My first fabric collection, Five & Dime, comes out this month through the wonderful people at Penny Rose Fabrics. It seems like a million years ago now that I made those first sketches on paper for what would eventually become a happy set of prints centered around a 1940's dime store.
This collection comes from my deep love of vintage style and design, much of which was instilled in me by my parents and grandparents. Even though I was born in 1977, I grew up surrounded by movies and music of the 1930's, 40's, and 50's. I was enthralled by musicians like the Andrews Sisters, Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald. My favorite movie stars included Cary Grant, Doris Day, Katharine Hepburn, John Wayne, and Bob Hope. And every afternoon, I was glued to our television set to watch Zorro, the original Mickey Mouse Club, and classic sitcoms like I Love Lucy or The Dick Van Dyke Show. My grandmother collected antiques, and she often took my sister and me along to visit her favorite shops in Southern California, always giving us each a few dollars to buy a vintage "treasure" of our own. Most of my hours, though, were spent buried in books from the town library and our own family shelves. I read voraciously, including favorites like the original Boxcar Children books and every copy of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys that I could get my hands on. So when it came time to work on my first fabric collection, I knew that I wanted it to be an illustrated version of this time period that I had come to love so much.
As I was developing Five & Dime, I was specifically inspired by two of my favorite classic movies The Best Years of Our Lives and Sunset Boulevard, both of which feature scenes in drug stores (including the famous Schwab's Pharmacy featured in the latter). Drug stores and dime stores weren't the same thing, but there's a similar feel to both establishments. Technically speaking, the prices listed in my designs are not all historically accurate, since prices began to go up in the 1940's when stores had to raise them in order to make a profit. There's actually a vintage five & dime store building in Fredericksburg, TX which is still in operation -- at higher prices, of course! -- and my daughters loved visiting it with me as part of my research.
Believe it or not, I even put together a music playlist while I was working on this collection:
Sentimental Journey by the Les Brown Orchestra with Doris Day
Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home by Jo Stafford with Billy Butterfield (V-disc edition)
Song of the Volga Boatmen by Glenn Miller
Sweet Lorraine by Frank Sinatra
Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off by Billie Holiday
Opus No. 1 by Tommy Dorsey
It’s Only a Paper Moon by Ella Fitzgerald & the Delta Rhythm Boys
Straighten Up and Fly Right by the King Cole Trio
Tico Tico by the Andrews Sisters
On the Sunny Side of the Street by Benny Goodman & Peggy Lee
The links above will take you to recordings of these songs on YouTube. Every one of these titles is from the 1940s, and I listened to them constantly while I worked on this line. Nothing transported me faster to the time period than the music of these amazing artists!
It's been so interesting to approach fabric design as a quilter. I wanted to create the sort of prints that I look for in a collection when I purchase fabric. Color is always important to me, and I wanted to be sure that my collection included a full spectrum of colors (my color scheme was actually inspired by the cloth bindings of vintage books in our family library). I love text prints, low volume fabrics, and designs for fussy cutting, so I tried to include all of those options as well. Keep in mind that the fabrics shown in this post are all strike-offs, so the final colors will be slightly different in a few of the prints.
I did lots of research into the dime store phenomenon as well as 1940's packaging before I started illustrating. Vintage packaging absolutely fascinates me. I can't get enough of the colors, the styling, the typography. My illustrations hardly do them justice, but it was so much fun to immerse myself in artwork from authentic merchandise before I started sketching my Packaging print.
I wanted a stripe of some kind for binding, so the Diamonds print was born, partially inspired by one of my favorite childhood movies, Bringing Up Baby with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. It prominently features an old song called "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby" containing a line that says "Diamond bracelets Woolworth's doesn't sell, baby." Woolworth's, of course, was the most famous dime store chain in history.
I am constantly using lists to keep myself on top of things in my personal life, so I had to include a Checklist print. It makes a wonderful supporting basic for the collection, and I know I'm going to be using this one in lots of upcoming projects.
The design team at Penny Rose suggested that I create the Merchandise print, so I spent an afternoon sketching out little groups of items that you would have found in a dime store. This was another print created with fussy cutting in mind, and I loved drawing these tiny sewing notions, toys, greeting cards, books, toiletries, and candies.
My first steady job when I was 17 years old was working at Howie's Market, a little grocery store in my home town of Sierra Madre, California. A gentleman used to hand letter all the written price ads in the store windows, and that was part of the inspiration behind the Price Tags design. I also modeled this after the hanging price signs in the drug store scenes of The Best Years of Our Lives (such a wonderful movie, by the way -- I highly recommend it). I absolutely love this print, especially in pink. Wouldn't it make the cutest reusable shopping bags?
It was so fun to put together the details on the Receipts print, coming up with stories behind each of the customers and their accompanying shopping list. This design was definitely inspired by my love for vintage paper ephemera. All the handwriting on these receipts is my own.
I had originally planned to do a colored floral print on a white background, but I when I started playing with the colors in Adobe Illustrator, I found that I loved the crisp look of white shapes on a colored background. You'll notice peaches, pears, and bluebonnets sprinkled among the flowers -- all a nod to my new home state of Texas.
I'll be adding a Fabric page on this blog soon and would love to include shops that are selling Five & Dime. If you're a shop owner who'll be carrying it, please email me or leave a comment on this post so that I can add a link to your website. And if you're sewing with Five & Dime, please be sure to tag me on Instagram @fabricmutt, using the hashtag #fiveanddimefabric. I am so excited to see what you make with these prints!
Thanks for letting me share with you today, sweet friends. Happy sewing!