Sewing Pattern Treasures

posted in: patterns, textiles | 4

One of the dreadful things about moving house is that you mislay everyday things that are usually just there when you need them. Equally however, one of the wonderful things when you move house, is that you find treasures that you hadn’t been able to lay your hands on previously, or had even forgot you owned. As I continue to open box after box I keep finding examples of these treasures – some of which I’ve since put somewhere safe and now can’t find for this blog post! There is also much categorizing that needs to be done, particularly of my knitting and sewing objects, so I thought I would start with some of my favourite ‘lost’ but now found sewing patterns.

The first is this two piece skirt suit from Maudella patterns of Bradford. I really don’t know anything about this Company but it interests me that there were sewing companies aswell as knitting and spinning companies in Bradford at this time. The pattern offers one jacket with two skirt styles. The pattern pieces are unprinted, marked only with large and small punch holes to denote straight grain positioning and cutting lines only.

The front cover of the pattern envelope gives yardage for four sizes of suit but the pattern pieces themselves are for one size only which in this case is bust 34 inches and hip 38 inches.

The illustration as is always the case with vintage patterns is beautifully drawn with a slightly more mature lady in an elegant dog tooth check version of the suit, with the pencil skirt version and a more relaxed, youthful version alongside her, coordinating the suit with a Grace Kelly/Audrey Hepburn style headscarf. Note that both women are wearing the obligatory white gloves.

Surprisingly both jacket and skirt are unlined and less surprisingly the instructions are quite compact, although beautifully drawn.

The second is a 1940s shirt dress printed in the US by the sewing pattern giant, McCalls. This is a completely unused pattern with the pattern pieces not even cut out as yet. Unlike the UK pattern from several years later, the pattern pieces are all fully printed with many of the details we expect from our dressmaking patterns today.

This is also a larger pattern than many in my collection as it is a US size 20 which equated to a 40 inch bust. The instructions are quite complex and are all squeezed onto one side of paper, which could explain how it has escaped being made for so many years. There is a handy section on the instructions of how and where to adjust your pattern if changes are needed.

The illustration is once again beautifully drawn. With two slightly different options shown. There is a third more casual option, option C, which isn’t shown on the front cover, which I particularly like with short sleeves and turned back cuffs. This is high on my list of would love to make.

And one final pattern for today is this quite stunning sports dress from Silver Patterns – again a Company I haven’t heard of other than on this pattern. The pattern itself doesn’t come in a proper envelope. The colour illustration is printed on a heavy weight piece of paper which is simply folded around the pattern pieces and instruction sheet.

The pattern pieces have notches, piece numbers, grain line arrows, stitching lines and some other basic information which is just as well as the actual construction instructions are the briefest I have seen on any pattern.

Quite a challenge, no? Amazingly, out of the three patterns I’ve shared this is the only one which has actually been used. One the frontispiece, the sewer has written some notes for fitting adjustments needed.

The lack of instruction did not presumably put ‘her’ off this particular project. I continue to be intrigued by how little explanation both knitters and sewers of this period needed from the patterns they used. Where they really so much better than we crafters of today who have access to online tutorials for every technique imaginable? Where they simply satisfied with a poorer finished product and would have preferred more comprehensive instructions if they had been available? Or where they more prepared to jump in, confident that they would be able to work out how to do something? What do you think?

for now,
Ruby xx

4 Responses

  1. Katie
    | Reply

    I wonder if it's because sewing and dressmaking were common subjects at school for girls and they already had the basic skills that would allow them to tackle these patterns and their brevity of instruction. Or they just did whatever I do when I hit a snag: ask their mum.

  2. knutty knitter
    | Reply

    Sort of an automatic process because all our clothes were hand made.(rather a lot were cut down into the bargain) I can't actually remember anybody doing more than a glance at the instruction sheet. Mostly that resided in the envelope untouched.

    A bought dress was a treasure – I only remember one when I was 9. There were a few from much younger but I had no input for them. They were gifts or hand downs.

    viv in nz

  3. JennR
    | Reply

    I think it's because they had a much better grounding in the basic skills. The pattern writers assumed (usually correctly) that the maker already knew the basics of clothing construction (or had ready access to someone who did), and saw no need to include basic directions.

    I learned to sew (and knit) by watching my mother, and I rarely look at the instruction sheets once I've checked for any idiosyncrasies in layout. Sure, verbose step-by-step instructions are often nice, but the first sweater I made had half a page of instructions and it came out just fine.

  4. mags
    | Reply

    Wow, three wonderful patterns, particularly like the last one so stylish!

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