A few quick questions

by Erin on November 30, 2009


Simplicity 2123

First question: is the woman in green looking at the woman in brown and saying "Yeah, I guess the bows were really too much"? (Pattern from Serendipity Vintage on Etsy.)

Question the second: if I were to write an article (say, for Sew News) about working with vintage patterns, what kinds of questions would you want to have answered in it?

{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Suzy November 30, 2009 at 11:12 am

Article on vintage patters – sizing for one – how true to modern life are the measurements on the envelopes?How difficult and/or fragile are they to work with? Do you trace them off, sos not to mar the tissue? Cut right into it?Instructions – is more general knowledge expected of the sewist? Are the required techniques explained in the instructions, or assumed?

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Lemondrop Marie November 30, 2009 at 11:16 am

Never too many bows! (Can you tell I am from the south?)Hmmm- question- how difficult is it to find appropriate fabric for the vintage patterns? Is the modern fabric store better or downsized in dress fabrics?

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Packrat November 30, 2009 at 11:17 am

Ditto Suzy.Personally, I wouldnt cut an old pattern.

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Teresa aka MarieSews November 30, 2009 at 11:21 am

Are the sizes of vintage patterns approximate to todays sizes? Ditto on the techniques question.

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Sharakh November 30, 2009 at 11:42 am

I always look at the illustrations and wonder how much of the shape of the models and garments is artistic license and how much of it is undergarments. Will I need super-broad or very sloping shoulders to make this garment fit/look good? Am I going to have to buy a size that is huge in the bust if I want it to fit in the waist? If I want that odd early-sixties tubular look where the skirt stands away from the hips all the way around, will I need a petticoat? How do I figure out what kind?I like the bows. *grins*

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xstpenguin November 30, 2009 at 11:54 am

As above. For bust/waist ratios, a brief outline of altering the pattern to fit a modern waist could be very useful to those not used to vintage patterns.Also the fabric requirements – they used much narrower fabrics back in the day, some advice on how a pattern has laid out on modern 60 fabric might help.Pointint out that size numbers changed over the years and that size 16 in 1940 is not the same as as a size 16 in 1960 let alone today!Tracing, definitely – if only because you might make a mistake with alterations and its good to be able to start again.And warn them how addictive it is ;-)Cheers,AJwoman in green is looking at woman in brown and thinking – now why didnt I think of that, then I wouldnt have spent 3 hours matching these stripes?

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Oldpatterns November 30, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Mention that the pattern companies re-use the pattern #s over and over – so searching for a specific vintage pattern is difficult but not impossible (especially with the vintage pattern wikia). You might also want to mention that the pattern companies often produced similar designs. Like that there are many variations on the Butterick Walk away dress from the 1950s or the 3 armhole dress in the late sixties, so you dont have to get a specific pattern – but one with many of the same details. Mention you can get update the style of a vintage pattern by just altering the trim, sleeve length or skirt length. They have to see beyond the interesting colors and patterns of the pattern on the cover. Threads Magazine did an article like that a few years ago and the American Sewing Guild is going to be publishing an article on this topic in their Winter issue. Good luck with the article!

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Anonymous November 30, 2009 at 12:32 pm

Mention that while it may not be habit for sewers to make a muslin, doing so when working with vintage patterns may be helpful.Also mention that many vintage patterns are designed with less design ease than people are accustomed to now, so armholes are higher, waists are snugger, shoulders tend to be more fitted, etc. This can result in a pattern feeling too small to someone now, whereas it may have been considered a proper fit 50 years ago.AKL

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Alaina November 30, 2009 at 12:39 pm

You should mention that pattern companies vanity sized at an average rate of one size a decade between the late 1920s and the 1980s. The numbering that we are familiar with today (6-22) began as a sub-set of sizing called Misses. Eventually the Womens sizing (by bust size) was phased out. I compiled the stats and did a term paper and statistics on the subject, if anyone is interested. :-)

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Packrat November 30, 2009 at 12:45 pm

Alaina – interested! Hope others are too.

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Marge, Born Too Late Vintage November 30, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Alaina definitely interested. Id like explained in detail unmarked patterns and if they are more difficult to work with than marked patterns.

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Sarah November 30, 2009 at 2:02 pm

sizing and testing!Alaina, your term paper should be a handy reference book we can buy at the store or on line! Id get one! Because of how sizing has changed over the years, it would be great to know what the standards were at any particular time.

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CEMETARIAN We Dig Memories November 30, 2009 at 2:09 pm

Sizing info is a definite must……..I have a very brief explanation of the changes in sizing through the decades on my website……http://cemetarian.com/Sizing_Vintage_Sewing.phpWork is on going on it but it tells you real quickly the changes. And this is very important information, and one of the reason I NEVER list Size in my titles but always bust measurements.

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What-I-Found November 30, 2009 at 2:29 pm

I know I want to see Alainas work! I have vintage patterns that range from size 8-16 all with a 34 inch bust. It really is hard for folks new to vintage patterns to know what to expect. You might consider adding some sites where folks can get covered buttons or belts done. So many vintage styles just beg for details like that. Looking forward to seeing what you write, Tina

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Serendipity Handmade November 30, 2009 at 3:26 pm

You may want to discuss preservation in terms of storing patterns, etc., as paper and tissue are fragile and the older they get, the more fragile they become. This topic could go along nicely with tracing off the pattern rather than cutting it out.It probably doesnt need to be said again, but I definitely agree that the variations in pattern sizing over the years would be a great topic.And thanks for featuring one of my patterns Erin!

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weezieduzzit November 30, 2009 at 3:32 pm

Id like to see some tips like ironing a vintage pattern to fusible interfacing if its fragile or missing parts of it to stabilize it and extend its life and something about resizing. Going up or down a size or two or to change the proportions slightly is not nearly as difficult as some might think. It really opens up the amount of vintage patterns available to you if youre willing to resize.

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reilly November 30, 2009 at 3:51 pm

a) There can never be enough bows. Bows are never wrong.b) Easiest/best/quickest way to size up or down a pattern when you cant find that perfect pattern in your own size.

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fripperie November 30, 2009 at 4:21 pm

Ack – no fusible interfacing! Theres no way you could ever undo that! Just trace it out carefully, and use the tracing.As for what id like to see in an article, its grading tips. Ive done it, and its mostly worked okay (even for dramatic size changes), but i always feel like i want more hand-holding with that…

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Anonymous November 30, 2009 at 4:54 pm

Im liking their shoes.

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Weaverbec November 30, 2009 at 5:58 pm

I inherieted a very large pattern stash (from the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s) from my Great Aunt, and I would like to know how to store and care for this treasure. Also, is there any way to estimate value of vintage patterns?

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Karen @ Mars Needs Fabric November 30, 2009 at 6:03 pm

Id like some tips on use, preservation and storage of vintage patterns. For example, the 1964 pattern instruction sheet Im working on is awfully yellow. Should I scan it? Laminate it? How about a discussion of how to deal with those unprinted pattern pieces from the 1940s? Those are a bit intimidating.

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Jen November 30, 2009 at 6:42 pm

How about showing how to take a basic pattern sloper that actually fits (Butterick 5746 comes to mind) and alter a vintage pattern to fit that sloper…p.s. sources for trims, covered buttons and belts as listed above is a great idea too.

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Anonymous November 30, 2009 at 6:57 pm

Sizing!! How do you grade up or down in the places you need to? The vintage measurements seem never to correspond to mine–so hourglass.Are the markings different? Are there generally pattern instructions? Are they useful or has sewing changed too much?

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Packrat November 30, 2009 at 7:36 pm

Okay, All and Erin, if you will forgive me for butting in…I found a source for belt stiffening. Dritz (Prym) still makes it and supposedly supplies Jo-Ann and Wal-Mart.I know for positive that Jo-Ann sells belt webbing by the yard. I saw some the Monday before Thanksgiving when I was looking for some wide twill tape.However, I did not find a source for the cardboard type belt stiffener. This used to come in kit with a buckle. These type of belts were easy to make and looked really nice when finished. These were what the vintage-type belts of the 50s-70s were made of.Nor did I find a source for belt buckles – the kind that could be covered with fabric and then one piece inserted inside the other to hold the fabric in place.Dritz/Prym also still makes the kits so that you can cover your own buttons. These should be available at Jo-Ann, also. You can cover other buttons, but I havent had too much luck getting the fabric on those to stay nice and smooth. Most of these kits come with the tool that is needed to pop the pieces together. Hint: be sure to check that the button under the fabric doesnt show through.

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Anonymous November 30, 2009 at 8:29 pm

Fripperie: Well…no. Of course you dont undo it. You just use it like that. Makes it way easier.

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Nikki November 30, 2009 at 8:59 pm

Maybe a short glossary or an idea of what sewing terms are used in older patterns vs what we would call such methods/terms/etc today. Also, for example, Vogue patterns often leave out directions that Simplicity or Butterick make explicit – are there similar issues with vintage patterns in particular, things that the drafters assumed home sewers would know to do?

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Heather November 30, 2009 at 9:08 pm

I think the blond knows were watching them.Ive never worked with vintage patterns so I wouldnt know what to ask to begin with…

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Anonymous November 30, 2009 at 10:20 pm

Many of the fabrics listed as suitable on older patterns are no longer readily available, available at reasonable prices, or arent available at all. A guide to some of these older fabric types (approximate weight, drape characteristic) and some contemporary subsitutes would be useful. For example what would one use instead of silk pongee?

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Vegan November 30, 2009 at 10:24 pm

I agree with the others who mentioned the patterns fragility. Sometimes, its like trying to unfold potato chips! What do you do if the pattern is so old, its dry and cracked? What kind of tape (if any) should be used to hold it together while you are workig with it? Or is it better not to use it?If the pattern envelope doesnt say, should you assume that seam allowances are not included?Id also like tips for working with non-printed patterns, or patterns without instructions, either because theyre missing or they never came with instructions.Thanks for asking!

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Kelli November 30, 2009 at 10:42 pm

I completely agree with the sizing issues! This is one reason Ive never really worked with vintage patterns. Bust size of 34? Seriously? Mines…um…a LOT bigger than that. I estimate that at the sizes on the patterns, Id wear somewhere in the Misses 30-49 range. LOL.The undergarment question is also a really good point. Is corsetry necessary for some of the wasp waists? Did they design the patterns with that expectation?Thanks for the inspirational photos on the blog though. Love to peruse these and fantasize that I live some awesome dream life where I can wear pretty dresses every day! (And dont have to worry with things like scooping the cat box!)

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Leigh December 1, 2009 at 7:15 am

Id love more on the instructions that patterns come with – Im rarely baffled by brand-new patterns, but whenever I try a vintage pattern I invariably get stuck on something in the instructions that I cant wrap my head around and cant finish. Ive got a few dresses sitting in my sewing room, unfinished, and have taken up knitting!

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Anonymous December 1, 2009 at 9:00 am

Having made trial versions of a couple of 60s patterns recently, Id like some hints on making the bust shape rounder. Im NOT interested in buying a bullet bra; I dont want to look just like 1964, but the styles are too good to pass up.

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smiller December 1, 2009 at 10:25 am

PLEASE write your article on working with vintage patterns! I recently copied and made a pattern from the 1920s (Designer Patterns) that I inherited from a great-grandmother, and while I figured it out and made it up very easily without damaging the original pattern, thats probably only because it was a very very simple garment–a 1920s princess slip to go under the filmy/beaded flapper dresses of the period. I copied the pattern onto non-fusible interfacing. The instructions were fairly clear, luckily. But Im sure if I tried something more complicated Id hit a wall.

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Kiki von Tiki December 1, 2009 at 11:13 am

Ive worked with vintage patterns a lot. Some things I would recommend for an article would be: Always, always trace them off (and a brief how-to), a good legend for what the marks mean on the unprinted patterns would be useful, also as mentioned, how to alter for our current body shapes and undergarments (no bullet bras and girdles!). How to estimate yardage, the importance of measuring the pattern pieces and making a muslin. Storage. Good stuff! I will be excited to read this, Erin!

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weezieduzzit December 1, 2009 at 11:22 am

fripperie, thats the point. :) A once fragile or damaged pattern that would only survive being used a couple of times, if at all, is now a durable long lasting pattern that can be made over and over without worrying about its demise.Plus, the interfacing is a piece of cake to work with and easy to pin to without damaging.

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Anonymous December 1, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Something I get frustrated with is that almost always a vintage pattern for sale that I like is snatched up quickly. Since they are very rare, I rarely get to sew a vintage dress? Are there people who, keeping the original pattern, will make a copy (for a fee)? This, to me, sounds like a good little business (or charity), but I dont know what the copyright laws are.

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Cookie December 1, 2009 at 3:06 pm

I would want a basic oveview: WHAT YOURE IN FOR (ie, how this experience will differ from sewing regular patterns)Also: Discussion of arcane sewing techniques that may be mentioned in instructions, which can be substituted out with advanced technology.[i]PS: Sorry I am late to the party![/i]

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fripperie December 2, 2009 at 7:32 am

Its the conservator in me that objects to the fusible interfacing on vintage pattern pieces. Id MUCH rather make a tracing and work from that, and preserve the pattern in original condition as far as possible. That way i can do whatever i need to without worrying that i cant go back to the starting point, or that ive unknowingly damaged the pattern itself with too much heat or an adhesive that may not age well.

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JustGail December 2, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Totally agree on the sizing! Other items that Id suggest – - what to do if *minor* pieces (such as facings) are missing- where tutorials might be found if instructions are missing (either steps or the entire sheet)- related to sizing – point out the fashion of the times, as in the sillouette resulting from the undergarments worn at the time.- any terminology that might have changed over the years, or are no longer used.- dont use ordinary tape – it will eat the paper over time, if its a commonly available pattern, Id use iron-on interfacing, but if its one thats not easily replaced – trace it.- unmarked vs. printed patterns- substitutions for fabrics that might not be available now, and any old vs. new fabric names.Youve gotten a lot of good suggestions! Did you say an article? It looks like enough for a series!

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Cookie December 2, 2009 at 1:46 pm

You know what would be great?An entire ARTICLE on what working with vintage patterns is like!!!This post inspired by my oversimplified request (above), to make it about What Youre In For

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Efrat Mama December 2, 2009 at 3:22 pm

You should write a booklet and sell it on Amazon or Interweave Press-sites where sewers and other vintagebuffs congregate.I sometimes buy vintage re-issue patterns because they have modern sizing. My 16-year-old daughterlikes the styles–also, the older patterns are not as revealing as the newer styles.

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Sam December 3, 2009 at 11:45 am

How to find the publication date.And how to read the punched holes when there is no printed information on the pieces.

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Sam December 3, 2009 at 11:45 am

How to find the publication date.And how to read the punched holes when there is no printed information on the pieces.

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sarah December 5, 2009 at 8:47 am

Personally, I hope you write a SERIES of articles to touch on all these points, not just one. There are tons of good suggestions already.My biggest question has already been brought up, and thats fabric types and names. Some you can figure out (i.e. poodle fabric = boucle) but fleece obviously meant something different in 1957 than it does today and I have no idea what! (cant find the original comment but someone asked about pongee, thats also called habotai)Hmmm, Im thinking there needs to be a vintage sewing wiki….btw, you can still buy belt buckles that you cover, Maxant and Hemline both make them. Coats Clarks still had a complete belt buckle kit available until recently, perhaps if there was enough interest theyd bring them back.And I would REALLY like to see Alainas research!!

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Alaina December 8, 2009 at 6:04 pm

Update for you all on my size research.I forgot that it is not, in fact, about pattern sizes, but about mass-produced clothing. It is also not a manual of what size meant what in what year. When I did my research I started looking at patterns, but found that too difficult, so I hope to get a subscription to the commercial pattern database one of these days and do a pattern version of this study.Anyway, here it is! http://gothampatterns.com/?p=21

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Kate W December 13, 2009 at 11:47 am

As far as taping something safely – Id go with Filmoplast, which is used to fix old paper in books. A bit flexible and should be safe, but check with the mfr.In working with vintage patterns, I concur on the fabric equivalencies. Id also like to know tricks for modernizing a look – the undergarments issues and perhaps small decorative or sewing changes that will make a look more current while keeping the vintage edge.

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