Vintage Sewing

Last Week of the Party Time Competition!

November 23, 2009

It’s time to get to know our sponsor Katherine of ZipZapKap a little bit better!

So Katherine, how did you get started selling vintage patterns?

I was a pattern buyer who wasn’t having much luck finding a venue that catered to the way I wanted to shop. Having larger-than-life-size scans of the front and back is a huge thing for me – I really rely on large, clear pictures when shopping online because I can’t satisfy the need to pick the thing up and look at it from all angles. So, subscribing to a Do-It-Yourself philosophy and figuring that I couldn’t be the only one that felt this way, I set up shop myself.

Do you have a favourite period of clothing and if so what is it about it that you like?

I love the silhouettes and glamour of the 50s but I’m not ladylike enough to pull it off. The things I buy and make for myself are late 60s/early 70s inspired.

Where do you score your patterns from and how many do you actually have?

At last count, I had around 4000 and they come from a myriad of sources. Before I was buying to sell, I often bought pattern lots on eBay because it seemed like the most cost effective way, but when I factored in the amount of damaged, incomplete or just hideous patterns I was getting stuck with just to acquire a few gems, it very quickly lost its appeal.

Word of mouth gets a lot of patterns to me. Vintage patterns often pop up in unusual places and once everyone around you knows you’re obsessed, they start keeping an eye out on your behalf.

Are you a sewer? If not, why not and if so how long have you been sewing for?

I’ve been sewing since I was very small. My mum worked from home as a seamstress so I grew up under an industrial sewing machine. Quite literally – I would sit under there playing and we would sing songs while she worked.

My own sewing really took off when I moved from England to America. Due to an extremely favourable exchange rate, my husband and I were able to take a year off work to follow whatever creative whim we wanted to pursue. During that time, I discovered quilting and really fell in love with it. If you were on in 2007, you might have seen my Scrappy Square quilt, a king size log cabin put together entirely from scraps that I laboured over for months. It’s a visual monstrosity and I’m very proud of it.

Which pattern(s) from your store would you love to sew yourself?

I’m going through a cape phase so it would have to be this one and I so badly wanted to keep this one I know it went to a wonderful home though.

What is your favourite pattern in your store at the moment?

This trapeze dress and this 60s Vogue.

What’s the most expensive pattern you’ve sold and what made it so special?

My most recent high dollar pattern was an uncut Fabiani evening gown bought by a lady who originally wore the dress to a formal function when she was 17 and had loved it ever since. I was delighted to be able to connect her back to so many special memories. It’s the kind of story I hear often and that’s definitely the aspect of ZipZapKap I love most.

How do you work out your pricing for patterns, is it based just on age, condition or on the availability of each pattern or something else entirely?

All those factors play a part but condition is king. Dead stock (or old shop stock) commands the highest price because there’s nothing quite like being the first person to open a vintage envelope.

Does the popularity of vintage patterns change from year to year and if so what would you think may cause that?

This is my first year in the vintage pattern business so I’m not well qualified to speak on long term trends. Popularity is certainly regional though – I have a huge contingent of customers from Australia and that number continues to grow as the exchange rate tips more and more in Australia’s favour.

In your opinion is sewing vintage becoming more or less popular?

Sewing vintage is never going to be ‘mainstream’ but I think more and more of us are shifting towards making sensible sustainable choices that recognize the importance of economy, quality of life and the personal fulfilment that comes from creativity. Investing in vintage goes hand in hand with that.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

I’d like to thank all the contributors to this fabulous community who serve up so much inspiration, encouragement and positivity. It’s such a treat to see what everyone is working on. Good luck in the competition and if you have any questions, you can reach me at or find me on Twitter.

Thanks very much for answering our questions Katherine!

Don’t forget that you have until the 30th to submit a garment that could be worn to any type of party. The prize is $100 to be spent at ZipZapKap (not including shipping) so get entering!

Happy sewing


  1. Monstrosity my eye! That quilt is a dream. I adore it. I've dreamed of doing one like that for years. Sadly, I don't really quilt. That shouldn't hamper the process too much, right? Well done!

  2. I DO remember that quilt from Craftster! It was one of the most awe-inspiring I'd seen. That trapeze dress is beautiful. My mom made that for herself in the '70s in a lime green cotton paisley and it was stunning!

  3. It's a terrifying thing to randomly open Sew Retro in the morning and come across your own giant head. Could have shrunk me down a bit Anna 😛

    Thanks for the kind quilt words – I appreciate it : )

    Marianne – that was only the second quilt I ever made and if I had any idea what I was doing I probably would never have started. You can totally bluff a log cabin – if you can sew a straight line, you're good to go. Give it a try!

    P. – Do you have a pic of her in it? Sounds awesome!

  4. Thanks for telling us all about your passion that has led to a business. I envy you being able to take off a year and play!

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