At the beginning of the year, I, as so many do, made a list of resolutions for myself, among which was an effort to control my ever-expanding sewing pattern collection. It was a failure from the start. Initially, I slowed my rate of accumulation. It was progress. I spent some time listing the pile of patterns I intended to sell on eBay, but I quickly got bored with the process and quit altogether. No big deal. I got rid of a few, added a few. I was basically even in terms of 'Patterns Out' vs. 'Patterns In'.
Then, mid-April, I read a listing for an estate sale. The home, a two-flat in one of Chicago's northwest neighborhoods, had been in the same family since 1928. It was most recently occupied by two sisters, neither of whom had married. The listing for the sale described them as seamstresses who sewed all of their own clothes with matching hats and gloves. It went on to describe rooms full of handmade vintage clothing and a large accumulation of sewing notions, fabric, and patterns.
On the morning of the sale, Mike and I made our way over to the house. It was our first estate sale, and we didn't have a real idea what to expect. We arrived early and put our names on the list that had already been started by veteran sale-goers. Then we waited... and waited... for the coordinators to let us in. When we got inside, I went straight for the patterns. There were two McCall's store displays brimming. There was already a couple scavengering by the time we got there, and many others joined within minutes. It was a frenzy. Mike, a complete enabler and gem of a man, had instructions to grab any and everything pre-dating 1970. Before we could get through both cabinets, we had filled our over sized tote bag and a nearby abandoned fruit box.
The fabric accumulation was twice as massive. However, there were so many people crowding the rooms and rifling through boxes, we weren't able to navigate through it. I did manage to grab two pieces of silk, a cut of cotton lace, a synthetic lace, and three bolts of trim off the surface of the piles. What I would have given to spend an entire day rummaging through the collection these women had. I wish I could have bought it all. The taste level was exceptional.
I wasn't able to completely assess my haul until we were home and able to unpack. Clearly, these women were kindred spirits. They had an eye for the same types of patterns I find myself day-dreaming over: 1940's, 1950's 1960's, unusual necklines, pockets, design details. They also clearly had the same problem I had in my pre-Pinterest organization days: there are many duplicate patterns- same size and everything.
After admiring and attempting to organize all the treasures I'd acquired, it became very apparent to me that I didn't need or have room for all the patterns I brought home. A woman can only sew so many garments in her lifetime- this was reinforced by the discovery of numerous factory folded patterns in the heap of patterns I'd purchased at the sale. But, what's a gal to do? Collections like the one amassed by these sisters are slowly disappearing. All of these patterns have been out of print for decades. There's a finite supply. Before the up-rise in vintage sewing pattern enthusiasm started, a lot of patterns landed in the trash. I truly feel I'm helping to preserve them by snatching up as many as I can. These are history. These are design. They tell the story of fashion. They show the evolution of women in society. These are individual works of art.... and they make me happy, so there's that... But, like I said, I could do with far fewer in my personal collection. The combination of these thoughts has been steeping in my mind for some time, and an idea has been brewing. I'm still working out the details of orchestrating it, but there's something new on the horizon with regard to my obsession with these lovely creatures. And, it's way better than that stupid resolution I made.