Friday, September 11, 2009

Getting patterns you want

It's always the pits when we have to send out emails telling people that they didn't get ANY of the patterns they requested.... And judging from the questions we've been getting, it's time to try to explain what happens in a slightly different way.

So here's the setting: It's 12:01 a.m. Eastern time and you're browsing through the newly posted patterns in the Recycle area. There's at least 300 to choose from, and you pick out a dozen, send in your request by 12:04 a.m., and figure you're all set. Two days letter you get an email telling you that only 2 of the patterns you wanted were available....

What happened? Well, most of the patterns you wanted were also requested by someone who had more pattern points than you. And because the system is based on pattern points -- not the time the request came in -- the person with the most points get the pattern.

Time of request does matter if two people want the same pattern AND they both have the same number of pattern points -- in that case, the person who made the request first gets the pattern. But that's rarely what happens.

Why do pattern points get priority?
Because you earn pattern points by doing things that help keep Pattern Rescue going (donating patterns, pin money, tissue pieces, etc. ) and we think the people who help the most should get priority for the patterns we send out.

The stunning little number shown here (McCall's 4070 halter sundress from the 1950s) is one of the many "new" patterns that will be added to the Trade area in the next few days. How many of you will want it? Just one? Five? A dozen?

In any event, we only have one, and there has to be a way to decide. So we collect all the requests for a single day and then whoever has the most pattern points gets the pattern. Until the end of the day, we don't know who that will be.

Pattern point balances range from zero (for new members making their first request) to over 300 (for folks like Sue, who donated this lovely vintage pattern and many more like it).

But if you don't have many pattern points, don't despair! Everyone's balance changes all the time. You get more points every time you donate something. And you redeem points every time you get a pattern from the Trade area. So that 200 point gorilla who always gets the patterns you want will eventually be 98 point weakling and you'll find larger packages in your mailbox. It really does work!

Easy for us to say :-) However, we do tweak things now and again to help more people get more patterns. The latest tweak is simply listing more patterns at one time -- which we hope will spread out the requests and result in more patterns actually going out the door.

A few tips when making your requests:
  • Always include alternates if there's anything you like. If the first 4 or 8 patterns on your list are gone, do you really want nothing?
  • The very first day a large group of new patterns posts is the busiest. If you don't have a lot of points, you may find it easier on your nerves to check on the second day and choose from what's left.
  • Plus-size patterns are VERY popular. So are patterns for toddlers, especially from the 1970s. Expect a lot of competition on these.
  • The odd 1940s or 1950s pattern that makes it into the Recycle area is going to be long gone unless you have a ton of points.
Boosting your pattern points:
  • Make your pin money donation promptly (for an extra point) and add a bit extra. A $2 donation for $2 postage made 10 days later gets you 2 points. Make it within 7 days and you get 3 points. Add an extra dollar and get 5 points. Make it $5 and get 9 points.
  • Don't get patterns from the Trade area unless you really, really love them. Letting your point balance build up for a while will help you get the Recycle patterns you want.
  • Got any incomplete patterns from the 1950s or earlier hanging around? Send them on. Each one earns a point, and you'll have the opportunity to get them back if we can complete the pattern.
Hope this helps a bit -- any questions, just let me know!


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Trade or not?

Added a few patterns to the Trade area last night, so today I'll be babbling on about what goes into the Trade area -- and why.

No matter what the style, condition often makes the difference between the Trade and Recycle area. Incomplete patterns are automatically disqualified as are most multi-size patterns that have been cut to one of the smaller sizes. Unless newer patterns are unused, they'll need a pretty special plus to make the Trade cut. After that, it's a combination of my opinion and my understanding of your preferences.

Lingerie patterns from any era are likely to end up in the Trade area. "Lingerie" includes slips, bras and panties, and the lacy range of nightwear. Your very basic flannel pajamas and fleece robe patterns probably won't make it.

McCall's 2496 was a lingerie no-brainer. It cover the 3 basic styles (baby dolls, pjs and nightgown) and a rather unusual use (in home sewing patterns anyway) of lace side seams which are lapped and stitched along the torso. The UPC code on the front came as a surprise because the pattern dates from 1986. Must have been one of the first examples!

I usually view camisole patterns as lingerie, so unless it's really b-o-r-i-n-g or in bad shape, it goes in the Trade area. Simplicity 5352 had one view cut out, but the rest was unused and the combination of 2 camisoles and 3 jackets in very different styles won the day.

Vogue 7254 is my idea of the classic lingerie pattern. Can't you just feel the satin? Shaped shoulder straps are always a nice option, and the short dolman sleeves give you lots of drape. Between the style and the graphics, this one just needed to be complete to qualify.

Fashion Designers, I must admit, are not my strong point. Yes -- I have heard of most of them -- but while I can evaluate a 1940s pattern in a heartbeat, the relative merit of designer patterns is much tougher. To some extent, I simply go by your response to various patterns we've listed, and sometimes a little market research helps too. The end result is that some designer patterns DO end up in the Recycle area, but there are 2 pages in the Trade area dedicated to designer patterns, too.

Butterick 6371 is by John Kloss, and the donation included 4 of these patterns in 3 sizes. Can't say the style does a whole lot for me, but I do know that John Kloss has a loyal following. So in they went....

Laura Ashley is another designer name that automatically gets tossed into the Trade pile. This didn't strike me as being one of the most compelling of her patterns, but the envelope art is usually a treat for the eye.

Erm... this is embarassing. Obviously the red squiggles on Simplicity 9712 are a designer signature, but for some reason it took me forever to read. The style didn't ring any bells, either. And then there was that "Ah Hah!" moment. Pauline Trigere. How could I not have seen that? Fortunately no one was around...

Very Vintage patterns (and reproductions thereof) are highly likely to go into the Trade area. We don't get too many modern reproductions (such as the Vintage Vogue line) but they always disappear quickly.

Simplicity 9360 (factory folded) was another no-brainer for the Trade area. The 60th anniversary special pattern is not particularly hard to find (or expensive), but the Art Deco logo and the 1930s dress style (and your little dog, too) are hard to resist. In fact, we had 4 requests for this one within a few hours...

Sixties to Eighties Most of the complete patterns donated to us come from this era, so there's always something to include in the Trade area. Condition is quite important, but a gently used complete pattern may make the grade if it's interesting enough.

Yes, yes -- tiered skirts are not too popular. But McCall's 5648 also features 5 little summer tops that are not just your usual tank tops. I'm pretty sure you could wear them with jeans, too. :-) Factory folds? Sold!

The first time I saw McCall's 8325, I looked for the Laura Ashley label. It's not an Ashley design, but the full-length floral print certainly has the same feel. I also like the way the pleats are held down by a top-stiched belt band that complements the top-stitched yoke.

Unusual Details are my favorite reasons for including a pattern in the Trade area. It's always a joy to find something a style with a unique twist or construction details that takes it beyond the ordinary. And if it's special enough, I'll cut a little slack on the condition, too.

I loved the neckline on Butterick 6962. At first glance it appears to be a standard notched lapel style, but a closer look reveals that there's no collar -- just the wing lapel. The tuck pleats are on the back too -- another detail I liked -- and it's a wrap dress to boot! All fine points, and the final decision maker was that it's still factory folded. (Too bad it's a size 10....)

Butterick 3426 is front wrap skirt pattern. Although wrap skirts are very popular, they're also quite common and you'll often find them in the Recycle area. This actually isn't one of my favorites, but the highly unusual asymmetrical closure shown on the red model -- plus the pattern's factory-folded condition -- elevated this to the Trade area.

Simplicity 6491 includes a front wrap skirt pattern, but I hardly noticed it. What did catch my eye -- and keep it -- was the figure-eight effect of the waistband and pocket on the slim skirt. I liked it well enough that this would have gone into the Trade area even if it had been used.

Decisions, Decisions.
Sometimes I just can't make up my mind -- and the decision of Trade vs. Recycle could go either way. This is where I've learned a lot from you guys. When I've put an "on-the-fence" pattern in the Recycle area that should have gone into Trade, you usually let me know by the number of requests for that pattern :-) These days, I'm more likely to include these in the Trade area from the start.

Butterick 3850, from 1986, makes a lacy nightshirt with flutter sleeves or a plain v-neck nightshirt with pull-on pants. It struck me as being right on the line between pajamas and lingerie, and very nearly went into the Recycle area. Again, the factory-folded condition won out.

Pants patterns rarely make it into the Trade area. But I liked I liked the waistband options offered by McCall's 8471, and the unusual side hem pleats shown on the brown model. A larger size would have been nice, but at least it's factory folded.

Maybe it's just something about the short sleeves, but the photo on Simplicity 9338 made me pass right over this. It wasn't until I took a closer look at the line drawings that I began to appreciate the charm of this pattern. Probably not for the beginning sewer, though :-)

Well, that's the tour for today. Let's do it again soon!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Eh - What do I know, anyway?

Once Mary finishes the preliminary work on a vintage sewing pattern donation, I get to play. Er, that is, I go through the patterns and decide which ones go into the Recycle area and which go to Trade. Poor little me. :-)

Now you have to understand that my collecting tastes are rather limited (don't even talk to me about anything post-1960), so deciding the "fate" of modern patterns is sometimes much more challenging than it should be. Condition plays a huge role, of course. And, sometimes, so does guesswork.

Inevitably there are times when I am just so wrong. There are couple of patterns in the Trade area that have been languishing on the virtual shelf for far too long. And then there's the Recycle pattern that everyone wants.

My blooper for January is the McCall's 5747 Fashion Basics baby doll dress pattern. It was the first pattern requested on the first request processed, and I personally stopped counting when we got to a dozen requests. We actually pulled the pattern out to see what it was....

McCall's 5747 baby doll dress pattern

Now -- in my own defense -- I did hesitate about this one. (Dressy, great plunging back, you can just see the skirt swinging and it's factory folded!) But something about it reminded me faintly of a maternity dress. Those tend to unpopular no matter how stylish -- and into the Recycle pile this went. Hmmph. Next time I'll know better.

In case you're wondering, whenever a Recycle pattern brings in a huge number of requests we adjust the donor's pattern points (7 more points to your account, Elva!). And we never take away pattern points even if we decide to pull a pattern from the Trade area.

And speaking of bloopers, my apologies to Lori for getting her name wrong on the previous logo entry post. (All better now.) No defense at all on that one!

May I'll add a Senior Moments label...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Yes! It's mine!

I was a little grumpy when the mailman arrived yesterday -- what with all that snow to shovel and forecasts of subzero temperatures for "an extended period". As anyone who lives near the Great Lakes can tell you, when the meteorologists start talking about an "interesting weather pattern" there's trouble ahead. (Unless you live for sculpting skyscrapers from snow.)

Anyway, tucked in amongst the ad circulars, important letters (Time Sensitive material enclosed! Open now!) and assorted bills was a small bubble-wrap envelope that turned out to be my belated Christmas present from Mary:

McCall Russian costume pattern from 1920
I've had my eye on this 1929 McCall pattern for quite a while over at the Woodland Farms Antiques pattern section. Guess I talked about it quite a bit, too -- because at Christmas Mom handed me a card with the cash and a lovely note instructing me to get that pattern. And, of course, I always do what mother tells me.

Before you ask -- NO. There is absolutely no chance that you will be seeing photos of me in a Russian costume in this lifetime. As much as I adore this little beauty, it's not going to be one of the sewing projects resolved for 2009. Unless I happen to stumble across fabric with the exact floral pattern shown on the model at left. You do the math on those odds :-)

As a pattern collector I always look for interesting styles, but graphics are probably the deciding factor when I finally get around to shelling out cash. These small envelopes with the color labels that McCall produced between 1929 and 1931 are favorites. (You may have figured that out from the Pattern Rescue mascot -- another McCall pattern from the same era.) Simplicity also made patterns with color graphics on tiny envelopes for a short period and I'm delighted to have a couple of those, too.

For fashion style, I usually find the designs from just a few years later -- the 1933 to 1935 "golden age" of Hollywood glamor -- more interesting. And I don't have any particular fondness for costume patterns. Maybe it's just the tighter framing on the small envelopes that grabs my eye. Whatever it is, I fell in love with this at first sight and should have a lot more free time now that I won't have to be checking the site to see if it's still there....

What do you think -- a shadow box with a few period notions and ribbons? A black Art Deco frame? Anybody out there with a favorite technique for displaying small patterns?

Thanks, Mom! In case I haven't told you lately, you're the best!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Best volunteer response for 2008

I'll try to avoid using the terms "pit bull" and "lipstick" in the same thought, but it's amazing how tenaciously many members hunt down requests for sewing patterns on the Post page. I've read cheery emails from people who view the Post page as an online treasure hunt, and rather grumpy emails from bleary-eyed surfers who seem in danger of holding a personal grudge because the pattern eludes them.

Advance Paris 113 sewing patternYou guys have even managed to find some rarely-seen patterns that I would have bet would never show up -- like this extravagant Advance Import pattern from the 1950s. But sure enough -- about a week after it posted someone spotted it. We wrote to the owner, our member got the needed instruction sheet, and another new member was signed up. (Dontcha just love a happy ending?)

The sheer number of sewing patterns produced over the years does make finding any particular pattern -- especially in some specific size -- quite a challenge. But we now have well over a thousand incomplete patterns on hand. And many, many thousands more vintage sewing patterns are available for the odd pattern piece copy thanks to our informal (and generally harmless) army of volunteers who've agreed to check their collections.

All new volunteers get a form letter lovingly crafted welcome notice explaining the program and requesting a bit of information about themselves, their pattern collections, and their reasons for becoming a volunteer. The answers are always fascinating and with permission I'll be sharing some of them with you throughout the year. But first, here's my selection for Best Volunteer Response of 2008. The honors go to Naomi.

Seems Naomi has been sewing since she was old enough to thread a needle and still has every piece of every pattern she's ever laid hands on. No instruction-sheet-needed posts or pattern quests for a fondly remembered oldie are forthcoming from this gal -- she's got 'em all. Definitely not someone who volunteers to give back while looking for missing pieces of her own.

So is she taking pity on those of us with less foresight or poorer organizational skills? Is she simply happy to help those who have come to the unhappy realization that a vintage sewing pattern that "appears complete" and a vintage sewing pattern that actually IS complete aren't necessarily the same thing? Noooo.

Naomi volunteered, she says, because she's deeply attached to her collection and being a Pattern Rescue volunteer gives her "a valid excuse to hang on to all those patterns".

Amen to that, sister! (In fact, it sounds a lot like the basic reasoning behind starting up Pattern Rescue in the first place. Oh no, that's right -- I was trying to help people.)

Well, congratulations, Naomi -- and may I say that I am not all ashamed to be enabling you in this obsession with sewing patterns. If someone hints that perhaps my collection has grown a bit too large, I find that a cold stare accompanied by "These are valuable pieces of the history of fashion and women's role in society" brings about a rapid change of subject. But we're honored to be your excuse of choice :-)

Speaking of enabling obsessions...

January's first Recycle pattern group will go up at 12:01 a.m. EST on January 11th. Really. Honest. No, this time I'm sure. The second group will go up at 12:01 a.m. EST on January 21st -- and by that time all the other pages should be fully up-to-date, too.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

New Year's resolution of a pattern collector

Vogue Couturier pattern 494 close-upBeing part of Pattern Rescue has come with an unexpected but wonderful fringe benefit. After nearly 10 years of being strictly a pattern collector, handling all the great patterns you guys have donated has reminded me how much I used to love sewing. And so, gentle readers, I am publicly making a resolution for 2009. By the end of the year, I WILL complete 4 sewing projects.

Of course, the last serious sewing project I can remember doing dates back about 20 years, so this is going to involve some up-front work. Like getting the sewing machine out of storage and tuned up, tracking down my notions and supplies, and -- oh yes -- returning the sewing room to a workable state.

(Guess I should have seen this coming. Why else would someone who hasn't sewn in 20 years years still have a sewing room?)

Vogue Couturier pattern 494 envelopePerhaps the best part of sewing was always the initial process. Sometimes it would be finding a wonderful pattern and then carefully selecting the perfect fabric, trim and what-have-you. Other times I'd find a fabulous fabric, and patiently wait until THE perfect pattern turned up.

Take, for example, this 1950s Vogue Couturier number that recently joined my clutter as part of a pattern lot purchase. It really didn't ring any bells from the photo, but when the package arrived I just couldn't keep my eyes off this one.

It's the wrong size, the wrong style, and probably not the easiest project in the world for my rusty sewing skills. But this is the pattern that's tipped the scale, so it's definitely at the top of the list of possibilities for now. (Anybody need a vintage size 12 party dress?)

For other other pattern, I'm thinking perhaps one my 1930s apron patterns. Or maybe one of those darling little girl's dresses? Hmm.. So many patterns!

Anyway, I'll be keeping you posted, bugging you for suggestions, and probably crying for sewing tips before the end of the year. Wish me luck -- and don't forget to bug me about how that resolution is coming!