June 3, 2011

Vintage Sewing

Earlier this week I made a pit stop at my local thrift store after having lunch with some friends. I was trolling through some fabric there and then my eye caught something red, white and blue with the words Stacy Hair Canvas written on what looked to be a bolt. My heart started racing - in fact, I think I nearly had a mini heart attack. I started tugging at the bolt and low and behold I had found a bolt of hair canvas. And I mean the real thing too. Not only that, but then I found another one. It was a lighter weight than the first and quite a bit more fuzzy. In fact, I've never actually seen or felt any hair canvas quite like it. Both are in stellar condition and leave me with about 20 yards of the stuff when all is said and done.

For those of you who may not know, hair canvas or hymo (as I've seen it before) is a stabilizer/interfacing, used especially in tailoring, but can also be used in substitution of various other interfacings and in conjunction with boning. I used hair canvas in my seafoam silk Ginger, in fact. It's typically a combination of goat hair, cotton and rayon and its something that I reach for all the time because I really like using sew-in interfacing/stabilizer as opposed to fusible. It usually comes in 3 different weights - light, medium & heavy - and it can actually be rather expensive as far as interfacings go. I've paid between $15 - $30 for a single yard. That's quite a bit in comparison to the $2 - $5 per yard range of most interfacings. In addition, its something that I've seen as the stabilizer on the backs of many of my vintage patterns.

This is where I begin to wonder. I wonder every time I pick up a vintage pattern whether or not sewers really sewed with certain items. I have to admit, that when I find out that people sew, I do wonder if they ever go in search of things like hair canvas, spiral steel boning, silk organza, silk thread, etc. (like me, because I'm a nut)? I truly do wonder about this stuff and especially with vintage sewing. Having absolutely no real concrete knowledge of what a sewing store was like back in say, the 40s, 50s, 60s or even 70s, I really wonder if items like this hair canvas, for instance, was widely available. I hear that it was, but I really wonder if it was and if people really used it and/or even knew what it was.

There's another clue on the bolt of hair canvas that I thought you might find interesting. There was an actual sales tag left on the Stacy Hair Canvas bolt. Apparently, this was sold from a shop called Robeson's where it started out at $1.65 per yard and ended up being marked down to $0.83 per yard. Judging from this alone, this stuff has to be old (though still in pristine condition and perfectly usable). When was hair canvas ever that low in price? Originally this bolt had 30 yards on it too. I bought it with 9 yards left on the bolt. So I have to wonder if several sewers bought a few yards here and there and then one person bought the last of the bolt (maybe because it went on sale) and kept it until a destashing of some sort happened. I also admit that I try to piece puzzles like this together all the time when I'm at the thrift. You see, when I see that new vintage sewing patterns have arrived in the pattern section of the store, I start scouring other places too because I think what happens is people donate to thrift stores in lots they consider junk. For example, when I found the hair canvas, I also noticed that there were a few patterns from the 60s over in the pattern section that were ones I hadn't seen before, plus there was a ton of fabric (scored a nice rayon challis too) that was new and I found the sad remains of a well loved sewing machine. I imagine that stuff like this usually comes from one person's estate or the like. Just an observation, definitely nothing that I really know about for sure. Still it makes one wonder. A lot. Especially seeing as how someone - like me - was, is or has been somewhat consumed by the craft of sewing, enough to buy hair canvas on the bolt!

Now that I've rambled on and on, what do you make of all this? What do you think vintage sewers really sewed with? And do you believe that these finer items - like hair canvas - were as widely available as some say they were? Just a little vintage sewing food for thought.


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