Monday, August 8, 2011

Margaret's Book

Do you ever wonder where your vintage belongings come from? I do. Last night I was pondering my favorite vintage patternmaking book, and wondering who it belonged to before me. It was then that I noticed--for the first time--that there is a name, address, and phone number inscribed in the endpapers of my 1971 copy of Design Your Own Dress Patterns by Adele P. Margolis.

And I was shocked that I recognized the name. My very own copy of the book previously belonged to Margaret E. Islander. Sound familiar? She was the founder of Islander Sewing Systems, which continues today. I've redacted her street address and phone number for etiquette's sake, but here is her lovely handwriting:


And indeed, my research shows that her Islander School of Fashion Arts was founded in Grants Pass, Orgeon. The Islander Sewing System is all about incorporating industrial methods into your home sewing (no pins!) just like we discussed in Jonathan's guest post a couple week's ago.

I feel quite honored that Margaret's copy of this book ended up with me. It was purely by chance, as I ordered the copy from a used book website, by the merit that it had the lowest price of any available copy. I've read it front to back several times and it's taught me more than any other book on pattern design. I'm not sure if Margaret loved it like I do, but I am grateful to have something of hers. From what I can tell, she passed away last year.

There is something very special about the sharing of knowledge from one generation to another in sewing. My teacher James recommended this very book to me, and he was a huge influence in my sewing career. It's a good reminder that I am still quite a young idiot when it comes to sewing, but that I have a responsibility to learn what I can well and share it. Many thanks to the likes to Margaret, Adele, and James!

23 comments:

  1. hey gertie...I also collect vintage sewing books and I have an original copy of that book as well. mine came from a library in Leicestershire, England and still has that old library smell..a bonus! keep writing, sewing and smiling...Regina :)

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  2. OMG - what an amazing coincidence that is! Unless, of course, you believe like me that there's no such thing as a coincidence. I think it's more like fate passing the torch!

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  3. Margaret's niece is Janet Pray, who is the current owner of the Islander Sewing System, and the owner of American Sewing Expo in Michigan. I live in MI, and have met Janet Pray many times. Interesting to see Margaret's book turn up!

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  4. That is one cool concidence.I've plenty of knitting patterns with names on them...I always Google them to find out more, with not much luck. But your find is one really cool connection. Maybe you can ask her daughter one day how this book ended up on a used book site!

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  5. I haven't even read the post yet, but this is a coincidence for me, too! I am originally from Grants Pass, OR!!! Tiny town in the middle of nowhere, who would have thought I'd find it on your blog?!?!

    OK, off to read the post.

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  6. Wow - now that's as close to magic as it gets, isn't it?

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  7. How great is that!? I took a class on industry techniques for shirtmaking with Margaret at least 14 years ago. She was the first person to actually get me to stop pinning sleeve caps to armscyes. I still use some of her techniques today along with David Coffin's techniques to make all of my Husband's and son's dress shirts. I do like where her niece is taking Margaret's company. I would think Margaret is very happy her book is with someone who really appreciates it.

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  8. Small world story #159...(or whatever#) as we say in my family. Sewing circle come full circle.
    How wonderful.

    Cindy

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  9. Isabel's DaughterAugust 8, 2011 at 10:36 AM

    How neat! I took Margaret's class several years ago. I also own a copy of this book. Adele Margolies was from the Philadelphia area, as am I. Full circle, indeed.

    Ernestine

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  10. I do not believe in coincidence. That said, I know Margret likely found a way for her book to come to you. I took classes from her in the 1990's and met and talked with her as well. Always enthusiastic and willing to answer question, no matter how lame, she loved teaching. Teaching was her legacy and she is passing that torch to you. I have all her tapes that teach her methods. When I was cleaning the other day I came upon them and remarked to myself that I will have to dig out the vcr, hook it up, and review the tapes again. I am so glad her niece is carrying on the business. Thanks for sharing this Gertie, it reminded me of good times.

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  11. So. Cool. I love coincidences like that--reminds us that we're all people shuffling around in a closed system. And good that it gave you an opportunity for reflection!

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  12. So funny!: I grew up in Grants Pass, Oregon, and moved back into the area a few years ago! Want me to scope the address out?! :P

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  13. How wonderful to have Margaret's book! I was lucky enough to see her speak at a seminar and was so impressed by her and her method that I bought all of her videos. I still need to convert them to DVD, but she was and is an inspiration.

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  14. It is serendipitous and fitting that you ended up with a book from a kindred spirit in sewing and teaching. What a great story!

    I love to imagine who owned the lovely vintage things before me, what they did, what their lives were like. I once picked up a nice old book of inspirational poetry from the 1940s at a used bookstore, and found the inscription on the inside front cover many months later. It was a woman’s name with the title of Lieutenant, which I found intriguing considering the age of the book, and the acronym A.N.C. This led me to learn all about the US Army Corps of Nurses and their importance during WWII. I was not able to track down any specific information pertaining to the woman, but I could easily picture her sitting in a rare quiet moment, looking to this book for a bit of comfort and hope.

    Thanks for sharing your interesting story. It's more encouragement for you to keep doing what you're doing!

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  15. How fascinating! I have family in Grant's Pass!

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  16. I was intrigued to find that a batch of early 1940's sewing patterns I Purchased came with the original owners ration and financial assistance cards from 1942. Just priceless!

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  17. Hi Gertie! My hubby and I love to go to yard sales, and of course, I look for sewing related goodies. I came across a Simplicity sewing guide from 1937 this year in mint condition - for $0.10. (THE find of the year so far)!

    I have been sewing for about 30 years, and since I've started my blog and website, I've learned many things that I didn't previously know. Learning is a lifelong process and I LOVE to keep learning. I'd be a professional student if I could!

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  18. Hi, it is my thought that this is no accident. What a special circumstance! P.S. those pintucks are awesome!

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  19. What a neat coincidence! I always love buying books with inscriptions anyway--especially sewing books. I feel like it gives a historic connection to the past generations of seamstresses. :)

    Funny you should mention feeling like you're still learning so much in the grand scheme of the sewing world. Lately I've come to realize how much I don't know and need to learn. Not only to better myself and my sewing, but be able to pass on the working knowledge to others. Thanks for the reminder!

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  20. What a lovely story. Thank you for sharing. I read your tribute to James and it really touched my heart. How sad that he is gone. I guess in a way this blog entry is how people live on through us after they have passed.

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  21. Hi Gertie,
    I must tell you that you brought tears to my eyes as I read your beautiful post about my Aunt Margaret's book. Margaret loved to teach sewing and drafting more than anything.
    She would be so very proud to know that you own the book and enjoy it as much as she did.
    Happy Sewing!!

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  22. Ah... i'm sure she would be very happy knowing that her book was in the hands of someone who appreciates it!

    i love getting vintage things with names and addresses! a few years ago i got a knitting machine which had never been used, it was still in the original box it had been posted in with everything that originally came with it. i love knowing something about the person my machine came from!

    i have also had a book on theater in the 1890's which was obviously given as a thank you as it still had the letter in it.

    also i often find that when a pattern or a sewing book has a name written on it, it was probably someones pattern for needle work class at school, i've even had a couple that have what looks like the teachers instructions written on the pattern!

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Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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