Who We Are: Sewing Vintage and Vintage Inspired Patterns

The wonderful world of sewing is filled with many different niches. From quilting to costuming to RTW dupes, there really is something for everyone. One world I have become very interested in (as an outsider looking in) is vintage sewing. I asked you, dear readers, to share your experiences sewing vintage and here they are in a fun mini-series! Without further ado, I present you with a tiny sliver of the richness of vintage sewing.


Bianca

A smiling Black woman with glasses, red lipstick, and silver earrings. She has on a collared top or dress bodice that is blue and white gingham with yellow buttons.

I love sewing with vintage patterns, fabrics, and notions! I know there are groups dedicated to specific time periods, styles, and garment authenticity. I appreciate it but don’t go in for all of that. I am drawn to easy, everyday patterns from the 60s and 70s. I love the style, simple silhouettes with a twist, and increased, though limited, racial diversity in the pattern imagery. My least favorite part of sewing is cutting out the patterns. I love that older patterns sometimes come in a single size. If the pattern has been used before, my size is already cut for me. Because I don’t have to make many fit adjustments to my patterns, finding them pre-cut is an added benefit to me. 

As a sewing blogger, using out of print vintage patterns can be a catch-22. I love them because they are unique, not currently on the market, or trending with sewists. I hope that I make something that encourages people to look at vintage patterns differently and inspire them to make them modern. I often feel conflicted because of the lack of availability of the specific pattern I use. I am often asked how I source my patterns and supplies. I live in a big city where I can take advantage of resale stores, estate sales, and Craigslist to source sewing supplies at reasonable prices. Periodically, I make my rounds to search new-to-me patterns and fabric in thrift stores. In smaller stores, I’ve established relationships with managers who will call me to have a first look when they get in new items. 

I also take advantage of the technology of the internet to aid in my stash building. Craigslist can be overwhelming with what is offered. I found it’s easier to navigate if I set up a search alert for specific items. I enter my search terms and use the “save search” option. Craigslist will send me an email when specific keywords show up in a listing.

I subscribe to estate sale sites and use the keyword search to find sales for what I am looking for. In time, I have established relationships with business owners here as well. They have contacted me at the beginning of a sale to notify me of what is available and give me an opportunity to shop early. I have also been contacted at the end of a sale to buy out what remains at heavy discounts before it’s donated or destroyed. Some of my most satisfying fabric, pattern, and notion acquisitions have come from estate sales. I’m a sentimental fool and love the idea of putting to use supplies the previous owner never had an opportunity to use. An exceptional sewing day for me involves using a vintage pattern, vintage fabric, and vintage notions, and sewing on a vintage machine.

Bianca can be found @thanksimadethem.


Shanna

A woman with medium skin tone, brown eyes, and brown wavy hair looks over her right shoulder. She is wearing a light pink dress with a floral motif and the end of the sleeve has a short ruffle.

I learned sewing and pattern making in college and have been creating ever since. My eye has always been drawn to vintage clothing, especially the 1940s – 1970s styles, and I’ve been sewing both vintage and vintage-inspired patterns specifically for the past 4 years. I really love vintage patterns, but because sizing standards have changed so drastically through the years, I always have to make adjustments and grade up to fit my body. It can be a challenge and very time consuming. Sometimes finding a vintage-inspired pattern cuts down on fit time which is always helpful! I choose to work with both depending on what I’m making and always allow more time for “fit solutions” and style line adjustments.

A few years ago I started a project called “12 Months of Making” where I sewed 1 vintage-inspired look per month for an entire year. It could be anything I was feeling inspired by at the moment or even something I wanted to improve upon in terms of sewing skills. My only requirement was to keep the “look” between the 1940s – 1960s. I searched high and low for vintage patterns online and in antique stores, hunted down the perfect vintage fabrics (or anything that had a vintage feel/print/color), and then made it all myself. Finding the right vintage fabric to fit a specific pattern & look is not an easy task, especially because certain vintage fabrics are very rare and pricey these days. It quickly became an obsession! It was really exciting to see every piece come to life. I added some really unique pieces to my wardrobe and added some wonderful vintage pattern & fabric resources to my must-shop list. What started out as a personal project to keep myself creative quickly turned into special requests for custom pieces, and now sewing vintage-inspired apparel is a part of my everyday life. 

I find the Vintage Sewing community to be very open and welcoming of sewists of all different experience levels, backgrounds, sizes, etc.

Sometimes it can be intimidating to share your work, but this community always has constructive feedback, tips, tricks, and suggestions. They’re great to bounce ideas off of. Social media has really brought us all together. It’s very inspiring to see so many people creating and encouraging one another.  It’s like having a little group of cheerleaders in your corner, with pincushions in place of pom poms.

Shanna Lowe is a Designer and Creator at Tamiko Rouge, which offers handmade vintage-inspired apparel for the girl who’s not afraid to stand out. www.tamikorouge.com IG: @tamikorouge


Lisa

A white woman with short dark hair, 1960s-style glasses, and red lipstick holds the sides of the skirt on her dress. The dress is light blue and white gingham with a v neckline and has a pink belt.

I’ve been sewing off and on for 35 years. I’ve always been drawn to creating my own individual style, largely drawn from the past. As a teenager I modified vintage finds into clothes I could wear, but as my confidence in my sewing ability and sense of my personal style grew, I began creating my own wardrobe. At 6 feet tall with a slim body and large bust, finding original pieces I can afford that actually fit is near impossible. My whole wardrobe is now pretty much me-made with clothes inspired from the late 1940s to the 1950s. 

I’m utterly passionate about sewing; it pretty much fills up most of my headspace. I get most excited about the design, fitting, and construction process of sewing, as well as learning about and using vintage couture techniques. I’m always searching out original vintage fabric and buttons to sew with as my preference, but I equally enjoy using modern cloth. I’m inspired by clothes from period dramas and films, vintage magazines, and original vintage dresses I find on Pinterest. These often lead me to re-create the look I’m after by finding different pattern pieces that will work, as well as drafting other elements myself. 

In the main, I sew using vintage reproduction patterns and patterns by Gretchen Hirsch. Gertie’s Charm Patterns absolutely evoke the 1950s style that I love to wear the most without all the hard work of redrafting vintage patterns. I’ve never been a follower of fashion, and shopping for anything other than cloth, yarn, or shoes doesn’t interest me much. Being inspired by vintage styles and fabric to sew what I love to wear gives me the greatest sense of satisfaction of all. 

I’m 51, but that’s just a number. I feel more youthful now that I’ve got the confidence of being older to really enjoy my style. I have two daughters, Rosey (19) and Millie (18); we live with my partner Jason, who was my first love at 17 (28 years later we found each other again). I love teaching and being able to pass on all I’ve learnt as a self-taught dressmaker. Since lockdown, I’ve had to cancel classes and weekend workshops, so I’ve adapted by teaching 1-to-1 classes via Zoom. Alongside this, I’ve been making vintage fabric bags and accessories, which I’ve been selling at markets and online since 2003. IG: @bobo_bun


Sally

A white woman with short gray hair wears a light blue button front dress that has a pink floral design; it is knee length. She is standing outside in what appears to be the back or the side of a house.

I’ve been sewing as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved vintage style but didn’t really start wearing it until the last ten years. I’d always admired the tailoring of ’40s and 50’s styles especially, but it wasn’t readily available/affordable. My love was reserved mostly for Halloween costumes and admiring 1940s dresses and suits in vintage clothing shops, which never fit my not-vintage-style body shape.

With Colette, Gertie, and the re-issues from the Big 4, my vintage clothes dreams could finally come true — I could make my own! And then I found vintage patterns while perusing vintage malls. It was an epiphany that I could make the fashions I love from actual vintage patterns! Today, most of what I make is with vintage patterns from the ’40s, the ’50s, and early ’60s. I always have to make a lot of adjustments, especially in the teeny-tiny waists and big shoulders, of which I have neither! I’m not a vintage purist; I use modern fabrics that often have a vintage feel.

I guess you could call me “vintage”, as I am part of the over 50 crowd. There seems to be just a handful of us “vintage” vintage sewists, but I’ve always felt very welcomed among the younger Instagram vintage crowd. Everyone has been encouraging and inspiring; it’s a great community. I have had concerns in the past that my taste isn’t “age appropriate”, but I’ve noticed as I get older, I care less about that, and just make and wear what I like. I’ve heard that line, “OMG, I dress like my mother!” like it’s a bad thing. Well, I can say that I dress like my mother, yes, but like my mother when she was in her 20s and 30s!

Hi, I’m Sally. I’m an elementary school teacher/sewist/crazy cat lady in the Pacific Northwest. You can find me on IG at @sallymakesstuff


Tiffany

A white woman with short, curly brown hair looks down at the camera. She is wearing a brown short-sleeved t-shirt and light colored denim overalls. She is peeling a carrot.

I’ve always played around with a style that is sort of vintage meets minimalist mashup and that got reflected in my sewing; however, last year I inherited every sewing pattern my grandmother bought from the 1950s up until her sewing slowed down in the mid-2000s. Boxes of patterns. Hundreds of patterns. You can follow the evolution of my grandmother’s style through the patterns, which grandchildren and children she was sewing for, and how her body changed over time. 

Since inheriting this wealth, I’ve sewn up a few patterns, some more successfully than others. I made an 80s dress where I forgot to consider hem width when I sized it down and reduced the ease. Next, I attempted to size down a 1960s sleeved top with a jewel neckline and ended up with a sleeveless blouse and a choking neckline I can barely stand to wear. Most recently, I attempted a pair of shorts from 1953 and finally got a vintage happy ending. It took a few toiles to get the right fit, but working with these vintage patterns feels like spending time with my grandmother again. 

Tiffany Shipp lives in Kentucky and shares her life and projects on Instagram @stringthing and unnamedstitches.wordpress.com.



I’m feeling quite inspired to do my own take on vintage patterns now. The next part of this series is going to be all about vintage fabric and notions. To say I’m excited about this part would be an understatement! Stay tuned.

Amanda is a tired mom of 2 boys sharing everyday normal life over at @mandabe4r. Maybe someday she’ll find time to finish something and post it on the ‘gram.


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