Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Feel the fear, and sew it anyway

Sewing vintage takes up a lot of my spare time, but I gladly give it away because I love seeing these pieces of history come together out of the labour of my own two hands!

I've been teaching vintage sewing for a while now, and observing my students has been an interesting part of the process. It's fun to be a part of their light-bulb-moments, and also intriguing to see what scares them or has held them back from sewing in the past.

Funnily enough, some of those road-blocks are some of the very reasons why I LOVE vintage sewing so much.

First is the fear of blank, unprinted patterns which were common in the 30s and 40s (and which I've seen in Australian versions of Big 4 patterns right up to the late 50s). But isn't it so true that with every innovation that improves something, something good is also lost? I've definitely noticed this with the advance of computer technology. Every time they release a new version of Microsoft Word it seems they hide or take away a feature I loved.

So it is with unprinted patterns. The best feature is you don't have to cut them out, they are already in pieces! The descriptor 'uncut' is often used to describe the condition of patterns but it's a moot point with unprinted ones. And those perforations aren't scary at all. If you've ever made a garment or two they'll make sense right away, and there's always a key to them on the instruction sheet. The best part about perforations is they make it so easy to mark your fabric - tailor's tacks or chalk are a breeze when the holes are already there.

So yes, printed patterns have a lot of good information on them (I especially love the 50s and 60s ones with the seam allowances marked), but they made some things harder too. Ever tried struggling with those huge tissue sheets, folding and unfolding to find the piece you need?

The other thing that has been a big issue for my students is their bust. Choosing a pattern by bust size doesn't work if you are greater than a C cup. Why don't pattern companies make that more clear? Bust adjustments are really quite simple and are often a revelation to my class. They finally understand why patterns never fit them right, and they discover how easy it is to rectify that.

So I guess my point is, going somewhere foreign isn't really all that scary, you just have to spend some time learning the language and doors will open for you. That's what I love about sewing - you can rip out your stitches and just try again. The worst that can happen is you spoil a piece of fabric, but even that's recyclable and there are so many lovely sewing bloggers posting tips and tricks to help you along. So what are you waiting for?

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