Thursday, 27 November 2014

Vintage Book Review: McCall's Sewing in Colour (1964)

To be honest my life is overrun with books. Since I was a tiny child (I learned to read very early) I have been a voracious reader, devouring every tome that I could lay my grubby little hands on. Since then not a lot has changed - still got the grubby hands - except I no longer scare myself with books of ghost stories just buy mostly sewing books. I have quite a few now and like to pick them up on my travels as often as I can. 

McCall's vintage sewing - written when brown polyester ruled the world

My copy of  "McCall's Sewing in Colour" is from 1964. I picked it up on eBay for a song. It is quite a thick hardback book, about 300 pages, and as the tag line states covers " Home Dressmaking, Tailoring, Mending and Soft Furnishings". There are lots of line drawings and several colour plates with great photos.

60's sheets for the win!

The contents of this book are a bit different to some others that I own from the same period. There is a lot of emphasis at the beginning of the book on picking the right pattern for your lifestyle and figure type which just goes to show that nothing much changes, even from 50 years ago. We were still fretting about whether a pattern would be right or not. There is even the age old discussion about stripes. I love a horizontal stripe and wear them often. Ain't nothing going to make me look smaller so might just go with it. I want to be stripey!

Would our bums look big in those spots?

There is quite a lot of pages on choosing fabrics. This is useful and I suppose that apart from fit it is one of the major culprits in pattern failure. Plus a section on colour.

I am in love with this colour palette. No black too. Very strange

To give you a flavour of the book the chapters headings are listed as:

1) Building a New You
2) Keystone to Fashion
3) The Raw Materials

4) Fabric Facts

Yes, I keep my stash in my spice cupboard.

5) The Tools of the Trade
6) The Easy Rules of Pattern Alteration
7) Groundwork for Action

Feelin' hot, hot hot!

8) Blueprint for the Professional
9) Construction Data - Stitches and Seams
10) Construction Data
11) Design Details
12) Important Closings
13) The Personal Touch

14) Tailoring Talk
15) The Three R's- Repairing, Remodelling and Remaking
16) The Decorator's Touch

My eyes! It burns my eyes! Could you sleep in this room?

So the big question is would I buy this again? The answer is yes. There are better books with regard to sewing process tuition and the styling is obviously from the land that Pinterest forgot but it is a nice read and I am glad that I bought it.There is something in this book for everyone, beginners and seasoned hands alike and not a "how to a make a pillowcase" or pair of PJ pants to be found. Something a lot of modern books should keep in mind. There is a lot of info to be had in sewing books from this era, especially if you want to take your techniques to the next level, and you could easily buy two or three for the costs of one new one. Plus, I think reading these old books is fun but then again I read sewing patterns on the train!

Hope you are having the best time.

K xx


  1. I've got a 1960s sewing book, and it's been really useful for me, since I'm a bit of a novice. Love the photos in your book, they are so typical of their time!
    Thanks for the offer - I usually go for vintage size 16 patterns, which I then have had to take in a bit, but I worry that a 14 would be too small... I'm happy to have a go at the jumpsuit pattern I've got, and adapt it to fit. Well, I say that now, I've no idea if it will be so easy in practice! xxx

    1. Aren't they fab. They always have so much more information that the modern beginner's books. I love them, plus they have some cool photos. I have a load of size 16 patterns. I buy vintage ones whenever I see them even if I would have to make two and sew them together. I will have a look and see if there are any that you might want. My email is ligeia2001 at hotmail dot com if you send me yours I will send you some pics of likely candidates (only if you want of course). You know you might be better making a size 14 and doing adjustments if this is closer to your measurements. I would go by my high bust (under my arms at the top of where your bra is) and adjust from there. Waist and hips are a whole load easier to adjust than shoulders and armholes. Xx

  2. I wish I'd known you a few years ago.... I had a load of sewing books from the 50s and 60s that I got rid of to a big charity book sale, since I no longer sew. I'd have happily sent them to you; seeing this one reminded me of them. I love them too, but it seems silly to take up space with books I can no longer get any value from in a practical sense. So many books, too little time... you know how it is.

    1. Only too well, Edwina but thanks for the thought. I have many 100's of books in storage and try not to buy many more but you know how it is. Reading is like breathing. Xx