Would You Sew With An 80 Year Old Sewing Pattern?

I love vintage sewing patterns. I’m a sucker for their details, simplicity and sophistication. My current affection is for sweet styling of a button up blouse. What I’ve really come to love lately is the kimono and raglan sleeve, as seen in the McCalls 8711 and Advanced 6261. I can’t wait to get started.

vintage patterns 600 Would You Sew With An 80 Year Old Sewing Pattern?Have you ever wanted to sew with vintage patterns? There’s a bit of care involved when sewing with vintage patterns. Some of the patterns I have are over 80 years old and if I want them to be preserved there’s a few things I need to do.

  • I make a copy (color preferred) of the front and back of the pattern envelope.
  • Copy the instructions, front and back.
  • I iron each pattern piece on the lowest setting.
  • Finally, I copy of all the pattern pieces on to Swedish tracing paper. Making sure to copy all the markings and notations.
  • Grade pattern if too big or small.
  • Make a trial garment and make any fitting adjustments.
  • Sew up the final version.
  • Fold up all originals following original fold lines.
  • Package all in an archival sleeve and store in metal filing cabinet.

If you don’t care to purchase these delicate patterns and use up valuable time in prepping them for use, there are new patterns that have all the charm of the originals. You know, everything old is new again!

Let me know if you like sewing with patterns or if you would rather use new. Or tell me what’s the oldest sewing pattern you have used.  Leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win a garment sewing book gift pack.

 Would You Sew With An 80 Year Old Sewing Pattern?

About Jill

I write for the Sew News and Creative Machine Embroidery blogs. I love sewing, vintage and would love to get a comment from you!
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33 Responses to Would You Sew With An 80 Year Old Sewing Pattern?

  1. Melissa Hill says:

    I’m 43yrs old an I’ve found myself in total Love with the 60′s sewing patterns! I have 1000′s of patterns from early 1900′s to now. I prefer vintage patterns!! I feel the instructions are so much clearer and easier to understand. Would I use an 80yr old pattern, Yes!!!!

  2. I love using old patterns , i like it

  3. Brenda says:

    Two fabric-store style metal cabinets full of patterns, and several boxes… It would be an interesting afternoon’s project to find out which one is the oldest! I have used old patterns, some of the styles are so pretty, and the fitting and finishing techniques are much nicer than RTW these days.

  4. Rebecca says:

    I have a few vintage paper patterns, but I sew primarily for dolls. I have one pattern I’m adapting for a modern size doll that was originally published in a magazine for children in the 1840s – I think that’s the oldest one I’ve made, but I do have a book with designs back to the 1700s.

  5. I love old vintage patterns, I have a stash of about 800 right now, ranging from 1930′s to 2016.. i love the older vintage ones, those are in mylar with comic board backing to keep which is acid free to help protect them :) they are amazing!!

    • Jill says:

      Oh. My Gosh. You must keep them in a vault. I’m getting more(not that many, yet) but I need to get a better filing system,like in a metal filing cabinet.

  6. Marie Barber says:

    I love old patterns. Oldest I have made up is one I drafted from a history on costumes for 1600′s. ‘ Currently on a kick for 1940s and 1950s dress patterns.

  7. Melissa says:

    We have a vintage car from 1948, so I made matching outfits for myself, my 3yo daughter and my 5yo son from vintage bed linen and original patterns from the same year. It was a really fun project, and quite a challenge with the very simple ‘presumed knowledge’ style instructions!

  8. CaseyJuly says:

    I am a Professional Costume Designer and Applied Artist. I collect patterns and have them from different eras, and a few in different languages. I own about 4,000 paper patterns! And YES! I do sew with them!!! XOXOXO

  9. Judy Miller says:

    I love old patterns. I just used a 30 yr old pattern last year for my granddaughter’s Halloween costume. It was easier, had better instructions and the same style as the new one we were going to use!

  10. Tab says:

    I have a weakness for Vintage patterns. I visit Thrift stores searching for the styles and feminine lines. I don’t know if I have any 80 yr. old patterns in my stash, but if it had the style I would make it for sure.

  11. Wendy Arend says:

    When my Mom first came to meet my newborn, now 24 year old, daughter she brought me a new sewing machine and the patterns she had made some of my baby and toddler clothes with. I used them to make my daughter outfits and I hope to get the chance someday to use them for granddaughters. Those patterns, like me, are from 1960.

  12. Jill says:

    I love the vintage patterns. I found a bunch at an antique shop for $2 a piece! The oldest one was dated 1952. It’s a cute skirt pattern with a couple variations. I’m dying to make it but was a little scared to open the tissue up. I’m going to try your method of copying it. Thanks!

    • Jill says:

      I hope you do try. I know sometimes I’ve been really careful with the paper and I still end up tearing it, it can be so brittle. But, once you do copy it you can stick the pattern safely back in the envelope and not worry about it.

  13. Marilyn E. says:

    Yes, I love to sew with vintage patterns when I can get one that fits. My favorite is Simplicity #3665 from the late 50′s. I have made several robes from it. I have been looking for a shirtwaist dress from the early 70′s that I had and threw out because it was too small. That was before I learned about altering patterns. I have no idea who put it out but I would know the cover of the pattern, if I saw it.

  14. Crystal Rios says:

    The oldest pattern I’ve made up to date is from the 40s or 50s… It was one of my grandmother’s patterns. She made a couple gowns from it. I have one of them; it’ll never fit me, but I’m hoping it’ll fit my daughter someday. Anyway, I’ve done that pattern in a bigger size 3 or 4 times. The tissue is quite delicate, of course but still usable. It’s a round necked, high waisted, short sleeve gown. It’s actually the pattern that I first learned how to modify necklines on. I gave it a more modern square neckline the second and third times that I made it. Or maybe the third and fourth times… :-)

  15. Lois says:

    I have many patterns from the 40′s, 50′s and 60′s. When I see the vintage patterns that are in the new catalogs, I usually have the original. I have thought about making them, especially Doll Clothes. My biggest problem is the time necessary.

  16. Lynn Gallager-Vallejo says:

    I love adapting baby patterns from the 30s and 40s for my christening gown business. Figuring out the instructions is the most fun lol!

  17. Marguerite says:

    1868 is my oldest, a “waist” from Godey’s that I had to scale up on gridded paper. But I make kid’s clothes from 1940s and 1950s patterns fairly often. The styles haven’t changed that much! Want to make a 1930s bias dress for myself some day.

    That said, I prefer modern patterns in general – largely because I don’t have to take care of them like that!

  18. Claire says:

    I’ve seen with vintage patterns but prefer my late 50s Vogue ones. Tricky techniques and no markings can put me off if I just want to do a quick piece in a day or two though.
    @sewclaribel I have a massive horde of them

  19. Donnie Kirby says:

    I would sew with an eighty-year old pattern if the garment is one I would like to have.

  20. Karen S says:

    I love vintage patterns-especially the envelope art. So much better than today’s photos on the envelopes. I have over 500 in my collection though I’ve only made up a few-mostly from the 60′s and one from the 50′s and I’m working on a 70′s dress. I’d like to make more but prep time needed like you mentioned and work cuts into sewing time. I have many more things on the wish list than I have time to get done.

  21. Kathy L says:

    Where do you find the archival sleeves? I collect patterns, old and new. I love seeing how they are put together and use to modify what I maybe sewing. I have an old pattern cabinet full, and could fill another.

  22. Elizabeth says:

    I love using old( vintage ) patterns, especially the ones for cute pj’s and suits. The styles just seem to say classy with being fussy. The oldest pattern I’ve used is an Advance pattern for pj’s that my mom gave me. I’ve used it several times with minor adjustments.

    • Jill says:

      The pj’s and slips are so cute. I don’t have any in my collection, but it’s on my list!

  23. Lynne Meyers says:

    I too enjoy sewing with vintage patterns. I am always searching Etsy for “new” patterns. It is great that the pattern companies are reprinting some of their vintage patterns with more up-to-date sizing. thank you for the tips in your article.

    • Jill says:

      Yes, I like when the big 4 reprint their older ones. Then they’re not so delicate as the originals. Plus, they’re a lot cheaper.

  24. Diana says:

    I had to chuckle when reading your notes about 80-year old patterns – I have some that are probably at least 50 years old in my current patterns. The only problem I have is they don’t fit me any more!!! What I’ve noted over the years is the cycle of how “new” patterns pick up on the older ones and are “recycled styles” – about every 15 years. That’s good, then if I have a favorite style, I can make it again – in a size that fits!!

    • Jill says:

      Give your older patterns away to one of those younger sewers who’s gaga for ‘antique’ styles of the 80s and 90s!