Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The ABC's of Vintage Sewing

I can hardly believe it's September.  The month of new beginnings, of going back to school or work after a bit of vacation and for me, of learning new things.  I thought it would be the perfect month for a blog feature called the 'ABC's of Vintage Sewing' to highlight all the things I love about sewing with vintage patterns and to learn a few new things myself!  So, what'dya say?

 Raise your hand if this brings back school memories....

First, I thought it would be fun to delve deep into my subconscious and try to articulate all of the reasons that I love sewing with vintage patterns.  Here's my list in no particular order...

I love sewing with vintage patterns because...
  • I can create my favourite looks from bygone eras.  Glamour hollywood...check.  Make Do and Mend for Victory....check.  Mad men inspired....check.    
  • I can create looks from every decade and have them in one wardrobe.  There's nothing to say you can't do 30s one day, 40s the next and move onto 50s, 60s and 70s later in the week.  I love that!
  • I can create vintage fashion that fits me for much cheaper than buying vintage clothing.  I don't know about you, but I always find it hard to shop for vintage clothing that actually fits.  
  • patterns of decades past are so well-drafted.  Have you sewn with an art deco thirties pattern?  Let me tell you, they are brilliantly drafted. 
  • there's no such thing as ease.  One of the things that drives me crazy with modern patterns is the amount of ease built in.  It makes it impossible to tell what size you should actually buy/make.  This isn't the case with vintage patterns (at least those from the 40's and earlier), the size of the measurements is the size of the pattern.  They are all tailored with moderate ease calculated into each measurement.  No crazy ease in vintage patterns.  The size you see, is the size you get.
 1950's dress pattern from this shop on Etsy

  • of the beautiful pattern drawings.  One of my favourite things about vintage patterns is the pattern drawings.  It's amazing what they can capture.  I've seen pattern drawings that look like velvet or lace.  Each detail of the pattern is well captured...and well, it just looks so much nicer.
  • the patterns give you a glimpse into the sewing methods and mores of each decade. Want to know what seam finishes were popular in the 1930s?  Just check out the directions in a 1930's pattern!
  • they can be mini courses in sewing haute couture.  Want to learn tailoring methods or inserting boning into a bodice?  Pick up a 1950's Vogue Couturier pattern or a Vogue Special Design.  There's a reason these patterns sell for a lot!
  • you can make your own designer outfit.  Lots of pattern companies teamed up with popular fashion designers to bring home sewists special designs.  I've seen designer patterns from as early as the 1930s.
  • I feel the generations of home sewists in every vintage pattern I sew.  Have you ever picked up a vintage pattern and found handwritten notes on construction, notes on colours and fabrics the pattern was destined to be sewn with? Or have you found newspaper clippings or other mementos in vintage sewing patterns?  It's always a reminder to me that each vintage pattern has been loved by other sewists and I somehow feel that by continuing the tradition of sewing with these patterns that we are all sharing our passion for sewing together.

What about you?  Do you sew with vintage patterns? What would be on your list of favourite reasons to sew with vintage patterns? 


  1. I love sewing with vintage patterns! The design lines are so great! And I adore the cover art. I love to use it for hair inspiration too.

  2. I'm about to embark on my first vintage pattern. I've got several and I've just been stuck deciding which one to start with. I love how feminine they seem to be.
    I'm also amazed that in the past they designed so many fabulous shirt dresses and it's so difficult to find a great modern shirt dress.

  3. I just love vintage patterns. I've never actually sewn with a modern one so I can't compare, but I just love them for all the reasons you listed, but especially the artwork. It's so amazing. (And of course the end product is always perfect!)

  4. Your comments are spot on! Beautiful blog, by the way, I just stumbled upon it and I will definitely be following you.

    I agree especially on the point about ease - my first project was one of the Butterick retro patterns and it ended up a size too big just through the amount of ease. Vintage patterns are much more accurate and satisfying!

  5. Wondeful post, very interesting ! I don't sew clothes much because I don't know yet how to, but I am studying clothing business and sewing so I will become a seamstress, and I hope I will be as good as you someday, and make beautiful frocks from vintage patterns, because it is hard to find vintage from where I live..! :))

  6. Lovely post, thank you.  I'm just finishing my first dress from a vintage pattern, and I just love it.  The design is so well thought out.

  7. I especially love it when you find a pattern that has been cut and has notes attached.   I found one recently that had a letter from a school in the 1970's telling them which patterns and fabric to buy and make up for school uniform!

  8. I love the idea of vintage patterns, and try to use them. They are lovely, welldrafted and otfen interesting. However, while I have less fit issues with vintage patterns than with modern, it's still faster and easier for me to gather inspiration from a vintage pattern and then draft it from my TNT basic sloper. The times when I've done the effort of all that tweaking and fitting it has been well worth it though =)

  9. Debi_myhappysewingplaceSeptember 05, 2012 3:00 PM

    YAY! That is very exciting!  I can't wait to see it when it's finished!

  10. Debi_myhappysewingplaceSeptember 05, 2012 3:01 PM

    I love that too! It's like taking a sneak peek into what people were thinking and planning!

  11. Debi_myhappysewingplaceSeptember 05, 2012 3:02 PM

    I bet you would make fabulous vintage clothes--you always find some nice pieces and have a great style sense!

  12. Debi_myhappysewingplaceSeptember 05, 2012 3:03 PM

    Thanks so much Melanie!

  13. Debi_myhappysewingplaceSeptember 05, 2012 3:04 PM

    I know what you mean! I rarely sew with modern patterns either! Vintage ones are just so much more satisfying!

  14. Debi_myhappysewingplaceSeptember 05, 2012 3:05 PM

    oh yes! I love the hair inspiration too! (and the hat styles...just saw your post on vintage hats...love it!)


I read each and every comment--thank you so much!

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