Okay I’m a little obsessed with vintage sewing stuff! I just love old sewing machines, I’m always on the lookout for vintage fabric, I have a rather large collection of vintage thread spools and I have been sewing with retro sewing patterns for as long as I have been sewing.
And that’s a long, dang, time.
There are some important things I’ve learned through my experiences sewing using vintage patterns. My hope is to encourage other people to get out the old collection of sewing patterns and have a go at making something groovy from days past. Here are some imporant tips for utilizing vintage sewing patterns to make garments.
1. Vintage pattern pieces are VERY fragile. In order to make them a little safer to copy and cut your fabric from them, before each class I would reinforce them. Usually this meant using packaging tape to tape the actual paper patterns onto interfacing and reinforce in the spots that needed it. I suppose if you have a fancy laminating machine that would work too. But I don’t have one of those, so the tape worked for me. And actually by sewing it to a light weight interfacing, it made it sturdy, but also malleable enough to make it easy to cut the smaller sizes by folding the edges under.
2. Sizing can be tough! Vintage dress patterns came in only one size and the sizing is completeley different from today’s sizing standards depending on when the pattern came out. I found that it was easiest to make a version of the dress we were doing that week in the size that was stated on the package and then determine (based on today’s sizing standards) what size it is in today’s sizing. Or if you wanted to get a bit more technical about it, determine how big the waist, hip & bust measurements are for the size of the pattern and scale out (or in for the skinny minnies) based on how much bigger you need it to be. Or as we found in the class, when in doubt, make it too big and size it down to fit your measurements by adding darts and pleats.
3. Yardage Recommendations on the package of the pattern are different for older patterns. One the envelop you will find yardage recommendations that may be confusing. The reason is that back in day, fabric came in narrower widths then they are today. It was commonplace to find fabric widths measuring 36″ & 39″. Now most fabric widths are 45, 55 or 60″ wide
I hope this helps! I know it helped us in the class a ton.
You’ll see that most pattern companies that are still around today have re-issued patterns based on their vintage styles from years ago. This will have taken care of many of the above issues. But isn’t it more fun to not be afraid to tackle the genuine vintage patterns that you find at your neighbors garage sale, or that your grandmother has had in her attic since you were a baby! Happy Sewing!