October 31, 2012

The next thing

By now, my pink skirt only needs a button and a hem but I'm letting it hang for at least 24 hours to make sure it won't stretch out of shape under its own weight. Bias effects... I hope I will be able to show it to you on Friday.

In the mean time, I've been thinking about the next project. In the past two winters, I haven't made any coats because I still had two good ones. And a very warm vintage coat as well. Both of the coats I made before are still in service, but I have decided to make more anyway. After all, I wear a coat every day and I have a lot of coat fabrics in my stash... So really, having more than those two nice coats (and that tweed one is pilling a bit...) is probably not such a luxery after all. 
So far, whenever I make a winter coat, I always consider something along the lines of a New Look coat but reject it in favour of a more practical shape. You know the type of coat I mean: fitted bodice, narrow waist, big skirt. The size and shape of shoulders and collar depends on which exact year you draw your inspiration from. In fact, the term 'New Look coat' isn't even right. The term 'New Look' is often applied (especially by sewing bloggers talking about their inspiration) to all narrow-waisted, big-skirted concoctions from the moment the actual 'New Look' appeared in 1947 to the early 1960's. And, even in that Dior collection which caused such commotion in the post-war fashion world, there were two coat silhouettes to choose from. The Dutch magazines of the time mostly refer to these two as the "swagger" (the wide, almost tent-like coat) and the "redingote" (the fitted coat with the big skirt I mentioned before). The latter term and its history deserve a post all of their own, which I might get around to later. For now, let me just tell you that I am planning to make a "redingote" for this winter. I have two pieces of two meters each of blue-grey wool in my stash which should be enough.

About the pattern, I'm not 100% sure yet. Of course, I could draft a pattern but ever since I bought these Marion magazines from 1953 (which was the first batch I bought) I've remembered this coat. 

I think it's utterly lovely. And they give the pattern for it in their size 38 (which, judging from the dress I made, should be only a size and a half too large for me). It's not quite as full-skirted as a genuine New Look redingote but that might be a good thing, considering the fabric I have (Marion writes you need 3 m of 140 cm wide fabric but mine is in two pieces which will make the lay-out more complicated).  

The line drawing (the ones on the left, obviously. those on the right show the suit on the next page) shows those wonderful details even better. Just look at those raglan sleeves which end in points at the neckline... and the pockets which stick out a bit... and that modest little collar and the peculiarly spaced buttons with their diagonal buttonholes...

I'm going to trace off the pattern, maybe do some alterations already, and make a muslin to see how far off the fit actually is. 

October 27, 2012

Obsessing too long...

Let me ask you something: Do you ever obsess about skirt length?

Of course, way back in the day, hemlines were a big issue. Every season, women eagerly awaited the new dictats from Paris, brought to them by their trusted local magazines. 
I've read about it time and again in the vintage magazines in my collection: Fashion editors would visit the shows in Paris twice a year. It was hard to get invitations, and even if they did, the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture had strict rulings about when they were allowed to publish sketches and photographs. In their articles, the fashion editors often show themselves as being rather in awe of all that's going on in Paris. And of course, they also display a sensible Dutch disdain for so much frivolity. And they tend to be conservative: a big change is hardly ever greeted with enthousiasm. It tends to take them the better part of a season to actually start recommending a new silhouette, and until then (as in the more practical 'what to buy now' articles all year round) they will advice readers to go for classic and quiet shapes, in safe colours (although that does change over the course of the 1950's when the general level of wellfare increases and clothes become cheaper and more readily available). 

Precisely defined hemlines, measured in centimeters from the ground (I don't know whether or not they considered different heel heights in that. Maybe there was usually only one fashionable heel height) are usually one of the first things mentioned in any report about the Paris shows. 
In the 1940's, during World War II, textiles were being rationed in all of Europe, which resulted in frugal kind of fashion. Boxy, sporty shapes with square shoulders, skirts to just below the knee with sufficient width for ease of movement (including running).

Like in these designs from Dutch sewing magazine Bella from 1942.

In 1947, Dior shocked the world with is New Look: the 'Ligne Corrolle' (which I may have mis-spelled), as it was actually called, introduced a very feminine silhouette with sloping shoulders, a narrow waist and long, full skirts. It caused an outrage in countries where textiles were still on ration. Libelle's fashion editor, in the autumn of 1947, called the New Look unflattering, aging, old-fashioned and of course, frivolous. And quite impossible to accomplish from one 'textile points'.
Those much-debated long skirts reached, for daywear, to 30 cm from the ground, which is suggested to be at a skirt length of 85 cm from the waist. 
For the autumn of 1948, the same editor was quick to pronounce the death of the New Look: skirt were getting shorter again. At most fashion houses, they were now to be 32 or 33 cm from the ground. At some, day dress hemlines even floated at 35 cm but this seemed a bit too short...

In the years that followed, skirt lengths would change with each season (getting shorter at some times and longer at others, contrary to what my small selection of pictures may suggest).  

In December 1950 (Ok, these are cocktail dresses, but I don't have photographs of day dresses) hems were still pretty much at calf length. Picture from Bella.

The summer dresses of 1955 are clearly shorter, although quite clearly below the knee. Picture from Libelle, and such a charming one. I think the colour really adds to the atmosphere.

In 1959 they are shorter yet, just about grazing the bottom of the knee, but still longer than during the war. Picture from Margriet practisch modeboek.

Of course, there hasn't been one single, universally accepted, fashionable skirt length in decade. Yes, skirt fashions still change but you won't be pointed at in street for wearing a too long one. 
I often experiment with different lengths. I was going to show you examples, but I think this post is long enough as it is. I'll save that for the next one.

And why am I suddenly so interested in hemlines? The point is: I want to make that big bright pink skirt... I spent a lot of time and thought on the length it should have. 

October 23, 2012

Basic black jeans

Sometimes, a new garment which looks basic but good in the mirror can proove very difficult to photograph properly. As in, looking even half-way flattering... That happened to me with this pair of trousers. It's a very basic pair: black cotton twill/ lightweight jeans, waist high, scoop pockets at the front, patch pockets at the back, narrow, tapered legs with the hem at ankle length.
I know a lot of you probably hate the 'bare ankle look' but I actually like it for those trouser styles which are narrow at the bottom (so, tapered belt pleated trousers and narrow ones). 
They look fine although a day of wear left them a bit loose but that's a given with jeans, isn't it? If I still find them on the loose side after laundry, I could always take them in a little bit after all.
However, I put them on as part of what I thought was a nice, sloughy outfit and then, in the afternoon, I realised I could still take some pictures. 

Believe me, this was the least dorky shot I got...

So, I changed the top, hoping that would help. Fortunately, it did a bit.

The strange thing is, not only did neither outfit look particularly bad in the mirror, E said he liked the new trousers. And when I wore the first outfit to work today, no-one seemed to think anything of it (I know, co-workers usually don't criticize each other's outfits, but still...)

Something funny was mentioned today though, something which does relate to my trousers: We were discussing jeans sizes and the work-experience girl mentioned she didn't think I would fit into some petite range because I am so tall... She's only a couple of centimeters shorter herself (and it's not a size issue either, this girl is quite a bit skinnier than I am)... Then she said: Ok, but you have very long legs...
That's when I realised what she was on about. High waistlines and heels. I know the look I usually try to create, I just didn't expect anyone to be so completely fooled by it!

October 22, 2012

From Amsterdam

Yesterday, I ran out of time for blogging, but you didn't think I wouldn't show you what I bought at Kantje Boord, did you? Or tell about meeting Melissa?

She was arriving at the airport that very day and had to register for the marathon as well, so some proper planning was required. 
I picked her up from train station Sloterdijk. I have to say, it's so much easier to meet up with someone whose blog you've read for a long time, as opposed to someone you've only 'met' through email or phonecalls... We both knew what the other would look like (although pictures rarely do anyone justice, in my opinion)
We drove to Kantje Boord and spend a quite a while exploring the store.

Kantje Boord is not a big store, but they've definately made the most of the space. They stock just about everything you could possibly need to make lingerie, swimwear and things like gymnastic or ice-dancing costumes. 

Here, Melissa is admiring the sparkly lycras on offer (she has actually sewn running gear with stuff like that). However, we both showed considerable restraint and only bought a more or less what we'd planned.

Neither of us bought a kit, so we both spent quite a bit of time crawling along the bottom of the aisles to find picot elastic in the right colours. 

I bought only things to complement the red and grey/green I already have. Oh, and foam cups and a roll of that neoprene-like stuff. The sign in the store called it "padding" so it is likely that it's actually intended for the purpose I had in mind for it (making my own foam cups).

After the shopping, we had lunch at a local cafetaria and then I drove her to the old Olympic Stadium where the marathon would start on Sunday. 

It was good fun. To mention just one thing: how often do you meet anyone with whom you can play 'spot the Pattern Magic'?
Now, I just have to get those lingerie patterns right...

(added later) Melissa has sent me the pictures she took at Kantje Boord:

This is what the shop looks like from the outside...

So, going in, it's quite a surprise to find this. I know I already showed you a similar picture which I took, but here you can see all that wonderful lace a lot better.

Here's a close-up of those crazy sparkly lycras.

And I did mention we spend a lot of time crawling around on hand and knees, didn't I? Here I am, looking for the right colour padding.

October 21, 2012

Sewing supply stores in Amsterdam

In their comments on my previous post, both Adithi's Amma and Veronique asked for more information about where to buy sewing supplies in Amsterdam. I will email both of them to answer specific questions but I thought I might as well dedicate a post to sharing what little information I have on the subject.
(I will include links to the websites of the various stores, unfortunately, those are only in Dutch. Don't worry though, people working at these stores will speak more than enough English to help you)

As I mentioned before, Kantje Boord is an Alladin's cave for the lingerie seamstress. You can order online, but that may be only within the Netherlands. The store adress is:

Burgemeester van Leeuwenlaan 45-47
1064 KK Amsterdam

It's easy to reach by car and you don't have to pay for parking in the area. Travelling there by public transport may be less than simple though.

A. Boeken is a large store selling notions and fabric and pretty much in the city center. It's latest claim to fame is supplying fabric and notions for the Dutch version of "Project Runway". The adress is:

Nieuwe Hoogstraat 31
1011 HD Amsterdam

For general fabric and habedashery shopping in Amsterdam, I wouldn't recommend a single store. I'd recommend an area which houses many: Take the tram to the Albert Cuyp. 
At this location, a general street market including stalls selling fabric is held every day except Sundays and Holidays. More important for us, seamstresses, are the stores lining the street: lots of fabric stores. The best known one is probably Kniphal, it's the largest and I seem to remember it's where Knipmode (a Dutch sewing magazine) gets most of its fabrics. The adress is:

Albert Cuypstraat 162-164
1073 BK Amsterdam

Both A. Boeken and the Albert Cuyp are easy to reach by public transport. I wouldn't recommend taking the car to either destination. It's too busy and parking is expensive.

I hope this is useful to any of you who are going to visit Amsterdam. Since I don't live in that city, I'm pretty sure there are other stores I didn't include. If you have anything to add, please let me know. 

October 19, 2012

Lingerie sewing supplies inventory

Tomorrow, Melissa will arrive in the Netherlands for the Amsterdam marathon. This event is held on Sunday, which gives her time to go to Kantje Boord with me ;)
She was wise enough to take inventory of her stash of lingerie sewing supplies before walking into the cave of temptation, which Kantje Boord is even to the very occasional lingerie seamstress...

So, I thought I'd better do the same. To be honest, I have made one bra and some pairs of panties, but I've never been happy with the fit of those. On the other hand, I have made a bathing suit and some bikini pieces which I am happy with. Sewing 'normal' lingerie never makes much sense to me. For my, rather small, cup size, the best fitting bras are made by H&M which means I can buy bras for less than the supplies to make one would cost me. Providing I can even find the right things. 
However, if I want to include unwired cups in swimwear, evening wear or (lingerie)corsets, I really should get my pattern right once and for all... I think I got pretty far this summer but the proof would be in actually sewing a bra.
So, I think my lingerie sewing plans for the reasonably near future are for a proper normal lingerie set: bra and knickers. After that, I may move on to a 'merry widow' style lingerie corset and/or a nice retro suspender belt. 

So, keeping that in mind, let's take a look at my supplies:

- picot elastic in black, two variaties (about 3 m) and nude/cream (4 m)
- double picot elastic for shoulder straps (about 6 m)
- thick tape to hold the underwires (about 6 m)
- elastic with one decorative edge, three variaties, short frill, long frill and loops (4 m in total)
- elastic with two frilly edges (1 m) 
- elastic lace narrow, lilac (3 m), black (1 m)
- elastic lace wide, black (1 m), grey/green (3 m)
- FOE black (3 m), cream (2 m)
- swimwear elastic (5 m)
- underwires, 6 pairs (all scavanged from old RTW bras)

And these fabrics:

- three pieces of black lycra in different weights and qualities. I've cut from all of these when making swimwear and one is really only suitable as lining. There is plenty left for a lingerie set though.
- 0.5 m of back lycra with a woven stripe
- 0.5 m of red lycra. This stuff is fairly thin and delicate, definately a lingerie fabric, not a swimwear one.
- 2 pieces of powernet, about 0.5 m each but more narrow than the lycra.
- 2 m of red stretch lace. Widthwise stretch only. This sort-of matches the red lycra. 
- 1 m of super thin cream lycra lining. 

Oh, and I've got poly and (little bits left of) steel boning and this heavy duty hook and eye tape.

It seems that, apart from the obvious black, my supplies are ill-matched. This comes, as usual for me, from buying this stuff if and when I find it at the market or Stoffenbeurs.
I think it would be wise to plan carefully this time...
- I'd like to take a look at foam cups. My normal RTW bras have foam cups and my bra fitting efforts over the summer have revealed that a B cup hardware might be made to work for me after all. 
- I also need the little stuff: bra closures, sliders.  
- If I find some lycra to match that green/grey lace, I should be able to make a very nice set. 
- I'd like some of that very thin non-stretch net you find in RTW lingerie (usually as bra cup and center front lining). 

By adding these things to my stash, I should be able to actually make some lingerie. Of course, there are other things I have an eye on as well:

- I hope they sell end spiral steel boning by the meter, and end caps for it (although I think they only sell pre-made lengths...)
- When I was there before, they had a neoprene-like material in the basket with off-cuts. You know, lycra with a 0.5 cm thick layer of foam on it. If I can get a little piece of that cheaply, I'd like to try and make my of foam cups that way.
- If they sell metal suspender clips, I'd like those too.

And of course, I might be tempted by a nice kit... (usually, that's just not what I do. I mean, why take the easy way? but it might be a healthy change, just this once...)
Any advice?

October 15, 2012


Before I even start with this post proper, I'd like to apologise for the bad quality of the pictures. They are all phone pictures, taken in the mirror. I know that never has worked well, and never will, but it was the only way to illustrate my point without turning it into a major project.

I have been asked in the past to share more about my process. Of course, I understand this question, it makes sense to wonder where one starts. I sometimes post sketches to give a bit of an idea but I tend to be a "spur of the moment" kind of seamstress. I've often started a new project before even thinking about writing about it. Except for a few well-documented cases of long consideration, obviously (like the pinstripe dress).
I will often have some ideas for garments in my head which I may sketch to make sure I don't forget them and to work out options. Sometimes, I'll know which fabric to use for such a project, sometimes I'll go through my stash and sometimes I just know I don't have the right fabric. I usually pride myself at knowing fairly well what's in my stash. That is, until I actually start sorting through it.
Just as often, I start with fabric. I will get ideas about what to make just by seeing the fabric on the bolt and I often look through part of my stash when trying to decide on a new project.

Today, I did just that. I haven't sewn a lot lately and I spent a frustrating afternoon this weekend trying to knit with my new yarn. I don't know what I'm doing wrong, but I keep either dropping stitches or breaking the yarn (even at what should be a too low tension). I didn't manage to get past 7 rows. It's time to get back to what I know best: sewing. But what?

I decided to ask my (huge) stash of wool(-ish) fabrics. I'm showing you some of the things I looked at. All the colours are brighter or more intense in real life.

There is quite a bit of colour in my stash nowadays. This is a fairly stiff and heavy blue-purple wool with a noticable diagonal weave, 2 m of it. 60's coat for in-between weather or 50's suit with half-circle skirt, I think. I love the colour of this fabric and I think it suits me, but I'm not sure enough what it wants to be yet.

These 5 m are mystery fibre purple crepe (I think there is wool in it, but other things as well, things which cause more static cling). I always thought it was the exact same fabric as I used for my purple dress although I bought this lot later. And the colour is the same, however, this unused fabric seems to be ever so slightly thinner and have a bit more drape. I had some big skirt ideas about it, but I'm now also considering it as an option for a 40's inspired design with draped bits.

No stash-shopping exercise would be complete without a couple of "what the hell was I thinking" issues. Like this one: Orange with assorted autumn colours, a vague sort of plaid which is insanely loosely woven. The colours work for me, but that's about it. I suppose this is the sort of stuff one would use for a Chanel-style suit, but I'm not interested. 

This is another fabric which has already made its way into my wardrobe. The mustard yellow which I used for two skirts. I still love those skirts and I still love the colour. I have been thinking a lot about also using this fabric for a jacket or a dress but, looking at it near my face, I think I won't. So close to my skin, it makes me look a bit ill... I might try belt pleated trousers though, if I'm feeling brave.

I seem to have an unfortunate liking for yellow. This is a bright sunflower yellow. It's a fairly lightweight fabric with a lot more drape than the mustard colour. It so doesn't work near my face but it's so beautiful. It might be just what I need for a skirt with draped bits. In fact, I do remember buying this stuff with that in mind...

In fact, I have another yellow fabric, of which I didn't take a picture. It's a coat fabric and it miraculously works a lot better near my face. It's a bit darker and just a tad more muted than the one above which seems to make quite a difference. It will be a coat at some point. 
I have enough fabric for at least four coats and this is the newest, so I think I should use some of the others first.

Please don't think I'll only make skirts this winter but here's another fabric I can only see as a skirt. In fact, I want to sew this one up pretty soon. It's bright pink cotton. Fairly heavy stuff with a sort or flower texture woven in.

This is one of my few vintage fabrics. It's a strange one. No more than about 80 cm wide of good charcoal grey wool with lengthwise stripes which get wider and more colourful from left to right. Not easy to make that one work. I think I'll just turn 2 m of it into a scarf.

And what do you think about a half-circle skirt?

Reading what I've just writen, I seem to do nothing so well as illustrate the principle of "when in doubt, make a skirt"... 
I should mention that's also down to the choice of fabrics I took pictures of. There are also browns, greens, blues and of course blacks which I can wear near my face.
I have also been surprised at how often I seem to buy wool fabric thinking I'll make a suit. I love the idea of a suit, I like making suits but I don't really wear suits, so I shouldn't I keep stocking up for them. I may try again though.
And I have been playing with ideas for wool dresses, partly using those same suit fabrics, but I keep shrinking back from that as well. Dresses with longer sleeves in sensible colours... That would be frumpy, right? They would have to be either in bright colours or have something crazy and I have to sort out to lining problem (linings which are suitable for skirts are usually not the kind of thing you want to wear on your skin... and I refuse to buy silk to line bargain fabrics). And only use the thinnest wools, central heating you know...
There will also be another jumpsuit, I think. I have two ideas and the fabric for one of them.
Oh, and it's not just yellow and suit fabrics I buy to much of. My affection for plaid is rather unjustified as well. I have two plaid skirts, a bias cut one and one with pleats. I gave away a good length of plaid wool fabric in a fabric swap last year, because I couldn't image making anything from it. And I have two heavier fabrics with large-scale plaid lined up as candidates for coat-making. And yet, at the sale this spring, I bought 3 m of mainly grey and burnt orange plaid with a set as big as my head.... Really, why?
There are lots of pictures of adorable plaid dresses in vintage magazines but I'm not so sure any of those would translate well to the 21st century. 

The exercise did help to get me excited about winter sewing though. I've got some really nice fabric. I may still make a practical pair of black cotton twill trousers first, but then, there will be that bright pink skirt. And a New Look inspired coat in pale blue/grey, maybe from a Marion pattern. 

October 9, 2012

Back in time again

I still haven't fully recovered my sewing and knitting mojo... So I thought I'd show you something else: My new addiction, vintage ladies' magazines.
I've shown you vintage pattern magazines before, and vintage fashion magazines but what I find most of is this stuff: ladies magazines from after World War II (older ones sometimes show up as well, but they tend to be either very expensive or nowhere near as richly illustrated. and I just like the aesthetic of the 1950's).
In those days in the Netherlands, Libelle, Margriet (both now published as monthly magazines) Goed nieuws voor de vrouw and Beatrijs were published weekly. Moeder was a monthly publication. These are the magazines I know of because I have bought some, I have also seen other, apperently somewhat rarer, publications: Eva, Butterfly, Het rijk der vrouw, De vrouw en haar huis (the latter two already existed in the 1920's or 30's but don't seem to have been published in the same numbers). And just in case you're wondering 'vrouw' is Dutch for 'woman', that's why that word appears in so many of the longer names. 
I suppose the sheer amount of publications makes sense if you keep in mind that this was very much a pre-television era. And Dutch society was still seperated along lines of class and religion, create different target audiences within the same age group. And real fashion magazines wouldn't be published in the Dutch language until the mid-1960's. 
Although the target reader is mostly a married woman, mother and housewife in her thirties, obvious effort is made to include all women in the chosen social circle. You will often find fashion features for women with office jobs, a regular advice column for teenage girls and sewing and knitting patterns for all, from infant to 'lady of a certain age'.

On the table are the latest additions to my collection: Libelle autumn 1947 - summer 1948 (less than a full year, but I just had to buy magazines from the year the New Look was introduced...) and Beatrijs 1951. 

I will show you the typical contents of this type of magazine, in this case from Libelle nr.14 from 1951. Of course, there is a lot more in it, but this is the stuff I read and look at, and I think it's also what you'll be most interested in.

There are usually two fashion articles. This is the first one, about the use of grey as a colour in spring fashion. The suit on the left is by Desses, the dress with the fabulous plissee skirt by Christian Dior. 

The suits on the right page are slightly more obtainable, they were made by French (top) and English (bottom) high-end fashion houses. 
Glorious, don't you think?

The other fashion article in this particular magazine bears the title 'a useful show' and is about a presentation by a Dutch ready to wear brand. It's less glamorous (and less tiny-waisted...) but still nice to look at. And I always love to find out how much ideas about the practical, presentable and comfortable have changed. 

I somehow managed to scan an empty page instead of an example of the featured knitting patterns. So let me just tell you there are five in this magazine, three of them for children. There are also stories, gardening tips, an article about selecting the right eggs for breeding chicken, pictures of the royal family, a Q&A and a puzzle.

And this review of the movie 'The woman in question', which is full of spoilers.

And this article about the only female zoo-keeper in Europe.

And of course, crafts. I scanned this bit, about making flowers from ribbons. There is also an embroidery pattern for a round table cloth with flowers and a little horse you can make from felt as kid's toy.

And there's the weekly free pattern. Unfortunately for me, this lovely blouse (like almost every single one of these scale patterns in all the magazines I've got) is in what was considered to be a proper woman's size, size 42, for a 96 cm bust...
There are usually also patterns-to-order but in this issue, those were just for nightgowns and the illustrations were nothing special. 

And that's all from one magazine... Can you understand why I'm hooked on these? 

October 3, 2012

Knitting time!

Last month, I told you about my first efforts with my new-to-me (but very likely older than me...) knitting machine.
After making the little sleeveless top, I had to stop for a very silly reason: I had used all the yarn I had which was thin enough.
When using a knitting machine, you have to use yarn on cones. Even with a simple hand-operated machine like mine, machine-knitting is fast and the thread from a normal ball of yarn would get tangled up as a result. You can, of course, spool yarn from a ball onto a cone but, when done by hand, that is tedious work and you're bound to get the tension wrong. There are wool-winders for sale for that very purpose, but so far, I've only found those for sale (second-hand) with knitting machines. 
I have yet to find a local store which stocks yarn in cones, but I did find some sellers on a Dutch auction site (the same one on which I found the machine itself) who were selling them. Usually, such cones vary in weight and style and they seem to be either old stock or left-overs from an abandoned hobby. 
To limit shipping cost, I decided to bid on cones from one seller only (the link goes to her page on the auction site but I don't know whether it will keep working if the listings are changed). Of course, if you live near a seller, you can usually make an appointment to go and pick out the cones you want at their place. 
When I exchanged emails with her about the yarn I had been bidding on, she told me she had many more cones, not yet listed, and offered to send me some little balls of yarn in colours I was interested in, so I could pick which ones I wanted to buy. Free of charge. I think that's great service.
It turned out she had quite a lot of yarn I would like and we agreed on eleven cones which would put the shipment just in a higher weight-range. She offered to fill the box up with some other colours close to the ones I'd ordered. Of course, I agreed to that. 

I had expected little left-over bits, but in fact there were some full-size cones there and good colours. In the picture, the cones in the line at the top were the ones I ordered, having seen the swatches. There's a big black cone in the group below which I had asked for. The rest of the group below are the cones she added. Three nice shades of blue, little bits of red and white and a pale beige.  
Now, I not only have a whole lot of sewing waiting for me, but knitting as wel!...

Thank you for the question AllisonMM! How silly of me not to mention that. 
All this yarn, except that extra cone in black, is rather thin. For normal needles 1 to 3 (continental European sizes) I'd guess. This is perfect for the knitting machine but a lot thinner than what you'd use for a modern knitting pattern. I've got a lot of vintage (mostly 1950's) knitting patterns in old magazines which do use such gauges. The ladies' patterns usually call for anywhere between 400 and 650 gram of yarn, depending on the style and desired gauge. The average weight of these cones is 800 gram, so there should be plenty for a sweater in each of these colours. With yarn left over for combinations.