Historical Sewing Patterns
Do you still have a question?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org -- I'll get back with you as soon as I can, but remember that I have a day job, too.
I'm having trouble putting in gussets...
The problem most people have with gussets is that they make the seam allowance too wide. Because the pieces are small, the seam allowance is only 1/4".
I usually press the Front piece edges under, then pin the *unpressed* gusset piece on the underside of the Front piece with a 1/4" overlap.
A different way: I sometimes press the *gusset* seam allowance under and pin them on *top* of the Front piece with a 1/4" overlap.
Either way, top stitch on the folded/pressed side - that way you can see where the overlap is. Stitch as close to the pressed edge as you reasonably can. I think it works best if you start stitching at the gusset point and work toward the edge.
How do you create your patterns?
First, I research everything related I can get my hands on. I love to do research, and often forget to create the pattern because the history is too fascinating. I go through my collection of Victorian patterns, photographs, magazines, catalogs and books, and the reprints by Dover. I pour over books by reliable costume historians, such as Janet Arnold, Nancy Bradfield, and Francis Grimble. I try to find a drawing of a pattern, even if it's only an inch tall. Then I recreate the pattern on my CAD program, grade it out from the original (usually) size 2 and test it. Usually several times. I write out instructions for each step, keeping in mind how the original seamstresses did it, if I was able to find their instructions. When it works, I print it out and put it on my website. I hope other people enjoy using my patterns as much as I enjoyed researching them!
When I can get hold of existing garments, I do draft from them. My Whistlestop Polonaise is taken from a polonaise in my collection, and I borrowed two of Animal X's collection, years ago, and drafted from them - the Mantelet and the 1820's Day Dress. I've drafted corsets and other undergarments from museum examples that I was allowed to study and measure. I have a couple of very boring bodices that I use to study sewing techniques.
What is a mantua maker?
The mantua was a fashionable style of gown in the late 1600's. While the mantua was popular, women gained the legal right to make this loose, flowing gown. Before this time, women could make underwear, but only male tailors were allowed to make upper class clothing and corsets - by law! Women won the right to make unboned gowns during this period, and these women were know as Mantua-makers.
These women quickly branched out to hats and accessories, then to other types of clothing. Since the unboned mantua was popular for only a couple of decades, expanding was necessary for the female dressmakers' survival, no matter how much the tailors complained.
The term mantua-maker was used for a fashionable dress designer/creator long after the mantua was forgotten, even as late as the 1890's. It was replaced by the more modern term of modiste.
Why are patterns priced so high?
You are paying for the cost of the paper, the cost of the printing, and the cost of fuel to run to the printers and the post office. Small pattern makers like me cannot afford the $2,000 per pattern to have them printed up in bulk. We can't afford the space for storage - I already dedicate one bedroom to just storing the pattern masters, shipping boxes and supplies, antique clothing, and a table for folding the patterns. (Well, it is a small bedroom.) Since 95% of my business is wholesale, I need to price my patterns to make a little money on wholesale orders - that averages about $1 per pattern. I'm not getting rich on pattern making, but I've never expected to. I do it because I *love* to research historical clothing, and I enjoy sharing what I've learned. By selling the patterns I can afford to buy "new" (anywhere from 1 to 201 years old) books to help me create new patterns.
Is the seam allowance included on the pattern pieces?
Yes, the 1/2" seam allowance is already included - unless noted as otherwise on the pattern or in the instructions. Please READ through the instructions before touching your fabric!
Why should I make a mock-up?
Everyone's body is different. The patterns are created to "fit" as many people as possible - but that so-called fit happens because seam allowances are a little wide on the front, back and side seams; or the darts are marked as suggestions only, not as hard-and-fast rules; or the gussets can be exchanged for larger or smaller ones. Or what I consider a size 10 might be what you consider a size 6 or size 16. I don't want you to waste expensive fabric if we are not communicating perfectly.
Also, some of the sewing techniques can be a bit tricky the first time(s) you try them. With practice they'll work fine, but the first time you put in a gusset, you may not be too happy with me.
Sometimes the way a garment fit historically may not make you happy. The prime example is my Regency corset. These stays are intended to have a VERY wide gap in the back. This upsets some people. If you know it seems too wide from the mock-up, you can widen the back panel. --- Or the bust gussets seem too small, so you use the wider ones. Then you'll discover in your mock-up that the wide gussets don't give you the support you need.
You can often use the mock-up as the lining or interlining of your garment. So if it fits, you haven't really lost anything!
Are the patterns covered by copyright law?
Contrary to rumor, copyright law does apply to sewing patterns.
What happens if I need to cancel my order?
If I haven't mailed your patterns yet, I'll be happy to cancel your order and refund your money.
What if I don't want to bother with instructions?
Please READ through the instructions before touching your fabric! The instructions will make your life so much easier. There are sewing tips, historical information, quick methods and period methods, notes about where the seam allowance is different than 1/2", and options on what other things you can do beyond the obvious.
Besides, you've paid for them, you should at least *look* at them!
Please READ the instructions!!
Do the pattern numbers mean anything?
The first two digits indicate the main century for the pattern. The next two are to narrow down the time period to within a couple of decades. The numbers after the dash are mostly arbitrary, usually starting with the first pattern in that line that I created, and continuing as they were started, whether or not everything in between got finished.