I Blame Folkwear OR Why I Sew Historical Clothing

Here’s Folkwear’s logo

I was in college when I came across my first Folkwear pattern. If I remember correctly, I found it in a fabric shop in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard Square these days has a lot of the same chain stores that you can find everywhere, but back in the late 1970’s it was filled with one of a kind, funky little shops that sold things like used records and amber jewelry from Russia. And a line of patterns for Afghani nomad dresses and ladies’ Edwardian underthings.

I’d learned to sew in seventh grade, when all the girls were automatically enrolled in Home Ec classes and all the boys in Shop. (It was the early 1970’s, what can I say?) Many of my aunts on my mother’s side were seamstresses and apparently I ran true to form. I’d sewn any number of skirts, pants and dresses since then, but Simplicity and McCall’s never had anything that looked like these patterns. I was in love.

I never did made the nomad dress, although I went so far as to find some of those tiny mirrors that you see on pillows (and sometimes clothing) from India for an attempted decoration on the front. I have made a number of their patterns over the years – French cheesemaker’s smock, Hong Kong cheongsam, Japanese haori, Gibson girl blouse, Kinsale cloak and, yes, the Edwardian underthings. Most of them either wore out or moved on to other owners when they got too small for me, but I do still have the cloak and the haori in my closet. And they forever ruined me for sewing nothing but Simplicity and McCall’s patterns.

The Afghani nomad dress I didn’t make


and the Kinsale Cloak I did

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