Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Old Sewing Patterns

Retro, Vintage, or just plain old, is it worth it to save sewing patterns? Today, older patterns in uncut and excellent condition can be purchased on resale sites. Additionally, patterns from the 50's and 60's are now available in reissued form from the major pattern companies. Obviously, there is interest in using vintage patterns. How about those patterns we cut, use and age out of, should we keep them or not? Unfortunately, I can't definitively answer the question, but I can relate my recent experience in that regard.

A few years ago, I was cleaning out a closet and found about a dozen sewing patterns that I had saved for decades. Some dated back to my college years, the last time I had regularly sewn clothing for myself. Others were newer. Once the retail price of clothing declined enough to make it less cost effective to sew, my incentive for sewing vanished. At that time, I never really enjoyed sewing. It was one way of keeping my expenses down. However, even after switching to ready made, I still sewed for special occasions. Sometimes I could not find or afford exactly what I (or my family) wanted to wear. These few patterns spanned those years of occasional sewing. I went through these old patterns and kept some that were standard clothing styles, like skirts, tank tops, and simple shorts or pants. The others I posted on Instagram and asked if anyone was interested. Unfortunately, that post got no response at all. Much to my regret, I tossed the patterns in the trash can.

Over the next couple of years, my knitting feed was infiltrated with sewing posts. Project Runway was popular. All the pretty handmade clothes renewed my interest in sewing. First came upcycling my old jeans into skirts, then a new sewing machine. Finally, new patterns and sewing supplies. The newer tools and techniques have made sewing more enjoyable for me. I don't miss the old stuff, except for those patterns... I wish I hadn't tossed them. More on my biggest regret later.

Now on the old patterns that I kept. I have successfully modified a couple and use them repeatedly. Actually, there are only two items I tried that didn't quite work out.

I saved Simplicity 8192, 2 Hour Separates, published in 1992.

This is a great pattern! I bought it for the full skirt and made that for a formal event, in black moire. After that it went into the box with the other patterns. In my recent first attempts at sewing garments from scratch, I dusted this one off and produced two pencil skirts and a tank dress. The only item I hadn't made was the long-sleeved shirt. Well, I couldn't leave that untried.

Using off-white silk jacquard purchased from Taos Adobe Quilting, (2 1/2 yards, 50" wide, weighing 3 3/4 oz./sq yd.) I cut the size 12 shortened by 2 inches. Since there was a little over 1 yd left (39"), the cost was $20.

Although this pattern is designed for shoulder pads, this version doesn't have any--yet. As a result, it is roomy in the shoulders for a size 12. The silk fabric had enough drape to disguise the roominess, but small shoulder pads might be fun to try. The hips were too tight to go over other clothing but after narrowing the side seams as much as possible, it fit, just barely. The sleeves are big in the upper arms but fit in the lower arms. The sleeve length is fine. To make this again, I would need to use a drapey fabric, cut the body A-shaped and consider adding bust darts. The length could be shorter. As it is, with a 2" hem, it hits right at the hip join, my usual choice for top length. The hip width is 42", a good fit over a slim skirt but a bit too tight for a flared skirt unless I tuck it in or just let it bunch up a bit. It does work well under a jumper. The silk should be dry cleaned, but I have solved that problem--I never wear it.

Another I saved was Simplicity 7024, Ladies Front or Back-Draped Top. I used the heck out of this one back in the day, making several tops to wear under my suit jackets. When I stopped wearing suits it went in the box. Although I saved it, I didn't want another draped top--they don't make sense without a jacket. However, before I tossed it out, I became curious about the long-sleeve shirt. About that time, I placed an order from Fancy Tiger Crafts for several yards of their Rayon Honeycomb fabric. When they informed me that there was only 1 1/3 yards available, I figured that since it was 50" wide, I should be able to get something out of it. The cost was $18. I wouldn't have made that decision if I had realized that washing drastically alters this fabric. The bit I did wash as a test came out without the nice suede-like finish, dooming the rest to use as a toile.

My main focus was on altering this old pattern to fit now so that the cap sleeves are a flattering length and the waist and hips fit loosely. Also, the scoop neck and v-neck are great options. Originally, it was cut to the smallest size, a PT. Adding 1/2" at the fold for the front, back, and neck facings brought it to about a medium. Since the sleeve did not need to be larger, I left the armsyce and the sleeve a PT, shortened the body 3" at the marked line and brought the cut line out as large as possible above the hip, using all the material I had.

The cap sleeve is good, as is the scoop neck. The v-neck is too deep, but there is the option of putting a piece of material across it, either in the rayon honeycomb or in a contrasting material. It is wide enough in the hips at 44 1/2" but is large in the neck and sleeves. If I were to make this again, I would probably make the sleeveless version and keep it a PT at the top and facings, only adding the 1/2" at the hips and that or more on the sides. I would eliminate the v-neck and re-work the front neckline to a higher v-neck or a square neck. Instructions call for topstitching hems on sleeves and body. That was easy to do by turning up 1/4" and sewing it down(this material will not hold a crease), then sewing the hem down from the wrong side.)

Again, it isn't being worn, but it has possiblities.

My big regret is the one pattern I tossed that I wish I had kept. It was a smock top that I made and wore for years. I put extra effort into it and was very pleased with the result. I keep looking for something similar but I haven't found it yet. If I had the pattern number, I am sure I could find it for sale.

There's the lesson here: Even if you don't keep the old patterns, keep notes. That way you will know the pattern, the size, and the method you used for all your makes. That is why I am still blogging -- this is my permanent record!

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