Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The History of a Pattern

Cennetta, The Mahogany Stylist, has been periodically eliminating excess patterns from her pattern stash. She has shown quite a few vintage patterns in her giveaway. My interest in vintage patterns has grown since Summerset began featuring instruction sheets from a few of her Ebay finds. Those instruction sheets have intrigued me because of the techniques and details available in the directions.

So I requested two of the patterns offered by Cennetta. The first one, Vogue 7940, arrived in Monday's mail. As expected, the instruction sheet was chockful of directions ~ even complete step by step instructions on how to make bound buttonholes. That double-sided sheet of paper was a virtual instruction manual, so unlike the instruction sheets that are in today's patterns.

Due to the Christmas Eve festivities at my apartment, I only got around to pulling the instruction sheet out later that night. It was my reading material as I drifted off to sleep. Yesterday morning as I was getting out of bed, I noticed a brown slip of paper on the floor near the pattern file.

When I picked it up I found this ~ it's the actual receipt for the pattern...which was purchased at Marshall Field & Co. on April 4, 1953. The receipt details the floor, the department, the register number and of course the cost of the pattern including tax - a grand 61 cents!

If the pattern was interesting before, it now became a gem! But even more than that it got me to wondering about its journey from Marshall Field's in Chicago to Somerset, New Jersey. See this pattern was purchased in Chicago, six years before I was even born. My mom was only 12! The pattern was cut out and it appears to have been I wonder what the owner made from it!

Now 54 years later it is in NJ in my hot little hands and I am curious about its sojourn from a sewist in another generation and time to a sewist in the 21st Century. I now have to make a garment from this pattern...somehow it only seems fitting to close the sewing circle!


  1. WOW!! That is amazing! If only that pattern could talk. Now you now its your duty to one day pass this pattern on to budding sewer several years from now.

  2. That is an awesome detail included - the receipt. Can't wait to see what you make from this pattern. I love your new picture! You look awesome. g

  3. The detailed instructions on the vintage patterns are a treasure trove, aren't they? I was so pleased the first time I made up a vintage garment because it was like taking a free sewing course. I think anyone wanting to improve their sewing skills should get a hold of a few vintage (preferably 1960s or older) patterns and start sewing - there is no better way to learn a bunch of wonderful couture techniques!!

    By the way, I hope your holidays are going well. I wish you and your family all the best! Like you, I'm hoping to get some winter vacation sewing done over the next few days - can't wait to see what comes out of your sewing room!

  4. I love vintage instructions for the same reason - I've discovered things there I've never seen in sewing books, and certainly not in modern pattern instructions. Can't wait to see this one made up - it deserves it, and it found its way to the right person.

  5. Carolyn, it's so facinating trying to visualize the original owner of a vintage pattern. I have so many from the 40's to 60's that have been cut, have notes on them, store stamps and my favorite, pins!
    But you have found a gem for sure.

  6. I love that patterns can have more than one "life", and decades apart.

  7. How cool is that? Makes me wonder about the change in the technical writing industry. Maybe pattern companies no longer feel the need for good writers to write the instructions, or prices have become so competitive with 99 cent sales that they can't afford our wages. Too bad. Good instructions help sell patterns far more than people would readily admit. I bet if the big pattern companies spent less money recycling the same styles and presenting them as new, but instead spent the money on good instructions, they'd have a much more loyal customer base.

    I love your new photo of you, too. Hope you have a great holiday and got to spend time with family.

  8. Carolyn what a find, and such a wonderfully poetic link to a sewer in the past!

  9. Now "THAT" is neat! I love your new pic!

  10. Sigh! Marshall Field's had a WONDERFUL fabric and pattern department, half of a floor in the State Street store. When I was in high school I bought cottons for little shift dresses there for 1.00/yard, but they also had fabric behind glass for hundreds of dollars. They had a lot of sales ladies who spoke with foreign accents and who knew a lot about sewing. They had good linings for heavy winter coats (a necessity for Illinois winters!) Oh, I miss the old Field's or even the recent Field's. I'll never set foot in a Macy's or Bloomingdale's again. I'm glad you have the pattern and the receipt, Carolyn.

  11. I often wonder the same thing, Carolyn! I find all sorts of goodies in with my patterns. I've even found alterations to the pattern pinned in, complete with pins, which of course makes me wonder what the person looked like who made the garment. Some of my uncut factory folded ones I have to wonder if someone bought the pattern because they loved it so much, but never made it for some reason or other. Much like we do!

  12. Carolyn, this is all very exciting. Makes me want to get one too :)Who knows where "our" patterns of today will end up in the distant future. All this time I was always careful not to write on my patterns, maybe for future generations a little info on them could be appreciated :) Enjoy your new pattern, I liked that one too:)

  13. Carolyn, Thanks for this post and the reference. I'm glad you and others have made some of my patterns part of your collection. Indeed these vintage patterns certainly have a story to tell. I think it's a wonderful idea to make notations on the pattern; it will give it's next owner some history about me and my use of the pattern. BTW- the second pattern is on it's way to you.

    Thanks again and happy new year,


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