Half Scale Patterns: Simplicity 4601 from 1962

Tonight I’ve been sewing up a type of pattern I hadn’t come across before – a half scale version of Simplicity 4601 from 1962.

These teeny tiny patterns were intended to be used as teaching devices, and to that end there’s a kind of lesson plan instruction sheet inside describing how the class should study the pattern pieces, demonstrate a simple pattern adjustment and play around with various trims to personalize the finished garment.

There’s even a little test..

  1. If you are using a size 14 pattern and 36″ plain fabric, how much fabric would you buy for this pattern?
  2. What markings on the pattern would use to be sure it was laid on the striaght grain of the fabric?
  3. How wide is the seam allowance on a standard pattern?
  4. In which direction would you stitch the shoulder seam on this pattern?
  5. What is the center line in the dart for?
  6. What are the slanted lines in the dart for?
  7. What is the symbol used to show that the pattern is placed on the fold of the fabric?
  8. Where do you find a list of the supplies are needed to complete your pattern style?

Did you ace it?

Of course, with a half scale pattern you’re not making anything anybody is going to be able to wear…but that’s quite freeing in a way. It’s a perfect opportunity to practice a particular technique whilst using less time and fabric.

It seemed to be like a perfect opportunity to practice a little pattern matching, because I’m nothing if not slipshod and completely innattentive to detail. And sewing in half scale somehow seems less incompatible with my natural inclination to measure once and cut twice…

So I dug out an old stripy sheet from the tower of tote boxes I’m using to collect all the fabric that exists within a 50 mile radius and set to work. I’ll make a nice chevron effect at the center front seam, I thought….

Hmmm. And so another benefit of half scale patterns came to light: instead of inventing six salty new swearwords (which I would have done if this had been full scale), I merely called into question the legitimacy of my sewing machine’s parentage and decided to quit for the night.

Moral of the story: no cutting at bedtime.

If you want to try a half scale pattern yourself, you can find this very same design (plus a half scale 60s blouse) over at Cynical Girl on etsy. It’s a perfect beginner pattern, so if you’re an avid follower of WeSewRetro.com but have not yet dipped your toe into the soothing waters of vintage sewing, check it out :D

If you’re not already outraged that I wrote a bunch of words about half scale and didn’t mention Madeleine Vionnet once, Threads magazine has some interesting articles on half scale patterns: here, here and also here.

• Meet the Author • Katherine


I'm the editor at WeSewRetro so don't hesitate to get in touch with any problems or questions. In addition to keeping the good ship WeSewRetro afloat, I do an amateurish but enthusiastic job of raising a daughter, teach university professors how to dominate a computer by day and study for a masters in literature at night. My daily coffee consumption would kill a small horse. I'm having a clandestine relationship with bias binding and my idea of hell is turning a spaghetti strap right side out.


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7 comments… add one

  • Hm, never heard of these before. I can see the use in practicing layout and construction. But I’ve made my fair share of doll clothes over the years so I think I’ll stick with full-size pieces!

    Reply
  • these are new to me too! very interesting. I wonder how popular/successful they were for the pattern companies.

    Reply
  • So I wasn’t going crazy when I came across one of these half-scaled patterns in an antique store recently!! Ah, relief.

    I was pretty confused by it, but eventually realized they’re for teaching purposes. Interesting – but ultimately disappointing when you think you’ve happened upon some surprisingly inexpensive vintage pattern goodies in an otherwise overpriced, picked-over store. :-/

    Reply
  • I have never heard about it, but those are good to practice.

    Reply
  • Omg…lm*o…..you have made my day.you write so well. I teach half scale pattern cutting at a london uni but i have never come across bought patterns
    I am going to look out for them …i do have a friend who has designed a half scale dress stand kit witch i use to teach my students…but your descriptions and turn of phrase have made me smile….thanks ….got to say you matched the stripes perfectly :))

    Reply
  • Katherine, you so crack me up! More please!

    Oh, and No Cutting At Bedtime is a hard-and-fast rule with me. I think sooner or later we all learn that one the hard way. At least you learned it at half-scale!

    Reply
  • But if I put a beam generator of the correct frequency in front of the receiver lens I would be able walk around the room undetected, no matter how many beams I cut.

    Reply

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