Last year I found out about the Commercial Pattern Archive at the University of Rhode Island (I thought I had blogged about it, but I can't find anything -- I found out about it on dressaday.com) when they had a week of free access. If you've never heard of the collection, it's an archive of sewing patterns from the 1860s to the present -- I believe they have something like 50,000 patterns! The original (complete) patterns are in their archives and available to researchers, but you can access a good bit of info online. Membership isn't cheap, but I got in on a group membership and have been wasting time there ever since!
I've often wondered if I would ever be able to recreate a pattern from the information they have online (usually you get an image from the front of the pattern, plus a "pattern schematic"; you get some text info but no instructions). I'm sure if I could draft patterns I could do it just by looking at the picture but, well, I can't draft patterns! But I finally decided to give it a go as a reward for all the boring utilitarian sewing I've been doing.
I thought an apron would be easy, and making it for Emily would keep it smaller in case I had trouble. (Plus, she is low on aprons having grown out of all but 1 baking apron.) To my surprise, it was a pretty simple operation! Within a couple days, Emily had a new vintage-y apron! It's super-cute, functional and very girly, so she loves it.
In fact, a second one is already cut out and ready to sew -- but this time, it's made from some Tenggren Saggy Baggy Elephant fabric! So cute! Now I think I have to make one for myself.
If you want details on the probably boring technical process, keep reading; otherwise, have a good week and stay tuned for a cool chocolate dessert recipe coming soon!
My unwieldy reconstruction process:
The first thing I did was to just google the pattern (Simplicity 7091) and see what I could find -- I was able to find images of the pattern envelope, which I printed out and used as visual reference (not to mention, to help estimate the amount of bias binding I'd need!)
Next, I edited the pattern schematic in photoshop to only contain the pieces for the view I was making (view C), overlapping the pieces so that they would take up less room when printed (here's the image).
I then enlarged my resulting image to fill an 8-1/2" x 11" piece of paper, and printed it. I chose a key line (in this case the center front fold line), measured it, figured out how long it should be on the final pattern, and then used a proportion calculator to find out how much more it needed to be enlarged to print out at the size I wanted it. (At this point, I also scattered little "x" marks all over the image so I'd have an easier time matching everything up when I blew it up further.)
Finally, I enlarged the image again by the percentage the calculator gave me, printed it out in pieces and then taped it all together. Here you can see the 8-1/2"x11" version next to the full-size printout after assembling it.
From that point on, I did what I'd do with any pattern you need to trace -- I traced it onto pattern paper and did a tissue fit, I went ahead and did a muslin, to make sure it really would work, and at last I made up the final version.
Definitely a fun challenge, although a lot of people might not think so!