Meet Birgit!

by Erin on November 11, 2009

Vogue 9347

If you've spent any time on the Vintage Pattern Wiki at all, you've met Birgit (she uses the name Tarna there). Birgit has made more than FORTY THOUSAND wiki edits, and is one of the main helpful elves who help maintain the wiki, keep it neat and tidy, and hold the hands of those who need help—and boy, do I appreciate it!

Here's a quick interview with Birgit:

How did you get involved in the pattern wiki?

One fortuitous day in early December of 2007, I read on your blog that a wiki for Vintage Sewing Patterns had been established. Finally, my hoarding of pattern pictures already sold was given a justification! I promptly proceeded to upload them, and start scannning in all the others, and have not stopped ever since. I format, add categories and descriptions, clean up redundant categories, track down listing duplicates, typos and broken or expired links – almost every day.

What do you like to do best in the pattern wiki?

I absolutely love doing a random search, and happening upon a treasure I had never seen before. It is a bittersweet thing, as most of them are not (immediately – hope springs eternal) available. Another delight is seeing what new pattern images have been uploaded, as well as discovering that one of the elusive wished-for patterns had a new vendor listing added. Seeing a picture of someone's finished work is the ultimate, though.

Generally, the idea of preserving the history of these patterns, making them approachable, searchable, and link to the ones you can buy is what I love about the wiki, and with over 22,000 pattern pages now up it is becoming more useful every day. I have even been contacted by magazine writers who were looking for a high resolution image for the article, based on their search of the wiki.

Do you have any favorite pages?

There are too many patterns to list – I am a serious addict – but when it comes to the special pages, New Files is among my favorites as a quick gallery of new additions. The Designer category pages also stand out.

How would you encourage other folks to get involved?

Just start by browsing around; get familiar with the Search feature (what it does and does not bring up) and with the general formats and the proper date ranges (no later than 1985). Then, get to uploading. If you have questions, ask one of the frequent contributors by going to the Community tab on the left, or use the forums. If you make mistakes, don't worry – most are completely and easily fixable.

And please, pretty please, upload pictures of your finished vintage creations. There are far too few (check out the Gallery Photos category). At least, add a link to your other online postings such as blogs, picture galleries and reviews. Petite Main, our busy admin, is doing an incredible job of hunting these down and linking them, but certainly, there must be more of you out there actually sewing and creating!

Are you active in any other wikis?

Um … no. I certainly hope nothing else I am seriously interested in comes around – housework and other necessities would end up completely neglected.

Birgit also runs the Stitches and Loops pattern store at Main Street Mall Online — the pattern at the top of this post is from her store, isn't it gorgeous? I also love this Incredible Stealth Pocket Dress and this Mollie Parnis designed shirtwaist. Sooo pretty.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Welmoed November 11, 2009 at 9:43 am

I love that Vogue pattern!! I actually have a dress that looks like it could have been made with it: waist darts, dolman sleeves, shawl collar. I got it from the J. Peterman catalog about ten years ago and its still one of my very favorite dresses!


lsaspacey November 11, 2009 at 9:54 am

Oh, wow. I just ordered and received some patterns from Birgits store! Thank you! I wrote what great quality your patterns were and how fast the service was on my blog. Its so great to see that youre giving back in other related ways too by taking care of the Wiki. Thanks, Birgit!


Allison November 11, 2009 at 9:59 am

I guess I should upload some of the patterns my Mom gave me that she originally bought in the 70s. I found one with the same number, but its a totally different pattern on the wiki.


Shannie November 11, 2009 at 10:00 am

Thanks so much for everything, Birgit! I just started using the pattern Wiki and you fixed most of my pages!Also I stopped by your pattern store over the weekend, and Ill definitely be back! You have an amazing selection of patterns and the best part is that your prices are great!


Allison November 11, 2009 at 10:05 am

ps. Is there a reason the wiki doesnt have pictures of the BACKS of pattern envelopes? That seems like important information to catalogue as well.


Packrat November 11, 2009 at 10:07 am

Thank, Birgit, for all your work.


Pattern Junkie November 11, 2009 at 10:08 am

Hello, Birgit! So nice to meet you online — I LOVE the vintage pattern wiki and always see your alter ego Tarna laboring away when Im uploading images and entering data (Im GremlyGirl at the wiki.) Thanks for all your hard work — I think the wiki is a fabulous resource. Imagine how many patterns have been saved from obscurity!


What-I-Found November 11, 2009 at 10:26 am

I have known Birgit over at Main Street Mall Online from chatting with all of us pattern sellers. And the mystical Tarna has saved my Wiki entries more than once. But it took me awhile to figure out they were one in the same. Tarna is her Super Hero name and she has strong Wiki powers. (And I bet she has a FABULOUS cape!)


Birgit / Stitches and Loops November 11, 2009 at 11:38 am

Uh – blush… Thank you Erin, and everyone!I should mention that there is currently a major clean-up of duplicate (redundant) categories going on at the wiki, and Rita of is leading the way by doing a gigantic amount of work. It will likely take a little while to finish, but should make it much easier to find things via Categories and to affix the appropriate ones to pattern entries.


ZipZapKap November 11, 2009 at 2:23 pm

GIANT kudos to Birgit – shes always right behind me adding in the categories I might have missed when uploading. Often Im multitasking, creating a wiki pages and etsy listings at the same time, so its awesome to have someone so dedicated to sweep up any omissions and protect the integrity of the wiki.Thanks Birgit! I promise Ill try not to miss as many categories in future ; )


CEMETARIAN We Dig Memories November 11, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Isnt she AWESOME???? I have learned so much about the wiki from Miss Birgit. As she said were under way with a major clean up of categories and hopefully a full page blog about how to load and categorize the new uploads……we have come so far 2 years (this month) and I for one am very proud of the Vintage Pattern Wiki. And Tarna…..LOL…and Erin for thinking of it.Rita


Cel Petro November 11, 2009 at 3:35 pm

Thanks for the interview and thanks to Birgit for her overwhelming dedication–the wiki provides so much entertainment, information, and nostalgia.


Anonymous November 11, 2009 at 4:51 pm

Shawl collars always are so pretty in the pattern illustrations, and so horrible once I put them on. weird.


Jen November 11, 2009 at 5:55 pm

Just yesterday a co-worker received a gift of a 1947 Butterick pattern book, and we both thought pattern wiki! The job of scanning is daunting though. I guess the first step is to check the site for duplicates, right? (we could also post a list of all pattern numbers published for that issue, but where?)p.s. I second Allisons question (and would like to request) that pattern backs need to be included whenever possible. They are essential–especially when they show a schematic draft of the garment, and often the pattern shapes too.


Birgit / Stitches and Loops November 11, 2009 at 6:17 pm

A number of questions have come up on the backs of pattern envelopes, and I think it warrants a discussion.The cynics, of course, might say that pattern sellers dont want to give away that information, but things are truly a bit more complicated than that.Because the backs often feature the pattern schematic, they automatically include potentially still copyrighted information (a skilled person could conceivably replicate the pattern from the schematic), largely dependent on the age of the pattern, but also on whether it is a Designer pattern, whether the copyright has been renewed, etc.. I am certainly not an expert on copyright, but tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to that, and would hate to endanger the project in this manner. On a minor note, it is double the time/work to scan in both the front and back of a pattern…


ZipZapKap November 11, 2009 at 8:22 pm

I already have all the backs for mine scanned so its not much trouble to start uploading them.Is there guidance on uploading and categorizing that I have just never happened across? That would be a great help.


donnasfineart November 11, 2009 at 9:29 pm

I didnt know there were as many people as there are that collect patterns like I do! I have patterns that go back to 1932..I started collecting back in 1998 and have over 500. Its not as many as all of the others or Birgit, but Im proud that I have actually made as many as I have collected and have refolded them the way they came out. I love the patterns that have nothing on them except little holes and you have to figure what to do. I mean its great to collect but I used to make also. Reading this makes me want to start all over again. If I have said things that sound so stupid its cause Im not the expert collector here but I love what I have and wouldnt sell..ever.God BlessDonna


CEMETARIAN We Dig Memories November 12, 2009 at 5:09 am

The plan is to post a Guide for Categories and uploads……… soon as we get the categories cleaned up a bit…..right now there are lots of duplicates and we are working diligently to get them is order. As for the backs, I agree with Birgit. 1. we might run into copyright issues and 2. with 23,000 patterns on (and growing) it might be too much to have the backs. At this point we dont have server limits, but that could happen if we abuse the free format that is the Wiki.


Jen November 12, 2009 at 9:19 am

I realize much effort has gone thus far into this wiki, but widening the project to include a back option certainly wouldnt degrade it.What a pattern back can offer (like the back view of a vintage dress) is significant to the historical documentation of the pattern.As a researcher, I know that information on the back can be as important(and sometimes more)than the artwork on the front. It would validate the pattern document as a research artifact–which is important given the scarcity of so many patterns. Copyright issues should not be a problem, the site would have violated that by showing the front. As for using back diagrams to copy the garment for commercial production: any real apparel manufacturing process involves complex pattern design development. The historical pattern can only be a suggestion, and not the finalized version used to produce garments for modern fit.With this in mind, I would love to see the Wiki including the pattern backs as an OPTION for those who want to post the complete document.


Wink November 12, 2009 at 11:21 am

Birgit has cleaned up many (okay, just about every one) of my Wiki entries, and I am forever grateful! It seems as though no matter how thorough I try to be, Tarna still manages to fine a category I missed or an (unintentional, of course) duplication of keywords. Thank you so much for all of the hard work that you do!


sandritocat November 12, 2009 at 3:26 pm

I guess its a good thing I read all these. I was thinking one time ~ wonder what I did to make this Tarna girl not like me (shes always correcting my entries) ha ha ha ~ now I know, and Thank you too!Sandra


melissa marie November 12, 2009 at 5:00 pm

i just uploaded my first pattern onto the wiki yesterday, and birgit (and another awesome lady) has already added to it. you guys are awesome.


Birgit / Stitches and Loops November 13, 2009 at 12:52 am

I like all of you! Just cleaning up – never anything personal 😉 And if it is right after your entry, it is just a matter of timing…We are, as mentioned above, currently trying to clean up the categories, and you will see many a change (sometimes several times on the same pattern), as we go through each individual category – and there are thousands… Usually, with a few exceptions, an established category, or the one with the most entries wins out.Just an example to illustrate this:We kept Three-quarter Sleeves, and eliminated 3/4 Sleeves, 3/4 sleeves, three-quarter sleeves, Three-quarter sleeves, etc. (upper and lower case entries all show up as different categories).Keep adding, and dont feel bad if something changes.


Pattern Junkie November 13, 2009 at 8:33 am

I would love to be able to add the pattern backs. Of course, I had never thought of the copyright issue — I view the wiki with the starry-eyed naivete of a history junkie, and want to see as much information saved as possible. Patterns (and other domestic/feminine items) are so often been treated as disposable that weve lost loads of great information! (Can you tell that Im a bookworm kind of gal?)


Anonymous November 13, 2009 at 4:03 pm

Love the beret in that illustration – very French Resistance.Of all the patterns in the wiki, I think Id most like to shamelessly plagiarize this one:


Julia November 15, 2009 at 3:40 am

Aaargh. Erin or someone else, please help. I keep _trying_ to check out the Gallery Photos category at the Vintage Pattern Wiki, as recommended, but when I click the link called Categories (the only place I can find to look for a category) there is nothing called Gallery Photos. Ive clicked around a bit without success. Would LOVE to see a collection of other sewists vintage garments — please direct me where to look — thanks much!


Birgit / Stitches and Loops November 15, 2009 at 10:29 am

Hello Julia! The clickable link on the main page of the wiki is in the column on the right-hand side under Other fun categories. The URL is:


baju muslim zahra November 18, 2009 at 1:09 am

If I have that book, maybe I will make a lot of dress :)


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