I hope you’re as excited as I am to do some vintage inspired Spring sewing! To help get you started I’ve put together a little post to point you in the right direction as far as pattern choices. When browsing for the perfect pattern for you, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, the main goal is to sew something inspired by a vintage era (as in, the overall garment has a vintage-y look) specifically from the 1920s – 70s, and perhaps most importantly, you want to look for a pattern that’s well suited for a cotton fabric!
Aside from those essentials, you also want to make a garment you’ll actually wear and love. Do a bit of brainstorming and figure out what makes you feel confident and comfortable. If you’ve never worn or sewn vintage, think about what kinds of modern styles you wear, then see if there’s an outfit from a bygone era that’s similar. I bet there is!
There are three types of patterns to look for when creating your Spring For Cotton project: True Vintage, Vintage Reproduction, and Vintage Inspired.
About Vintage Patterns: True vintage patterns are really rewarding to sew from. You’re recreating a little piece of history with each project! When trying to recreate a vintage inspired look, sewing from a true vintage pattern is the most authentic way to go. However, there are a few downsides to sewing with old patterns. Most likely, these patterns will only include one size per envelope, and there’s nothing more frustrating than falling in love with a perfect pattern only to realize it won’t fit you. Yes you can grade/re-size vintage patterns, but that’s always been more work than I’ve been willing to fuss with, personally.
When buying vintage patterns, sometimes sellers won’t check or count pieces to make sure they’re all there, so it can be a bit of a gamble in that respect. The language in vintage patterns can be different than we’re used to, and instructions are often written for sewers with experience. Also, don’t be surprised if your vintage pattern pieces have nothing printed on them! That’s really common for 1940s patterns and earlier, but I have a blog post to help walk you through that. If you are a beginner, and you do want to sew a true vintage pattern, I would never try to discourage you! I just want any who are unfamiliar to know what to expect.
Where To Buy: I have a few favorite places to buy vintage patterns that I’ve used time and time again. Judy at Vintage4me2 on eBay is known for checking and counting all pattern pieces, speedy shipping, and excellent customer service. I also love Judy’s shop because you can browse by size! I’d say at least half of my vintage patterns have come from her shop. I also recommend Vintage Pattern Collective on Etsy. They’re a community of vintage pattern enthusiasts with reputable shops and huge variety. Etsy and eBay in general are excellent places to buy vintage patterns, as well as thrift shops and yard sales. Or maybe you have a friend/relative who’s willing to pass on some vintage patterns to you!
About Reproduction Patterns: Vintage repro patterns are re-makes of true vintage patterns, often using exact copies of old patterns or drafting from the original vintage artwork. What you get with a reproduction is the best of both worlds – authentic vintage styles but with modern sewing instructions and multiple sizes per envelope. Usually reproduction patterns have their original dates listed on the packaging (even down to the exact year the original pattern was made), making it really easy to shop by era.
Where To Buy: Simplicity, Butterick, McCalls, and Vogue all have a line of vintage reproduction patterns that are available online, and also at your “big box” craft stores like Jo-Ann Fabrics. There are also plenty of independent pattern companies dedicated to making reproduction patterns – Wearing History, Decades of Style, Folkwear, Reconstructing History, and EvaDress are just a few of the many.
About Inspired Patterns: Almost all styles nowadays are influenced, at least in part, by a vintage era and sewing patterns are no exception. Vintage inspired patterns might not be drafted from original vintage, and the designer might not have had an exact bygone date in mind, but the overall style still has a recognizable vintage look. Sometimes a modern pattern can look very vintage with the right fabric and some small modifications. If you have a modern pattern in your stash, or see one you think you can alter to help achieve your vintage inspired garment, go for it!
Examples: The Merchant & Mills Factory Dress was inspired by 1920s workwear, and the Colette Ceylon Dress has a very 1940s silhouette. Almost any modern shirt dress pattern with a full skirt has the potential to look like a classic 1950s day dress!
Where To Buy: Aside from Colette and Merchant & Mills, there are many modern, independent pattern designers who are known for a vintage influence. A few designers that come to mind are Christine Haynes, Patterns by Gertie, Jennifer Lauren, Eliza M, Blue Ginger Doll, Tilly and The Buttons, Sew Over It, and Pauline Alice.
If you can think of another vintage inspired pattern company, or a favorite shop where you like to buy patterns, feel free to leave a link in a comment below!
Also, when you think you’ve found your perfect pattern, please share it with the group on Flickr! We’d love to see 🙂
Well I hope this post has helped point you in the right direction as far as what type of pattern you may want to work with. We’ll be discussing all sorts of Spring For Cotton fabrics next!