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Unprinted Precut Vintage Sewing Patterns

January 15, 2017

My least favorite thing about sewing is cutting out pattern pieces.

Whether it means wrangling enormous sheets of tissue to find the pieces I need or taping and cutting printer paper from PDFs, it’s just a slog for me. (Pssst, speaking of PDFs, we’re putting PDFs up in shop this month if you want to sneak a peek – official announcement to follow once we’re finished.) 

Actually as I was typing this I had a flashback to the last time I tried to turn a spaghetti strap right side out- considering there were bellows of rage and several unladylike gestures thrown to the heavens, cutting out pattern pieces might have to be second least favorite. But anyway, cutting out pieces = zero fun in this house.

So I’m all about unprinted vintage patterns, like this Simplicity pattern from the 1930s. 

I love that they can come straight out of the envelope and onto the fabric, but the marking system of various punched holes can take some adjusting to.

If you haven’t had a chance to sew with many genuine vintage patterns yet, staring down at a big blank piece of tissue can be unnerving, so here’s something you may not know: there was a brief period of time in the early 1940s when Simplicity (and just Simplicity I think…I’ve never seen another brand do this) released patterns that were both precut and printed, like this:

Best of both worlds, right? Well, maybe, maybe not.

The argument for printing patterns instead of precutting them was that printing is more accurate than punching pieces from a giant stack of tissue paper which might shift around as the cut was made. If you’ve ever accidentally sewn something using the wrong seam allowance, you’ve already seen how a tiny deviation can have big results on a finished garment.

If you want to try one of these pre-cut printed patterns, you need to be looking for Simplicity patterns from the early 1940s like these:

Not confident in your pattern envelope dating skills? Here’s a tip – look at the hair styles. If you spend a little time with a cup of coffee scrolling through pinterest (torture, right?) you’ll start to get a feel for the haircuts associated with each period.

You’ll also see on the logo in teeny tiny text it says ‘cut to exact size’ above ‘printed pattern’, like this:

[insert record scratch noise here]

About a week after I confidently asserted that only Simplicity did this, I found another one…this time a 1956 Vogue Pattern. Here it is:

You can see at the bottom of the front of the envelope and on the back flap ‘Vogue’s new printed and perforated patterns’.

Here’s a pattern piece, showing the seam line printed on and notches and perforations precut.

  1. Yes – I too detest cutting pattern pieces! That is definitely one of the best benefits to using vintage…they’re ready to go! I wonder if we can get modern patterns to bring this back.

    I have a few mid 1930s patterns from Pictorial Review and they are the same as some early 40’s Simplicity’s – both pre-cut with the hole punch markings and printed with instructions on each piece. I always assumed that the early 40’s Simplicity patterns did this because they bought out Pictorial Review Company somewhere between 1936 and 1939, and carried over their acquired pattern brand’s customs for a number of years. Also, from what I see in my collection, the Simplicity pattern envelopes with the yellow logo type seem to stay between ’41 and ’42.

  2. I have some modern re-issue retro patterns, but now days I feel overwhelmed at the thought of cutting tissue, and all the printing on them.
    I so prefer the pre cut hole punched pieces.
    I have some with minimal printed text as well as holes punched.

  3. I have a very charming memory of confusing the unprinted #6 piece with the #9 piece of a dress a couple of years ago. And two similar but not similar enough pieces I cut the wrong way. Outside of those mishaps…..now I trace them all, and mark them very very carefully. And date them.

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