Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mrs. W. W. Hileman's Tresure Trove

My mother has seen my love affair with vintage patterns grow ever stronger, and she now thinks of me during her frequent trips to antique shops along the Oregon coast. These small town shops have amazing treasures that are far less picked over than what you'd find in Portland vintage shops, and at far better prices. But she out did herself this weekend by procuring me this box of vintage patterns. What did it cost? Five whole bucks. What?! Yeah... yeah.
I can't even tell you how excited this box made me. I've spent the last two evenings looking through everything and I am just in awe. Pretty much everything belonged to a Mrs. W. W. Hileman of Cottage Grove, Oregon. She had a subscription to The Workbasket and many of the patterns were mail ordered. She folded all of the pattern pieces up, tucked them into the instruction sheet and then tucked that back into the envelope. It makes me feel so ashamed of my file folders of jumbled patterns!

My Mom mentioned that her mother also had a subscription to The Workbasket. She often sees me getting excited about things like ribbon and new handstitches and says, "If only your Grandma Jensen could see what you're creating. It would make her so happy." It does pain me terribly that I don't have much of my Grandma Jensen's old sewing supplies, and I had just asked my Dad's mother about her old sewing stuff this past Friday. She told me, "I've been downsizing and gave all that stuff away ages ago." I feel sad that Mrs. W. W. Hileman's granddaughter doesn't have this box, but some other lucky ladies hopefully have my grandmothers' old things and are loving them just as much as I am loving these...
Mrs. W. W. Hileman appears to have taken a Home Economics course at Oregon State College. I have a whole stack of class handouts from Lucy Lane, Textile and Clothing Specialist and Mabel C. Clark, Nutritionist. What awesome names!

This handout on Concealed Slide Fasteners actually applies directly, but directly, to my Sew For Victory dress. I've encountered this side zipper before on my Martha Dress ('50s Simplicity 3613) and I don't love them. They make the dress really difficult to get on and off, so I was considering ditching it and making a regular back zipper. Perhaps after reading this I'll be more inclined to make it work the old fashioned way.

There was a variety of topics in addition to sewing, such as gardening and wood furniture refinishing. I basically get to take an authentic Home Economics course you guys!! 
Can someone explain to me why the USDA used to print sewing material? I haven't had time to look into the history but you can bet I will be heading to the library this week. This booklet on dress fitting is from 1946!
"Other publications on clothing and textiles available form the United States Department of Agriculture"
There were also just a ton of iron on embroidery templates in this box. I know how you ladies love your kittenz:
And dogs:
There was even a pillow case template with Pansies that my Mom saw and immediately recognized as a pattern she had done when she was about 12 yrs old. She embroidered the pansies onto the yoke of a pinafore and wore it in a school picture. If she finds the picture, I'll definitely share it with you all. 

The care with which these items are stored amazes me. Look at this lovely bundle of newspaper pattern pieces, tied with a blue grosgrain ribbon and secured with a pin:
And then there is the history! This is some sort of homemade newspaper pattern (one side says wool and one says lining) cut from a '60s Eugene Register Guard with a story about the worsening state of Laos titled JFK to Meet Mao. Wow.
And how thrifty was this lady to cut her own pattern pieces from newspapers anyway? I mean, look at this self drafted ovenmit! 
There were also hand-drawn tapestry designs on tissue paper, little children's attempts at embroidery and so much more. If anyone is interested I can upload more pictures. 

As for the patterns in this box, most are sixties style shift dresses, though there are a few fifties things mixed in. Mrs. W. W. Hileman was a size 12 which is just one size larger than myself, so I'll be able to use any of these I'd like. There are also a few boys and mens things in here. I have two nephews and my mother would like me to make them something. I'd be honored to make them school clothes!! And now for the pattern inventory: 



  1. Wow there are some awesome patterns there! What a great deal!

  2. The patterns might have been listed among Ag and Tech publications so that farmwives could have access to them. They often lived very far from town (many still do!) and sewed their own clothes. If you're already getting publications from the US Dept of Agriculture, they might slip a little something in for the ladies -- to keep us sweet, y'know :-P

    1. Interesting insight! I also looked at the gov. archives site and they had this to say:

      Established: In the Agricultural Research Administration, Department of Agriculture, by Research Administration Memorandum 5, February 13, 1943.

      Functions: Conducted research on food, fiber, and other agricultural products; housing and household buying; textiles and clothing; use of income; and household management and equipment.

      Abolished: November 2, 1953, by Secretary of Agriculture's Memorandum 1320, supplement 4.

  3. What a fantastic score! I think Mrs Hileman would be thrilled that her patterns have found their way to someone who appreciates them and will use them again. You're so lucky to have your mother keeping an eye out for you too. Look forward to seeing what you sew up from these! fiona

    1. Thanks Fiona! Can't wait to delve into them :)

  4. Replies
    1. Totes, and best of all my Mom is making it for herself! And she is 50 :D

  5. Wow!! That box is like a little treasure chest! I LOVE that playsuit pattern and you should absolutely make up the cute little cropped jacket on the 2nd row- adorable! Love the hand drafted oven mitt pattern too- such a bonus that you have snippets of history to read while cutting out your fabric! Hehe!