Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Solving Vintage Issues with Vintage patterns

A few vintage patterns from my website

The vintage market has grown in leaps and bounds over the past decade or so. Today there is a vast selection of vintage venues and choices seem endless, however, nothing is perfect and there are situations where shopping for vintage can be illusive and frustrating.

Finding just what you want is fairly easy if you are a perfect smaller size but it can be more of a challenge for those of us with older, plumper or unique proportions. There is less to choose from and unfortunately a lot of larger vintage can be a tad matronly. That's not to say it's impossible to find great stuff in your size, it's just harder and if you have a specific look in mind the hunt becomes even more difficult. On another note some vintage can be fragile and risky to wear. Those diaphanous chiffon's from the 1930s or the beaded flapper dresses from the 20s look fine on a mannequin but the fabrics seldom hold up to anything but the most gentle use...just dancing in them can cause irreversible damage. Then there are those occasions when you need a specific color or yearn for a particular fabric and nothing you see is quite right. These are all great reasons to consider turning to vintage patterns.

Fortunately there are vintage patterns available for every imaginable article of clothing... dresses, suits, coats, lingerie, separates ....even swimsuits and aprons. You can buy vintage fabric and notions (old buttons and metal zippers) to make your garment as authentic as possible and if you are a real purist look for vintage sewing books to study old techniques for clothing construction

There are a few things you need to keep in mind when you sew from a vintage pattern. First is the issue of size. Vintage patterns go by really old standards of sizing which bear no resemblance to contemporary sizing. Disregard the size and note the measurements on the pattern then compare them to your own.

If you fall in love with a patten that does not match your measurements do not despair. Most patterns can be graded up or down to the desired size. It does help if you can find a pattern close to what you need. At the end of this blog are a few links to articles with clear grading instructions. You can also pay a better seamstress to grade your pattern for you if you don't feel confident trying it yourself.

Once you have purchased a vintage pattern you may notice that the pattern pieces have no markings on them and very early patterns might not even have much in the way of instruction. The reason for this is that most women were trained at sewing from a very early age and knew how to put a pattern together. If you are concerned about this take a look at the instructions from a similar style, modern pattern. They won't be exactly the same of course but you will get a general idea of the different steps you need to follow.

Tissue patterns are very fragile so I recommend you transfer them to heavy paper before starting. Just smooth out the pattern pieces and pin them to the paper then trace and cut. Before removing the tissue pattern pencil dots in the proper punch holes for grain, you will see these in your instructions. Connect the dots with a ruler to create your grain line this is imperative. Transfer any other marks you might need like fold lines and notches. At this point, grade your pattern for size if necessary.

Next I strongly recommend you sew a quick muslin or mock up of the garment before cutting into your costly fashion fabric, especially if it's vintage and you can't get any more!. You can do all your fitting on the muslin then transfer the alterations to your pattern. You only need to do this once and it can really prevent disaster later on.

If you love authentic vintage but have trouble finding what you desire then consider looking into making your own from vintage patterns. If you are fortunate enough to have a trusted seamstress and can afford to have your clothing made then I say indulge! Either way it will be a fun and rewarding project.

Until my next blog best to you all! Melody

Articles on grading patterns

How to Re size a Pattern

Making Sense of Pattern Grading

Quick Reference for Cut and Spread Pattern Grading

Grade a Bodice to a Larger Size

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