Monday, 17 June 2013

Thank Heaven for Hoarders

 My Etsy Shop: Louisa Amelia Jane

I couldn't resist this week when I saw an ad on the internet for a garage sale. The sale was headed "Granny Hoarder Gives it Up". Even better, the description promised  that after more than 70 years of hoarding, the seller had loads of bags of wool and old patterns, linen , and retro clothing. Although it was an almost 2 hour drive for me to get there, I had to go.

It was a tumble down old house  - messy, cluttered and dirty. The lady's grand-daughter was running the sale as the old lady was going into care. The driveway was lined with piles of old kitchen ware, the garage was full of tools (and tool collectors!) and when I asked the price for a box of mildly interesting patterns, the lady told me that there was a filing cabinet full of patterns inside if I wanted to come in and go through them, and kindly supplied me with a box. Did I ever!

A Patons book of plus size patterns from the 40s
This is the more glamorous model - The others
 are older "matrons".

In a ramshackle old hallway, I spent a freezing 45 minutes going through eight drawers of clutter - mostly old knitting and crochet patterns. There were quite a lot of patterns from the 40s, 50s and 60s, and I sorted out a pile of nearly 100 of the oldest ones.

I was thrilled to find these two old books from the 40s by Eve Lyn,  really Evelyn Bellamy, who published knitting books from her homes in Brighton and Elwood during the 40s. In my entire collection of more than 2000 knitting and crochet books, I only had 3 Eve Lyn books. Now I have 5, plus a duplicate of one to sell!

Her patterns are lovely and I would like to know more about her.

The lady had quite a few fabulous crochet books. My favourites are these glorious Villawool patterns from the 60s.

Surely the 60s was the most wonderful era for crochet (and hairpieces!).

And could the woman in the gorgeous white jumper on the right be Victoria Beckham's mother?

 To this stash of knitting and crochet books I added about 20 old sewing patterns, including some very old ones from the 40s and 50s. Some of these were in plain envelopes addressed to the lady. She had sent into the Sun News Pictorial, as it was in those days, for the advertised patterns.

 The silverfish had had a feast of the packets, and these had clearly been stored in the garage. Some looked like they had been dropped on the ground and trodden on (in muddy boots). But the patterns are wonderful - baby wear, doll's clothes and small girls' clothes. I have discovered that apparently tissue paper is not tasty to silverfish, so the patterns within the tatty packets are undamaged (though a few are squashed).

These dolls on the left are very stylish in their vintage 50s wardrobe.

And how adorable are these toddlers' sun bonnets?

 I have never heard of Pauline's patterns. There were two copies of this one. I am glad to read that she was reliable.

Madame Weigel's patterns were very popular in the 40s, but my mother tells me that when she worked in the haberdashery section of a Melbourne department store in the 50s, Weigel patterns were on the way out. Madame Weigel also published knitting patterns, famous for her tea cosies, and the charming "Madame Weigel's Journal of Fashion" throughout the 40s, operating out of a premises in Lennox St, Richmond.

Paragon knitting books are famous, but I did not know they also produced sewing patterns, such as for this delightful frock.

I asked about linen, and was directed to a large bag on the floor of the laundry. Sadly, most of this was dirty and   stained beyond redemption, but I did sort out a small pile I was hopeful of reviving. The lady said there was more linen  and more patterns somewhere, but she had no idea where, but I could leave my phone number for when she found them. I didn't dare to ask about the clothes, I'm way too timid and embarrassed when it comes to invading the homes of complete strangers.  I was happy with my haul, and I think we were both happy with the price.

Most of the linen has come up nicely in the Napi-san, though if anybody knows how to remove those dark rust coloured marks I'd love to hear from them.

The grand-daughter shook her head and tut-tutted to me, saying of her grandmother "She was SUCH a hoarder." I'm so glad she was. De-cluttering is fine to an extent, but re-using and recycling implies a certain amount of storing things in case they might come in handy. And a love of all things vintage relies on and loves hoarders.


  1. Wow, what an amazing opportunity! It's sad that this lady has had to go into care, but I hope she can be glad that her patterns are going to a good place, too.

    I've just had a read through your blog and it sounds like must have hundreds and possibly thousands of patterns. How do you store them all? I think my collection might number around fifty, but I'm looking for some advice on the best way of storing them without damaging them. If you have any tips, I'd love to hear them!

  2. Hi Katie,
    Most of my pattern books are in a four drawer filing cabinet, but it is now chock a block full and over flowing, so I am looking out for another one. I put Mortein mini strips in to deter the silverfish. I was conscious of not storing them in plastic. I would like to think of a wasy of having some of them on display, without turning my house into a museum. (Wait, maybe that's not a bad idea, after all.)
    I didn't mention it in the post, but I felt terrible at that garage sale because the grand daughter was selling the contents of the house and she said her grandmother waas "beside herself" over it. You'd think they could have waited a little longer.

    1. That does seem a little insensitive. That poor grandmother.

      Thank-you so much for your very helpful reply. I have mine in a little set of desktop drawers but I will most likely upgrade to a filing cabinet when I have enough patterns (and space!) to justify it. That's a good tip about the silverfish, too - I shall have a look out for those mini-strips you mention.

  3. What pattern book are the patterns for the Villa wool dresses in pink and white? I would love this.

    1. These dresses are in Villawool Crochet Book No.3. Contact me via my store.