that said, I am definitely enjoying it.

The website for the show can be found here, and you can find all the episodes of the radio show archived in podcast form here.

Agatha Christie and Tom Adams


(Halloween Party by Agatha Christie, Cover Art by Tom Adams. Image Credit: Tom Adams Uncovered)

Something about dark, stormy days puts me in the mood for some Agatha Christie. My mother was a huge fan and I remember seeing Agatha Christie books all over the house, and going to sleep some nights hearing the theme from Agatha Christie’s Poirot starring David Suchet drifting up to me and my big sister’s bedroom from downstairs. So listening to audiobooks of Agatha Christie’s mysteries and watching Poirot are infinitely comforting reminders of childhood and my mom.

Tom Adams was an artist who did some absolutely stunning cover art for Agatha’s books beginning in the 1960’s and carrying on for about twenty years, creating some very creepily beautiful artwork that I remember seeing as a child.

Today, since it is there is a near torrential downpour and I’m in the mood for some Agatha Christie, I will share with you some of the beautiful collaborations between Agatha and Tom.

(Image Credit: Pinterest Agatha Christie Covers by Tom Adams board)

Collections: Marilyn Monroe

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(Image Credit: Swann Galleries)

Marilyn has had a very special place in my heart ever since I first saw her in “Some Like It Hot” when I was a very young girl. Throughout my life I have read every book I could get my hands on about her, bought many calendars (the majority are not pictured), and have collected and been given Marilyn books, movies and memorabilia as gifts by my mother and sisters – even my husband has contributed to the collection, with calendars and some beautiful wall art (which is pictured!) A lot of my collection is not pictured at present, but I will be adding more photos as I can. Included in the “not pictured” category are a Marilyn Monroe magnetic “paper doll”, a wall clock, a two cd collection of her music, more books, and numerous other little things that I can’t think of at the moment. There are other items I’d like to find, such as a complete collection of her films on dvd, and “Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe” volumes one and two, by Gary Vitacco-Robles, but these things take time – I’ve been adding to this collection since I was a teenager! – and I don’t think I will ever stop collecting. Yes, Norma Jeane Baker is one of my favourite ladies. She was smart, funny, honest, strong, caring and kind, in spite of everything that happened to her in her life, and I admire her for that.

(Note: Some of these books don’t have the most reliable/truthful information from the most reliable/honest sources, but, like I said, I will read anything I can get my hands on about her and I’m always adding to my book collection! Luckily, since the majority of my books are second hand, the crummy authors who have an agenda or don’t check their sources don’t get a cent of my money, so there’s that, at least!)

Introducing Zelda Zonk

I just couldn’t help myself. Last week I saw an ad on Kijiji for a Singer 127 treadle (which had been removed from it’s table, sadly! The table is probably in a land fill somewhere or worse, turned into “art” and ruined) with nearly perfect Sphinx/Memphis decals. It was listed as “not working” and was being sold as a decoration only. For $15.


I emailed the seller immediately, asked if the table was still kicking around (no), and he also told me that it was definitely non-functional, and he dropped the price to $10, with delivery. So I bought her, intending to maybe use her for parts, but all the while, I had the sneaking suspicion that I could get her to work, even though the owner said it wasn’t possible.

Last night she (meaning the sewing machine) arrived. Right away, I did a quick clean and oiled her – the hand wheel was almost frozen, but there was hope! After dinner, I took the shuttle from my 128-13, removed the old, rusted needle and replaced it with a new one, got it threaded and by manually turning the hand wheel, got her running. The oiling I had done before did the trick! The hand wheel moves freely and smoothly now! But the stitches were all wonky, with the bobbin thread just lying straight and flat on the bottom. So I took out the manual for my 128-13 and used it to diagnose the problem – the upper thread tension was way too loose! I adjusted the tension, and now the stitches are damned near perfect! Needless to say, I played with her for quite awhile last night.

The serial number is G4397372, and she appears to be from 1915. I think she must have been kept in a kitchen, because there was/is quite a bit of orange/bronze/brown grease staining parts of her that I’ll have to try and remove – at least from the metal parts and screws. I think that the coating of grease must be what kept the decals in such lovely (though stained) condition, so I’m not 100% sure about removing it from those areas. Would it ruin them? The faceplate was badly stained and very greasy and sticky – yuck! – but I was able to remove it and clean it up pretty nicely with some warm, soapy water. For an 102 year old lady, she’s looking pretty damned good!

Fans of Marilyn Monroe will recognize the name I gave this new-old machine – Zelda Zonk – as the name Marilyn traveled under when she escaped all the Hollywood studio bullshit and sexism by (essentially) running away to New York, and forming her own production company with Milton Greene. Marilyn’s time of freedom in New York is said to be one of the happiest periods in her life. This machine just feels like a Zelda Zonk to me, I think the name suits her.

I’m thinking of converting her to a hand crank at some point. Even though I technically got her as a parts machine, I’m really getting a kick out of using her! But manually turning the hand wheel is hard on my old bird boned wrists, I think a hand crank would help.

Now, finally, the photos! Sorry for the bad lighting in these, it’s absolutely pouring rain out this morning and very dark, so even with the curtains open and lights on, this was the best I could do. Also, enjoy laughing at the video I tried to make, one handed, to show you that she works. She may be missing her treadle table, but she can run all right!

(I will post better photos later, promise!)

And here are some photos of the scrap fabric so you can see the stitches better.

Second photo – my cat was meowing at me, so I stitched a kitty shape, because that’s how I roll.

So, if anyone ever lists a vintage sewing machine as “not working” and has it for sale dirt cheap, take it from me: with some cleaning, a little oil, some time, and a lot of love, you can probably make her run, even just by turning the hand wheel, like I am doing. It’s a good test at the very least, to see if it would be possible to get her up and going in a more conventional manner (hand crank, treadle, foot pedal, or knee lever). And it is so rewarding to get them running after they’ve sat for so many years unused. The previous owner just had it for decoration, and who knows where it was before then? I think it’s probably been decades (at least!) since anyone tried using this machine, but she can definitely work!

Let’s take 1930’s Home Economics Together! Chapter One: It is Easy to be Good Looking

Ever since my copy of The Mode in Dress and Home by Dulcie Godlove Donovan arrived, I have been reading it every night, and it really is not only an adorable book, but fun and informative, too! So I thought that I would share chapters with all of you, and we could essentially take home economics together, 1930’s style!

As mentioned in my previous post on the book, it appears that it is now in the Public Domain and is available to download for free on (link to book in linked post above), so I believe that me posting these excerpts from the book should be all right.

Chapters, or Lessons, as I’ll call them, should be posted every Sunday, so make sure to watch out for them, if you like this post!

Now, onto the first lesson!

Today we will learn about good grooming in a chapter called “It Is Easy to be Good Looking”!

(Click to enlarge and read pages)

Next time, we will read Chapter Two: Spending Our Time and Money.