Awesome Auction Haul

This year I have been indulging in some online auctions.  I always liked going to estate sales, but lately it seems they have all moved online, and I like that even better!  I don’t have to wait until the auctioneer gets to the lot I am interested in; I can bid immediately and then watch my bid throughout the week of the auction.  Sometimes I will have my heart set on a treasure and I will happily bid against someone else, but what I really like to do is bid on the lots that no one else wants.

In a recent auction, while other people were out-bidding each other for vintage table cloths and embroidered cup towels, I was happy to win a box of old patterns that was stored in the garage.  When I got them home and started going through them, it was an even better find than I had hoped — over one hundred needlework pattern books, from 1917 to 1991!  I surmised that the owner had packed them up when she moved from her old home to this one, and then never looked at them again.

Many of them were in their original envelopes, sent out from publications for the amazing postage of one cent!

I love how this one says, “May be opened for postal inspection if necessary.”  What else is it going to say — “No postal inspection possible, be about your business, nothing to see here!”

Label from pattern envelope.

The envelopes were addressed to five different names at three different addresses.  I was able to do a little quick research on, and I can outline their story.

The family lived near Niagara Falls, New York.  Minnie married Walter in 1917, and had a son, Louis.  For a while, they lived with Walter’s brother William and his sister Ida.  When Louis grew up, he married Olive.  These three ladies, Minnie, Ida, and Olive, were frequent purchasers of patterns from such publishers as Woman’s Day, The American Weekly, Marian Martin, and Farm Journal.  Sometimes the patterns were addressed to them as their married names — Mrs. Walter and Mrs. Louis — and sometimes to their own first names.

Louis and Olive also had a son, and after Louis’ death in the early 1980s, Olive moved here to the Houston area to be closer to her son and his family.  And, as I had guessed, she took the collection of patterns with her.  She had granddaughters, great-grandchildren, and even great-great-grandchildren!  And when she passed away recently at the age of 100, she was still living in her own home.

I feel very lucky to have acquired this collection, and I thought I would share some of it here, decade by decade.  I will keep a few items, but most of it I am intending to donate to the wonderful site Antique Pattern Library, which scans and shares these old needlework publications.

This is, I believe, the oldest item in the collection, dated 1917, by designer Virginia Snow:

Collingbourne’s Authority on Fine Arts, 1917

The inside cover, showing the Collingbourne Mills site.

Pattern for a hair receiver, 1917.


Pattern for a lettuce bag. This actually looks practical. It has to work better than a plastic bag.

At some point, some Collingbourne thread entered my collection!

This entire book is already on the Antique Pattern Library website as a PDF — you can click on the link, then scroll down until you see the cover image that I showed above:

This next book does not have a copyright date but it seems to be from the same era:

Original Crochet Edges

There are other books by designer Marie Antoinette Hees on the APL website, but I don’t think this one is there yet.

Can you imagine trying to read these directions?!!

Just the first four rows of directions for a pattern.

Update: per Susan’s request below, I am adding in the picture of the Spider and Fly pattern from the directions.

The spiders are in the webs, the flies are caught between and beneath the webs.

This next book also seems to be from the same era but it has lost its cover.  It promotes Richardson’s cotton threads and silk yarns.  You might look at this and think, would anyone actually spend so much time on something no one would ever see?

Corset cover crochet pattern, early 1900s.

Well, my great-grandmother did, and I still have her corset cover!

Crocheted corset cover, circa 1917.

Detail of the crocheting.

And here is a nightgown yoke pattern —

Pattern for crocheted yoke, circa 1917.

— and a very similar nightgown I got in a tub of linens at a different auction.

Vintage nightgown yoke.


Here is a PDF download link to another, very similar, edition from Richardson’s, from 1916, on Wikimedia Commons.

So far I have just sorted the patterns by decade.  I can’t wait to go through them in more detail and see what treasures await!