The Pattern Vault

My vintage pattern stash.

Patt-O-Rama and The Mystery of Mrs. William Key — January 15, 2017

Patt-O-Rama and The Mystery of Mrs. William Key

Here’s three new-to-me mail order patterns from the estate stash of Mrs. William Key of Clarksville, Tennessee. You may recall her from this post. These three, from Mrs. Key, are Patt-o-Rama sewing patterns:

Three mail-order patterns from Grit magazine, postmarked 1966 and 1967.
Three mail-order patterns from Grit magazine, postmarked 1966 and 1967.


I’ll start with the bottom pattern:


It's a cute princess-line dress. Mrs. K probably liked it, too: The pattern is well used, still complete, and in good condition.
It’s a cute princess-line dress. Mrs. K probably liked it, too: The pattern is well used, still complete, and in good condition.

The Patt-o-Rama mail-order sewing pattern line was offered in Grit magazine. I’m not sure if it was offered in other mail-order publications.

The patterns are unprinted, but marked with holes.
The patterns are unprinted, but marked with holes.

I think it was unusual for sewing patters in the mid- to late-1960s to still be unmarked, as most of the major sewing pattern companies (Butterick, Simplicity, McCalls, Vogue) offered printed patterns. McCalls (known as McCall in the 1920s and 30s) first offered a sewing pattern with printing in 1919 (it looked like a blueprint).



Here’s what was in the middle envelope:

A baby's dress! Did Mrs. K have a daughter, or was this for a granddaughter?
A baby’s dress! Did Mrs. K have a daughter, or was this for a granddaughter?

The baby’s dress, pattern 8102, appears to have been used several times. It is complete, and comes with the instruction sheet as well.

The top envelope was oddly thin, but here’s why:

A crochet pattern for a girl's dress!
A crochet pattern for a girl’s dress!

The outside of the envelope indicated a needlework pattern — and sure enough — it is a cute crochet pattern for a girl’s dress, instructions only.



After checking a few more resources, I discovered that Mrs. William Key was Nellie Katherine Richardson Key, 1916-1997. She is buried in at the Shrine of Memories and Chapel in Clarksville, Tennessee.


And a search through turned up this:

The lovely Nellie Katherine Richardson Key. Source:
The lovely Nellie Katherine Richardson Key. Source:

Isn’t she lovely?

I can tell this was a very stylish lady.

It is wonderful to be able to put a face to the sewist’s patterns.

If any of Nellie’s descendants would like to have these patterns, please contact me by email and I will gladly send them to you.



Hollywood Pattern #1478 — January 13, 2017

Hollywood Pattern #1478

Here’s Hollywood Pattern #1478, a selection of blouses from about 1940.



It’s also from the stash of Jean McDowell, also of Allentown PA, but the pattern was in the estate sale box where I have several that belonged to “Tootie,” aka Miriam Mayers.


Just so you know, when I bought the box a few years ago, I didn’t know the relationship of the seller to the patterns, or to the original sewist whose patterns were in the box. A man sold them to me, saying only that he had no use for them and that they had been in an attic for years. Poor guy doesn’t sew. He doesn’t know what he’s missing.

Also, Miriam didn’t have any direct descendants. I’m guessing the seller was a nephew or just a random guy who had to clear out Miriam’s estate.

The pattern itself is in fairly good shape — it isn’t printed, as typical of most 1940s patterns — and the instructions are included.

Instructions and pattern pieces are all there.
The pattern is complete.

It’s a cute pattern. I would consider making it, but I admit that the art on these patterns often puts me off. I’m definitely not wasp-waisted, and a tight belted style is not a good look on me.

As a sewist who has specific ideas of what I like to make, it seems odd to have a random collection of patterns from several different sewers unless they knew each other, and they liked to swap out patterns (which I’ve done).

The latter idea certainly makes sense to me. I think these women were friends and fellow sewists, economical and practical women who had gone through the depression as teenagers. In the early 1940’s, there was a war on, and everyone had to economize.

I looked extensively through a few databases for “Jean McDowell” in or around Allentown, PA for 1940. Several Jean McDowells turned up, but almost all of them were in or around Pittsburgh. I have nothing else to go on to narrow down who Jean McDowell the sewist might be — no artifacts or notes were included in the pattern envelope.


Hollywood Pattern #1780 — January 11, 2017

Hollywood Pattern #1780


Hey, look! It’s another pattern from the stash of Miriam Meyers of Allentown, PA!

This is a stylish dress — size 18 — from the 1940s!

What’s interesting about the sizes in these vintage patterns is that the sizes corresponded to the average measurements of a woman approximately 5’6″.

This is the measurement sheet from Simplicity #3058, also from Miriam Meyer’s stash. Note the breakdown of sizes according to a woman’s age.

Interesting information about vintage pattern sizes, isn’t it? If you’re interested in vintage sewing patterns size information, here’s several useful articles:

Miriam’s pattern was used, but it is in good condition, and it is complete.

The instructions are complete, thank goodness: It is an unprinted pattern.

I tried to find out a little more about the Hirsch Bros. Dry Goods Co., which is the stamp on the pattern. Hirsch Bros. was a department store in St. Joseph, Missouri.

Hirsch Bros. Dry Goods Co., between 1870-1900. Source:

I’m curious about Miriam’s acquisition of the pattern from the store in St. Joseph, Missouri, and what the sewing goods were like there. I wonder if there was a large selection of fashion fabrics and notions? I am curious what she chose to make with this pattern. I’m actually tempted to try it myself.

And if I do, I’ll share the results!

Simplicity #3323 & Anne Adams #4706 — January 8, 2017

Simplicity #3323 & Anne Adams #4706

Good morning, vintage pattern enthusiasts!

Today, I have two patterns from the collection of Mrs. Neil Peffer of Buffalo, New York:

Two patterns from the 1940’s, mail-order and retail.

The first, Simplicity #3323, is a pattern to sew a hat (veil optional), scarf, belt, and cape — everything the discriminating woman of the 1940’s would wear, well, anywhere.

The uncut hat, belt, and scarf pieces of Simplicity #3323. The instructions and the cape pieces are missing.

I remember my grandmother, Nana, telling me she’d never leave the house, even for small errands, without proper dress, purse, shoes, hat or gloves back in her day (30’s, 40’s, 50’s). Even for a quick jaunt to the corner store to pick up a pack of smokes.

When I was a kid in the mid-1960’s,  Nana was routinely scandalized to see women showing up at the supermarket in housecoat with pink curlers in their hair, as she shopped in her nice dress with matching purse and shoes, pointing them out to me with a lit Winston right there in the middle of the Jitney Jungle.

I digress.

Mrs. Peffer apparently sewed the cape, but not the belt, hat, or scarf. The cape pattern and instructions are missing, but the other items are uncut and still in the envelope. This makes me wonder about the soirees she and Mr. Peffer would attend that required a fancy cape like this. Perhaps she only used the cape to go to the supermarkets in Buffalo.

The Anne Adams pattern is another full-body apron, size small, with a charming tulip pocket.

The pattern is dated March 22, 1944; it is complete, with instructions. The pattern is in good shape, and appears to have been used — the little tulip pockets are still in factory folds, though. Mrs. Peffer’s apron patterns have really small pockets — too small to be useful, in my opinion. (I, too, am a small, and my hand is too big for the pockets in this pattern).

It doesn’t look like it here, but if you put the pieces together, as in the instructions, it results in a small pocket. For a practical item like an apron, I think this is odd.
It doesn’t take much fabric.

I discovered that one of my other apron posts, the one showing a model with an impossibly small waist, was also a Peffer pattern.

Mrs. Peffer produced a peck of proper aprons. Say that three times fast.

Advance #8463 — January 7, 2017

Advance #8463

Another pattern from an estate sale. Note the impossibly small waists of the women in this illustration — obviously, they don’t eat that much. You think they’d cook?

This next pattern from my stash came from an estate sale. It’s Advance, #8463, an apron, with five different looks.

The pattern is complete and uncut!

It is also undated, but based on the artwork (and other patterns I own with similar art/fashion design) I would say this one is from the 1950s.

This pattern, while nice, is a bit boring for me. I like the patterns that are used, and have little artifacts and details about the sewists who previously owned them.

I love vintage patterns. They give me a feeling of closeness to a community of long-ago sewists.

I like thinking of the hands that held the pieces, that lovingly chose fashion fabrics to create the item, and the idea that I get to know them, and somehow participate in their history.

The New York News Pattern, #3801 —

The New York News Pattern, #3801

Another mail-order pattern from an estate sale: The News Pattern, #3801.

Striking envelope! There is no date on this pattern, but based on the art and the postal information, it is from the 1940s.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find a lot of details about this particular mail-order pattern line. It was available to readers of the New York Daily News.

The back of the envelope offered advertisement of the different fashion patterns one could purchase by mail.
Text on the flap of the envelope.

The pattern is used, and unprinted. Unfortunately, there is no instruction sheet, and this pattern is not featured as one of the illustrations on the back of the envelope. However, I took out several of the pieces, and determined that this was an apron, probably close to #3451 as illustrated on the back of the envelope.

This appears to be part of the apron’s bib. The piece is number #7, as noted in the punch out markings.


With the limited information about the pattern itself, and the history of the mail-order pattern information of the New York Daily News, I decided to find out more about the sewist who owned this pattern, Miriam Mayers of Allentown, PA.

Census records show that Miriam was born in 1923 in Weisenberg Township, Pennsylvania; she died in 1997 in Lehigh, Pennsylvania. Miriam was in the class of 1940, William Allen High School, Allentown.

Miriam “Tootie” Mayers, Class of 1940, a ‘true, honest, faithful friend.’ Also, a fellow sewing enthusiast. I’d probably have enjoyed hanging out with Tootie. Source:

She attended high school in Allentown PA; married Kenneth Burkhart; Mr. Burkhart died in 2006; he is buried in Jordan Lutheran Cemetery in Lehigh, Pennsylvania, as are Miriam’s parents. I couldn’t find a listing for Miriam, but she is likely buried there; only 38 percent of the cemetery has been cataloged to date for Find-A-Grave.

If Miriam’s descendants would like to have the pattern, please contact me privately and I’ll be glad to send it.

Marian Martin 9035 — January 6, 2017

Marian Martin 9035

Here’s another mail order pattern from my gigantic stash. This one is a Marian Martin pattern, number 9035, from the 1960s.


The envelope is a bit tattered, but the used pattern and instructions are in good shape.

Another mystery sewist — Mrs. William Key of Clarksville, Tenn. This pattern came to me in a box I ordered from Ebay about eight years ago.
This was a curious addition in the pattern envelope. The postmark on the pattern is for August 14, 1969. Perhaps Mrs. Key was running errands that day — shopping for fabric for her pattern, the stopping by the bank for a safe deposit box?
The instructions are complete, as is the pattern.

Here’s a short blog history about mail-order patterns. Another source for mail order pattern information is here.


Anne Adams #4691 — January 4, 2017

Anne Adams #4691

Anne Adams Mail-order Pattern

This is an Anne Adams mail-order pattern, postmarked March 22, 1944. Anne Adams patterns were advertised in local newspapers.

A full apron with a sweetheart neckline and corresponding heart-shaped pockets.

Other databases date this pattern in the 1930s, but it is undated, other than the postmarked envelope. Given the look and style of the dress underneath the apron (and the official U.S. postmark!), I’m going with the 1940s.


The pattern is used and unprinted; it is in good condition. Love that pocket pattern, but it is rather small to be practical (at least in my household).

I was interested in the sewist — Mrs. Neil Peffer of Buffalo, N.Y.  A little digging around in census records show that she was the wife of Mr. Cornelius (Neil) V. Peffer, a handsome fellow who attended McKinley Vocational High School in 1926. The U.S. Census reports that Mr. Peffer was born in 1911 in Buffalo (although burial records say 1910), son of Joseph and Margaret Peffer.

Cornelius (Neil) Peffer, a.k.a “Pepper”, fourth from the top. A good looking young man. Source:

A little more digging reveal that Neil’s wife was born Edna A. Hark, about 1915, in Buffalo.

The Buffalo City Directory for  both 1938 and 1941 shows that Neil was a timekeeper, but it isn’t revealed where he was a timekeeper.

From the Buffalo City Directory, 1941, page 761. Source:

The latest information I have on the Peffers is from the 1956 Buffalo City Directory, where he was listed as an employee of the Buffalo Weaving and Belting Company.

Edna and Neil Peffer are buried in Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Buffalo; Edna died in 1969 and Neil died in 1999. If Edna and Neil’s descendants would like to have the apron pattern, please contact me.

Advance Pattern #4188 — January 3, 2017

Advance Pattern #4188


This is a boy’s pattern from the 1940’s — there’s no date on the envelope, but I’m guessing based on the envelope artwork.

The back of the pattern.

As luck would have it, this pattern is fairly complete — and has an instruction sheet. The pattern is used, but the pieces are in good shape.

Advance Patterns were sold from the early 1930’s to the mid-1960s exclusively by J.C. Penney.