Using French pattern sheets

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On this page you will find useful information and help on using vintage French sewing patterns-in sheet form. Please go to the pre-cut pattern page for help with sewing vintage french pre-cut patterns. I will be putting in photos and guides-but please get in touch if you are stuck! I am assuming you have a basic knowledge of using patterns ie. cutting out, pining, cutting double, transferring tailors marks and seams. If not I suggest you refer to one of the many guides online-for instance the following fantastic tutorial and guide from Angela Kane-  http://www.youtube.com/user/angelakanetv/featured?ad=11844089252&kw=sewing&feature=pyv&v=qZzCsI_zRno or   http://www.wikihow.com/Sew-Using-Patterns

Using pattern sheets

Many vintage French sewing patterns were published on large sheets(planches) with numerous lines on them. Don’t be scared!

General Instructions-scroll down for more detailed pictures and tips about using Femmes d’aujourd’hui vintage sewing pattern sheets, Mode Patique and Mode Illustree vintage sewing pattern sheets

Victorian vintage French sewing patterns in particular incude a large number of lines on the sheets, but once you get used to following the lines you need then you will find it easier, Usually the lines are drawn in different styles for each numbered piece to aid recognition.

Simply refer to your pattern guide-select the relevant numbers for instance Manche(sleeve) is number 5, so follow lines given for number 5- and trace off the relevant pieces-I often re-use an unwanted pattern to trace off. I pin the paper over the pattern sheet and using a pattern tracer follow the lines..

On occasion-particularly with earlier patterns, the line designs will appear to “fold over” back on to the main sheet…this device was employed to fit the pattern onto the main sheet for publication. You will need to use a larger tracing sheet than you think…when you come to the fold, simpy fold your tracing sheet back over the main sheet and carry on tracing. When you have finished you can then fold your tracing paper back flat and the whole pattern will appear as required for cutting out.

Sometimes the pattern needs to be elongated …it will indicate “a prolonger…(50cm)”…..this means you will need to draw straight lines at this point by whatever the pattern indicates for instance 50cm-Remember to use a larger tracing sheet to allow for this!

Then cut them out and use in the usual way

Remember that when sewing vintage french patterns They never include Seams and hems allowances(apart from the series Elle Va Bien) so add these in….

Femmes d’aujourd’hui vintage sewing pattern sheets

1) look at the pattern layout diagram-is it the one for the garment you wish to make?
Note the numbers of the pieces you will need. For instance I will need pieces 1,2,3,4,5 for this dress. Usually this will be summarised on the other side which has many lines on it.
1-pattern pieces and layout diagram
2-Turn the sheet over-Don’t be scared! You may need to re-unite the 2 halves which were printed separately by folding down the middle and sellotaping the  2 together, ensuring the points meet each other. You will see the instruction”Joindre les deux en superposant les pointilles”  nb. Sometimes reproductions of these patterns,
including mine will have done this for you.
3) Select the piece you are going to cut out. For instance I will cut out the parementure(facing) piece no. 4 indicated by the line -o-o-o-o
Before tracing out, Run your finger along the line reading any instructions as you go. You may find “Ligne a continuer/prolonger sur (62 cm)”…this means you will need to extend the tracing line in a straight line by (62cm) or whatever the pattern gives you.You may also find the lines “folding back” on themselves. This was done in order to publish a long piece onto the paper. Don’t panic. At the point of folding back, you will need to fold your tracing paper back and continue tracing on the reverse side of the tracing paper-so remember to allow yourself enough tracing paper to do this.
4) Pin your sheet of tracing paper over the pattern-I often use an unwanted old pattern for this, but you can but tracing paper, greaseproof paper also works. Follow your selected lines and transfer all markings, including the lines which say “Droit Fil” -this is the line to indicate the grain of fabric. This can get confusing when there are a lot of lines to follow, so make sure you have the correct Droit fil for the piece you are tracing out.
5) Markings often found

Milieu Dos/devant-middle back/front—-Droit Fil-STRAIGHT EDGE or grain of fabric—-Pli tissu-fold fabric

You will now have your pattern ready to use-DON’T FORGET THAT YOU WILL NEED TO ADD IN ALLOWANCES FOR SEAMS AND HEMS!!

Using Mode Pratique vintage sewing pattern sheets

These sheets consist of many lines and the garment patterns to be found are listed around edge of the sheet.

 

1) Choose the garment you are going to make and note the numbers required. For instance I want to make the Cape so I am choosing numbers 22,23 and 24. “A replier” means cut double

 

2) Start by tracing out ONE piece at a time. For instance number 24 which is indicated by a line shaped ~~~o~~~o~~~~ I will find the number of the piece on the sheet to trace out and its line

Run your finger along the line-does it appear to “fold back on itself”? It will say “Pliure du patron” where the fold occurs.If so remember to use  larger sheet of tracing paper.

  • The piece may need lengthening-this is not on the sheet of lines but written on the pattern picture on the side of the sheet. It will say “a prolonger (60cm or whatever length required)”

3) Pin your tracing paper(I use an unwanted pattern, you can buy Kwik sew tracing paper on line) over the area and trace out. If you have to fold back, draw your lines up to the “fold” then fold your paper over and carry on tracing. When you unfold the tracing paper the whole piece will be there. Remember to add in markings such as darts,notches and numbers, including “droit Fil”(which means on the grain of the fabric)..

4) Common markings include

  • Milieu Dos-middle back
  • Droit fil sans couture-Straight edge without seam
  • Milieu Devant-middle front
  • Pliure de tissu-fabric fold
  • Devant/Dos couture Fronces-Front/Back gathered seam
  • Pince-dart

Your pattern piece is now ready to use-don’t forget to add in seams and hem allowances!

Using Mode Illustree vintage sewing pattern sheets

These sheets consist of many lines and the garment patterns to be found are listed around edge of the sheet.

1) Choose the garment you are going to make and note the numbers required. For instance I want to make the knickers(Pantalons) in fig 1 so I am choosing number 93. “A replier” means cut double. “Raccourci” means shorter version

Larger pieces are sometimes not given on the main sheet-instead they are given as a mini pattern-or “croquis reduit” (mini design) with the description. You will need to enlarge this by means of squared paper, or use www.rapidresizer.com with the image scanned.

2) Start by tracing out ONE piece at a time. For instance number 93 which is indicated by a line shaped x.x.x.x.   I will find the number of the piece on the sheet to trace out -and its corresponding line.

Run your finger along the line-does it appear to “fold back on itself”? the line x.x.x.x will stop and will join a line usually ——- which is where the fold occurs.If so remember to use  larger sheet of tracing paper. This is shown in the picture below-a bit hard to spot!

3) Pin your tracing paper(I use an unwanted pattern, you can buy Kwik sew tracing paper on line) over the area and trace out. If you have to fold back, draw your lines up to the “fold” then fold your paper over and carry on tracing. When you unfold the tracing paper the whole piece will be there. Remember to add in markings such as darts,notches and numbers, including “droit Fil”(which means on the grain of the fabric)..

4) Common markings include

  • Milieu Derriere/devant-middle back/front
  • Pince–dart
  • Milieu du devant-middle of front
  • Bord de Derriere-back border
  • (Petits) Pli(s)- (small) pleat (s)
  • Couture de Derriere/devant -back/front seam
  • Taille-waist
  • Bord du Devant-edge of the front
  • Pince-dart
  • cote replie-repeat side
  • bord superieur de la moitie de…..upper edge of the half

You can now use your pattern-remember to add in seams and hem allowances when cutting out!

 

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5 Responses to Using French pattern sheets

  1. Ireland says:

    Time to face the music armed with this great ifnoramtion.

  2. Mrs Maria Augusta Guerra Cook says:

    I am looking for tracing papper (French) for tracing pattern. I saw on the TV program, the Great British Dress Making program and I am trying to find where I can get it. If I can’t find I would be happy with any tracing papper since I khave looking here in Cheltenham and no one seems to have any more. I very great if you can help me to get hold of it or both.

    • marywillia says:

      Hello-theres some for sale on ebay-item number 400454661710
      If you put this number into the ebay search bar you should find it.
      Theres lots of other makes of paper as well-just look for sewing pattern paper.
      Rgds Mary

  3. Julienne says:

    I have a large amount of these old French patterns, ranging from the 1860’s to the 1930’s. Do you buy these patterns, or know where I might want to go to sell them besides Ebay.

    Your site is AMAZING !

    Julienne

    • marywillia says:

      Hello-Thanks for your comment about the site,I would love to buy these patterns-can you tell me how much you would want for them? I love collecting these old patterns, as well as making garments from them. Where did you get them from?
      I like your website too-good luck and please get back to me.
      Regards
      Mary

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