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Silver Thimble Newsletter?

GailAnn | Posted in Gather For A Chat on

Love, love, love, the posts from the Project Runway devotees as well as the Bishop Method deciples.  Both the Newbies and the Old hands have much to contribute.

Question:  Do any of you remember Jane Shaner and her Silver Thimble Newsletter?

Mrs. Shaner lost her eyesight and discontinued her newsletter some 20 years ago.

Oh, how I miss it!

Talk about LOW TECH!  Just a few sheets of paper printed, and stapled together, but such an amazing wealth of information!  My Aunt sent me my first subscription, and I never missed an issue after that.

The Silver Thimble Newsletter reviewed patterns, fabric, and sewing techniques.  Sometimes she threw in a recipe, good grooming, homemaking, or health tip! 

What was so wonderful about The Silver Thimble Newsletter is that it had NO adveritsing, so Mrs. Shaner owed no allegience to anyone.  She had no agenda other than the few books she wrote and self published.  She was free to speak her mind!

Every issue reviewed about 3 patterns AND suggested areas for improvement!  Usually one was an office/career outfit, a casual outfit, and then something special for evening.  Each outfit had an itemized list of expenses, SHE had incurred, in the making.   So her readers had, at least some idea, of what they might have to spend to make up a similar view. 

She’d write about what was new in the stores and on the runways, as well as what she had seen on the streets and sidewalks of her town  (Pittsburgh, PA, I think).  She’d write about fabric she had found, special buttons she had seen, wonderful new notions she had come accross, stores she had visited, and fabric store owners, or other seamstresses she had talked to.  Occasionally she’d add sketches and directions to make something she’d designed.  Once in a while she’d offer instructions for a purse, scarf, oven mitt, or some other accessory.

Mrs. Shaner was a stickler for discipline and excellence in sewing!  One thing she taught, that I still practice, is the ‘grooming’ of patterns, prior to cutting.  By grooming she meant to cut out your pattern pieces, read and make needed notations on the instruction sheets, make your alterations, then iron the individual pieces onto freezer paper, before tackleing the cutting of your costly fabric!  Amazing what a difference that makes!

Anyway, what made me think about this is the lady who wanted to start a Kinko’s type sewing store.  A sewing newsletter might be a better business.  Publish 10 newsletters a year, charge, say, $2.00 an issue, but $18.00 a year.

You would have to send out some free sample issues, and that would be your start-up costs.  If Aunties liked it and sent gift subscriptions to their nieces for birthdays and Christmases, within a few years, you could have a good little business going!  All without the initial costs of buying expensive machines, insurance, hiring and training staff seamstresses, and renting costly retail space with utilities that go up and up every year.

The Key, I think, is to not compete with major magazines, pattern companies, sewing machine manufacturers, or fabric producers.  Maintain you own strong independent voice!


Edited 9/18/2007 1:18 pm ET by GailAnn


  1. solosmocker | | #1

    Sure wish I had known about that newsletter. Do you still have copies? I have subscribed to a newsletter put out by Lois Ericson back in the day and it was small but very inspiring. I also got Sewing Update Newsletter which was absolutely wonderful. There was one other I subscribed to and none of these three can you get today, as far as I know. I think it was the Update, that reviewed notions, patterns, and had all sorts of neat creative tricks. This newsletter idea is awesome and with computers could even be something subscribed to and downloaded from the Net. I don't see the sewing lounge as a good investment either. My money is on the newsletter.

    1. GailAnn | | #2

      I might have one of Jane Shaner's books somewhere in my library, but I didn't keep any of her newsletters.  (I went through a foolish little non-sewing phase that lasted a few years.)

      The great thing about a newsletter is it's independence.  In a magazine or mainstream media, I always wonder 'who paid the freight' whenever a new thing is mentioned.  I tend not to trust something that carries advertising.  Usually I'll wait until someone I know recommends a thing before I'll try it.  You know what I mean, "Follow the money..........." 

      It's like if my doctor prescribes a new medicine for me, one that I've seen advertised on television, the first thing I think is; "Is some drug company making the payment on his new swimming pool?  If my ancestors lived well into thier 80s without it, why do I suddenly need it now?  It's sort of the same thing.

      I love an independent voice.  Gail

      1. fashionnut | | #3

        Here, Here!!!!!!! I could not agree more I think a newsletter like that would be great, filled with sewing even recipes, and other needle arts and not too expensive money is extremely tight these days they were saying on the news we are on the border of another recession. A lot of people are going to be sewing these days to save money. great idea I wish I could see some of those newsletters Cyndy

  2. lindalouise | | #4

    Hi,I took classes from Jane Shaner back in the late 70's at a department store, Hornes, in South Hills Village in Pittsburgh, Pa. I have thought about her & wondered what happened to her. I moved from Pittsburgh & lost the connection. She was great!

    1. GailAnn | | #7

      Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  I subscribed to The Silver Thimble Newsletter for years!  Loved the way Jane Shaner wrote.  Loved all of her suggestions. 

      I especially loved the way she would take one new pattern from any one of the major pattern companies and make it up in several different views and fabrics.   Then she shared what she had learned from the sewing!  How the pattern might be improved, adjusted, or made more useful or wearable.  This was, of course, back in the days when we were just trying to clothe ourselves, before we all became designers of our own original art forms, desplayed on our bodies.

      One suggestion Mrs. Shaner made that I use to this very day, is to sew several pieces, skirts, jackets, and if you wear them, slacks, in fine quality cotton gabardine, and to make this the basis of your everyday wardrobe.   Living in Pennsylvania, as she did, Mrs. Shaner claimed that cotton gabardine was wearable and comfortable for most of the months of the year.  True, here in Missouri, true in Michigan, where I grew up.

      It was her assertion that just a few added items were then necessary for the heat of the Summer, and the coldest Winter months.  Thus allowing one to pare down ones wardrobe to a manageable number of items.  While, at the same time, appearing to be well dressed and well groomed every day.   Laundry and wardrobe care were then kept to a minimum, allowing one to get on with one's busy life.

      Jane Shaner was very attentive to fabric care, cleaning, and the vissitudes of life.   She seemed to live in an every day world, like mine, where emergencies crop up unexpectedly.  Such as packing, on a moments notice, to grab a plane to go care for a sick parent for an extended amount of time.  Remaining neat and pulled together while caring for small children, and managing a busy household, when husband calls bringing client home for dinner in two hours time. 

      She advocated spending most of the  wardrobe budget on clothes worn day to day.  Putting your best foot forward on a daily basis!  She recommended economy on special occasion clothes that would have been worn only a few hours in low light, and other garments worn only infrequently.

      Again this was prior to so many of us being in the work force, when the wardrobe emphasis turned  toward Dressing for Success in the office, wearing very casual clothes while at home, and "kicking it up a notch" for the upwardly mobile dinner engagements, business meetings, and office parties. 

      She wrote (and I think self-published) many books on sewing, gifts to make, wardrobe assembly, laundry, housework, and even a cookbook or two.

      Sadly, Mrs. Shaner, had stuggled with vision problems for many years.  Eventually her eyesight became so bad it was difficult for her to continue.  She had to give up the Silver Thimble Newsletter.  I believe, at one point, she tried to sell it.  I don't think that ever happened.  To the best of my knowlege, it just disappeared.  It was a different time and a different lifestyle for most of us.  I miss it.  I'd joyously subscribe to a newsletter like her's again, in a heartbeat.


      1. lindalouise | | #8

        Hi Gail,Great posting. Did you ever meet Jane?I took a ultra suede, gift & purse making class. Sadly I did not grasp & hold onto her techniques as you have. Shortly after taking the classes I moved California, I received her newsletter, then they stopped & I lost track of her. This was in the late 70's that I took the classes. All this was before internet & cell phones making keeping in touch easy. Do you know anything about her today? What a shame about her eye site. I enjoyed her classes very much, I did purchase her books. I still have the book on making slacks.Thank you for your thoughtful post. I enjoyed it very much.Linda

        1. GailAnn | | #9

          No, I never had the privilege of meeting Jane.  Only wish I had.  Gail

        2. GailAnn | | #10

          I noticed, today, that Amazon is offering a few of Jane Shaner's Silver Thimble books.  Each is less than $10.00.  Gail

          1. lindalouise | | #11

            Hi Gail,I just checked Amazon out. I see what you mean. I was noticing the various sellers. I wonder how that works, who contacts the sells on behalf on Jane. I was curious to know if we could find out anything about Jane.

          2. GailAnn | | #12

            I spend way too much on Amazon.  You just click on new or used books, decide which one you want and order it.  Usually there is about a $4.00 postage upcharge.  Gail

          3. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #13

            GailAnn, I have a hard enough time trying to stay out of the used book stores. I deliberately will not look at the online used books. Hunting for a good book 2nd hand is like a safari, each trip is an adventure, and when I do finally "bag" one of my books, the satisfaction doubles my pleasure. :) Cathy

          4. User avater
            JunkQueen | | #14

            On my trip last week to visit friends to celebrate Independence Day, I went to the public library to check my email. Would you believe they were having a book sale? I bought 17 paperbacks for $4.25 --- less than I would have spent on ONE new book. Then my girlfriend brought three hardbacks over and said she'd left her purse in the car, so I bought those for her for $2.50. Later at a garage sale, she bought two more --- well, I paid for them because she left her purse in the car again -- for $1.00 each. You know, I'm gonna leave my purse in the car next time we go junking! And I've bought two books from Amazon in the past two weeks --- at different times. Both of them were referred to here at the Gatherings forum. I'm so weak........

          5. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #15

            There are 2 nice used bookstores around the corner from where I bank In one of the small towns I frequent. Needless to say I pop in frequently. A lot of christmas shopping gets done early there! I figure it costs me less to buy 2nd hand than to pay the late fines at the library. tee hee Although the lady at the one shop says I can trade in my novels for some new ones, I can't bear to part with them...yet...I have only read them once or twice.....Cathy

            Edited 7/13/2008 6:42 pm ET by ThreadKoe

  3. katina | | #5

    You might enjoy this


    Sewing Update - I think was bought out. Then it just disappeared


  4. sewelegant | | #6

    The name Jane Shaner rang a bell because I have had a little booklet of hers that I found in the G Street fabric shop in Rockville, MD back in the 80's.  It was titled "So What's Wrong With Your Wardrobe"  I caught her guest appearance on a morning tv show and she told about how to weed out your closet with a point system.  I would list them here, but I see there is a copyright and it says not to do  that.  I never saw any other reading material from her in the other places we have lived, but thought this book was a keeper and it has been in my bedside cupboard for quick easy reading material all these years.  I would have snatched up any of her other material if I had seen it.

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