Friday, January 11, 2013

The 1940 McCall Project: But Wait, There's More...

Oh, my dear. The plot thickens.  There is much more to The 1940 McCall Challenge!  The McCall pattern company was very prolific back in the day.  Can you imagine a modern pattern company putting out 400+ sewing patterns a year, 12 magazines, 27 Style News booklets and at least 7 Fashion Books?  That's a lot of advertising and lucky for us, a lot of source material. YAY!

The McCall's Magazines are fantastic.  I have all the months except October.  I save them up to buy when I am in the States because they are large and while you can find the magazines for really cheap, shipping them to the UK costs an arm and a leg.  So, if anyone finds an October McCall's magazine for sale in the UK, do let me know!  Otherwise, I'll probably be waiting to pick that one up.

The magazines include short stories, multi-part novels, movie reviews, recipes and other housekeeping tips, great ads and....pattern illustrations in colour!  I'll be featuring lots of material from these magazines in The 1940 McCall Project quest.

But wait, there's more....

I present the McCall Fashion Books:

These are amazing!!  About 60 pages each of pattern illustrations in colour.  They are the same illustrations you can find in the McCall's magazines but all bound up in one booklet (with a few extras that don't appear in the magazines).  I'm missing the Winter 1940-1941 Fashion Book and I think there are a few more Advance Paris Style Fashion Books (Summer and December are two that I know of for sure).

But wait, there's still more...Department stores and fabric companies used to produce little black and white leaflets that also feature pattern illustrations.  I've come across abridged versions (i.e. 3 or 4 pages each) and full ones, which are around 25 pages each.  I think there might be an abridged and a full version for each month (see for example my two October ones below, both with the cross-hatch background...the first one with the cape is the full version and the second one with the suit is the abridged version).  The abridged versions don't give any descriptions of the patterns, while the full versions write short, delightful pattern descriptions.

The McCall Pattern Company wasn't all just about sewing.  They produced a line of needlework patterns as well.  I was lucky to find (in the UK no less), the August edition of the Complete Needlework Catalogue.  These Needlework Catalogues also feature a lot of patterns from previous years.

There are also McCall Needlework magazines.  I think there are only four of these produced for each year, but I'm not entirely certain.  I've got the Winter 1940-1941 magazine and it gives an overview of the needlework patterns but also includes knitting and crochet patterns in the magazine!  Phew!  I'm going to be a busy girl.  I just LOVE it!

I'm going to feature as much of the source material on my blog as you can handle :-)  It's a fascinating glimpse into sewing history and vintage styles!


  1. Wow, there is a lot to this! I look forward to seeing it all. Did I understand correctly that once you collect all the patterns, you also want to SEW them?? I just found your blog, so I don't know if you've already made some. I'm watching for patterns for you.

  2. What an interesting & long project you've taken on!  Here's a  little film you might find interest - although it's Simplicity from the late 1940's, not McCall's.  It's 18min. of eye-opening for us today.  I was alternately annoyed & amused with the characters & the approach.  The rally interesting part for me was they showed a pattern envelope & then several dress made from it - actually real dresses for our old vintage patterns--& there is a fashion show at the end (probably the only reason to grit your teeth to finish watching).  I hope you find it entertaining at least!

  3. Wow! That is a really impressive turnout! Their design teams must have been huge!!

  4. Debi_myhappysewingplaceJanuary 11, 2013 11:10 PM

    I LOVE it!!!  The best part is seeing the illustrators work with a real model.  I wonder if all the pattern covers were based on real sample dresses!  The fashion show is show much fun too!!

  5. Debi_myhappysewingplaceJanuary 11, 2013 11:10 PM

    Oh yes, I plan to sew ALL of them!!  How much fun will that be?

  6. Debi_myhappysewingplaceJanuary 11, 2013 11:11 PM

    I know!  And to think probably each pattern company had that many patterns....crazy to think!

  7. Keep it coming!  I LOVE reading these posts :-)  

  8. Debi_myhappysewingplaceJanuary 12, 2013 1:56 AM

    Thanks Sarah :)

  9. Wow, they were incredibly prolific!  What could we even compare that with in the contemporary sewing world??

  10. Amazing! So much fantastic material to peruse. So looking forward to your outfits! :-)

  11. Debi_myhappysewingplaceJanuary 12, 2013 12:37 PM

    So incredibly prolific and if you can imagine that all the pattern companies were probably that way (and there were more than just the big 4....there was DuBarry, Hollywood, etc.).  The choice of sewing patterns any given year must have been endless!!

  12. Gailannthompson51January 12, 2013 1:44 PM

    Today's McCall's could certainly take a lesson!!  I have a few of the old Needlework magazine, some even from the late 30's.  Love Them!!

  13. this is very impressive! so many producs, you might need more than one life to complete it all :) 

  14. Your excitement over this project is contagious! I can not believe that you are going to fit so much sewing into your busy year ahead! I really hope your Mr won't miss your company too much as your power through such a wonderful undertaking!
    Do let the blogging world know if you get to the end of June and are feeling the need to Delegate!! It sounds like lots of your readers would happily have a pattern delegated to them! 

  15. "The Hunt for...October" was a success.   On it's way!

  16. Bring on the source material!! I love these kinds of posts!


I read each and every comment--thank you so much!

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