“What’s the Story?” week, part 4

by Erin on March 12, 2009

Check out this pattern from What-I-Found Sewing Patterns:


Simplicity 3541

Yellow Dress: These sleeves are the height of chic.

Gray Dress: I don't know who she thinks she's fooling with those sleeves.

Yellow and Gray are sisters (Yellow is the eldest, Gray is the cynical baby of the family). Yellow is looking to make a lucrative marriage to a wealthy industrialist in order to save the family's pencil-eraser business, which employs several hundred people in their town of Rasa, in upstate New York. Gray, on the other hand, has taken over the factory since the death of their father. Her plan for success is to branch out from plain pink erasers and start manufacturing novelty pencil toppers, too.

After several madcap misadventures (one involving an escaped goat who eats an entire day's output of novelty pencil toppers) Gray manages to land the wealthy industrialist — not as a husband, but as an investor! Yellow marries the local postman, whom she has always secretly loved. They have triplets. Gray is a huge success and becomes the first female pencil-eraser executive to make the cover of Forbes (and, for those of you who need all the stories to end with romance, she marries the factory foreman).

{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Myra March 12, 2009 at 7:47 am

Yes, but what is Gray’s destiny with her foreman-husband? Quads or maybe two sets of identical twins a year apart? To overcome the cynicism???

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Anonymous March 12, 2009 at 7:48 am

Great story!

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San Antonio Sue March 12, 2009 at 8:04 am

Gray hasn’t revealed the second part of her business plan — to manufacture the first virtual erasers — the e-raser! Perfect for deleting puffed sleeves from digital pictures.

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Krista March 12, 2009 at 8:19 am

Plus, Gray has better shoes. You can tell a lot about a person by the shoes she wears. The choice of a red cut-out proves she’s an out-of-the-box thinker with a dynamic personality. Silly, simpering yellow never had a chance.

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Latter-Day Flapper March 12, 2009 at 8:54 am

I don’t do puffed sleeves myself, but I’m definitely making note of that gray dress. And the shoes. Gotta have the shoes.

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Julia March 12, 2009 at 9:00 am

OK, I’ve just got to say that these stories based on the pattern envelope art are one of my favorite things you’ve done! Such a funny delight to find in Google Reader…

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the_lazymilliner March 12, 2009 at 9:05 am

I would think the older sister would be the cynical one, after all, she’s the one who’s been on the Planet longer.

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Deirdre March 12, 2009 at 9:10 am

Hum. My story is a bit shorter:Yellow: If she comes over here, I swear to god I’ll slap her face off.Gray: You go girl. And take your tacky shoes with you.

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MadeByAmanda March 12, 2009 at 9:14 am

I love the neckline. Not so much the poofy sleeves.

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Theresa March 12, 2009 at 9:28 am

Love grey’s ensembleMy younger sister – the baby – is the cynical one in our family

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Anonymous March 12, 2009 at 9:40 am

I was kind of hoping Grey Dress would remain a single career woman, having a wonderful time traveling to exotic places on holiday and taking her niece to the ballet. And teaching her nephew how to make a good martini, of course.–K

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Marge, Born Too Late Vintage March 12, 2009 at 10:22 am

Yellow: “You put your right foot in, you put your right foot out, you put your right foot in and you shake it all about.”Gray: “Oh my God, why do you have to do these stupid dances at weddings? How old are you?Yellow: Get stuffed Sis. You’re a bore.”

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Anonymous March 12, 2009 at 10:25 am

Is that RICKRACK on the grey dress? Erin – RICKRACK?! You could add pockets…

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Kate in England March 12, 2009 at 10:31 am

These are hilarious… I particularly love the “cynical baby of the family” element in this one.

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What-I-Found March 12, 2009 at 10:43 am

It’s the pencil-eraser part of this that takes it to the genius level. Anybody could figure out that Miss Puffy Sleeves would marry the postman. Sheesh!

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Anonymous March 12, 2009 at 11:03 am

I love this story, and all of your stories! Thanks!Kim

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Cookie March 12, 2009 at 11:12 am

Those red shoes ARE pretty spectacular!

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Anonymous March 12, 2009 at 11:35 am

Loved the story. What’s the upstate NY connection? Does anyone really know what upstate NY is? Notice I said what, not where. Upstate NY is an idea, not a place. It’s what NYC people call the area outside of NY. Once you get an hour outside the city, people just call it New York. If the sisters lived in NY, but not in NYC, they wouldn’t refer to where they live as upstate. But why am I telling you all this. Who cares? Your story was great, and I’m thrilled that (upstate) NY was mentioned.

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Anonymous March 12, 2009 at 11:43 am

Finally, a WTS where none of the players is suspected of having an Adam’s Apple! Hooray!Erin, you are single-handedly raising my morale this week. Thank you so much. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

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oracle March 12, 2009 at 12:03 pm

I can’t say why, but it strikes me that in another incarnation they were the sisters from The House of Elliott.

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Cookie March 12, 2009 at 12:50 pm

I have a question…many of these vintage patterns seem to say on the back that you can use a belt kit to make a matching belt…..is this something your ordinary housewife could pick up at the 5 10 and just up and do, back then? Did you need to hammer graumets in? Special machine and needles to sew through all the materials? Do they still make belt kits today, along vintage lines? It sounds daunting, but the finished product would be fabulous! It also means if you buy a vintage dress thats missing its belt, you could steal fabric from the hem and turn out a new belt, using a belt kit! What Im saying is, I want a few dozen.

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Anonymous March 12, 2009 at 1:35 pm

Yellow Dress: RicRac and red shoes? Is she kidding?Gray Dress: Let the square dance begin! EEEEhaw!

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Cel Petro March 12, 2009 at 1:35 pm

I remember belt kits…they were the base pieces of the belt and buckle–all ready for covering in matching fabric (I never remember anyone covering a belt in contrasting anything)and including the tooth of the belt and grommets/eyelets for the holes, a little more complicated than the bases for covered buttons. I can’t remember if you needed additional tools. One on ebay: http://cgi.ebay.com/COATS-COMPLETE-2%22-FABRIC-BELT-%26-RECTANGULAR-BUCKLE-KIT_W0QQitemZ160320490166QQcmdZViewItem

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Anonymous March 12, 2009 at 1:43 pm

Cookie: Yes, you used to be able to buy belt kits and they were very simple to make. You could put in grommets and for some even cover the buckle with matching fabric. I haven’t looked for one lately but fabric/sewing stores might have them yet.

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Melissa March 12, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Gray is a dead ringer for Betty Draper.Re: Upstate New York – we folks who live in NYS but not in NYC, often refer to where we live as upstate to out-of-staters who might otherwise assume we meant NYC.

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NoGrandmother March 12, 2009 at 2:24 pm

I think “I don’t know who she thinks she’s fooling with those sleeves” needs to become everyone’s new catchphrase.

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Theresa March 12, 2009 at 3:59 pm

My Grandparents lived in “Upstate NY – Pleasant Valley to pe precise — outside of Poughkepsie.

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foodandshoes March 12, 2009 at 6:23 pm

Gray: Oh, honey. I wasn’t going to say anything, you need to start dressing like an adult. Sheer fabric, white shoes, puffed sleeves, gloves, bangs, and a matchy belt? I enjoy whimsy; heck, I’ve got rickrack up the wazoo and all of my accessories are red-down to my nail polish, but if we put a veil on you, you’d look like you’re going to First Communion. Less is more, darling.

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Melissa March 12, 2009 at 6:41 pm

Yellow: Ah’ve always relahed on the kahndness of strangahs.

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Sandra March 12, 2009 at 8:49 pm

Don’t know how you think ‘em up, Erin!

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anthrokeight March 12, 2009 at 9:17 pm

@ Melissa: Just what I was thinking.Clearly Gray Dress is called Stella!

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Jen March 12, 2009 at 10:58 pm

Married the factory forman?You mean that guy with the rolled up sleeves, half a ciggy hanging out of his mouth and jeans that REALLY fit?

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Bessie B. March 13, 2009 at 1:37 am

Yellow and Gray are at their town’s annual Spring Fling dance party. The town flirt, Dorothy Thomas, has just danced off with Gray’s man and is getting just a little too cozy, if you ask Gray.Yellow: Psst! Look at Dorothy—her skirt is caught in her panties! *giggle* I should really go and tell her… Gray: Hm. No, I think we ought to wait a while, Agatha. Just let it lie. (heh heh)

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Marge, Born Too Late Vintage March 13, 2009 at 5:32 am

Upstate NY is where we lived in Cold Spring, Putnam county. It’s a beautiful town with tons of history and antique stores galore. :)

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Theresa March 13, 2009 at 9:32 am

My uncle lives in Putnam County!

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Nora March 13, 2009 at 10:07 am

I really want to see this movie.

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the unreliable narrator March 13, 2009 at 11:22 am

@Nora: Ah, but I suspect the movie’s already been made! It’s Sabrina, with Audrey Hepburn…and with William Holden as Yellow, and Humphrey Bogart as Gray. ;o)These redactions of paper pattern ladies’ lives have been, by the way, hilarious and startlingly believeable and just generallly a treat. Yay!

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nubivagant March 13, 2009 at 3:02 pm

i found your blog because i saw you on a ted talk and thought your dress was amazing. i searched and discovered it was called a duro then i discovered it was called a duro because you had called dresses like it a duro! and now i keep reading your blog because it is really amusing and entertaining. thank you :)

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Bridget B. March 13, 2009 at 6:45 pm

I want to see the movie!! I love your stories . . . when’s the book of pattern-inspired stories coming out?!

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Altissima March 13, 2009 at 7:53 pm

I’m sorry to be so crude, but it’s clear that Yellow is trying to supress a fart. From the expression on Grey’s face, we know Yellow is not succeeding. I am truly sorry, but it’s the first thing I thought when I looked at the picture.

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Remnant March 14, 2009 at 10:30 am

I have been reading your blog for almost a year. I love it. This week’s stories have me BUSTing out with loud gawfaws. And, thanks to you and a few of your links which has led to a further few hundred links and beautiful sewing blogs and tutorials, I have decided to try my hand at garment making, picking up a hobby I put down 30 years ago, which I never was very good at. In the last two weeks (I was out of town) I visited a variety of stores and have collected a wee stash of lovelies and a few patterns. Now, to figure out how to make a FBA. That one scares me. Slash the pattern here, slash there. Sounds like a story-line for one of your patterns.Thank you. Oh, and my name ‘Remnant’ is one I use as a reminder that the Lord has saved a “Remnant” out of Israel for his own….however, I find it apropos for this sewing blog as well.

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La BellaDonna March 18, 2009 at 12:19 pm

Cookie, you can still get those “cover your own belt!” kits. I don’t know if they’re made by Dritz, but they’re usually hanging on the pegboard with all the rest of the Sewing Notions family. They come with the buckle, stuff to make the buckle cover if it’s a “covered buckle” kind of belt, and the stiffening, which can be sewn with your regular sewing machine needles. If you’re making your own dresses and can’t be bothered, you can also still find business that will cover the belts FOR you, for a very modest fee. Generally, that kind of store will ALSO cover buttons for you as well! Ah, the possibilities. I know there’s at least one place in Philly that does that; there may be more, and there may be some in your home town. You can usually find ads in the back of sewing magazines for mail-order places that do it, too.

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Lisa March 27, 2009 at 6:49 pm

I kept thinking that I had this pattern’s twin in my store, but in a full skirt instead. Alas, it’s not a twin — the neckline has three layers and it’s not a Special Design (except to me):http://vintagefashionlibrary.com/inc/sdetail/2125

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Anonymous April 22, 2009 at 12:22 pm

anonymous butterfly says…hi out there, I’ve been searching for this pattern, haven’t had much luck as of yet, has anyone been able to find this? Please help if you no of a place or site to purchase this…any help would be appreciated!

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