If you are kind enough to read my blogs you may have gathered by now that I’m a bit of a fan of vintage sewing… particularly the late 30s, 40s and some 50s. Along the way I have met some wonderful people that share my passion for the clothing of the era. Sadly there isn’t much of the original gorgeousness about but there are rather a lot of patterns that have survived the years and I like to collect them. This can be a rather expensive hobby but sometimes you get lucky and some come along in charity shops and vintage bric-a-brac emporiums. When they do I snap them up! I have also been very lucky and have been gifted lots of patterns too. The Lutterloh patterns I was given are out of this world! They are sometimes hard to figure out as you don’t get any instructions at all but hey… that’s half the fun of sewing isn’t it?
One of my lovely friends Donna shares my passion for vintage clothes and owns a few patterns that had been passed down to her from her mother. I will cover the things I have made from some of these patterns in separate blog posts. Here I want to tell/show you how I go about looking after and preserving these patterns for future use.
I’m not saying that what I do is the right way to do it at all … it’s just how I tackle the problems personally.
Firstly I clear a big space and gently open out the tissue pattern pieces to see how badly they are damaged, or hopefully, how good they are.
Next I iron each pattern piece carefully with a cool-warm iron. I do this on both sides as they sometimes curl up a bit. Go very gently around any areas that are particularly creased or torn. Try to match up torn areas as much as possible. For any major rips or tears I get some very light weigh iron on interfacing cut into strips or whatever shape is necessary to cover the damaged area. Making sure all parts are smooth and in place, I then fix the damage with the interfacing.
The next job is to trace around each piece on to pattern paper. Sometimes I use rolls of lining wallpaper for this or, when I can find it, I buy large lengths of extra wide paper from places like eBay. Often it arrives folded so that gets a good ironing too and then rolled onto a broom handle I bought cheaply from my local hardware store 😉
Ensure you carefully mark all the dots, dashes and notches when you trace your pattern pieces. And definitely DON’T FORGET to write all the pattern information on each piece! You can also take this opportunity to ‘translate’ old style dot markings into something you may understand a lot easier nowadays and you can also add seam allowances to your pattern if they don’t already have any. 😀
With vintage patterns especially, they often need to be altered to fit our modern day bodies… oh to have a 40s tiny waistline. With this in mind I often trace out two of everything. One to keep original and the other with ‘slash and spread’ marks ready to make any necessary alterations.
Once the pattern pieces are checked, mended and traced they are folded neatly away.
Next I tackle the envelopes or more often than not… the folded instruction sheets that surround the patterns.
These are a little trickier as using interfacing would obscure any printing, especially those areas that are worn or faded. Again the only way I have found to do this is to gently iron the sheets and then use small sections of clear Fablon or other ‘sticky back plastics’ to secure the damaged parts. In some cases I have had to resort to carefully weighting down the pieces so they do not move and slowly securing one long piece of good quality sellotape down the crease or tear. I don’t really like doing that as in years to come that too will deteriorate and crumble leaving a horrid yellowing mess on the paper. If you know of a better way please do not hesitate to pass your knowledge on!! I did consider laminating pages but that would then make them too stiff and in-foldable. Not only that if the sections were torn apart completely like the pictures below were it would be neigh on impossible to keep them securely in place whilst going through the laminator
Next job is to get the instructions photocopied. This usually means a trip to the local print shop but it is worth the effort. Again have two copies made. One that you can use and one to keep in with the original.
Now all that is left to do is gently fold up the originals and wrap them in acid free paper and store them in clear plastic zip seal bags where they can be admired without further damage.
I usually store my patterns in large A4 envelopes with a picture of the garment on the outside ready to be used. I store my Lutterloh patterns that I have drawn up in the same way.
The photos I have used in this blog were later made up into Donna’s 1940s Dresses and her 40s Vintage Beach Outfit both of which can be read about in a bit more detail by hitting the links 😀 If the links aren’t working its because I haven’t quite finished posting those blogs just yet! But they are on their way… honestly! ;D
Vintage kinda gal loves all things 40s 50s and art deco. Loves all kinds of crafts especially sewing. addicted to fabric, antiques and shoes. Have two sons and two Akitas that I adore. Passionate about our armed forces, WW1 family history. Living on WW2 Rations for Charity for a whole year. Would one day like to have a tea shop/haberdashery/sewing rooms to relax chat and teach/share all sorts of craft skills in <3