Get “That Know-How Look Boys Like”

by Erin on January 20, 2007

ebay item 8305987417

Oh, oh, oh, you MUST go watch this sewing video right now (click on the still to visit the page). Seriously. Not only does it give pretty good instructions for setting in a sleeve, it also has these perfectly delicious cringe-worthy bits:

— Betty, the star of the piece, asks her boyfriend what color her dress should be, and then has to think fast when he tells her a color she doesn't like (blue)! "Let's see what my book says," and then she uses SCIENCE to talk him into the color she wants … which is red.

— Her boyfriend suggests they have a fashion show! Great idea! What will they raise money for? New sewing machines for the home ec class? A trip to an art museum in the city for the girls? No! The boys' basketball team!

— Betty bastes her entire dress together before stitching it up on the machine! The ENTIRE DRESS! I never even considered such a thing. I barely baste in anything … I don't even mark darts anymore, I clip the legs and pin the point and have done with it. I should probably do more basting, but a WHOLE DRESS? I'm impatient enough as it is!

Thanks so much to Julie W. and to Lisa for the link!

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous January 20, 2007 at 9:02 am

That was fantastic! I guess my projects might turn out a little nicer if I did all that prep work. Then again, I couldn’t help wishing for a side cutter foot for Betty!


Anonymous January 20, 2007 at 9:05 am

Hell yeah! That money should have been raised for new machines for Home Ec!! Those girls should have had a fashion show the guys would have come to–swimwear, flashy stuff–take their dough and buy sewing machines!!! This was so cool to watch!! Ever notice how the same guy’s voice narrates those films you watched in school?


Carol January 20, 2007 at 9:47 am

That film is from the Prelinger Archives ( I found this site a couple of years ago and love it. I have spent hours (really – it’s like getting sucked into a dictionary in the pre-internet days, following that fractal pattern of links to other interesting things) watching them. The Health and hygiene and Social guidance (especially the Coronet Instructional) films are the most amusing and “cringe-worthy”. The home economics, housework, and appliance films are also fascinating. The portrayal of women, the DRESSES, the furnishings… The proposed cities-of-the future are fabulous. The Prelinger Archives are a wonderful resource. Please search for Ironrite, it will pull up Making a New Day Out of Tuesday one of my favorites. It’s a two-part film for an automatic ironing machine (mangler). It’s long, but well worth the time; some of the statements made in the film may leave you flabbergasted.


Anonymous January 20, 2007 at 9:53 am

I enjoyed this film so much !! And did anyone notice that the girl walking on the sidewalk is dressed almost exactly like most American women dress today? Trade her baggy skirt for baggy pants and there it is. Thanks so much for sharing this.


IA January 20, 2007 at 10:07 am

What a treat! But sheesh, I sure do hate basting. And here’s a question for the group: how do you pin-fit a paper pattern without tearing it to bits in the process?


Stephanie January 20, 2007 at 10:15 am

I love the wrap skirt for wearing over shorts at the beach or pool. But if your shoulders get too much sun you can use the skirt as a shawl. How innovative, you Modern Young Woman!


kmkat January 20, 2007 at 10:20 am

That was so cringeworthy I could only stand to watch about a minute of it. The arbitrary blocking of the actors, where they kept moving around and changing place FOR NO GOOD REASON?! Sheesh. And how do you “lead with [your] chin” when walking “with [your] head down”? I remember when home ec and 4H sewing required all those extra steps — hand-basting and marking every notch and dot in the pattern. Give me today’s methods, with a little of the old-style thrown in when it is really necessary.


tricia January 20, 2007 at 11:06 am

hi…i have been reading your blog for ages…this the the first time i’ve commented!i actually baste many/all of my seams. basting by hand first holds faster and better than the usual way, using pins. you know exactly where the pattern pieces will be, and you don’t run the risk of anything slipping or scooting around, which can happen sometimes/a lot of times with pins.i studied fashion design at parsons, and i had an instructor there who insisted that we baste every single seam before we sewed it. she had a saying, “the long way is the short way.” meaning, if you do it right the first time, then you don’t have to take extra time later to correct it. and by gum, that taskmaster instructor was right! it really does make a difference…i think.


Gidget Bananas January 20, 2007 at 11:21 am

Did the beginning of that film remind anyone else of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” or some similar film where a normal human is possessed by a pod person?My mother taught me to sew using those steps, and I still baste at least part of my projects, like set-in sleeves. AND my mother owned a mangle — it’s still in the basement of the family home. Had to send my brothers off to Parochial highschool with pressed chinos and cotton shirts every day!


Karrol January 20, 2007 at 12:28 pm

I learned to sew just like that, too, from my grandmother, pressing cloth and all! She was so meticulous, home ec was a breeze after that. Loved this video, so charming. Did anyone notice her seamed stockings? And I loved the formality of the gloves at the fashion show. :) What a great glimpse back into the 40’s.


Anonymous January 20, 2007 at 1:26 pm

What a SWELL film! I’d love to have a tiny waist again.Carol, thanks for the info on the Ironrite mangler. I happen to own one and can probably do more with it than iron strips of patchwork.


Lisette January 20, 2007 at 2:37 pm

I haven’t seen that in ages. My grand mother was appalled at my sewing technique till I turned out a hand beaded wedding dress and veil in the time it would have take her to cut the fabric. Even she said that the quality was as good as she had ever done. After that she would ask for production type sewing tips, unfortunately she had to stop sewing due to her eyesight before we ever got to rotary cutters. She woudl have loved those!


Nadia January 20, 2007 at 2:48 pm

Wow. It’s actually making me consider the whole basting thing!I couldn’t help noticing how light and bright the clothes of the girls in the fashion show crowd were — like a field of watercolour flowers. Such a white-based look is quite different from today’s black-based fashions.


Anonymous January 20, 2007 at 6:47 pm

hi! That was such a great video!!!! I watched the rest of them as well, “Are You Ready For Mariage”. hahathank erincassandra


chelle January 20, 2007 at 8:01 pm

I’m afraid that I baste most my seams. An instructor pointed out that “if you have time to unpick, you have time to baste,” (and she added that that’s why they invented TV). Basting proved to be good advice. Sadly, I still unpick – but not quite as often as I used to.


Carrie January 21, 2007 at 4:57 am

AHHHH! I love the points on the collar of that dress! I don’t baste much, but then, I don’t mind ripping. =-)


Anonymous January 21, 2007 at 5:23 am

I learned to baste, every seam, the hard way. Pinning just didn’t work to make a garment I wanted to wear, and keep on wearing. The added steps of basting and fitting result in something that you can definitely use, and not something that ends up in the trash…a heartbreak if the fabric is really nice.


melissa January 21, 2007 at 6:15 am

*sigh* Erin, Erin, Erin…Have you seriously not discovered the joys of yet? Do a search for “sewing” on there and you’ll find HUNDREDS of old sewing videos, including this one. I’ve had this saved on my hard drive for years now, providing ample giggles when I most need it. And that way you don’t have to use myspace’s terrible video “service”. Seriously, go there now. You’ll spend all day engrossed!


Nora January 21, 2007 at 9:02 am

What fun! SCIENCE indeed; I like how sewing is easy-peasy, like architecture, or structural engineering! I actually have that same Simplicity sewing handbook – the 1957 edition, but it looks to be almost the same, with advice about what colors to choose and how to add the illusion of curves and everything. I really like it and refer to it kind of often; it’s very conveniently sized, too.And this basting all of the seams thing is very enlightening; I think I’m going to have to try it! Riv the whole thing up, as it were, to really see if it fits.


Claire January 21, 2007 at 10:12 am

Ah! Home ec propaganda!Once I got over the shock (they had shoulder pads? in the 40’s? and chunky things around your waist make you look smaller?), I got that it was all good advice. It almost makes me want to hand baste all of my seams…almost.


erma January 21, 2007 at 11:36 am

Two things jumped out at me: You can use technique and illusion to *add* pounds. Also, “slide fastener”. I suppose zipper was a brand name that hadn’t made it into the lexicon at that time? I had no idea.


Diatryma January 21, 2007 at 12:07 pm

I think ‘zipper’ may have been trademarked at that point. This was a really good introduction to sewing for me, though it was also ridicufabulous. I also very much liked the cultured voices.


Anonymous January 21, 2007 at 12:30 pm

This web site is getting to me. Sewing is starting to look like fun.


roach January 21, 2007 at 1:56 pm

“I don’t even mark darts anymore, I clip the legs and pin the point and have done with it.”Holy cow! I’d never thought to do that. I hate sewing darts almost as much as I hate sewing gathers. But your technique just might change that.I loved the video. Watched it with my husband and we both had a good laugh. I’ll baste some stuff (collars and fiddly bits) but I don’t have the patience to baste everything. Though maybe I’ll give it a try on a future project.Thanks so much for sharing the link and for the sewing tidbits you include!


Anonymous January 21, 2007 at 5:27 pm

It really really hadn’t occured to me to pin the paper pattern together and try it on! That can’t just be me?I do actually tack most of my seams though, but no where near that dedication!


Sherry January 22, 2007 at 8:38 am

I tried to pin the pattern together to try it on – it shredded. What kind of paper did they use then? My Mom actually cuts all the pieces with wax paper cause they don’t tear as easy! I dod baste some seams but if I had to sew like that I don’t think I would ever finish a project. I do keep my iron hot and do all the right pressing though.


Anonymous January 22, 2007 at 11:24 am

That was so priceless! I happen to own the exact sewing machine that Betty used. It belonged to my husband’s grandmother and she never used it.


Valerie January 22, 2007 at 9:46 pm

wow, I really want the “know how look,” but all that hand basting using the sewing gauge is just crazy talk. I’ll baste the sleeves in by hand, but the whole dress!?! I’d also love to hear how to manage this paper fitting.


mickey January 23, 2007 at 5:07 am

Thanks for my laugh for the day. My son was watching it with me and his mouth was open from the moment the dude walked into the room. Baste? Yeah, occasionally. Tailor tacks? Umm, no. I have to go watch more!Papaer fitting I do occasionally, mostly on my brides and costumes where I need a close fit in the bodice. I have found if I lay the seam allowanceson top of each other, not pinned side to side as you will the fabric, you’re pinning two layers of paper and it’s a little sturdier.


Anonymous September 9, 2007 at 5:32 pm

Keep up the great work. It very impressive. Enjoyed the visit!


India Amos March 11, 2009 at 8:48 pm

I’m working on my first dress in a loooooong time, so I watched this video again to refresh my memory. Soon, I, too, will have That Know-How Look!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: