When I took a close look at this pattern for an evening coat, which dates to 1908 or later, I gained a new respect for home stitchers and dressmakers of my grandmothers’ era. I’m horrified by what this pattern does not mention or include. (Linings? Interfacing? Hems? Detailed instructions….?)
Here are all the sewing instructions from the back of the envelope:
When Butterick and other companies began to include an instruction sheet early in the 20th century — they were called by many names, such as Butterick’s “Deltor” or McCall’s “Printo Gravure” — home sewing became a lot easier.
This McCall coat pattern from 1928 was printed with cutting and stitching lines, and included the Printo Gravure instruction sheet.
With earlier patterns, the only instructions you got were the ones that fit on the outside of the envelope which the unprinted pattern came in. It was not usually a very big envelope, either, so the print was hard to read.
On this early 1900’s – 1910’s McCall evening coat pattern, all the instructions supplied for cutting and sewing don’t even fill the back of the envelope.
Unprinted patterns were usually perforated (as if by a hole punch), so the pieces — pre-cut at the factory — were marked A, B, C, or II, III, IV, (or B and F, like this one) with a series of small punchholes. But the wise dressmaker immediately marked the front of each piece with a pencil to prevent accidentally using them wrong side up.
This pattern did not assign one letter per piece, but just marked them B (back,) C (collar) or F (front.) The small piece marked F is the sleeve front; the small piece marked B is the sleeve back.
Just as modern patterns offer variations (View A, View B, etc.,) this pattern can be cut in different styles.
However, when you look closely at the front illustrations, there appears to be a pattern piece not included. The wrap version of the coat has a lapel, but the illustration shows that a seam is needed to extend the Center Front. There’s no pattern piece illustrated or mentioned. [Correction 9/5/2015: There is no piece missing — problem solved by Brooke. We’re seeing the underside of the collar– see comments below.]
The seam connecting the sleeve to the coat is not illustrated, either. There is no mention of a lining, but the coat could not look like this without one.
The dressmaker who used this pattern had to know a lot more than a stitcher needs to know today.
Count Your Blessings . . . .
Modern patterns tell us not only the yardage needed for the garment but also the yardage for linings and interfacing, plus notions like zippers and shoulderpads, and suggested fabrics. We’re used to illustrations of each step, not merely verbal instructions. As a beginning stitcher, I would have been completely bewildered when I found that the collar piece didn’t line up with the coat front. I wouldn’t have realized that the coat needed a lining or facings (not included or mentioned.) And surely the version with a collar could use interfacing. Looking back, I realize that I learned a lot about sewing from following illustrated pattern instructions.
So, three cheers for Ebenezer Butterick — often credited with the pattern instruction sheet as we know it today — and all the companies who perfected the printed pattern. You can read more about vintage patterns in this article by Lizzie Bramlett for Collector’s Weekly (click here.)
See More Evening Wraps circa 1910:
These evening wraps from the same era are in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum:
You can see more evening wraps at Every Little Counts (click here)
[All pattern images courtesy of RememberedSummers, an Ebay seller.]