Vintage Sewing

Unprinted Precut Vintage Sewing Patterns

By on 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.

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1940s | Dresses | Mail Order Patterns | Vintage Sewing

The Blonde Phantom

By on November 28, 2011

On November 19th I had a belated Halloween party to go to. It’s been ages since I last went to a Halloween party, so I just had to make my costume myself. Add to that my rekindled love for sewing and my love of all things mid-century, I picked something that was fitting for my prefered fashion eras, my nerd factor and my ever-growing stash of vintage sewing patterns. What I ended up with was the 1940s crimefighting superheroine the Blonde Phantom:

I had to find a 1940s dress pattern I could use for her highly impractical crimefighting outfit. I eventually settled on frankensteining two 1940s patterns; Simplicity 4657 and a mail order pattern from an unknown company, but numbered 2167:

I had to do several alterations to the mail order pattern. The alterations included:
Redesigning the original armscye to accomadate the armscye and sleeve of the Simplicity pattern.
Widen and lower the neckline.
Add length to the skirt.
Add a cut-out detail at the midriff.

Here’s what I ended up with after all the head-scratching from the alterations:

This was such a fun project! When I was younger, I’d often make my own costumes, but I never knew much about the construction of garments and I think it was a great experience to be able to apply my sewing skills to this nerdy project; it’s fun to make an approximation of a superhero outfit like this and be able to make it with costruction and design details appropriate for the era the character wearing it belongs to 🙂

If you’re interested, there’s more about this project over on my blog.

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