Pattern Puzzle: vintage 1930’s pt.2

pp_vintage_30_slip2Well wasn’t that fun? I tell you, in some ways it’s a lot easier sitting at the front of the class and having the answer key. I wouldn’t be opposed to playing stump the chump if someone wanted to submit a challenge for everyone, me included. All that said, I still had my work cut out for me because -you’re not going to like this- the pattern featured mis-matched seams. Yes indeedy. I still think the challenge was valid because this is something that pattern makers deal with every day. We have to figure out how things fit together even though there is no conceivable way they can. As you may have guessed, the solution appears right. It’s a bias cut slip.

First I’ll present the brave souls who submitted sketches. Laugh all you like but my hat’s off. I admire people who are sufficiently intact to have the guts to try it. Then I’ll explain the pattern issues involved and how they were resolved.

At the time of this writing, we had 18 submissions and four sketches. Our brave souls are Clara, Gale, Katherine, and Jasmin.

30s_pp_claraAt right are Clara and Gale. Gale is new here so everyone be all friendly-like (hi Gail!). These are both nice samples;  Clara’s is kind of space-age and she really went to a lot of work to engineer those seams together. Several people mentioned after seeing the solution that this gave them other ideas for design renderings that they ended up liking better. I think Clara’s falls in that category. I think Gales’s does too; in addition to making a fashioney sketch, hers was a dressier style. I like the back of it.

30s_pp_katherineOur next two contestants were Katherine and Jasmin. I grouped theirs together as raglans – a lot of people guessed this was a raglan style because let’s face it, nobody had much to go on -again absent scale which counts for a lot. These are also workable and perennially popular styles.

So let’s hear it for our contestants, yay!

Okay, now for an explanation of the pattern rendition I posted; it came from a link that Elizabeth sent me. The original pattern is for sale in an eBay auction -there’s four days left on it if you’re interested.

It was more work than you’d think to put up what I did. First I copied and pasted the quarter scale picture of the pattern pieces from the eBay ad. I blew those up 200 or so percent. Then I printed them out on a sheet of paper. I cleaned up the lines as best I could and cut them out of oak tag. Then I digitized the mini pieces into StyleCAD. After that, I scaled those up 400% (in StyleCAD, it’s a one step button, very easy). The result is what I showed in the post.

Having done all that work -and because I really did want to see how it sewed up- I decided to walk and fix the pattern -it was pretty far off. In the process, I figured out a nifty way to make opposing interlocking seams match easier -it’s more easily done in CAD than by hand.  The result is an in depth tutorial for the pattern correction in the forum explaining step by step how it was corrected.

To make the differences between the two versions clearer, below is a schematic showing how the pieces nest together -only half of the front and back are shown so you’ll have to mentally mirror the pieces. On the left is the before version that you all had to work with. On the right is the corrected version.


Going back to the issue of recreating patterns from very small scale illustrations. It is not so difficult to do as I did and tender a better result but it depends on the era the pattern was published and by whom. If the company reduced the pattern with the aid of a pantograph, one is more likely to get a close facsimile of the original style. This is important in the case of recreations etc.. However, with some styles such as this one, it can be a matter of guesstimating if the pattern was reduced manually -an illustration rather than an accurate scale reduction. One can still get pretty close and in any event, you have to do a test sew for fitting anyway because many vintage styles were cut to fit trimmer corset wearing figures.

In the interests of continuing to play this out for sew and fit testing, I will update the forum thread when the sample pattern is available for download, probably tomorrow. Initially it will only be formatted for a plotter but Ann will probably help me get it ready for 8.5 x 11″ printing. In any event, it will only be a alpha, not even a beta pattern so users beware!

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13 Comments on "Pattern Puzzle: vintage 1930’s pt.2"

[…] Akierman took my challenge to heart. If you recall, in this post I said it would be fun if someone sent in a pattern puzzle for me to solve (stump the chump) so […]

Matthew Pius
3 years 4 months ago

When I said illusion – I was talking about the closeness of fit, not whether it fits in a functional sense. So, referencing the illustrations of this particular sheath-dress – it is close fit at the bust and around the hips. A sheath dress like this one will not usually be as closely fitted at the waist as something with a waist seam. And one way to avoid having shaping seams in the area between bust and waist is to allow more ease at the waist (or less waist suppression) which will not necessarily appear visually as having more ease, just smooth lines. Bias might allow it to be cut without leaving more ease at the waist, but wouldn’t the performance of the bias depend on the particular fabric chosen? Different types of fabric will behave differently on the bias.

3 years 4 months ago


Bias shapes differently around the body than straight-of-grain cuts. (And even straight-of-grain cuts can take advantage of bias.) So the fit isn’t an illusion–if it fits, it fits–generally there is not any more ease around the waist because of the way bias hugs the body. Still, even with bias’ stretch, the garment needs to be cut well to fit well–one should not rely on the stretch to do all the work. But really the question should be based on how fitted are we talking about, since you can have very-fitted to loosely fitting garments in both straight-of-grain and bias cuts.

3 years 4 months ago

I was away from my computer and am glad to get back and see this answer.

I must admit I was assuming that the pattern seams were perfected (walked) and so when I could not find a way to match them as side seams without gathers in places where no ease could possibly be needed, I moved on to finding another solution.

As I can see the possibilities of my incorrect solution being an interesting garment, I have entertained the thought of making the pattern I drew. As I am always up for an interesting test for my sewing skills I will be curious to perfect these seams and see about making a side seam of this detail.

This was fun and I hope for more of these brain teasers.

Matthew Pius
3 years 4 months ago

Thanks for the clarification Kathleen. Examining this further, I think I can see how the angles of the side seam allow for shaping/waist supression (thanks Carol!). Your point about cup size is taken. But, a bias cut makes it easier to fit the bust when the shaping is all in the side seams (ie, not approaching the bust point), right? And some of that fitting is illusion, since there will probably be more ease around the waist than the bust or hips – meaning there is less waist suppression.