Sunday, 26 January 2014

Notionally Speaking: Vintage

I'm thrilled to be launching a brand new series today. A while back I pondered what would happen if I posed a challenge to fellow bloggers. What would they come up with if I gave them a single word related to sewing that they randomly selected from a list and asked them to write a post. That's it, no other guidance - they can take the post in whatever direction they like. Thus, Notionally Speaking was born. I'm delighted that Marie from A Stitching Odyssey agreed to open this series. Which direction will she take? Read on to find out more...

Notionally Speaking

I'm so excited to be the 'opening act' for this brand new series and I couldn't be happier that I drew lucky number 13 from Claire's list of possible words - vintage! By definition, vintage are items produced over 20 years ago and as early as the 1920s...older items are usually referred to as antique. Which is quite a scary thought really, as items from the 1990s are technically considered vintage...*shudder*! I believe this definition applies to sewing patterns as well, which unsurprisingly is what I'll be chatting to you about today.

My particular brand of poison are styles form the late 1930s right through to the early 1960s...and I have countless patterns to prove it. So what exactly is the attraction? For me, it's five things in particular.

1. Glamour

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Like them or not, the styles of these eras are undeniably glamorous and feminine. They appeal to my inner lady who would love nothing more than to have the time to regularly set her hair in pin curls, adopt an excellent posture, put on a pretty dress and literally look like a million dollars...even if it's not particularly comfortable or practical!

2. Detail

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I don't know about you, but one of the reasons I started sewing my own clothes was the desire to create something unique. And from a stitching point of view, vintage sewing patterns are just the ticket with so many unique and interesting details. Even though the styles are often adopted by the high street, it's these details that are so often missing.

3. Artwork

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The envelope artwork for vintage sewing patterns is in a different league to modern patterns. The attention to detail is incredible, right down to the hair, make-up and accessories. The clothes themselves are depicted in such wonderful colours and prints, and you can almost see the fabric's texture. I think this alone, regardless of whether you intend to sew the patterns up or not, is what makes them highly collectable. If I didn't think it would be slightly unfair to my boyfriend, I'd love to display mine all around the house!

4. History

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Owning a vintage sewing pattern is like holding a tiny yet fascinating part of history in your hands. I get nostalgic daydreaming about the previous owners and their lifestyles. Were these women selfishly sewing for themselves like I do, or did they have others depending on them too? I especially love it when patterns come with the original recipient's name and address on them and I get goose bumps reading old notes scribbled on the envelope. Sometimes you get really lucky and a pattern arrives modified pattern pieces cut out of I've enjoyed pouring over the news and adverts from Thursday 31 July, 1947!

5. Contemporary

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Now, I realise that certain vintage styles are a little too fussy for some people's liking, but it often strikes me how contemporary many of them are. Such simple, clean lines and truly timeless designs. In fact, it's not that often that you see much on the high street that's original. Nine times out of ten when I get excited about cool design details, I later discover they actually originated in years gone by. At the risk of sounding cliched, nothing seems original nowadays!

Having said all this, I've actually sewn up very few of my vintage sewing patterns. Mainly because so many exciting, new indie patterns keep popping up, but also because they're not necessarily the most practical. I know for some people, instructions and terminology are also an issue. However, with so many excellent online tutorials and sew-alongs I truly believe that anyone can pick up the skills and techniques needed without too much trouble. As for the issue of practicality, try using a more casual fabric type in a fashionable colour or modern print, and you can always omit some of the kitscher details for a cleaner look.

Writing this guest post has actually reignited my passion for vintage sewing patterns and I vow that this year I'll put some of them to good use. Look out for an outline of my plans on my blog soon! Anyway, I sincerely hope you've enjoyed this little foray into vintage sewing patterns and that you've been inspired to dig out some of yours or have a go for the first time.

Thanks so much for having me Claire, I can't wait to see what the rest of this series has to offer!


  1. Great idea Claire! And really interesting post, thanks Marie!

  2. Great post, and great idea for a series. I can't wait to see what comes next! And yes, I would love to display vintage patterns around the house, but then I'd need to concede to also having football programmes up and that's never going to happen! :)

  3. Really enjoyed reading this! Can't wait to see what comes next :)

  4. What a uniqe idea! This is going to be a interesting serie:) cant wait to read more:)

  5. I also love vintage patterns, so thank you for hosting this post. You have some gorgeous patterns Marie.

  6. Thanks for the kins comments all and thank you Claire for having me! You've come up with a cracker of an idea and I can't wait to see what comes next!!!

  7. Brilliant post! Aren't vintage patterns great? Btw. I am drooling over Simplicity 3411 from 1940!

  8. I love the artwork on vintage patterns!
    The vast majoirty of my pattern collection was my grandmothers, and dates from the 1970s and 1980s when she was doing a lot of sewing for my Mum. They are certainly in a different league to the earlier ones, but the basic shapes are often useable. I have almost finished a circle skirt off the most hideous two piece pattern that has the model in matching purple check *shudder* the notes on the patterns are wonderful though, i find it so lovely to see my grandma's handwriting and ideas.

  9. your observations are right on the money.. Each of your points are exactly the same reason why I love vintage pattens too. :)

  10. Oh yes! I love it when vintage patterns come with tracings on newspaper, I love reading the snippets of news and articles.
    And I do display some of my favourites above my desk, my husband is very understanding. :)


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