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Vintage Sewing Patterns

Updated on September 21, 2014
Diane Cass profile image

Diane is a lover of all things beautiful; music, art, antiques and nature. Her guides bring insight to topics she cares passionately about.

Vintage Sewing Patterns - How to Find Them and What to do With Them

Sewing patterns are one of those things that tend to accumulate in closets, attics and basements over time. Nobody throws them away. People hang on to them, just in case they want to use them again, but they are inevitably forgotten.

If you have a horde of old sewing patterns, or wish you had one, this article is for you. I'll give you ideas for updating older fashions, finding vintage sewing patterns and tell you how to sell them for a profit.

Estate sale find for .25 cents.Vintage Wrap-Around Dress
Estate sale find for .25 cents.Vintage Wrap-Around Dress

Where to Find Vintage Sewing Patterns

FREE - Look around your house, or your grandma's house (with permission of course) to see if there are any old patterns tucked away in a closet somewhere. Old family hordes of patterns are the cheapest. You may discover some unpleasant reminders of what your young, svelte figure was like, but don't dwell on it too long. We get better with age, right?

CHEAP - Estate sales are a great place to find cheap vintage sewing patterns. I found the stack I've used in my photos at an estate sale and paid .25 cents each for them. Other good cheap sources are; garage sales, thrift shops, consignment shops, flea markets and auctions.

NOT so cheap - Online auctions offer the best way to find something specific that you want, in the size you want. Places like: eBay, Etsy, Bonanza, etc... You can buy a single pattern or buy a large lot, sometimes at a cheaper price than a single purchase. Desirable designs may cost you as much as $35 or more for one pattern.

OUCH! That Hurts! - Websites that are devoted to selling vintage sewing patterns are all over the web. Great patterns can sell for as much as $50, even higher for designer patterns. Do a search for "vintage sewing patterns" to find websites that sell them.

Vintage Apron Sewing Patterns

Find exactly what you need, in the size you need from eBay's huge selection. Check back often, as new listings are posted every day.

Sewing Used to Be a Manditory Skill for Ladies

In the early 1800's a young woman's skill with a needle and thread was an indicator of whether she was marriage material or not. Any lady who could not sew would not be able to clothe her family. With the invention of sewing machines before the turn of the century, and cheap Chinese labor today, fewer and fewer people sew anymore. I used to sew because it was cheaper to make my own, not to mention that I could make exactly what I wanted. With clothes costing less than the price of fabric these days, I don't sew as often anymore. How about you?

Do You Sew?

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Sunny beach wear from the 70's
Sunny beach wear from the 70's

What to Do With a Vintage Sewing Pattern

STYLISH FASHIONS TO WEAR - "What's old is new" If you wait long enough, fashions from the past become hot again, well, maybe not the shoulder pad football-player looking dresses of the 80's, but everything else will surely come back into fashion. Wearing a stylish wrap-around dress from the 50's will make you look like you are wearing hot couture from right off the runway.

HALLOWEEN & PARTIES - Vintage patterns can be used to create stunning costumes for holidays and parties. Your costume will be exactly the way you want it, and much better made than the flimsy stuff you get at the costume store.

FASHIONS FOR THEATRICS - Every costume designer for school or community theaters and film production companies needs to have a library of vintage fashion patterns to choose from. These patterns become the research, as well as the method for making sure that the show's fashions are historically accurate.

SELL THEM - As you have already seen, some vintage sewing patterns can sell for pretty big money at places like eBay, Etsy and Bonanza. Even if you only make a few dollars on your sale, if you only paid a quarter for the pattern...like I did...you turn a nice profit. Read more about selling vintage patterns below.

Tips and Tricks for Updating Vintage Fashions

There are simple things you can do to change the look of a vintage fashion. You are only limited by your own imagination.

  • Modify the hemline. Shorten or lengthen the hem to bring the outfit up to today's standards.
  • Alter the fullness of the skirt. Dresses from the ;50s have very full skits. If you reduce the skirt, by taking the side seems in by a couple of inches, it will give a more streamlined, current look.
  • Embellish a neckline. One current fashion trend is to add beads and baubles to a neckline. You can use almost anything: vintage buttons, old pearls from unused costume jewelry, lace, even shells. Use your imagination and make it pretty

How to Sell Vintage Sewing Patterns on eBay

eBay is one of the best places to sell your vintage patterns. You get worldwide exposure and no other site gets the traffic that eBay does. Here are a few tips to help you get the best price for your patterns.

BUY CHEAP - The cheaper you can buy your patterns the greater the potential earnings

ALL THE PIECES - Make sure that ALL of the pieces are present before you list.

CATEGORY - Choose the right category to get your listing seen. For vintage sewing patterns, list them in Crafts/Sewing & Fabrics/Sewing/Sewing Patterns/ and the specific category like: women's clothing, men's clothing, home d├ęcor and so on.

TITLE - Use the best words to describe your item, ex... "Vintage 50's Wrap Around Dress Pattern". Don't use superfluous adjectives like "fantastic", "fabulous", or kooky made up words like "L@@K". The title box is prime real estate for search keywords, and you can't afford to fill it up with words that people are not going to use in their search.

START PRICE - Start low. Even if you think you have a valuable pattern, start it low. I start at .99 cents. There is a psychology to bidding. If you start too high, nobody will even look at your listing, let alone bid on it. When you start low, you welcome people to bid. Once you have a few bids, others who see it say "Hey, this item looks hot" and they will jump in on the action.

FREE or LOW SHIPPING - A sewing pattern is very light. It can be mailed USPS First Class for the lowest possible rate. Even better, offer Free Shipping and you will avoid eBay's new charges on the shipping price.

PHOTOS & DESCRIPTION - Provide lots of photos and a complete description of your item.

Classic skirts patterns from the 50's
Classic skirts patterns from the 50's

How old where you when you began sewing? Who taught you? What is your favorite thing to sew?

Please tell me about your experiences with sewing.

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    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I have a box of old patterns that belonged to my husband's mother. Most are from the 50's and 60's and are pretty well worn but I was thinking of trying to sell some of them. Great information here. Thanks.

    • firstcookbooklady profile image

      Char Milbrett 5 years ago from Minnesota

      my mother used to sew, and when i got a sewing machine, she made me practice on notebook paper. I had to follow the lines... now I have a box full of patterns to sell. so am reading this lens fairly closely. Thanks for creating this lens!

    • Linda Pogue profile image

      Linda Pogue 5 years ago from Missouri

      These are great images of vintage patterns. I never go to a yard sale or second hand shop without checking for patterns. There is one shop not too far away that just gives them away, because they don't want to take the time to check that all the pieces are there. Blessings!

    • LittleLindaPinda profile image

      Little Linda Pinda 5 years ago from Florida

      I should have kept more of my old patterns.

    • BestRatedStuff profile image

      BestRatedStuff 5 years ago

      So many of these patterns are timeless, thanks for the tips on updating them.

    • profile image

      sherioz 5 years ago

      I've been sewing since I'm 16, not that I do it as much as I would like. I kinda got hooked on the computer for now. I have lots of vintage sewing patterns. Wouldn't think of selling them, however.

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 5 years ago from Vermont

      I have designed my own patterns, sewn everything from doll clothes to slip covers, clothing for all ages - men and women - and of course toys and accessories. I love sewing and take it for granted others can sew. Big wake up call to me to learn that many folks can't even sew a button or a hem.

    • Diane Cass profile image
      Author

      Diane Cass 5 years ago from New York

      @Showpup LM: Full skirts are such a challenge to get the hem right. I'm sorry your first sewing experience was so frustrating. The teacher should have steered you to something more appropriate.

    • Showpup LM profile image

      Showpup LM 5 years ago

      I took a home ec. class and so excitedly decided on a full skirt pattern that would twirl straight out for me when I'd dance around. Bad idea... I couldn't get it hemmed and the frustration prevented me from learning to sew. Wish my teacher had made me choose something more encouraging.

    • Joan Haines profile image

      Joan Haines 6 years ago

      I was 5 or 6 years old, and Mom taught me to sew with a needle and thread. I sewed lots of Barbie clothes. Then, when I was about 10, I learned to sew with a machine. I'd been watching Mom do it for my whole life, so I kinda knew what to do mostly with laying things out, pinning, cutting, etc.

    • bossypants profile image

      bossypants 6 years ago from America's Dairyland

      Love your photos! What great memories! My great aunt sewed my clothes throughout my childhood and into my teens. (When I was little, my dolls had matching clothes -- take that, american Girl!) I took sewing in 7th and 8th grade (required) and hated it. I learned to love it when I had to stretch my paycheck, in my late teens.

    • vauldine profile image

      vauldine 6 years ago

      I love to sew. It is my hobby! Thanks for the inforamtion.

    • robinrags profile image

      robinrags 6 years ago

      Awesome lens - Diane! You might even be interested in my Magnolia Pearl lens ... ;-)

    • Frischy profile image

      Frischy 6 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      My grandmother taught me how to sew when I was a child. She had a lot of patience, and was determined that I would learn how. Then, too, it was back in the day, and all the girls had to take home ec. Back then, if you were a girl, you sort of learned how to sew by osmosis, whether or not you wanted to.

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 6 years ago from So Cal

      I have lots of vintage sewing patterns. Well, their vintage if I am. I still use them and used the cover of a pattern to illustrate another lens. Well done!

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Haha! See the comment on the vote! Now if you want something crocheted, even without a pattern, I can do that!

    • Diane Cass profile image
      Author

      Diane Cass 6 years ago from New York

      @Pam Irie: I have never liked sewing boys/men's clothing. I can never get the crotch right in pants and shirts and suits are just too fussy. I think that's why I stopped sewing. I have two boys. Now, if I had had a little girl...my sewing machine wouldn't be gathering dust.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 6 years ago from Land of Aloha

      I was eight when my Grandmother got me started on her treadle-powered sewing machine and I've been sewing ever since. I think I've sewn everything except for a man's lined suit. ha

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I love the graphics on vintage sewing patterns. Nice information on how to sell these treasures.

    • ChrissLJ profile image

      ChrissLJ 6 years ago

      I love garage saling and see vintage sewing patterns all the time. Last weekend, I even saw some in a freebie box!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 6 years ago from Central Florida

      Ooh, I bet my mom has some of these. She keeps everything. Great tips about how to resell them. Thanks!