what to do about the ones that got away: looking for vintage patterns

pattern envy.

it’s a common problem, a natural problem when all of us here in the internets are sharing projects and ideas with each other.  it’s bound to happen eventually–how do you prepare?  how do you overcome?

really, it’s a question of shopping strategy.  personally, i’m much too picky to shop at my local flea market or vintage shop and just hope for the best–although i do pop in occasionally.  but i need to see as many options as possible all at once.  especially when looking for a specific pattern.

first, there are the basics:

  • saved Google search.  configure Google to alert you every time the pattern you are looking for pops up.  obviously, there can be a lot of false positives and broken hearts here.
  • saved eBay search.  configure eBay to alert you every time a pattern with the same number as yours comes up in an auction on its site.  see above about false positives and broken hearts.

but this only gets you so far.  more often, my first step in a search is picclick.  do you picclick?  it’s a great GUI for etsy and ebay searches that helps overcome, to my mind, the major hurdle of each:  a limited number of items per page.  picclick posts all of the results for a given search on a single page, which makes for much easier browsing.  i find picclick particularly helpful when you are just trying to get a sense of the options in a particular era–for example, i love to run a general search for 1930s patterns and see what happens.


but what about when you are looking for a very specific pattern?  for a general example, i can’t be the only one out here who fell hard for several of the patterns featured in the Vogue New Book for Better Sewing, shown to such advantage on Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing.  i’m sure there has been a steady run on what few copies of these patterns are left since Gertie began sharing her progress with us over two years ago.

what i’ve learned, though, is that with good searching and an understanding of the details you are looking for, it can be relatively easy to get a pattern that has the elements you want–even if it isn’t the exact pattern.  most of the pattern companies did (and do) rip off (or riff on) each other. for example, i was really lusting after this gorgeous 40s top, which i first spotted on the blue gardenia:

but the size was wrong and i felt the price was more than i wanted to pay.  however, some dedicated searching, including specific searches for details like “40s bustle,” got me this:

for a price i felt comfortable with.

can’t find the VoNBfBS “background dress”?

how about this one instead?

or my most recent 40s beauty, simplicty 2099:

obviously, my desire to replicate patterns has also fueled (by necessity) an interest in doing some pattern drafting.  there are two books in particular that i’ve found very accessible:

if you’re going to get really into it, go ahead and try a fitting pattern or a moulage.  most of the pattern drafting ideas come from a basic block, which may as well fit you from the outset.  something that i’ve found to be really cool is the old fitting patterns from the 50s or 60s that pop up on etsy occasionally, especially if you’re looking to focus on a period.

and don’t forget that if you are really into a certain  look, say the 1940s or 50s, most of the patterns have a near-identical shape–the building blocks to your dream pattern may already be in your collection!

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6 Responses to what to do about the ones that got away: looking for vintage patterns

  1. Marina says:

    Wonderful post! I do have saved google and ebay searches and alert, but i just learnt about picsearch! Love your blog – checking my inbox for a post from you every morning :-) Keep it up!

  2. Debi says:

    Fabulous post! I can tell I am going to become addicted to picclick!!! What a brilliant idea…I hate scrolling through pages!

  3. Vanessa says:

    Nice post. Btw, the mccall 6370 bustle pattern is on etsy now if you’re still looking for it.

  4. stitchywitch says:

    Ok, Picclick is amazing – I’m going to use that all the time, I can tell! I use google and ebay saved searches, but I agree that looking for a similar pattern is often the best way.

  5. There seems to be some 40s hip emphasis going on, isn’t there? ;-) But you’re absolutely right, many patterns have similar lines, and learning some basics of pattern drafting can come very useful – even for alterations of existing patterns.

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