Clearance Sale on Retro-Inspired Sewing Patterns

We’ve got to make some room for a huge influx of vintage patterns so we’re running a clearance sale on a bunch of retro-inspired sewing patterns by independent pattern companies in the WeSewRetro Shop.

Companies like Colette Patterns, Sewaholic, Cake, Christine Haynes, Violette Field Threads, Jamie Christina, Sew Liberated, April Rhodes and more.

We only have one or two copies of each style left.  All paper patterns and all at least 35% off. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.


1940s-Style Shirt Dress

Recently, while sewing for a placement, I took a step away from my usual 50s-style makes, in search of something a little more practical as well as elegant. The solution? A 1940s-inspired shirt dress!

I used Simplicity 1880 for the pattern, and made it up in red cotton lawn. The only alteration I made was to add a pocket on the right hand side – because every dress needs pockets! I also added decorative stitching and self-covered buttons; I think it’s details like this that make all the difference :)

Speaking of details, I think this dress also looks great with a pair of retro back-seam stockings ;)

You can read all about this dress here on my blog!

Until next time,

Miss Maddy xx

1950s-Style Co-ord

I’ve been having a lot of fun with my summer sewing here in Australia – frequent beach trips have necessitated (or so I tell myself!) lots of playsuits and rompers to flounce around in. My last frivolous make of the summer? A 1950’s inspired co-ord, made from the BHL Anna dress hacked for the top, and self-drafted shorts.

Beach Baby Co-ord

The fabric is very special – a vintage cotton lawn that had been my great-grandmother’s, before my grandmother passed it on to me. The edges are finished with self-made bias binding, and I added a hand-worked button loop to close the back of the top – gotta love little vintage details like that :)

Beach Baby Co-ord

Beach Baby Co-ord

I love this little set, and it’s so versatile for mixing and matching! You can read more about it here on my blog :)

Until next time,

Miss Maddy xx

Butterick 7653 – make all the dresses!

I’m sure I’m not the only WSR sewist who sees a fabulous vintage pattern and needs to make all given variations of a dress! This pattern, Butterick 7653 was that pattern for me. For ages.

I was initially attracted by the elegant neckline, both back and front, and the pleats on the slim skirt version, such simple details.

Butterick 7653 pattern

I started with this project in 2013…the pattern is a size too small, so that held up the works a little and I’m glad I didn’t rush it. By the time I decided to tackle it again, I was more confident, and had more experience in fitting for my body, and lining dresses, and it was a quick and easy make. I think I had some kind of fitting-to-body mental block!

So, here are the results of this particular sewing dream, the slim skirt version is my favourite, I made it in a polyester crepe, navy blue with white polka dots.

Butterick 7653 complete tall

I love this dress!

Butterick 7653 complete nice darts

Those pleats..

Butterick 7653 complete nice neckline

…And the neckline…

Butterick 7653 complete 2

I wore this to my husband’s MFA graduation, and we went out for a coffee after (thanks to babysitters…) and it was so fun to wear and, well, I just love it!

On to the full-skirted version. I didn’t quite have enough fabric to make the skirt as full as required, I had a couple of metres of this lovely silk from a friend, and it was perfect for this dress, the drape of the bias neckline especially, so I went ahead with it.

Butterick 7653 finished front neckline detail

I added a waist-stay to this as the skirt was fairly heavy, and I added little bra-strap holders as the the neckline is so wide.

Butterick 7653 finished bodice and skirt detail

I went for wide box pleats on the skirt, and tried to reproduce the look of slim skirt pleats, which were slightly overlapping, as you may be able to see from the pattern envelope illustration. I think this worked reasonably well, without adding too much bulk in the waist area.

Butterick 7653 finish nice shoulders

And while I was short fabric for the very full skirt, adding a petticoat helps to re-create that gorgeous 50s silhouette.

Butterick 7653 petticoat

Here’s the back of the dress…

Butterick 7653 back finish tall

Do you have favourite dress pattern? That you have to keep making? I don’t know if I’m done with this one yet.

Butterick 7653 finished tall twirling2

I accessorised with my nana’s flower hat and gloves, and some old rose style earrings.

Butterick 7653 accessories2

More photos and the story on my blog of course xox

The Vintage Sewing Nerd’s Guide to Netflix

Chances are, if you’re into vintage sewing, you’re not above watching a show just for the clothes. We love a period drama around these parts and here’s what we’ve been binge-watching on Netflix (ok, and PBS and YouTube and a few Australian networks that I have no understanding of) while cutting out our patterns…

Disclaimer: Netflix/PBS/YouTube offerings vary over time and country; if somethings not available to you right now, bookmark the post so you can try again later.

(P.S. No mention of Downton Abbey because, dude, you already know about Downton…) EDIT: Ok, ok, I’ll put in Downton ;)


The Paradise

Small-town English girl with big ideas moves to the city and takes a job at The Paradise department store.


North & South

When her father moves his family to an industrial mill town, the parson’s daughter, Margaret Hale, struggles to adapt to her harsh new surroundings.


Mr Selfridge

Following the flamboyant American founder of the London department store.


Gran Hotel

Spanish language drama about a young man who comes to the Gran Hotel to investigate the disappearance of his sister.

1st December content


Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

Lady detective Phryne Fisher sashays through 1920s Melbourne, Australia.


The House of Eliott

This show from the 1990s is set in a 1920s fashion house and is now all available on YouTube.


Downton Abbey

What can I say about Downton that you don’t already know? I originally left it out of the list but there was uproar ;)




During the Great Depression, an Oklahoma farm boy and a charismatic minister learn that they are key players in a proxy war being fought between Heaven and Hell.


The Time in Between

El Tiempo Entre Costuras is the original Spanish title. This one is in Spanish with English subtitles. Young Spanish dressmaker Sira becomes a spy for the Allies.


Indian Summers

Set in India during the decline of the British colonial rule.


Upstairs, Downstairs

The lives of the family and servants in an English household.



Following quirky Belgian detective Poirot. This series started airing back in the 1980s and ran until fairly recently, so tons of episodes.




A young woman finds out that her mother worked as a spy for the British Secret Service during World War II and has been on the run ever since.


Land Girls

Follows four English girls who join the Women’s Land Army during WWII.


Bomb Girls

Ensemble drama following women working at a munitions factory.


Agent Carter

Part of the Marvel universe (…Captain America…Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D…)


Foyle’s War

Crime drama following police inspector Christopher Foyle during WWII.



A world of secrets and science in New Mexico during the race to built the atomic bomb.




This Spanish language show is set in a 1950s fashion store.


Call the Midwife

Following a newly qualified midwife and her colleagues at a nursing convent in 1950s & 60s London.


The Bletchley Circle

Four women who worked at Bletchley Park (the infamous code-breaking center) reunite in the early 50s to track down a serial killer.


The Hour

Following British journalists in Cold War-era England.


Masters of Sex

Drama about the pioneers of the science of human sexuality whose research touched off the sexual revolution.


A Place to Call Home

Following the lives and loves of the residents of Ash Park, a grand Australian homestead.




English doctors and nurses in a 1960s gynecology ward. Find this one on PBS.


Astronauts Wives Club

Based on the book of the same name by Lily Koppel and telling the story of the wives behind the space race.


Pan Am

Following the pilots and stewardesses of Pan Am.


Love Child

Set in 1960s Sydney, Australia. Probably not on US Netflix but go hunting the web and you might find it.


Mad Men

Like Downton, you already know about Mad Men. But any excuse for some gratuitous Don Draper action…



So..did we miss any? What are you watching?


Why you shouldn’t spend $100 on a plastic sewing machine from Walmart

If you’re just getting into sewing, it can be difficult to figure out what sewing machine to buy. You want something that isn’t too advanced but that you won’t grow out of quickly. Too often, beginners find themselves eyeing up inexpensive plastic machines at Walmart or Target and asking “Is this a good machine for me?” I’m going to go out on a limb here and say no, no it isn’t.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced sewist, you can probably pick up an infinitely better vintage sewing machine for the same or less money if you’re willing to look. There are some truly amazing vintage sewing machines on the second-hand market or sitting neglected in somebody’s basement.

The first thing you’ll notice when shopping for a vintage machine is how heavy they are. This is good for a number of reasons:

  • Metal parts are more reliable and hard-wearing than plastic. Metal machines sew better for longer.
  • They won’t bounce around the table while you’re sewing
  • They will sew through the thickest of fabrics like butter. Many people who sew bags with heavier fabrics like leather and vinyl look specifically for vintage machines because they know an old metal machine will handle the work.

I see vintage metal sewing machines all the time at thrift stores in Kentucky for around $30 but, eager to prove this wasn’t just a local phenomenon, I reached out to the members of the WeSewRetro Sew & Tell Facebook group to see what second-hand machines they had spotted (and, often, bought!). Scroll down to see the vintage machines being used to crank out stunning garments and keep scrolling for some tips on what to look for and where to find it.


Found at a thrift store in New Jersey, USA.


Found at a thrift store in the USA.


Found at a Salvation Army store in Pennsylvania, USA.


Found at a yard sale in the US.


Found on Craigslist in the USA.


Ok, we’re getting a little pricy now at $100 but bear in mind: this machine will outlive you, your children and probably your grandchildren. Purchased from the daughter of the original owner in Illinois, USA.


Found at a yard sale in Wisconsin, USA.


Found at the Habitat store in Tennessee, USA.


Found at an estate sale in the US.


Found at an antique mall in the US.


Found at a thrift store in the US.


Found on Craigslist in the USA (cabinet included in price)


Found at a Trash & Treasure sale in Ohio, USA.


Found at Goodwill in the US.



Found a Re-Store in Indiana, USA.


Found on eBay in California, USA.


Found on Craigslist in Kentucky, USA.


Found at Goodwill in the USA. price includes all accessories. Bernina is a great brand.

It’s worth noting that this is not just an American thing. Here are some vintage workhorses from England, Ireland, Poland, Iceland and Australia…


Found at a car boot sale at a weekender in England.


Found in England. Price included all the accessories.


Found in England.


Found in Ireland.


Found in a thrift shop in Ireland.


Found as a trade-in at a Sewing Machine Center in Ireland.


Found online in Poland for the equivalent of $40 USD.


Inherited from Grandma in Iceland.

Where can I find a vintage sewing machine?

  • Your family and friends

You might be surprised how many people you know have an unused or unwanted machine lurking about in a garage or basement. Here’s what WeSewRetro-er Mary had to say about reaching out to family first:


Let everyone know you’re looking for a sewing machine. You never know what might turn up!


One of the easiest ways to find a machine on Craigslist is to set up a search with your chosen parameters (putting in a maximum price is usually helpful) and then set up an email alert. Any time there are new search results for “sewing machine” or whatever your search term is, you’ll get an email. Effortless.


Sometimes this site can a little pricey. Be careful to factor in any shipping and handling charges – heavy machines are often best picked up in person.

  • Classified ads in the local newspaper
  • Pawn shops

How do I know if it’s worth buying?

Missing parts (like a power cable) are not necessarily deal-breakers once you know what you’re doing, but for a hassle-free first buying experience, check the machine has a power cable and a bobbin case. Accessories like needles and bobbins can be bought new inexpensively. If you’re in a thrift store, ask if you can plug it in just to verify it runs. You don’t need to see it sew, you just need to see it go.

Plan to have it serviced once you get it home. This is something you could potentially learn to do yourself, but dropping it off at your local Vac & Sew Shop for a couple of days is painless. Pricing on a service varies with condition and location, but around $50 is not uncommon in the US.

How do I know what needles/accessories/parts I need for my vintage machine?

Once you’ve got your machine home, search online for a copy of the manual. You can very often find these for free in PDF form so search hard before handing over your cash. This will tell you how to thread it, how to use any fancy features it may have and what parts you might need. If you have questions, find a community online of people who love these things and pick their brains. The Vintage Sewing Machines group on facebook comes highly recommended – they really know their stuff!