I want to give a special thank you to Lauren from Wearing History (a fellow McCall pattern lover) as she helped me put together some of the information for this post and kindly contributed several pictures!
Here's what a pattern piece from a 1910 McCall pattern looks like:
Photo credit: Lauren from Wearing HistoryNotice how it's unprinted but does include notches and circle and triangle holes? That's the guide for different construction techniques such as darts, etc.
The earliest McCall pattern I have is from the 1920's. Here's a look inside at both the instructions and the sleeve pattern piece:
A few things I noticed right away with this 20's pattern is that the instructions (called 'Printo Gravure') are printed on the same tissue paper as the pattern. You'll also notice that the sleeve pattern piece has a pictorial guide on it on how to alter the sleeve for special measurements. I've only seen this on 1920's patterns but I really like it. In the last picture above you can see that the instructions contain a lot of real photos including how to make a bound buttonhole (in photos as opposed to drawings).
The other great part about McCall patterns in general (I've seen this on a lot of their patterns) is that they number the order the seams should be joined directly onto the pattern (see the photo below):
This helps tremendously. If you have experience in sewing, you can put together even an early McCall pattern without instructions because so much is already printed on the pattern pieces.
The McCall Pattern Company was one of the first to produce printed patterns. Below is an image from the patent they filed through the United States Patent Office for the printed paper pattern. It was filed in 1920 and granted in 1921. Which means it would have expired in 1939 (which is also around the same time Simplicity started printing on their patterns). You can read the entire patent application online here.
McCall also had a patent for their specific pattern instructions (the numbered seams) which was granted in 1925 (Butterick had a patent on pattern instructions that was issued in 1916 and this explains why McCall Pattern Company had to do a separate patent for their instructions):
The McCall Company went further and patented a very detailed printed paper pattern in which details of each part of the pattern are clearly marked. The patent was issued in 1934. Here is the patent drawing:
You may recall that I've made a cape from a 1935 pattern (which is just after they got the detailed printed pattern patent):
Here's what the pattern piece looks like:
It includes very detailed instructions printed on the pattern for the lining, placement of buttons, pockets, order of seams to be joined as well as facing, seam allowance, etc. Everything you need to know is right on the pattern!
I'm just loving this month and the chance to delve into the history of my favourite pattern company!
What about you? Have you sewn with an early McCall pattern? Or with an early unprinted pattern?