Tips For Working With Unprinted Patterns

Some ideas and techniques to aid in working with unprinted vintage sewing patterns.  

Does the thought of working with an unprinted vintage pattern make you cringe? Here are some ideas and definitions that will help make the job a little easier.

Before you begin:  If the pattern is not too fragile, ironing and tracing the vintage pattern pieces may be a wise idea. Vintage pattern pieces are easily damaged from the pinning and cutting process.  This small step will help to preserve the original pattern.

Unprinted patterns use a series of perforations, holes & marks on the pattern to indicate darts, cut on fold areas and straight of grain.  Here are what the markings mean:

Large Double Perforations:


  • Used in cutting.
  • They show you how to lay the pattern on the right grain of your material.
  • If the double perforations are not placed exactly as directed the garment will twist.
  • The perforations form a line which are placed either: lengthwise or crosswise.

    Large Triple Perforations:


    • Used in cutting.
    • Are always laid on the fold of the material.


      Small Double Perforations: 


      • Always used to mark the natural waistline.
      • Used to indicate the elbow or outlines of the neck.


        Large & Small Single Perforations:


        • Used either alone or together.
        • Their use is always shown on the instruction sheet.

        Let-Out Seams:

        • Marked by large single perforations.
        • The basting line should run exactly through the center of these perforations.
        • Deeper than ordinary seams.  They are made so on purpose so they can be let out if necessary.

          Ordinary Seams:

          • Not marked by perforations but are to be basted exactly 3/8 inch from the seam edge.
          • Seam lines must be followed exactly or the size of the garment will be altered.


            • Marked by "v" shaped lines of perforations.
            • Made by bringing the two lines of the dart perforations together and basting through the perforations.


              • Used at seam edges to show which edges should be joined.