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Like a witch in a bottle

September 9, 2009

Would you believe that this sewing pattern from the late 1930s/early 1940s is still SEALED? Its previous owner obviously never felt the need to caress its crisp tissue paper pieces. Which is all very disciplined. When I buy patterns I feel the need to look inside immediately. But with this pattern I’m being very good. I’m restraining myself. I’m sitting on my hands, even though I’m dying to look inside.

This temptation, in a random kind of way, reminds me of an artifact in the Pitt Rivers Museum here in Oxford: a witch in a bottle. This small silvered glass bottle has a label on it warning people not to open it because there’s a witch inside. You could open the bottle (if you dared) but then the object would be far less interesting- it would just be a bottle because, presumably, the witch would escape:

To open or not to open. That is the question. So I’m listing the pattern for sale in my store (along with a couple of other ones which are also still sealed!) and turning the dilemma over to someone else :)           (Click on the pics for the listings.)

8 Comments leave one →
  1. September 9, 2009 11:04 am

    I do like the picture of the witch in the bottle and the way the bottle would just be an ordinary bottle if you let the witch out. It reminds me of a passage in “Heart of Darkness” where the narrator is described as always telling a story as if it was the shell of a nut that was important rather than the nut inside. (And thanks for reminding me to go to Pitt Rivers. I have been living in Oxford for four months now, but haven’t been there yet.)

    • glassoffashion permalink
      September 11, 2009 9:47 am

      Hope you’re finding Oxford to your liking? :) Oh, you must see the Pitt Rivers museum- it’s like rummaging around in an eccentric genius’s attic, or some kind of dark Dickensian Curiosity Shop. (Although I haven’t been in there since its recent refurb- I hope they haven’t made it too shiny and modern…) And then right next door is the Natural History Museum, which is its complete opposite- all light with the most amazing vaulted ironwork and glass roof….

  2. Nathalie permalink
    September 12, 2009 5:13 pm

    I used to love going to the Pitt Rivers Museum when I lived in Oxford and I’m really miffed I never saw that bottle at the time. It would have made my day. Must plan a trip to Oxford one day to see the old sights again – and the many new ones too. Love the post about the unopened patterns. I have a problem with those; uncut patterns too. I always feel like they should be collectors’ items and preserved in their integrity, that I’m somehow ruining them by using them as they were intended to be… At the same time, I seek them out because I get annoyed when pattern pieces are badly cut or folded carelessly… oh the dilemma!

    • glassoffashion permalink
      September 15, 2009 9:00 am

      Yes- and factory folded pieces are another dilemma too, aren’t they? I tend not to get too annoyed when previous owners have cut or folded badly- partly because I quite enjoy the meditative process of ironing and smoothing them out again, and partly because, before I even discovered vintage patterns, I used to treat my modern patterns something shocking. I used to be a shining example of bad pattern practice. Now of course I’m a reformed character :)

  3. September 15, 2009 3:10 pm

    I like Oxford very much :-) I have been to the Natural History Museum (my inner seven-year old was so excited by the dinosaur skeletons), but Pitt Rivers was closed then.

    I have actually wanted to ask you where you find sewing stuff and yarn near Oxford? Do you just buy it online? A colleague told me to go to Masons in Abingdon, but said she mostly bought yarn online.

    • glassoffashion permalink
      September 15, 2009 6:44 pm

      Oxford is very badly off for sewing or crafting shops of any kind. (I think it’s probably because shop rents and property prices are so high here that a small craft store probably couldn’t survive for long. The only fabric store I knew of in Oxford has recently closed down.) Friends have recommended Masons in Abingdon to me but I’ve never actually been. I buy most of my yarn and fabric online- I tend to discipline myself now to target exactly what I need/want and shop around. (But I’m on fabric fast at the moment until I actually use some of the fabric I own!)
      Up in Jericho on Walton Street there’s an interesting little shop called Port Meadow Designs which has a small yarn section at the back- they sell Manos del Uruguay, Noro, Debbie Biss and Rowan. They also sell beautiful artisan clothing and gifts…
      If you come across anywhere else in Oxford I’d love to know :)

  4. Nathalie permalink
    September 15, 2009 5:43 pm

    Curious to know how you iron your pattern pieces. I’ve done it on occasion when the pieces where unusable otherwise, but I tend to worry I’ll dry out the paper, make it brittle and take years off it (I have no evidence of this happening, it is just something I have wondered about). To counter that, I have occasionally put a little steam into it, only to see the pieces go all curly… And there are also the few times I’ve fixed tears with sellotape first and then ironed over them, forgetting about the tape… not recommended, either for the pattern, or the iron!… What kind of temperature do you iron at?

    • glassoffashion permalink
      September 15, 2009 6:24 pm

      I use the very coolest iron possible, and don’t leave the iron in one place for too long. I use a dry iron- no steam- as yup, as you say, pieces will go horribly puckered. (I wouldn’t iron a vintage pattern unless I really had to- especially older ones- but sometimes they’re so wrinkled and creased that you just can’t get them to sit flat…)

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