|A subset: dresses, 1970 through 2012.|
If you read some of the vintage sewing blogs, you know that there are different methods of handling very old patterns. Some people create precise digital copies in order to save the information, because the paper is nearing the end of its life. Others feel that all possible measures should be taken to protect and preserve the paper originals. They copy the pattern so that it does not need to be handled, and then they store the pattern tissue, instruction sheet, and pattern envelope separately so that the different chemical compositions do not react with each other. They use Mylar sleeves, calcium-buffered boards, and air- and water-tight storage boxes.
I have a more moderate approach, because I can’t see spending thousands of dollars for preservation of items I spent a fraction of that on, but at the same time, these are historic treasures that I want to protect.
I scan the front and back of each envelope so if I just want to look at the drawings or check the yardage, I can pull up the digital image without ever touching the pattern.
Luckily for pattern collectors, comic book collectors had this all figured out long ago. Archival plastic sleeves, stiff cardboard, and sturdy boxes keep printed materials clean and unwrinkled. I store every pattern, new or old, in a polypropylene comic sleeve (less than 1/3 the cost of Mylar).
|Patterns in comic sleeves with cardboard. Simplicity, Butterick, etc. fit in “New” comic sleeves, 6 7/8” wide. McCalls patterns fit in“Silver Age” comic sleeves, 7 1/2" wide.|
For the oldest patterns, I also slide a comic board into the sleeve to keep the envelope from bending or tearing. Usually I separate the tissue from the envelope as well, unless the pattern has never been opened. I just put the tissue behind the board, the envelope in front.
The range of conditions between different patterns, even of similar ages, is quite amazing. I have one from 1942 which is in nearly new condition, even though the tissue has been in the envelope for 70 years. Another one from 1946 is in a dreadful state, showing discoloration from the tissue inside, disintegration around the edges from temperature and light, and possible insect or fungus damage. Wouldn’t it be helpful to know what handling and storage conditions resulted in such a difference between the two?
During my “time off” I managed to sort, scan, and file all the patterns from 1908 through 1960.
|My oldest pattern, M 4922, dated 1908|
With a few exceptions, my patterns from the 60s and later are in excellent condition with no discoloration or foxing, and minimal tearing.
|B 9367, ca. 1960 (Why are my 52-year-old paper patterns in better condition than my 52-year-old body?)|
I’ll just keep the newer ones in plastic sleeves without the added bulk of cardboards.
Are you a collector of ephemera? Do you go to great lengths to preserve things, or just enjoy them while they last?