The Pattern Vault

My vintage pattern stash.

Hollywood Patterns #1523 — February 19, 2017

Hollywood Patterns #1523


Here’s another Hollywood Pattern from the vast stash of Mrs. William Key of Clarksville, TN. This pattern is undated, but the hairstyles and blouse styles indicate that this patter is (at least) dated from the early- to mid-1940s.


The pattern is completed, and used. I think those are water marks (or maybe coffee marks?) on the envelope, as well as on a few of the pattern pieces within.


Nellie Key appears to have gotten a lot of use out of this pattern! It appears that she preferred style #2, the blouse with the bow tie and short sleeves!


Hollywood Patterns #1737 — February 15, 2017

Hollywood Patterns #1737

Here’s a new-to-me pattern from the 1940s, Hollywood Patterns, #1737:

A cute dress, Ann Shirley style (I suppose). 

From the looks of it, this could double as a maternity dress, if you just left the “girdle” off (as it is called in the instructions). Speaking of which, the instructions and the pattern are all complete, and, uncut.



All in factory folds, the unprinted pattern is complete, and the entire package is in good shape, considering it is about 70 years old.


Mystery Pattern #4829 — February 6, 2017

Mystery Pattern #4829

Mrs. William (Nellie) Key was the queen of mail-order patterns in her day. This next item from her collection comes from “Pattern Department” of a publication, but we don’t know which one.


The date on the pattern is April 15, 1970. Maybe this is an IRS-kind of sewing project?


If you look back on previous posts, the printing, art, instructions, and pattern pieces look like Anne Adams and The Machinist patterns.


It is cute, complete, and uncomplicated, from instructions to individual pieces.

I’m not sure if I had purchased all of Nellie Key’s patterns when I bought that box at an estate sale a long time ago, but I can tell you that most of Nellie Key’s patterns — more than half, anyway — are mail-order. It made me wonder what it was like for home sewists in Clarksville, Tennessee in the 1960s. A lot of the department stores carried full-service sewing departments back then.

When I was six years old, I lived in Vicksburg Mississippi, and I remember going to the Sears in the Battlefield Mall. They carried everything from sewing machines, to fabric, notions, and what I’d call ‘major label’ patterns (Simplicity, Butterick, and so forth). Vicksburg was a small town, back in the 1960s and 1970s — the demographics of Vicksburg were close to Clarksville,¬†though. It seems that Clarksville would have similar department stores with full-service sewing sections.

But perhaps Nellie Key was a more discerning sewist — she might not have liked the offerings of the main-stream pattern lines available at the stores. She strikes me as a lady who knew exactly what she liked when it came to style and sewing, and so she collected patterns from a variety of other sources.

Or, perhaps Nellie Key didn’t like shopping in department stores. I completely get that — maybe it is because I’ve become spoiled by online shopping — I used to relish spending hours in a shopping mall, handling goods and going from store to store looking for just the right thing. Nowadays, I can’t stand to be in a large department store. If I can’t find what I want in five seconds or less, screw it, I’m outta there and on Amazon-dot-com.

I’d like to know more about Nellie-as-sewist. I’ll bet she could teach me a good sewing trick or three.

Hollywood #1093 — February 3, 2017

Hollywood #1093

More from the stash of Mrs. William Key!


This one is a thing of beauty. It is an unused Hollywood Pattern, #1093, from the mid-1940s. The art is very patriotic-looking; no movie stars on it, and the hems are shorter — something the fashion industry adopted around 1942, as a way of conserving raw materials for the war effort.



The pattern instructions and pieces are crisp; it hasn’t been opened in almost 80 years! I noted the pattern pieces are unmarked — I didn’t unfold the pieces, because I want to keep it in pristine condition. I might copy it one day, but I like the idea of having something from Nellie’s stash that’s ‘new to me.’




The Machinist #4993 — January 29, 2017

The Machinist #4993

This next pattern from my stash is a bit of a mystery:

The torn mailing label was with the stash of patterns from Mrs. William Key. The date on this pattern is May 3, 1971.

Remember Mrs. Key? Nellie Key? She of the lovely and extensive mail-order pattern collection?

This one is interesting because it seems rare — The Machinist magazine — and the patterns look strikingly like that of Anne Adams.

There’s no company name or logo on this pattern, and if you look back to an earlier Anne Adams post, the artwork and instructions are almost the same.

This is a cute pattern. It is complete, with well written instructions.

But I know nothing about The Machinist. Was it her magazine? Was this a subscription that Mr. Key took, similar to Grit Magazine?

Maybe on a boring, rainy day Nellie Key sat down at her kitchen table in Tennessee, and leafed through her husband’s latest magazine from the mailbox — and that’s how she found this pattern.

She left an artifact in her pattern:

A stainless steel straight pin.

The dress is cute; a style I’d probably sew. I might give it a go.

Simplicity #1906 — January 23, 2017

Simplicity #1906

Here’s another pattern from my giant stash. This one is Simplicity #1906:


Attractive set of blouses; no date on this pattern, but based on the hair styles, I’d guess it was from the 1940s.


I haven’t a clue whose pattern this was originally. It was from a box I bought at a local estate sale. Most of the patterns in that box were in pretty good condition (considering most of them were almost 70 years old at the time). The person who sold me the patterns did not sew, nor did he know the original owner.


The pattern is complete, as are the instructions, although the envelope has had a lot of wear. There are some uncut pieces in the pattern (see the sleeve, above). I think the original owner preferred the long sleeve option in this style.

All in the Family of Sewists — January 22, 2017

All in the Family of Sewists

Anne Adams #4765, from what appears to be from a relative of Mrs. William Key of Clarksville, Tennessee.

This belonged to Mrs. Robbie Richardson, also of Clarksville, Tennessee.
This belonged to Mrs. Robbie Richardson, also of Clarksville, Tennessee.

I don’t think Mrs. R and Mrs. K were neighbors; Mrs. K lived at 132 Delmar Drive in the 1960s, and clearly, Mrs. R. lives on a rural route. But, as you recall from my previous post, Mrs. K, was also known as Nellie Katherine Richardson Key. I think they were related.

I’ve only done a basic search about Robbie, and have not been able to link her up to any of Mrs. K’s brothers. She was not Mrs. K’s mother, though. There were a lot of Richardsons in and around Clarksville, so Robbie and Nellie may have been cousins.

It is nice to see members of a family exchanging patterns and enjoying sewing as a hobby together. I always wish I had that in my own family; I was the only one who liked working with fabric and patterns and thought it was fun.


The pattern is postmarked June 2, 1958. I apologize for the terrible photo.



The pattern is used, complete, and has instructions.


Yeah, I know. Terrible photo. Blame it on the lack of coffee. But it is a cute dress.

I’ll have more time to dig around about Robbie Richardson later this week.


Anne Adams #4910 — January 21, 2017

Anne Adams #4910

Here’s another Anne Adams pattern. This one is #4910, from the 1940s.


This pattern came from one of the local estate sales; what’s great about it is that it is still in the original cellophane wrapper. There’s no date on it. I’m not sure when Anne Adams switched from cellophane to paper containers.

The back of the cellophane pattern wrapper.
The back of the cellophane pattern wrapper.

The cellophane is rather fragile, so I opened this carefully. The pattern is used but intact, and it is not printed.

The instructions and the pattern are complete.
The instructions and the pattern are complete.

It is in great shape for a pattern than is about 70 years old.

McCall’s #9738 — January 19, 2017

McCall’s #9738

Here’s another vintage pattern from my stash. This one came from a local estate sale.



McCall’s #9738, a simple summer dress, from 1954.


The pattern is complete, with instructions. The envelope flap was pinned closed by the previous sewist.

Alas, I do not have any anecdotes about the original owner. The fellow who sold me the patterns at this estate sale didn’t know anything about the patterns or the sewist; he worked for one of those estate liquidator companies, where the goal is to sell everything out of the house as efficiently as possible.