Storing Vintage Sewing Patterns

Nina Ricci
Nina Ricci

Long term care and preservation of vintage sewing patterns require three major considerations:

Make it Acid-Free!

Spray sewing patterns with Krylon Make it Acid-Free Spray before making any necessary repairs to damaged sewing patterns. This removes paper deteriorating acids from the papers.
To repair rips and tears use an archival safe tape like Lineco Document Repair Tape or use an archival glue like Lineco Neutral pH Adhesive.

Keep the storage area clean, cool, dust-free, humidity-free, uncluttered and dimly lit.

Control probable contaminates in the storage area by keeping the room clean and the air fresh and free flowing.

If storing patterns in a basement or attic change the furnace filter regularly and clean the air ducts periodically.

Purchase a dehumidifier to take moisture out of the air and keep the room smelling fresh.

Ideally, humidity levels should be approximately 35% and below 72 F.

If a dehumidifier isn’t available add a floor fan to the room.

The point is to keep the air flowing freely throughout the room.

It’s better to not store patterns in the basement, but many of us don’t have the necessary room or storage in our homes to avoid doing so.

In that case it’s better to store the patterns in an appropriate container along the inside walls of the room. The inside walls are generally drier than the outside walls because moisture tends to collect along the outside walls of a basement or attic.

Care in Storage
Why is care important?

  • To protect patterns from oxidation and acid hydrolysis it’s vital to store your patterns properly.
  • Extreme temperatures and humidity will destroy the papers that vintage patterns are made of byway of discoloration and dampness.
  • Dust and dirt speed up deterioration.
  • Insects and rodents can spoil and destroy a collection of patterns.
    Mildew and mold are harmful to humans and just about everything (except cheese) crossing its path.
  • Take care of your stash by storing vintage sewing patterns in metal pattern cabinets, if available, because they won’t leach acids or other corrosive chemical.

Preparing sewing patterns for storage

  • Check the pattern paper for acid using a acid checking marker. If the pattern is printed on acidic paper remove the acid from the pattern and pieces using an acid removal spray.
  • Place the pattern on top of an acid-free cardboard backer. The cardboard acts as a protective barrier between the pattern in front and in back of it. It also helps preserve the shape of the pattern itself.
  • Place the pattern and the backer in un-coated archival quality plastic. No zip-lock bags.
  • Place the pattern in your storage container in an upright position. Continue the process until the drawer is filled loosely with sewing patterns.
  • Add a silicon packet to each container to help absorb moisture and humidity in the air.
  • Store the pattern drawers in a cool, dry location.