This month we’ve got a few interviews lined up with some vintage pattern lovers over on Etsy. I warn you now, browsing is a dangerous pastime, but oh! the pretties and the inspiration and the temptation! Today we have Sara from the store Sara Sells Vintage – a store I had to include because of its great range of sewing patterns and (for your knitty sorts out there) knitting patterns as well. She’s also a fellow 60’s lover and milliner – this is a woman who is after my heart!
Sara has also included some handy tips for buying vintage patterns as well – take it away Sara!
What first inspired you about vintage patterns?
Probably the fact that I have been sewing for so many years, many of my early patterns were suddenly vintage!
I have patterns in my collection that I have made up countless times
I am a big fan of all things vintage so as a sewer and milliner, patterns’ seemed a natural progression (I love hat patterns), particularly as I like to have things that are not only great to look at but useful too. They don’t take up too much space and I like reading the back of the envelopes (sad I know)
How long have you been collecting?
All my life….which means I have much too much of everything including material and patterns.
What’s your favourite era? Why?
It is so hard to pick a favourite, as different eras hold different appeal. The 40s and 50s seem to be the most popular with customers, but I particularly like the 60s’, a much maligned era but with some great styles.
Plus this is when most of the pattern companies got around to actually printing darts, seam lines etc on the patterns and made life easier for the home sewer.
I have some patterns from as far back as 1860 and these had no instructions and only basic info, really difficult to make and make it fit! But they were the first paper patterns given away in ladies magazines!
Some of my favourite patterns are childs’ ones, a much undervalued section I think. I love the very pretty outfits from the 50s, and I make them up sometimes just for the fun of it… I made these little rompers and dress just for pleasure.
I recently used a lovely 50s petticoat pattern as the basic for a bridesmaids dress and it was gorgeous and now I am buying vintage maternity as my daughter is expecting….and I am about to make this… I will let you know how it turns out…
What’s your favourite thing about vintage patterns?
The gorgeous illustrations on the front, But I always bear in mind that the garment will probably not look exactly like the beautifully sketched wasp waisted model. Artistic licence was much in use then!
Which do you think was the best era for clothing and patterns and why? What about the worst?
As mentioned before I think the 60s did the most for the home seamstress, the patterns were now printed, and the sizing changed to accommodate the fact we were changing shape with better health care as we now had wider shoulders, bigger busts and not such narrow waists and hips
The choice was also much wider and new designers were coming on board . Famous dress designers such as Givenchy were now happy to design for dress pattern makers such as Vogue.
War time seems the worst for patterns, paper and fabric was restricted, and the cut meant that the minimum of fabric was used, The local dressmakers were under severe restrictions and contrary to popular belief, ‘parachute silk’ wasn’t that easy to come by! The paper of the pattern tends to be either very flimsy or very thick recycled more like sugar paper. Many businesses ceased printing sewing patterns during this time.
I will only sell patterns that are complete and the worst thing is finding you have lots of pieces with no numbering or information, they could belong to any one of a number of patterns! If I have patterns that are incomplete I will try and draft the missing pieces if I want to make the garment.
Where do you find most of your patterns?
I have been lucky to find them at flea markets and in charity shops, but I also advertise as a buyer of patterns. Lots of older people don’t realise that they are sought after and they just throw them away…sob sob… I always bear in mind that many of them will be useless as more often than not parts or instructions will be missing.
Have you ever had one of those mythical experiences when you find a treasure trove of patterns? Tell us about it!
I spotted a great 1940s wicker basket in a local vintage sellers shop and it was stuffed to the brim with sewing and knitting pattern, I was in heaven especially as she sold me the basket as well and I use it every day!
Sara’s tips for vintage pattern buying and sewing …
- Try and buy complete patterns and if not don’t pay over the odds!
- Don’t just check bust and hip measurements when cutting out your fabric, try to check length and shoulders, sleeves were much narrower etc, If possible make a toile up first from a cheap fabric to check out the fit.
- Use similar weight fabrics as those listed on the pattern even if it is a modern equivalent.
- My favourite fabric is Viscose, flowing and light, easy to sew, vintage in origin, but available now and made from trees…how good is that!
- Full skirts from the 50s always look sticky outey and puffy on the picture but you will probably need to make a petticoat to have that effect, as they are not always circle or half circles, more often than not they are rectangles cut and then gathered.
Have fun and enjoy creating wonderful clothes that no one else owns!