January 27, 2015

Vintage Notions by Amy Barickman: Book Review and Giveaway


There is no denying that the words of a book - the information it transmits and how we walk away from our interaction with said book - matter immensely, but there is a great deal to be said in favour of visually appealing titles, too, especially when it comes to the realm of how-to books.

As a voracious reader, primarily of non-fiction books, I come in contact with many volumes each year that fall into one camp or the other, but far less that nail stellar content and sublimely beautiful pages between the same two covers. The most recent title that knocked it out of the ballpark for me on both fronts is the tremendously lovely Vintage Notions: An Inspirational Guide to Needlework, Cooking, Sewing, Fashion and Fun written by esteemed craft industry leader Amy Barickman (who you may know from her companies Indigo Junction and The Vintage Workshop, amongst many other places).





I was sent a copy of this book, which was released in 2010, from its publisher to review and can't begin to thank them enough for this lovely gift. I had three other books on the go when Vintage Notions arrived, but they all quickly went on the back burner because I honestly could not put this title down once I'd started reading it. Every free moment I got, I poured over another chapter and lapped up this book with immense gusto.

Author Amy Barickman created a whimsical, yet very partial, book that focuses on the wisdom, work and life of Mary Brooks Picken (pictured below), who was at the forefront of the early domestic arts and sciences front in the early twentieth century. Ms. Picken was a leading authority on many topics pertaining to homemaking, sewing, and fashion, and was the founder of the Woman's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences in Scranton, Pennsylvania (as well as being one of the founding directors of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute).



{Photo of Mary Brooks Picken via Wikipedia}


The Woman's Institute offered very affordable at-home courses that readers from across America, Canada and further afield could avail of to better their own sewing skills, and by extension, their lives (be it sewing their own wardrobes, making clothing for their kids, working as a paid seamstress, etc). The Institute also published magazines and pamphlets on a wide variety of subjects pertaining to the domestic arts and it is amongst all of these sources that Amy gathered the information that makes up the bulk of her beautiful book.

In it, one finds instructions, patterns, and advice on topics pertaining to sewing, crochet, cooking, housekeeping, parties, the holidays, and timeless wisdom to help us navigate the waters of life that first appeared in this extensive Woman's Institute literature during the 1920s and early 1930s. Accompanying the text is a plethora of original vintage illustrations, as well as a gorgeous overall design to the book that includes things like page borders that are images of charming vintage fabrics.

No matter if one is a sewer or not, this book is worth its weight in gold for the history it contains and important page space that it devotes to an institution that was once at the forefront of domestic like in America. Divided into twelve chapters, one to correspond with each month of the year, Vintage Notions also includes a heartwarmingly lovely prefix at the beginning of each chapter from Amy that covers some of her own thoughts on that month and the subjects covered within it by the Institute.



{Take an exciting peak inside Vintage Notions in this engaging YouTube video from author Amy Barickman herself.}


The Woman's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences operated from 1914 until 1938, and though a focus on domestic arts remained a key point for many ladies in the ensuing two decades, by the 1960s, as the sands of society were shifting on many, many fronts, the age old arts of homemaking, sewing, knitting and similar crafts were no longer at the forefront of many women's lives in the ways that they had once been. As a result, the wisdom that the Woman's Institution had gathered, created, and shared largely fell out of the public eye, yet even in the 21st century much of it reminds poignant and practical - and for those of us who sew and sport vintage fashions, extremely handy on that front as well.

Amy Barickman has done a hat doffingly commendable job of gleaning some of the most enjoyable and practical information (and patterns) that the Woman's Institute offered its students and brought it to life in today's world with the help of her own notes and a book that is so beautifully designed, you'll not only want to keep your copy out on display, but to give this book to all of the sewing, history, vintage fashion and cooking fans in your life.

In addition to sending a copy my way, the publisher also very generously offered to give away one copy of Vintage Notions to a lucky North American Chronically Vintage reader.

If you'd like to try your hand at winning a copy of this awesome book, please feel free to do as many of the following seven things as you'd like, ensuring that you please leave a separate comment for each method that you enter with.


1. Leave a comment on this post letting me know what your favourite type of domestic art is and at least one of the ways in which it has impacted your life.


2. Blog about this giveaway on your own site, linking back to this post.


3. Like Amy Barickman on Facebook and post about the giveaway on your own Facebook page.


4. Follow Amy on Twitter and tweet about this giveaway, including the hashtag #vintagenotions in your tweet.


5. Sign up to follow Amy's blog by email (you can do so at the top of the right hand sidebar).


6. Follow, or be an existing follower, of Chronically Vintage on Instagram.


7. Like, or be an existing fan, of Chronically Vintage on Facebook.


Giveaway details

This giveaway is for one copy of the book Vintage Notions by Amy Barickman. It is open to readers from Canada and America, at the request of the publisher (apologies to my wonderful international readers), and will run from today (January 27th) until February 3, 2015.

Once the giveaway has closed, I will select a winner using a random number generator and announce that person's name on Facebook and/or Twitter shortly thereafter. If doing so is possible, I will also try to contact the winner directly by email or Facebook private message to let them know that they won and to obtain their address, which I'll pass along to the publisher who will send your prize to you directly.



♥ ♥ ♥


I genuinely adore Vintage Notions and would have happily reviewed and penned every last word that I said in today's post regardless of if I received it as a review gift or not. It is en elegant, sweet, wholesome, timeless tome and homage to the domestic arts that deserves a place in homes and lives of those with a passion for any branch of this field and/or history in general - plus, those who sport 1920s and/or 30s fashions are bound to especially love that the patterns in it hail from those decades.

Thank you, Amy, for writing this book and introducing Mary Brooks Picken’s wisdom, advice, and knowledge to a new generation for whom - as I'm certain Mary herself would have known – it remains as pertinent today as it was more than eighty years ago when it was first presented to the world.

37 comments:

  1. looks like such a cute and fun book

    retro rover

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  2. oh and my favorite domestic art is cooking for sure

    retro rover

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  3. This looks like a lovely book!
    It's very hard to pick, but if I had to, probably cooking. As far as impact, I'm the primary dinner maker, so I've had to try new things and branch out in said cooking skills, since not everybody wants pasta every single night :)
    Thanks very much for the giveaway!

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  4. I am terrible at most, but love all of the domestic arts. I think sewing is probably my favorite.

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  5. I have to say sewing is probably the most game-changer of all of my "housewifely accomplishments" as I teach sewing and music. So, sewing brings money! I have defintely looked into t his book and hope to win!

    -- Tegan (I'm logged in as someone else on this comp)
    dea@ilikeswords.net

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  6. I followed Amy's blog via email.

    -- Tegan
    dea@ilikeswords.net

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  7. I would have to say cooking is my favorite domestic art. But, sewing and art crafts are right up there.

    For the contest I linked to my WordPress blog. https://tambranicolekendall.wordpress.com/

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  8. Since you said a separate comment for each entry, I shall do that.
    Liked Amy on Facebook.

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  9. Signed up for Amy's blog and newsletter

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  10. Sounds like a wonderful book. I will have to hunt it down and find a moment to have a read - actually I can always find time for a great book! XXX

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  11. Of all of the domestic arts, learning to sew has impacted my life the most. While learning, I made my own clothes and home dec items for my room. Later when I had children, I made them clothes, Halloween costumes, and lots of home dec items for my own home.
    When I am stressed, I find that sewing soothes my tattered nerves.

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  12. I follow Chronically Vintage on Instagram!

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  13. I am a Facebook fan of Chronically Vintage!

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  14. Cooking is my thing but I have a go at most things

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  15. Please don't enter me as I have this book, but I just wanted to say what an amazing book this is! Whomever wins it will be SO delighted with this! Good Luck everyone!!

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  16. Not wishing to enter anything but wanting to leave a comment. Jessica, I just liked your page on Facebook for no other reason than the fact that I like you and what you share here on your blog. :) And I saw the video and found it great. I wish everyone all the best, and good luck! :)

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  17. Never mind, darling Jess.. international reader's will not stop caring less becouse of this. :)

    Marija

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  18. I just signed up for Amy's blog. I have wanted this book for quite a while so maybe...
    Sewing is probably my greatest love when it comes to the domestic arts and was something I started doing at my mother's feet when I was four years old. Good luck everyone!

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  19. I just started following you on Instagram to earn another chance to win Amy's book. My Instagram often has little mends and other sewing skills that allow me to wear and post my mostly thrifted vintage fashions so I guess sewing is the domestic art that impacts me the most.

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  20. I think that I successfully liked your Facebook Page with my Thoroughly Modern Vintage Facebook page. Facebook still seems difficult for me to navigate. My page is a way for me to thin out my collection and make room for new to me treasures. I hope to add some hand-sewn vintage inspired items using upcycled fabrices soon. I hope this counts for another entry for Amy's book. Sewing may have inspired my collecting fever: what sewer does not love collecting beautiful fabric. It is like collecting possibilities! So sewing has yet again been my most influential domestic art.

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  21. I would have to say that embroidery is my favorite domestic art. It relaxes me, and the thought that I'm doing something that thousands of women have done before me for hundreds of years touches me. It's so wonderful to think that I'm carrying on their tradition!

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  22. This book looks great!

    My favorite domestic art is sewing. Over the past couple of years it's become one of my primary hobbies and I love the feeling that comes from being able to make my own clothes and wear them! :)

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  23. Hi, Jessica -- I have Liked your Facebook page, and I would love to enter your contest.

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  24. It seems weird that I would like to enter this being a brand new follower and all, hehe-- I popped over from The Curious Professor Z as per her high recommendations to your writings... I am definitely a fan now.

    As for the actual contest entry question...
    It is without a doubt sewing. All one needs to do to see the impact it has on my life is basically just look at what I am, what I write about, and what I do lol. Doing anything by hand preserves the spirit of creativity, and when creativity is allowed to flow wonderful things happen.

    I never heard of this book surprisingly enough, and I am a huge fan of Mary Pickens... I have nearly the entire collection of Domestic Arts & Sciences text books (sans 1), various random publications for Singer and so on. She is my idol, and this book looks like an incredible homage to her and her life's work. It's definitely on my wishlist now! Thank you.

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  25. This is such a lovely book.
    One of my favorite domestic arts is sewing for sure. It's something I'm looking to turn into my career, and it has brought me so much joy, as well as friends over the years.

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  26. I've liked Amy on Facebook, and shared the post on my personal page

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  27. And I follow you on facebook!

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  28. My favorite domestic art is decorating! :) - daniellecorrelle@aol.com

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  29. My favorite domestic art is baking. I especially enjoy pies and the reactions I get when I make one from scratch. It makes everyone happy, me most of all.

    satsukirebel AT gmail DOT com

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  30. I follow you on instagram - thelittlegreenden

    satsukirebel AT gmail DOT com

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  31. I like you on FB - Crystal Rose

    satsukirebel AT gmail DOT com

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  32. It looks like a really lovely book, and since I'm from Denmark I cannot win it, but I'm glad you let me know about it, so I can find it on British Amazon. It looks both practical and very charming. I also watched her video, which only made me want it more. Good luck to all the US and Canada based women. :)

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