Today, I'm delighted that Deli of Delphine Delovely is sharing her pattern stash as part of #vintagepledge. Deli is a London-based dressmaker, specialising in modern reproductions of 1940s and 1950s designs using original patterns. She's also a sewing teacher, teaching in dressmaking classes in London and at The Knitting and Stitching Shows.
Sewing started out as a hobby for Deli and quickly turned into a passion as she began making her own dresses to fit her personal vintage style. It has also evolved into a small business that fits nicely around her other role as Mum to two young boys.
Over to you Deli...
How and when did you start collecting vintage sewing patterns?
I have always had a love of sewing and like to dress with a nod to the past, so I began to sew my own clothes 4 years ago. I started out buying vintage reproduction patterns and vintage style patterns from independent designers as they were easy to find, cheap and multi-sized.
I bought my first vintage Simplicity pattern on a whim in Greenwich Market. It was too small for my measurements, but I loved the style of the dress and the illustration on the envelope. As soon as I opened the pattern I could smell the distinctive smell of the ageing pattern tissue and I knew I was opening history, I can’t help but wonder who owned the pattern originally, what fabric they used to make the dress, and the occasion it was made for. I was hooked!
When I first started collecting patterns I soon realised I needed to learn how to resize and alter the single size patterns to fit me (most of the patterns I own are 2-3 dress sizes smaller than my measurements) so I've built up an impressive collection of text books to go alongside my pattern stash!
How many patterns do you have and how do you store them?
I have around 180 vintage patterns, 25 reproduction patterns and quite a few PDFs.
I dream of finding an antique pattern storage unit from an old haberdashery shop, but I’ve yet to find one so for now I use clear plastic storage boxes! My sewing room also doubles as my boys' playroom so I have to go for the practical option over anything pretty.
I put all my patterns into sealable plastic sleeves to protect the delicate envelopes. It means I can still see the envelope clearly and I can also flick through the patterns without worrying about damaging them.
When it comes to using the patterns I’m keen to preserve them in their original state. I gently press the pattern tissue under silk organza, then trace and copy all pattern pieces onto lightweight interfacing, or photocopy smaller pieces, and work from the copies. I then store the copied pieces in large envelopes with a copy of the pattern envelope stuck to the front.
I collect patterns for both myself and for my business, so I may see a pattern which isn’t to my personal taste, but I know could appeal to others so I’ll buy it. Who am I kidding?! I’m a pattern addict that is easily swayed!
I read a lot of vintage sewing blogs and I’m a member of a number of online vintage sewing groups, where I often see wonderful makes that inspire me. If there is a dress or outfit I really love I’ll do a search online for the particular pattern or see if I can find another one like it. Likewise if I see a dress I love in a vintage publication or a film, I head to Google and try and track down a pattern that’s similar.
Pattern envelope illustrations also really appeal to me. The covers are a historical insight into the fabric prints and colour palettes used, and also the styling of the outfits with accessories of that particular era.
Vintage patterns tend to have more details – pleating, pin tucks, collars, shaping, draping – than modern patterns, and I particularly love how many of them include an additional pattern for a bolero or jacket to make a complete outfit.
Do you have any favourite style era?
I absolutely love the styles of the 1940s; from the more streamlined styles of the war years, to Christian Dior’s New Look of the later 40s, where dress silhouettes grew bigger as fabric was more easily available.
I’m fascinated by the history of this era, and recently visited the Fashion on the Ration exhibition at The Imperial War Museum in London. I was mesmerised by the dresses on display, and the story behind the wartime Make Do and Mend campaign. Dresses from this era were designed to use as little fabric as possible, which is handy when I’m out shopping and spy the perfect fabric; I know I can buy 3 metres and have plenty to make a gorgeous dress!
I do also love 1950s outfits, big skirts with petticoats underneath and classic cocktail dresses, but I don’t tend to make as many outfits from this era.
What’s the oldest pattern in your collection and have you made it?
My oldest pattern is Simplicity 1621 from1945. It’s a three piece beachwear pattern with a cropped peasant blouse, bubble hem shorts and a skirt. I haven’t made it as I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t look anything like the bathing beauties on the envelope! I have a few other vintage beach and loungewear patterns from the 1940s too and think it’s amazing just how fabulous the ladies looked for a trip to the beach back then!
Can you pick three favourites - and have you made them?
Advance 7817 – a jumpsuit pattern from the 1950’s. I made this in floral cotton sateen, and it looked amazing!
Bestway 2793 – a stunning frock coat which I believe to be late 1940s or early 1950s. I made this as a wedding dress for a client from silk dupion and a panel of embroidered silk she had bought on her travels to the Far East. This is my favourite pattern I own and I hope to make it for myself in a black silk taffeta. It was my biggest sewing challenge to date and I used many vintage sewing techniques to make it, including 11 bound buttonholes.
Butterick 6239 – a reproduction 1940’s pattern which is the last pattern I bought. I got it with the intention of making a dress to wear at The Goodwood Revival, but I loved it so much I made two, one for each day of the festival!
Is there a pattern you think you'll never make but will never get rid of?
I'm a hoarder! I don’t think I could get rid of any of my patterns, but there are plenty I won’t make. I’d love to create the wardrobe of my dreams, but I’d need an infinite supply of gorgeous fabrics, which I sadly can’t afford!
The Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge has helped me build up my wardrobe a bit more though as I’ve made the effort to choose patterns I wouldn’t usually have considered making. With 3.5 months of the year left I’ve still got 3 outfits to make to fulfil my pledge, so that’s my birthday, Christmas and New Year’s Eve outfits sorted!
Where do you get your patterns from?
Alongside the usual outlets – Etsy and ebay – I also keep an eye out for patterns at markets and charity shops. I’m a bit useless at finding anything good though as I’m not one to be up at the crack of dawn to get to the markets early!
I inherited my Nana’s pattern collection when she passed away, and have also been gifted a bundle of lovely patterns that used to belong to a friend’s grandma.
I’m also a member of a few pattern sale groups online where I’ve been able to find some gems.
Marie, thank you so much for letting me share a selection of my pattern stash with everyone. It’s been great fun, and I’m now inspired to make some of the patterns I’ve featured in this post!
Thanks so much Deli! It was a pleasure getting to know you and your pattern stash, you're one talented lady.
Make sure you check out #vintagepledge on Pinterest for copious amounts of inspiration!