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Profile for VintageTailor - Threads


Paula DeGrand, Columbus, OH, US

Dissatisfied with the clothing choices offered in petite sizes, I began learning to sew as an adult. About 1999 I discovered vintage patterns, which I love for both style and fit. I collect and sew patterns from the 1930s, '40s and '50s, my favorites being tailored jackets and coats.

For years on my travels I have greatly enjoyed discovering shops, museum collections, and anything else related to my sewing interests. Researching and writing "Sewing Destination: London, England" for the June/July 2012 issue of Threads and teaming with my photographer sister Cynthia DeGrand was a dream come true.

I launched my blog, Getting Things Sewn, on Feb. 16, 2013.

craft interests: fashion, sewing

Gender: Female

Member Since: 02/14/2009

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Calvin Klein anorak from 1990, Vogue 2461

Vogue 2461, Calvin Klein anorak, from 1990 (out of print). I had long wanted to make this jacket, which had the waist definition I wanted. However, I discovered that this has LOTS of design ease...

1930s Butterick jacket 5542

I found the perfect cross-dyed blue and white linen to go with Art Deco-era buttons I found in an antique shop in Edinburgh, Scotland. I paired them in an Art Deco-era jacket, Butterick 5542.  I...

1947 Vogue dress

I enjoy vintage patterns for dresses designed for everyday activities and not just for special occasions. This 1947 Vogue dress, illustrated with golf clubs, is sporty in a genteel way. Don't know...

1955 princess-line dress

This 1955 dress was easy to sew and is easy to wear. Part of my enjoyment is knowing that I created a garment from a pattern bought by my neighbor many years earlier. At her estate sale there...

Sheath dress with swing jacket

When I received an invitation to a springtime wedding, I was able to sew this dress and jacket quickly and feel perfectly dressed for the occasion.  I often sew vintage patterns, but this...

EvaDress 1941 Necktie Apron

The French printed cotton and the unusual rickrack in my stash worked great for this EvaDress 1941 apron pattern.

1936 McCall jacket

This is my second rendition of this 1936 McCall jacket pattern 8944.  (The first one, in seersucker, has also been posted in Reader's Closet, along with the original pattern illustration.)

Vintage pattern, McCall 8944, published 1936

The words "dapper" and "natty" come to mind when I wear my 1936 seersucker jacket.  This was the first project my sewing teacher helped me with, six years ago, when I was despairing of ever...

1934 polo coat

Vintage pattern McCall 7842, published 1934. I was enchanted by the pattern illustration, but the result was not so great. Could this pattern be adjusted to suit me? See more photos and commentary on...

1950 Belted Topper

Vintage Butterick pattern, "Boxy or Belted Topper," 1950. I sewed this in a coat-making class at Treadle Yard Goods, St. Paul, MN, Nov.-Dec. 2008. Excellent for warmth and fashion while traveling...

1941 "Misses' Mannish Jacket" (#3 of 3)

One of a three-jacket project to build tailoring skills.

1941 "Misses' Mannish Jacket" (#2 of 3)

One of a three-jacket project to build tailoring skills.

1941 "Misses' Mannish Jacket" (#1 of 3)

I fell in love with the drawing and the classic lines of this jacket based on a man's sportcoat. My sewing teacher challenged me to cut and sew three versions at once to build experience and...

recent comments

Re: Documentary on the Tailor's Trade to be Screened in NYC

I was lucky enough to see this last week in Columbus, Ohio. I found it engrossing and inspiring from beginning to end, and my husband did, too--even though he's not a sewer. This is a film about craft and mastery. If I were in New York I'd be buying my ticket to see this again and listing my questions for the filmmaker and those tailors!

Re: 100% Wool Blazer in Fall Colors

What beautiful work! I'd love to see details, including the buttons of your friend.

Re: Announcing New Threads Editor, Sarah McFarland

Congratulations, Sarah! I'm looking forward to many more wonderful issues of Threads under your direction.

Re: Win a Copy of Serger Techniques on DVD!

I have a top of the line serger purchased six years ago that's waiting to be put to use. Help me become a fearless serger!

Re: Magazine Giveaway: What is the most exciting sewing destination you've been to?

Okay, you might think that London would be my answer, since researching the Sewing Destinations: London article took me to many neighborhoods, shops, museum collections and market stalls I otherwise wouldn't have discovered.

But I have also loved prowling New York's garment district. I have peered through a fabric store window in Madrid to watch an ingratiating salesman unfurling bolts to entice a skeptical customer. I've petted luxury wools at Britex in San Francisco. I've spent an entire day at Vogue Fabrics in Evanston, IL in a hypnotic trance.

Here in the Twin Cities I thrill to three quite different places: S.R. Harris, a big fabric warehouse; "The World's Largest Fabric Garage Sale" annual event at the Textile Center of Minnesota; and Treadle Yard Goods, an independent fabric store with wonderful classes, too.


I would LOVE to see this exhibit, especially having just returned from two months in London, the capital of men's tailoring, a couple of weeks ago. I was agog at the smart shirts and jackets I saw in shop windows and in the City.

In London and in Bath I saw several men's informal summer jackets in bold-striped linen on the street and at vintage fashion fairs. I'd like to know whether that brilliantly striped blazer from 1928 hearkens back to fashions from Oxford, Cambridge, or English boarding schools. One would suppose Ivy League dressing would quote from British tailoring. (Well, I guess using Harris tweeds could hardly be more British.)

Part of me wishes I were a tailor's apprentice on Savile Row. I've greatly enjoyed other FIT shows; I think I'm going to have to plan a trip to New York before the end of the year to see this one.

Re: EvaDress 1941 Necktie Apron

Thank you, deChez!

Re: 1936 McCall jacket

EvaDress, I'm honored. Thank you. You're are continually inspiring!

Re: 1936 McCall jacket

Thank you! And this project represents another achievement for me: except for a little advice at the beginning, I made all the construction decisions (and did all the construction, of course) myself, without my sewing teacher. She has taught me well. (But every time she tells me "I'm teaching you so that you don't need me anymore," I say "No--but I still want you!" and we go on to do other great projects.)

Re: Everything old is new again

Since I sew patterns from the 1930s, '40s and '50s, I suppose you could characterize me as one who "sews retro." But I always choose patterns for their comfort, visual appeal, style, and suitability for my figure and my life. I don't dress like a museum piece.
And why should I limit myself to the caprices of the designers of the current season? A decade or so ago I got frustrated with the narrow range of choices for my figure in the pattern books. That's when I discovered the world of online auctions and started collecting patterns from eras that worked for my taste and dimensions.
The unprinted pattern tissues mystified me, as did the sketchy instructions, until I hired a great sewing teacher who unlocked their secrets. Turning these patterns into clothes I routinely wear has been an adventure for both of us.
I've received many compliments on the "retro" clothing I've worn to work and special occasions, but *never* any comments on the era it's hailed from--not even my very distinctive jackets from 1936 (for photos and pattern envelope search Reader's Closet, tag word "vintage"). My coworkers and friends see a beautiful garment, that's all. I confess I enjoy telling them, "This is a 'Misses' Mannish Jacket' from 1941" or a "'Belted Topper' from 1950," in a subtle effort to show that "retro" can be very wearable and current.
How have I updated vintage patterns? I pair my 1936 jackets with simple, knee-length (not calf-length) skirts, more suitable for my height. I use buttons, patterned fabrics, colors and color combinations that are flattering to me whether or not they are period. My sewing teacher has taken darts out of sleeve caps, and simplified unnecessarily complicated construction to reflect today's fabrics and interfacings (and foundation garments!). The buttons on my 1936 seersucker jacket are from a different era, yet they look as if they were made expressly for my garment.
When you "sew retro," you can reference design and cultural language with as much fidelity or freedom as you like. Why limit yourself?

Re: 1950 Belted Topper

I never heard back from Butterick, but I'm sure it takes a long time to get from the idea to production to catalog. It might not be too difficult to find this pattern if you set up a daily search of vintage patterns on eBay.

Re: What sewing topics would you like to read about in Threads?

I want to second many suggestions below and add a few ideas, too.

I recently improved my sewing space floor plan, moving my work tables, sewing machine,ironing board and project storage for more efficient movement among them. I got to thinking, they always talk about a "work triangle" in the kitchen. Is there a "work triangle" or other golden rule for designing a sewing workspace? I am mystified by photos in design books or magazines (not Threads!) that portray sewing spaces barely big enough for hemming pants. How about a kitchen designer or other designer experienced in designing spaces that really work, teamed up with a professional organizer, for an article loaded with ideas for making cutting-sewing-pressing-storage spaces that adapt to different projects?

Task lighting for a sewing space, and types of lighting (like full-spectrum)would also be useful.

How about fitting articles about menswear? Having succeeded in making shirts for my husband, I now have my eye on making beautiful trousers for him. David Page Coffin's magnificent trouser book does not address fitting. Threads, please help!

I sew from patterns of the 1930s, '40s and '50s. I am inspired by menswear of those periods as much as womenswear. It would be great to see up close the excellent designs of smoking jackets, sportcoats, trousers, shirts, ties, and outerwear from those decades.

For the last year I have been thinking how great it would be to have an image consultant who would work with me to build a wardrobe mainly from my fabric, button and pattern stashes rather than from retail clothing stores. Each of us would bring resources to the relationship (fabric, patterns, sewing skills on one side; fashion knowledge, sense of proportion, an objective eye on the other), and each would reap rewards (a great wardrobe suited one's lifestyle; creativity unrestricted by current styles in ready-to-wear). Threads, do you know anyone who has had such an experience with an image consultant? If not, perhaps I should offer myself as a test subject! An article is begging to be written on this topic.

Fabrics and buttons are favorite souvenirs of my travels. I have used your articles about shopping in New York and Portland and would welcome more such information.

I sew a lot but know little about alterations or repairs. I have walked away from buying clothes that might have fit had I just known some simple alteration techniques. Alteration is a timely topic.

How about introducing sewing tools, brand-new ones and even quite old ones, and explaining what they do? Didn't you have an article (or was it a topic on this website) about unusual presser feet? It was fascinating. I bet most sewers have at least one old gadget in their sewing toolchest they can't identify or haven't gotten around to learning to use but which is quite ingenious and useful.

Thanks, Threads, for asking for suggestions! I can't wait to see upcoming issues!

Re: Fresh Start for a Sewing Space

Sarah, I'm so glad you've started this topic! I've been puzzling over how to make my basement sewing space more efficient, so I'll be following this discussion closely. I've been meaning to look over the sewing tools and supplies I'm storing in plastic stackable drawers to see how many I could hang on pegboard instead. I have a lot of wall space that could be put to good use. I've seen garage wall storage systems that look both functional and attractive, but haven't yet determined whether they'd work for my needs.
I'm always on the lookout for items that can be repurposed to solve sewing space problems. Here are some examples:
For cutting and construction surfaces I have gotten great use from my banquet tables, which can be positioned end to end or side by side as needs dictate and then folded between projects.
I sew vintage patterns, and trace the fragile tissue pieces onto paper too heavy to fold. I store the traced-off pattern pieces--and delicate instruction sheets, which I encase in plastic sheets--in giant corrugated cardboard folders originally intended for storing posters. The folders fit into a box with a hinged lid. Highsmith, the school and library supplies company, sells the folder and box sets, which are called "Corruboard Bulletin Board/Poster Storage Systems."
Back when I worked in commercial bakeries I used rolling bakers' racks to store and move baked goods. Now I have a baker's rack of my own, with about a dozen full-size sheet pans perfect for pulling together supplies for projects. Bakers' racks and full- and half-size sheet pans can be found at any restaurant supply.

Re: Vintage pattern, McCall 8944, published 1936

Paulette--I bought this pattern on eBay. Have you checked eBay? From go to Collectibles--Sewing (1930-now)--Patterns. You can set up a search for this particular pattern number and get e-mail alerts about auctions. From eBay's Patterns page also see "Matching eBay Stores." I especially like All Original Patterns Vintage4Me2. If I were you I would contact this vendor, explained what I was looking for, and see if she could keep an eye out for patterns for you.

If you should sew up this pattern I hope you will share the results with us!

Re: 1950 Belted Topper

I did contact Butterick, and they replied quickly and enthusiastically. I offered to send them the original pattern pieces, but they said they could work with the illustrations on the pattern envelope. So, as far as I know, this pattern is under consideration for reissuing.

Re: Vintage pattern, McCall 8944, published 1936

Thank you, sewdizzy. This was my first project with my sewing teacher but not my first jacket. The excitement of seeing this come together greatly outweighed the patience.