I was lucky enough to be given a box of original vintage dress pattern, spanning from the 50s to 80s by a colleague of my sister. The thing about vintage patterns is the original owner would have cut them to their size, and only kept the bits they want. So while originally patterns come with variations and size options, these won’t be included in most second-hand packets. I am lucky to be short, and thus naturally petite, so this wasn’t such an issue, but it’s something to be aware of.
I made the above 1950 top for work out of one of these patterns using a quilting fabric. While they can seem stiff in the store, after a wash they soften up, and certainly even more so after it is worn and washed several times. They work well for older patterns which are tailored and structured, but probably not good for flowing, or very tight outfits, as they have no give.
I make a lot of clothes out of pretty quilting fabric
I have issues with side zips, and getting them to merge into the shape of the piece. This top I wear with a waist-hight skirt so it’s not such an issue. I like using buttons to break up necklines, as you would have seen on my Delftware dress.
Another vintage pattern
I have to say, I used to be one of those people who would throw out the bits of pattern I don’t use, rather than try and fit them back into the packet. However, since becoming an owner and user of second hand patterns, I have tried not to do this. You never know who might have a use for them down the track. I would like to make this 1954 pattern to the right next, but I haven’t yet been brave enough to see if it’s all in there!
When all you own is a hammer, every problem starts looking like a nail. Abraham Maslow
After the floods I had some pine furniture which had become discoloured. I headed off to the local hardware, only to remember they were completely under, so I travelled another two suburbs over, same luck. How anyone was supposed to repair their houses without hardware, I’ll never know. After finally driving for 45 minutes, I found one which was operational. I stocked up on furniture oil, and sand paper.
My first experiment was with an old chest my mother had tried to throw out many times, for whatever reason. I open the lid, half of which promptly fell off. After precariously balancing it back on the nails, I sanded it down and applied the first coat. I resisted the urge to apply the second coat too soon, and followed the instructions on the tin by waiting 8 hours, giving it a light sand and then applying another thin coat. I was very pleased with the results and thought, ‘I have ¾ of a tin left, what else can I slap some oil on?’
I thought, ‘I’ll strip the paint off my pine chair and stain that’. Of course, it turned out this chair had been repainted numerous times and I’m still trying to get all the layers off.
too many layers of paint
I decided to restore a wardrobe that was left by previous owners in out house. The surface of this wardrobe was covered in asbestos-flavoured veneer, which came off in such as fine mist that I regretted not having a face mask. I covered a broken front panel with some pretty fabric and lined the draws with vintage 1960s and 1970s wall paper. I felt it looked quite spiffy, and was a fraction of the cost and weight of an Ikea flat-pack.
1960s & 1970s wallpaper
Hint: The idea of dousing paint thinner on yourself to clean off the oil sound too dangerous? Try some anti-dandruff shampoo.
Still a waterline but looks better
I had first used this 1957 Vintage Vogue pattern (V2903) to make a Queen of Hearts costume for my sister. I finally had the time and cash to attempt a more wearable version.
This pattern takes 6 metres of fabric, that is a lot, especially when you have a very small working space. I used a quilting fabric because of the beautiful design, which reminds me of Delftware plate motif.
Delftware (Wikimedia Image)
Being quite short, I ended up using only around 5m, as I cut the length a foot shorter, even before hemming. If like me, you find cutting the pattern a most tiresome activity, ready your forearm muscles for this beast. It is 8 large, long pieces, plus facings. Nevertheless, it is really quite a simple sew.
One down side of this pattern is the sleeves, as I learnt first time around. They were designed for a Vogue model, and are only suitable for sitting at a dinner table or standing in front of the sink, no reaching or waving allowed (a lady in the 1950s probably wouldn’t engage in such uncouth behaviour). Needless to say, I left the sleeves off this incarnation.
1950s Delftware Dress
I added the embellishments of ribbon trim and a button as it is otherwise quite plain. I also wear a tutu/petticoat under-skirt underneath to fluff it out to a truer 1950s style. I didn’t iron in the pleats of this dress, because I quite like the looser flowing feel.
All things considered, I would use this pattern again.