Hello, my name is Cate and I’m a vintage sewing pattern nerd! Yep, this is my confession as I’ve finally reached complete nerd status. In fact I think I need a badge, anyone good at making them? 🙂
What am I on about? Well read on…
I belong to a Facebook group called Vintage Sewing Pattern Nerds that, at this moment, has a whopping 5274 members. It’s a happy environment where we can all feel safe and can repent our sins without being judged. We even have additional groups too – the Vintage Pattern Nerd Boutique and Nerds Budget Boutique, and it’s sister groups Vintage Pattern Pieces Lost and Found and ISO Sewing Patterns Current or Vintage. Yep, we will happily feed each others addictions and will not be ashamed of it.
The ultimate moment for any vintage sewing pattern nerd is, not only finding the original pattern, but also the original pattern magazine or catalogue it was featured in. Up until now I have had to live vicariously through the other nerds when they hit this moment. My eyes have been green with envy but like any good nerd I rejoice in the knowledge that another vintage pattern has been brought together with it’s catalogue and is being kept somewhere safe.
So let me take you back to February 2016 when I blogged about the beautiful aubergine 1930s lightweight coat I’d made. It was created using an original sewing pattern that I knew was from the 1930s. At the time I had no idea of its exact date because it’s style, the Redingote, was common across the majority of the decade. Also, the majority of vintage patterns prior to the 1960s didn’t ever have the date printed on them. Occasionally, if the original owner had bought it from a shop, there will be a date stamped on it, but generally that’s the only clue.
There are certain places online you can search on to try and date your patterns, such as the Vintage Pattern Wiki, eBay, Etsy or even Google. However, if the pattern isn’t from one of the big pattern companies, or is by a non-US company, then things start getting a little trickier.
The sewing pattern for the coat is from Bestway, a UK brand name most people would associate with vintage knitting patterns. However, Bestway also produced sewing patterns and were sold through Harmsworth, a popular British pattern company from 1914 to 1953.
There is so little information out there about both companies that at this point there was no way of narrowing the date down to more than a decade. I obviously knew it was 1930s by the styling of the illustration. Everything screams 1930s, the style and shape of the coat, the length of the dress and coat, the shape of the hat, the smallness of the handbag and the style of her hair. I made an educated guess and presumed it was about mid-1930s, somewhere around 1936.
Then the ultimate vintage sewing pattern nerd moment happened, or almost didn’t happen! My lovely friend Kitty, from Kitty Lou Vintage, was selling off a few of her vintage sewing patterns and magazines, as well as a selection of vintage fabrics. The evening before she gave me a quick nudge and let me know about the 1930s ones she had on offer and of course, I wanted everything! Sadly my purse would stretch that far but I did choose a Home Fashions magazine and a Roma magazine, both with their free sewing patterns still inside, and three Lady’s Companion magazines. I then went to sleep.
The next day I woke up with a nagging feeling in my stomach. I picked up my phone and checked over the photos Kitty had sent me. One of the sewing magazines I had passed over was a Bestway one for coats. I got up and headed downstairs to my stacks of vintage magazines and found that I already had a Bestway sewing pattern magazine from the 1930s. I assumed the nagging feeling was me telling myself I should get the coat one to go with this one.
And then it dawned on me! Oh holy hell, the coat on the front cover was my Bestway coat pattern!! I instantly messaged Kitty, hoping and praying that she hadn’t sold it overnight. She came back to me immediately and said that it was, very thankfully, still available. Yippee!!! I explained why I’d suddenly changed my mind and, as she’s a self confessed nerd herself, she joined in with my little happy dance.
I was so anxious for it to arrive, I still didn’t quite believe it and wanted to absolutely double check the pattern number to make sure. And then it came, the moment was upon me, and well you probably guessed it by the title of the post, yes, it was absolutely my Bestway sewing pattern. The ultimate vintage sewing pattern nerd was mine!!
And here’s the magazine and, as you can see, the coat in the middle of the front cover is so incredibly similar to my sewing pattern. The coat on the left is the free sewing pattern that is included with the magazine and the other two, including mine, were available through Bestway’s mail order service.
On the back cover it states that the magazine was published by Fashions for All ltd, The Fleetway House, Farringdon Street, London, EC4. Having had a quick look online I’ve found out that Fashions For All was a group of women’s interest magazines, including Home Fashions, Children’s Dress, Mabs Fashions and Bestway, produced by a leading editor from Amalgamated Press.
Amalgamated Press was founded by Alfred Harmsworth (remember that name from earlier?), a British newspaper and publishing magnate. It was later sold to the Mirror Group and renamed Fleetway Publications, eventually becoming IPC Magazines. Most recently it changed it’s name again and became Time Inc. UK which produces so many recognisable British magazines such as Woman’s Own, TV Times, Marie Claire and Horse & Hound.
And this is the ultimate nerd moment, the original pattern, numbered 11,080, and it’s feature inside the magazine, also numbered 11,080. Yes!!!! Although the original pattern had the price of 1/- (1 shilling), you could purchase it through the magazine for 4½d (4.5 pence) if you sent it in with the coupon printed on the same page. I do wonder how the lady who originally owned my pattern bought hers. Did she use the bargain coupon and send away for it or did she buy it full price in a shop?
The date printed on the back of the magazine is 3rd March 1937, which means I can now very precisely date my pattern. Double yes!!
Hello, my name is Cate and I’m officially a vintage sewing pattern nerd. Oh and a research nerd 🙂