Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Odhams Encyclopaedia of Needlecraft Illustrated (n.d., early 1950s, first edition): Review (part 2)


Brian had been told this shirt dress would never date.  Looking back on it, he probably should have questioned why the dressmaker cackled wildly when she said this. Too late, he noticed the strange geometries of the fitting room. Surely they were non-Euclidean? A  creeping shadow made a slithering sound from behind the chair.

I’m hoping to pick out a pattern-drafting project that doesn’t require much in the way of redesigning. Unfortunately, the shirt dress isn’t one of them. I’d definitely want to change the wing collar and the hefty 1940s-style shoulders. I like that the skirt is not excessively full, as that is one aspect of 1950s fashions that doesn’t work for me. Over all, although I like simple styles and clean lines, it’s just a little too plain. I want buttons. 3/4 sleeves. And possibly a pleat or two in the skirt.

I’m keen to make a shirt dress and I can use the pattern blocks in Odhams to get there. I need to do some research though before I can put together a 50s inspired design. I’ll take a look at some 1950s commercial patterns for starters. That’s a side project for another day and another blog post.

I still want to draft a test pattern from this book with minimal adaptation. Perhaps the lingerie is worth trying.


There are full instructions for drafting a bra and knickers. Also a slip and a night dress shown in rather nice monochrome photos which don’t scan at all well. Here’s the night dress to squint at:


I love this book! Inspirational at so many levels.


  1. Hi Adele, so pleased to have stumbled across you. Just bought this book in a charity shop and was googling to find a date - and found you. Particularly like the knitted underwear on page 413! Looking forward to reading more of your posts.
    Alison :)

    1. A belated thank you, Alison. Yes, the hand-knitted woollen underwear, described as 'dainty' in the book! I'm not tempted, but there's not much call for cosy woollen underwear in Brisbane.

  2. I still have my mums edition of this book from 1953 with my handwriting showing mums name and address. my first sewing book - i was 7 and have been sewing now for over 60years. Thsi book I use to teach my students basic techniques for seams, facings openings and finishing.

  3. Patricia, thank you for giving a date for your edition. I've wondered a little about mine, as there is no date on it. The styles look to me to be a blend of late 40s and early 50s, so 1953 would be about right.

    It's a brilliant book and so comprehensive. I refer to it often.