The Ultimate Vintage Sewing Pattern Nerd Moment!

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.

1930s lightweight coat

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.

Bestway pattern 11080 from March 1937

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!!

Bestway Fashions Coats sewing pattern magazine - March 1937

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.

Bestway Fashions No. 106, March 1937

Click on image for larger view

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 🙂


Just a vintage gal suffering from the Golden Age syndrome. A lover of all things old, especially the 1930s, seamstress, crocheter, maker of hats and enjoys rummaging at flea markets.


  1. Congratulations, well done, bask in the glory. What an amazing experience. Thanks too for the pattern history info. Much appreciated.

    • Hehehe, I haven’t actually stopped smiling about it yet! No worries on the pattern history, I think it’s important to keep these names alive and share their history so they don’t get lost. xx

  2. That’s fantastic! Congrats on your successful research, that’s so fascinating.

    • Thanks Jessica! I do love my research. It terrifies my mum as she always says that I can find out anything about anyone on the internet! 🙂 xx

  3. Even though I knew this was a success story – I read your post with bated breath and totally felt the tension. Just like a good novel where you are anticipating the happy ending – but anything could still happen! Great post. Long live the nerds.

    • Oh, that’s good to hear, I did try and build the tension but you never know until people actually read it! Absolutely, long live the nerds! Although I am very nerdy about a lot of things 🙂 xx

  4. What a story! I can very well understand your excitement at finding one of your vintage “holy grails”. Nothing wrong with being a vintage sewing pattern nerd! I’m not a sewer but I can never resist rummaging through vintage patterns when I come across them. I’ve never found any as old and nice as yours though! xxx

    • Thanks Ann! The older ones are definitely more rare and then of course cost more. Occasionally you can find a bargain, as this one was, though. Bestway’s are a particular favourite of mine, as are Mabs Fashions, so I’m always on the hunt for other 1930s ones. xx

  5. That’s really cool! I hadn’t thought about that kind of “matching” but it’s very interesting to be able to do that. I had a moment of my own when I realised a handmade vintage maternity dress of mine was made from a 70s pattern I owned as well! I sure nerded out over realising that 🙂

    • Oh, I would’ve nerded out at that too! Someone I follow on Instagram recently posted a photo of a 1970s sewing pattern that she’d bought and immediately I knew it was the one my mum had used to make me a dress when i was a child! I got a little nerdy over that one too! xx

  6. I love it when a research jigsaw comes together! Thank you for taking us with you, Cate – a lovely piece of research; evidence too that instinct and serendipity play an important role!

    • Oh me too! I do love researching, it’s so much fun finding the next bit of information and then realising it relates to something else. xx

  7. You cannot beat moments like that! I’m no sewing pattern nerd but it certainly appeals to the librarian in me. I bet wearing the coat feels even better now 🙂

    You need to send me your address so I can send you that blouse.

    • Hehehe! When I did my aptitude test at school they said my ideal career would be as a librarian. Perhaps they were right, but when you’re 13 or 14 it doesn’t sound all that exciting 🙂

      I’ve messaged you on Facebook about the blouse. I’m so sorry I’ve been so rubbish at getting back to you. xx

  8. Oh the joy of being able to precisely date a vintage pattern, especially by matching it to something else you own! Long live pattern nerdiness! xx

    • I know, right? How often does that happen? I wish I could accurately date al of my other 1930s ones. And absolutely, long live pattern nerdiness! xx

    • Hehehe, Miss Marple, how apt? I love this sort of thing too, research is so much fun! xx

    • Thanks Colette! I’m glad my first example of this happened with this coat as it’s one of my more special handmade 1930s pieces. xx

  9. How fantastic! What an incredible find! So satisfying to reunite the pair! I love the whole story too, how you had that nagging feeling and went to check! Brilliant!!

    • Hehehe, I so glad my inner nerd came to life overnight otherwise I would’ve kicked myself later on if I’d not bought it and then realised the connection! xx

  10. Your coat is beautiful, the redingote is such a nice style. And, that’s such a wonderful find! I’m so glad you were able to get the vintage catalogue after all.
    I had a moment similar to yours, only mine was not a sewing pattern. I bought a 1960’s faux astrakhan coat about 4 years ago. A year later I purchased some “Woman and Home” magazines from the 1960’s, and while flipping through a 1967 edition, I came across an advertisement for my exact coat! It’s such a surreal experience, isn’t it?

    • Thank you Nicole. Oh my gosh, that must have been amazing! I would’ve been so excited by finding an original advert of a piece of vintage I own. xx

  11. That is fantastic!! What a find! I’m doing a happy dance for you 🙂 I love this story so very much.

  12. How fabulous! What a stroke of luck that you listened to the niggle! It is super to have both the pattern and the advert. I love all the researching and sleuthing that you can do with vintage fashion. This was a fascinating story.

    • I know, I’m going to always listen to that niggle from now on. It clearly knows what it’s doing! 🙂 xx

  13. I almost bought that catalog from her and something told me not to. I’m glad it went to your home instead. 🙂

    • Oh gosh, I’m so glad you didn’t! Perhaps the universe was moving in my favour that day. xx

  14. Well, well, well…is that the thing to do? For every vintage pattern you need the magazine it was featured at? Is it a fashion magazine or the pattern company magazine? Like the magazine where you choose the patterns from? Thank you!

    • There have been many different types of vintage pattern magazines and books produced over the years. In the 1930s pattern companies released monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly magazines, with about 50 pages in each one, to advertise their latest patterns. These could be purchased via post or in shops and taken home for reference and often had a free pattern in them or smaller needlepoint projects inside. However, they also produced big heavy countertop catalogues for sewing and haberdashery shops, very much like the ones you see in sewing shops today. These were produced every 6 months and featured all of the patterns for that season. Vintage pattern nerds, like myself, enjoy searching out the patterns that are featured in these magazines and books and keeping them together for future generations.

      I have quite a number of vintage sewing pattern magazines from the 1930s, as well as a countertop catalogue from the early 1970s, so I’m on the look out for their matching patterns. Countertop catalogues from the 1930s go for a lot of money, you’re talking several hundred pounds, so the likelihood of me ever owning one of those is extremely slim!

  15. Hi Cate, There is also a new (Nov 18) FB group called the “Vintage German Pattern Books”. Being quite a unique resource, especially within Europe, we thought they need a group of their own. I remember you showed your lovely copy of Record Mode (?) on one of your blogs, so I thought maybe you are interested too. Sometimes people are trying to match magazines and lost pattern-sheets together, so maybe this can help! BX

    • Oh, thanks for the tip Rebecca! Will definitely go check it out. xx

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