Today’s interview is with Deirdre, the wonderful owner of Vintage Pattern Lending Library! She’s an incredibly sweet and talented woman and I’m so thankful that she agreed to let me interview her. 🙂
I hope you all enjoy this interview with the very awesome woman who is keeping the doors of the Vintage Pattern Lending Library open!
Tell us about your business, Vintage Pattern Lending Library!
VPLL opened in 1998 with a mission to preserve the history of vintage fashion and to provide sewing patterns to the historical costumer and vintage enthusiast. It’s a one woman operation from start to finish. Although it began as a small lending library, the collection has grown considerably through the years and today all patterns are available for purchase – no membership required. I currently offer over 200 patterns in different eras, 1890 to 1950, so quite a variety!
What inspired you to start it and what excites you about your work?
I am not the original owner of VPLL. For over 15 years I was a volunteer costumer for local schools and theater, making upwards of 150 costumes each year. There was nothing like dressing a young actor in a period correct attire and watching their face truly transform into the part they were playing. Seeing their joy truly inspired me to work harder and research more. When I needed the perfect pattern, VPLL is where I shopped.
In 2012, I participated in The 1912 Project sponsored by VPLL. The project brought together seamstresses from all over the world, testing patterns commemorating the 100 year anniversary of the Titanic tragedy. It was then I was in touch personally with the owner, Janyce, who told me she would be closing the doors of the library later that year. I felt it was too valuable of a resource to just let go so I arranged to purchase, move it from CA to FL, and keep it going at my end. In my mind, it’s been a perfect fit!
What is your process? What tools do you like using? Where do you do your work? Can you walk us through a day in your life with your business?
My studio is set up in my home which is convenient for my schedule. I tend to work 6am – 11am because then my second ‘job’ kicks in – playing with a very special lady in my life, my granddaughter.
Times have changed in regard to reproducing a pattern. What used to be done on a CAD table can now be completed on a computer, but locating the perfect pattern is still the same. It involves searching auction sites, estate sales, antique shops etc., to find just the right design.
Pattern drafting and artwork can take anywhere from a week to a month, so I fit it in as I can, no day is the same. Pattern testing also comes into play but there are no deadlines so no pressure.
What do you love the most about your business?
Everything! I love vintage fashion, I love old movies, I love costume dramas. But I especially love seeing the creations my customers make and the fun they have when wearing their garments. My gallery page is set up for showcasing these and they are truly awe inspiring and probably what I am most proud of.
Why not? The fashions of yesteryear are not as out-of-style as some would think. Classic lines and beautiful design never goes out of style. There’s something about slow fashion, creating things to last; getting away from ready to wear and cherishing a garment that is meant to endure for years.
How do you choose which vintage patterns to reproduce?
I always look for classic styling or a special detail that speaks to me. It may be an interesting back, a to-die for sleeve, a bias draped gown, or a perfectly pleated polonaise. It’s depends upon what catches my eye and what may be lacking in my offerings.
What is your personal favourite vintage pattern?
Wow, too many to choose from. I do love it when all the documentation aligns and I locate a beautiful pattern, the magazine or catalog it was advertised in and then seeing it actually worn on someone famous. This would be the case with my 1933 Butterick Bette Davis swimsuit pattern. The sewing gods were looking down on me for this one– now if I could find the other outfits from this movie, I would be in pattern heaven.
Are you a seamstress yourself? If so, when did you begin sewing?
My mother, who created wonderful embroidered art (but refused to sew a button), sent me to sewing class at our local Singer Studio when I was 8. Back then, that is where you went for all your sewing needs. I learned the basics that summer and ran with it. I sewed costumes, clothing for dolls, my outfits for school dances, quilts, purses, and even my sister’s wedding dress. I stopped sewing for a few years but took it back up when my children were born.
It was shortly thereafter that I was ‘found out’. While a drama teacher at my daughter’s school was preparing for a show and discussing how difficult costuming was, my daughter was quick to chime in, ‘But my Mom knows how to sew”. From there it took on a life of its’ own and I found my sewing passion.
What started your love of vintage?
I think creating costumes and researching for period correct designs morphed into my love of vintage. Finding the perfect pattern always feels like Christmas to me.
How would you describe your own style?
I don’t wear that much vintage, for me it’s reserved more for special occasions. For everyday wear, I tend to go for a Lagenlook, most of which I create myself. I love loose layers, I love linen and natural fibers, and I love throwing in funky or vintage accessories and shoes into the mix. My daughter calls it ‘granny chic’…. I hope that’s a good thing, my Nana was pretty chic.
Who or what is your personal vintage style inspiration?
There are so many famous designers that I admire from Poiret to Chanel, but I believe my personal style may be attributed to my Nana who always dressed like a lady.
What is your favourite era for vintage?
I mostly lean toward the Late Edwardian/WWI era through the 1920s. Although so different in style, both served as a jumping away from convention point for women, and I appreciate that. Loosening then losing the corset, raising the hemline and ultimately getting out there making their voices heard. The changes they were fighting for was so evident in the fashion they wore.
What is your favourite thing about vintage fashion and vintage sewing patterns?
The history, the artwork and the story each one tells. I especially love when a pattern has seamstress notes such as the year the garment was made and for whom, the fabric swatches stapled to the corner, receipts or sometimes even a photo tucked inside. It displays the pride they felt in a well-made garment.
Tell us about yourself!
I am married to the love of my life and soul mate. We met when I was 15 and he’s still hanging around, like my old patterns. I was fortunate to be able to stay at home and raise our three children, the youngest is still home, finishing college.
I am a believer in giving service to the community. I was a Cub Scout, Boy Scout and Girl Scout Leader and ran summer day camps in our area. I created costumes for local schools and theaters and helped at school whenever needed. I feel investing in our youth is important and never gets old. I am a member of the American Sewing Guild and hope to do my part in bringing sewing to the next generation.
Losing close family members and sorting through their well-loved collections was a bit of a wake-up call for me. I truly have a library of patterns, periodicals, magazines and fashion history in my possession that only vintage enthusiasts would understand, so I plan to donate them to COPA at some point in the near future so they can be archived and shared forever.
What do you do in your free time?
As time allows, my husband and I enjoy hiking, kayaking and traveling. Close to home, we love the beach and anytime with family is like a vacation.
Do you have any words of advice for someone who might be thinking of starting their own business, whether it be in the vintage, pattern making, or any other field?
This is a difficult topic for me to cover as I really don’t feel I run a business. VPLL is not a primary source of income so my main focus is the ability to rescue and archive more patterns. I enjoy what I do and the ability to bring these designs to like-minded enthusiasts. I personally need to focus more on social media but am always sidetracked by a pretty pattern.
But for anyone starting out, determine your goals and create your business plan accordingly. Do your homework, know your customer base, and test before you leap. And by all means, utilize the media available to you. What starts as a part-time hobby could turn into a full-time job but not every venture is successful. Stay true to your heart. If you love what you do, it’s never work.
Do you have anything special you would like to promote to my readers?
I love my patterns and proud of what I offer. They appeal to the historical purist as they are not changed to suit a modern body. I’m always available for support and have spent hours on the phone personally speaking with customers who need a little help getting through a sewing step. I believe when you purchase a pattern, we’re family. Sew, create, inspire – slow down and enjoy the process.
Where can we find you online?
I can be found on Etsy:
Thank you so much, Deirdre, for allowing me to interview you! It has been so much fun talking to you and learning more about Vintage Pattern Lending Library! I wish you all the best in the future with everything you do, and thank you so much for keeping VPLL alive!
If there is anyone you would like to see interviewed on the blog, let me know in the comments! You never know, they might just end up featured here in the future!
All images in this post used with kind permission from Deirdre of Vintage Pattern Lending Library. 🙂