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Sewing Vintage: My Essential Supplies

The supplies needed for sewing vintage patterns are generally the same as for sewing contemporary ones. But ever since I’ve been concentrating on vintage patterns, I’ve noticed that there are some items that have come in especially handy. Here’s a run-down!

1. Swedish Tracing Paper. Vintage patterns can be very fragile, and some people recommend tracing all of your patterns to preserve the original. I don’t always do that, I confess. But if you buy a pattern that is brittle or easily torn, it’s a good idea to do this. Also, if you know you’ll be making alterations, have a traced-off copy makes it all the easier. Simply trace all your pieces, and remember to transfer your marks. I love Swedish tracing paper because it’s supple enough that you can do a test fitting with it. You can even sew through it if you want!

2. Bias Tape Maker. Vintage patterns only very rarely include patterns pieces and directions for lining. While it’s pretty easy to figure this out on your own, I often leave dresses and skirts unlined and wear a pretty vintage-inspired slip instead. I find this to be more economical – no need to buy all that lining fabric! But it’s nice to finish your seam allowances with bias tape for a lovely interior look, especially in a contrasting solid color or even a fun print. A bias tape maker makes quick work of this.

3. Muslin. You don’t always need to make a full muslin, but it’s a great idea to make a bodice muslin of your vintage patterns. Especially with patterns of the 50s, the bodice fit is something that you’ll probably want to adjust for a modern look. I usually need to lower bust darts and shorten the waist, since I don’t wear a longline bra to get that long-torsoed bullet bra silhouette that ladies in the 50s coveted. Making a bodice muslin first ensures that I’m happy with the fit, so I keep plenty of muslin fabric on hand.

4. Silk Thread and Beeswax. You’ll find yourself using tailors tacks and doing a lot of hand-basting with vintage patterns. Silk thread is the best for hand work like this, and with a coating of beeswax, it’s perfection. It won’t tangle, and it runs through fabric beautifully.

5. French Curve and a Clear Gridded Ruler. I’ve found that hemline shortening and neckline adjusting is de rigeur with vintage patterns. A clear gridded ruler makes shortening a pattern piece easy, and a French curve is perfect for redrawing neckline curves.

6. Scotch Tape. I’m always adding width to my vintage pattern pieces, it seems! Especially at the waistline and hips. Once I have a pattern piece traced off onto my Swedish tracing paper, it’s easy to add extra width by simply taping it on.

So those are my must-haves for working with vintage patterns. Have any of your own?

5 Comments

  • 41a0fb6a199ced51c07eb2ea936dd25e39765ae5_large

    Dec 18, 2009, 05.12 PMby scormeny

    As for muslin, I would suggest getting bleached muslin rather than unbleached. It does not tend to stretch out of shape as much as you work with it.

    I’m going to buy some Swedish Tracing Paper now, thanks for the tip and the link!

  • Missing

    Dec 18, 2009, 05.01 PMby bitsandbobbins

    instead of scotch tape, i use 3m’s micropore paper tape to tape my patterns together (ones i make myself from pattern software, and ones found online, say from burdastyle)…it can be ironed over, scotch tape cannot (i like to press my paper patterns before using them). it’s also great for patching up tears or holes in vintage patterns or new patterns.

    do you use the little manual bias tape makers or the machine? i was pondering getting a bias tape making machine but wasn’t sure if they were worth the money.

  • 316266_154878347943168_100002630112545_224046_1797791768_n_2_large

    Dec 18, 2009, 12.51 AMby couturecutie

    I don’t really sew vintage, but I would like to. This article helps me out. I guess/

  • 45811c6523cf387bf5dc4d6ad3a61949336038df_large

    Dec 17, 2009, 11.16 PMby judeb

    Just about every thing you have listed though I don’t have a bias tape maker as such, just the old fashioned bias tape attachement for the sewing machine but I also keep a piece of tailors chalk handy when fitting.

  • 6e3656aa7036783b3e4bbc29f34d1029385afafe_large

    Dec 17, 2009, 10.48 PMby wzrdreams

    Well, I have come to love the extra narrow scotch tape with the matte finish. I used to cut the regular width down the middle to be more economical, but the skinny kind is perfect for pattern drafting and modification.

    • This is a question
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