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Vintage Sewing Patterns

Discussion in 'Vintage Sewing Patterns 2005 By Laura' started by Laura, Dec 2, 2005.

  1. MemphisVintage

    MemphisVintage VFG Member

    Thank you Laura for such a great workshop! I have always wondered about so many of the things that you talked about, and know I know. What a wonderful reference tool this workshop will make!!!!

    ~ Marlene
  2. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President


    I am going to read again because it might have been covered, but i was very interested to read that printed patterns were around since the 1860s.

    Reason being is i have seen many "older" (ok, not "older" in the grand scheme of things!) that were unprinted. I have often hesitated when purchasing these for collecting, using, or any other purpose because they somehow boggle my mind. It is so much more difficult to tell if it is 'all there". Especially if the instructions are not clear or present. I find myself passing them by unless they have really stunning cover art that i might be able to use as an example later when documenting a style of dress, etc.

    I guess my question is...should i have such cold feet about them or do you have any practical advice not so much for "value" but basically ..i guess wrapping one's brain around them.

  3. fuzzylizzie

    fuzzylizzie Alumni

    I really like the idea of using interfacing to make the new pattern. Great tip.

    I sell lots of patterns in my mall store, but I sell women's designs almost exclusively. Have you had any luck selling men's and childrens? Are they desirable and collected?

    Also, so many of the patterns have tiny measurements. I know that an experienced seamstress has no problem grading a pattern to a larger size, but I suspect that most sewers just don't have that skill. I pass on tiny sizes unless the design is really something. Am I missing out?

    Many thanks,
  4. cymbeline

    cymbeline Registered Guest

    Wonderful work Laura!!!!

    Im sure I will refer to this many times in the future. I am inspired and have my sewing machine all set up! Thank you.
  5. Jonathan

    Jonathan VFG Member

    Great workshop! I have no questions to date but thought I would mention that I was fortunate enough to have, at one time, an almost complete run of Modes Royales catalogues Laura and the newest one I had was Spring 1965. I don't know if that was the last one or not, but it helps narrow the last date of operation a bit.
  6. WOW
    This is great. SO much wonderful info. Thanks so much Laura. I'm still reading through but no questions yet. Definitely have this bookmarked because I just bought about 300 patterns today at the auction.

  7. lauren

    lauren Registered Guest

    Thanks for answering my questions! This has been absolutely fabulous!!

    I'm so glad people love these old patterns as much as I do :wub:
  8. Laura, thanks so much for all the great information. I know I, like so many others will refer back to this workshop again and again!
  9. denisebrain

    denisebrain VFG President Staff Member

    Ditto, ditto, ditto! Great reference!!!!!

    I treasure patterns, as they represent a springboard to something magical...your own creation! My favorite clothes have always been those I've made.

    No trouble seeing what your passion is Laura, and I'm sure we all appreciate you sharing it!

    (Did I miss something, or aren't you, um, giving birth, like, today or so? You're amazing!)
  10. This is very comprehensive and tremendously informative. I've learned quite a bit today - particulaly found the history of patterns very interesting.

    I've got a large collection of patterns myself. Started collecting them back in the 1970s. Of course then I collected patterns from the 40s and 50s. Hard to believe the patterns I bought new when I started sewing in the 70s are now considered vintage (LOL).

  11. ellenm

    ellenm Registered Guest

    I really appreciate reading and learning about patterns. It's all brand new information to me and what a fun way to learn. The VFG is fortunate to have your expertise.
  12. About sizing of Spadea designer patterns... They are cut to Ready to Wear measurements, not standard pattern measurements. For example a size 10 would measure a 34 bust, whereas the same style in Simplicity or Butterick would be 32 bust for size 10. So if you are a size 10 in Simplicity, you are still a size 10 in Spadea. The Spadea has included 2 inches of wearing ease into the size. No altering necessary.

    I always wondered why the sizing was different in Spadea patterns. Then I got to thinking that maybe it was because the patterns were traced off of actual designer garments.

    Do you have any information or thoughts on this?

  13. Laura

    Laura Alumni

    A terminology clarification to prevent confusion...

    When collectors talk about "printed patterns," they generally mean the later, 20th century patterns that are/were printed on tissue. "Unprinted patterns" refers to the early sized patterns that were pre-cut with holes and notches instead of printed marks. The patterns that were available in the 1860s fell into one of three categories-

    1) Diagrams like the 1876 curiass bodice pattern I showed. Diagrams were printed very small, and the seamstress had to trace the pieces, then enlarge them to a useable size.

    2) "Pattern sheets" or "pattern supplements" (since they were usually a supplemental feature of a book or magazine) like the 1930s German pattern sheet shown. Pattern sheets are a bunch of different full-size pattern pieces overlapping on one sheet of paper. The seamstress must trace the pieces she needs, then adjust them to the particular size she needs.

    3) "Unprinted patterns" like those pioneered by Butterick. These are full-size pieces of tissue paper cut to shape at the factory with notches and holes to help guide the seamstress. This type of pattern was available in multiple sizes.

    What collectors call "printed patterns" were introduced by McCall in 1919.

    Let me see if I can answer without getting too wordy!!

    It depends on how much trouble you want to go to. Collectors and many vintage-style seamstresses don't mind unprinted patterns. You get used to them after a while. And you could be passing up a very good opportunity if you pass them by completely. A good pre-1915 "fancy dress" pattern can go for $100-$200 if complete.

    Unprinted patterns aren't so hard to check for completeness as long as the pattern envelope or instructions include a diagram of the pieces. Most unprinted pattern pieces are marked with either numbers or letters to help identify them - for example, the envelope says piece A is "Skirt Front", so you find piece A, and sure enough, it looks like the "Skirt Front" shown on the envelope.

    It is a little more difficult if it is a Victorian or early 20th century pattern and it DOESN'T have letters or numbers printed on the pieces. Occasionally you will come across a pattern that has nothing but holes and notches on the pieces - nothing to identify that "skirt front" as a skirt front and that "front facing" as the front facing. Such patterns are usually pre-1915, and they're relatively uncommon.

    In those cases, you have a couple of choices.

    1) You can sell the pattern "as-is." I personally don't spend more than a few dollars on such patterns, but I've seen people go anywhere from $15-$50 for them.

    2) You can count the number of pieces in the envelope and see if it matches the number of pieces the envelope says should be in there. If so, it's *probably* complete, though you can't guarantee it.

    3) If the envelope has a diagram of the pieces on the envelope or on the instructions, you can unfold all the pieces and compare them to the diagram. It takes some time to do, but in my opinion it's worth it with the old patterns.

    Does that help or does it raise more questions?

    One other thing I thought to mention (regarding value) is that vintage patterns are a lot like vintage clothing. Excellent examples of high-fashion or trendy styles are more desirable and valuable than everyday wear. (Someone said that recently on VFG, and I can't remember who it was. Maybe Hollis or Jonathan?) That is why Modes Royal and Vogue Couturiers and the McCall couturier patterns are usually more valuable than the Simplicity or Butterick patterns, and why evening patterns are more valuable than daywear patterns. People are looking for the styles that scream their era instead of the mundane, everyday stuff.

  14. ClubVintage

    ClubVintage VFG Member

    What a fantastic workshop Laura! :clapping: :clapping: :clapping:<p>I read it last evening and this morning when I went on my regular Saturday morning treasure hunt thanks to you I found a great pattern. <br>I was able to date it right in the store from the information I learned from the generous sharing of your knowledge.<p>McCall dress pattern..copyright dated 1937...also someone, probably the store where it was sold stamped a date on the inside flap...Oct 7, 1937.<p>I can't thank you enough for this workshop, I have bunches of patterns squirreled away but was afraid to list, now I can get them dated.<p>Cat<p><img src=http://members.sparedollar.com/Tomcat/1937pattern.jpg>
  15. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    Thanks Laura,

    That does answer my question. I mainly have encountered later - 40s/50s that were not printed. One i think was a mail order pattern. Gosh, the name is on the tip of my tongue!

  16. Laura

    Laura Alumni

    Yup, I've noticed the same thing. I'm not sure what it is, but I do have a theory...As far as men, there just aren't that many different men's patterns out there. It's pretty much the same thing - pajamas, boxers, and shirts. Every now and then you'll see a tie pattern. It just seems that women didn't sew for men much, and there wasn't much variety produced in the way of men's patterns. And because it's daily wear, generic kinds of stuff, people just don't seem to be into collecting it or sewing it now.

    As far as kids, I think it's because there isn't too much variety in the way of kids stuff, either. Every woman sewed for her kids, so there's a ton of girls' frilly dress patterns and little boy suits out there. Most of the patterns are pretty run-of-the-mill, which doesn't excite the collectors. And they're so plentiful that they're a dime a dozen for people who want to sew with the patterns. The only kids patterns I see sell well are the unusual patterns, usually for older kids - ruffled 1930s party dresses for teen girls, for example.

    I guess it still falls into that "unusual sells better than mundane" theory.

    I generally avoid men's and children's patterns, unless I see something specific that I want. I find I get enough of usual suspects when I buy large box lots, so I don't set out specifically to buy them.

    You're right that most sewers don't know how/want to grade a pattern up or down, and I get e-mails once in a while asking about patterns in other sizes. But I still think you are missing out. I think most of us will buy a pattern without considering the size too much. We're addicted in that way!! We understand that, especially for more unusual styles, we might never see the same or similar pattern in "our" size. Getting a pattern in the size you want/need is a bonus most of the time. :)

    Size matters even less if you're dealing with good, trendy designs.

    Generally speaking, I'm willing to pay a little more if the pattern is a larger size (at least 36" bust, preferably 38" or 40" bust.) But there are just as many women out there with a 30" or 32" bust, and they need patterns too! :)

  17. Laura

    Laura Alumni

    Jonathan, you were lucky to have an almost complete collection of Modes Royale pattern books! I love the Modes Royale style. It would be neat to be able to look through all the years of catalogues!

    Maggie, you're so nice. :) I've still got a few weeks left, though, and I'm still chugging away at work. I'm just slowing down a bit and concentrating more on getting organized rather than turning out more product.
  18. Laura

    Laura Alumni

    Oh, that is such a good point to bring up, Carol!!

    Spadea's patterns were cut to the <strong>designer's size chart</strong>, not to the pattern industry's size chart. So the pattern sizing varied from designer to designer, even within the Spadea line.

  19. Laura

    Laura Alumni

    Hi, Cat! I'm glad the workshop info came in handy this morning. :)

    That's a nice pattern. I think I just saw the same one for sale on eBay, and I was debating whether or not to put in a bid. Yours is a good size, too.

  20. hatfeathers

    hatfeathers VFG Member

    I have an 1891 Harper's Bazaar pattern sheet. It hangs on my studio wall in a plastic sleeve. Bought it at an auction, they called it a map, not sure where they though it went!

    The print is on both sides and it's eye boggling! I can't imagine trying to make sense of it for practical use.

    <img src="http://www.hatfeathersvintage.com/Questions/Pattern1.jpg">
    <img src="http://www.hatfeathersvintage.com/Questions/Pattern2.jpg">

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