Last week I wrote a post about the amazing gift of vintage fabrics I was given by a woman I met up in Downieville. There is so much to the collection that I decided I would divide it into a couple of posts. Here we go with part two! Again, this is post is a bit longer than usual.
I was up at the house in Downieville one day last week. While I was there, I visited with a few of the women in the quilt guild. When I told them about this gift, they were all smiles. Knowing my love of vintage pieces, this fabric had found a good home. I asked about the history of the woman the fabric originally belonged to. They gave me a bit of information. Her name was Cornelia but everyone called her Nela. She had two daughters (one of which was the person that gave me the fabric.) Her husband, Dewey, was the sherrif of Downieville from sometime in the 1940’s to the 1960’s. I like having this bit of history. Kind of nice to be able to imagine where all of these little lovelies came from.
As I mentioned last week, included in the bags of fabric were these little bundles. Nela took all the pieces of a particular fabric and rolled them up, tying them with a strand of that same fabric. I have been unrolling the bundles and have been surprised to find she had taken apart “ready-made” dresses, probably to use the fabric. The first dress could almost be reassembled. I am missing the back of the bodice but all of the other pieces are here. The gores of the skirt, the top bodice, two sleeves and the sash. It is really tiny. Take a look.
I held the bodice up and quickly realized that this would have been made for a very slender woman. The fabric is adorable, though faded in parts. Clearly, this dress was worn a great deal.
Here is another dress that had been taken apart. The fabric is in much better shape. I am thinking it was made for a young girl. The sleeves are small and didn’t wrap around my arm or Julia’s.
Again, the most of the parts to dress are here, less one piece of the collar. The dress reminds me of the uniform I wore when I was a volunteer “candy-striper” at the local hospital during high school. I love the bodice with the trim pieces.
In addition to these two dresses, there were a few items that had not been taken apart. There were also pieces that were cut and bundled but never sewn. She had a lot of projects going on here! I love this little apron that was in the bag. Julia was modeling for me here. She looks good in an apron!
Here is a skirt that I found. The waist is about 23″ so it’s certainly not fitting me!! Very tiny.
The waistband buttons in the back and then there is a sash that wraps and ties in the front. The flowers are huge and bright. I would guess this is from the 1950’s?
Finally, my favorite. This sweet little dress looks like it would fit a girl of about five years or so.
The sheer fabric that is inserted into the bodice is a mystery to me. It is very, very thin and the fabric is definitely compromised just from age. It seems an odd choice for a child’s dress. I suppose she would have expected the child to wear something underneath the dress.
I love the sash that ties on the back side. I haven’t found the rest of the pieces, though I still have a large pile of scrap to sort through. It looks like Nela was making this dress. The neckline is still unfinished and while she put the placket in for the buttons on the back, there are no button holes. Only one sleeve is in place and the bottom of the sleeve is not in place.
I have accumulated quite a bin of vintage fabrics as a result of this awesome gift. It is going to be so much fun to make something with it. Now how to decide what pattern to use and which fabrics to put together. I need to sort them into colorways which will help me to get a plan together.
Linking to Linda at Coastal Charms and Molli Sparkle’s Sunday Stash.
It’s so satisfying to find out the history of vintage finds! All of these patterns and fabrics take me back to my childhood, which was in the 1950s and 1960s – especially the sashes! Maybe Nela intended for the little dress to be worn with a slip, which we always wore under our dresses. Your daughter has an enviably slim frame and makes a great model. 🙂
I’m sure you are right Linda. That little girl would have had a frilly white slip to wear under her dress. My sisters and I used to call them “stick-out slips” because they were a little bit stiff and made your skirt twirl out. We felt so fancy!
Hope your week is going well.
There was nothing better than a skirt that twirled out! 😉
These are such a find, and I love that you have some of the story. The green/purple/orange print is precious, and I think the pink skirt with the large flowers is very today in some way. (Does Julia like it?) It’s so interesting that Nela took time to deconstruct those pieces of clothing so carefully. And the partly made dress is so sentimental. Thanks for sharing your finds!
We had to work to get that skirt on Julia! It didn’t fit her or me. So we pinned the back and tied it in the front. I do love that wild floral fabric. I was amazed how Nela painstakingly seams ripped the seams on these dresses. If I wanted to use the fabric, I would have just cut along the seam. She must have been a very meticulous seamstress.
Take care Janine!
The fabric in that first dress is fantastic. It will look fabulous in a quilt. And that huge flowered skirt would make a great back, if your daughter doesn’t claim it for herself. I would if I could wear it! What a lot of nice things in those bags of fabric. Did you find out anything else about the fabrics from the last post?
Hope you have a lovely day!
I also love the fabric in the purple dress. It will be fun to use somehow. I have a few leads on people that might know something about vintage fabrics. I am also researching the books from the woman you recommended. They are available on Kindle (which I don’t have) and the hard copies must be out of print because they are really spendy ($75-$85) It has been a fun project though.
Hi, I found you at Show and Share today. I love the patterns on vintage fabrics, although I don’t do much sewing. What a wonderful gift you received. She obviously knew she had found a kindred spirit to that of her mother, and her love for sewing.
I am so glad you stopped by! I have really been enjoying going through all of the fabric that I was given – it almost feels like I am getting to know this woman by talking with people and looking at her projects. It has been a lot of fun. When I find a vintage piece of fabric at a thrift store I am thrilled but there isn’t any way to learn about its history, right? This has been very satisfying.