Sunday, 22 February 2015

My Betsey Johnson Pattern Collection

For a frequent dress maker, I have a modest number of patterns.  I tend to keep only what I will realistically make, patterns that are my size or close or the occasional patterns that is so beautiful/kitsch/of its time that I feel bound to hold on to it.  I have more vintage patterns than modern and my favourites are from the 1970s.  I was born in 1970 so the aesthetic is one I grew up with and I like a little homespun ditsy prairie look with a nod to 1940s and 1900s so Betsey Johnson is my perfect pattern designer, this is my collection.

Lots of the big name pattern houses featured young designers in their seasonal collection.  There is an excellent blog post here showing Buttericks range of young designers, collated by vintage enthusiast and collector Lizzie Bramlett- she now blogs at The Vintage Traveller.  I have been collecting mine from Etsy and Ebay for a few years.

Butterick 3292 was my missing link, a pattern that I had seen here at Gold Country Girls a while back in a glorious three part feature on Betsey Johnson at Butterick, had to have and was scouting around for ever since.  I randomly came across it recently in Canada on ebay and stayed up for a late night bid.  I was prepared to pay big bucks but I got lucky, no one else bid and it was under £5.  What can I say?  I love them all, every item, the colours, everything about it.  I have some mustard corduroy on order and plan to make the jacket first.

Butterick 6535 was another lucky purchase.  I bought it with a couple of other designer Butterick patterns for very little- again on ebay. There are no instructions but the cutting layout and all the pieces are there.  The shirt and maxi skirt would be my choice on this one.  You can see them made up for the original pattern promotion here.

I think this was an Etsy purchase on a bit of a whim.  I do like an Empire neckline and princess bodice- both features that work well for me.  I am not usually a short dress wearer though. I would have to lengthen this but that is easily doable.  The shoes remind me of the new Orla Kiely range for Clarks.

I bought Butterick 3848 from Etsy last year- maybe around £10.  When I took part in Me-Made-May'14 one of the highlights on the Instagram tag feed was a photo posted by someone who made and wore it first time round.

I have made view C wrap skirt (longer length) of Butterick 4089 and have worn it extensively.  I was inspired by Ruth's version and she inspired me again with her broderie cotton lace interpretation of skirt E.  This is a pattern I shall definitely revisit.

I can't remember where Butterick 6534 came from but I do know that I didn't pay much for it and I see it for sale at a high price tags- £15-20ish.  You can see these patterns sewn from the original catalogue here.  Betsey Johnson produced a lot of stretch knit patterns for Butterick.  These tops are high on my to do list.  I might lengthen them a little but I have used the pockets before and they are a really cute addition to a top.

Butterick 6838 has a rather fragile envelope but the contents are complete.  I am a little unsure about the long  knit coat/jacket option, and I wonder how successful the tank top would be but the shirt shape is good with great yoke details front and back.

As a spur into action, I have been over to A Vintage Sewing Odyssey and joined in with The Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge.  

"I, Kerry of verykerryberry, pledge to make 3 garments from my Betsey Johnson 1970s pattern collection in 2015".

Want to join? Visit Marie, or her co host Kerry of Kestral Makes to find out more. 

sib blog


  1. Wow, my formative teen years were in the seventies and I totally loved wearing that style. It's fun to see that it has loyal adherents today. I thought the pants and skirts, like in your patterns, were so flattering. Of course, some of the stuff was a horror and I cringe when I see bad Seventies fashion that I didn't like then either, haha! But I love your patterns and I think it is beyond cool that you actually use them!

  2. Betsey is so you. If I ever come across a Betsey, I will send it to you.

  3. Ooo! What beauties! I am also a child of the 70s, so these are right up my street too. I absolutely love the long sleeve version of 6978, I would so wear that!

  4. I had no idea these existed, thank you for sharing! I was thinking of getting into sewing clothes this year (right now I just do quilts) ... can I ask, would you recommend vintage patterns or new-ish patterns (I have a few Built By Wendy ones stashed away) for a relative beginner? Or does it make a difference?

    1. Hi Stephanie,
      I would recommend newer patterns- there are so many aimed at beginners and the explantations and illustrations are generally so much easier. Tilly and the Buttons- Miette Skirt is a vintage style wrap skirt that would be very straightforward. Charise of Charise creates is releasing her first pattern for a peasant style top and that is aimed at quilters who want to make clothes- excellent instructions! The Built by Wendy patterns are lovely, I am a fan of hers!

  5. Seeing these was really fun! I was a teeanager in the seveties and remember making some of these clothes and loving them. They were so easy to wear and feminine in nature that they looked good on everyone. Betsey was a great designer of clothes and I can see why you are enjoying collecting these. Have fun!!

  6. I've made some of the patterns ( a very long time ago!) ~ that long green skirt in pattern 4089 ~ I made lots of them in all colors! What a blast from the past ~ I was such a hippy then!

  7. Love that your pledge is going to be using your Betsys. Gorgeous!

  8. What a lovely collection of vintage patterns! The pattern illustrations remind me of the Fashion Plates tracing set I had when I was a little girl (born in 1973). You're right -- MOST of the shoes they were showing then look like exactly what the shops are showing for Spring 2015.

    You and Charise always inspire me with your sewing. I just signed up for a whole slew of garment sewing, fitting, and pattern alterations classes at a sewing and quilting expo in Atlanta two weeks from now. I am determined to knock down the hurdles that keep me from sewing clothing for myself this year. I look forward to seeing your Betsey Johnson projects!

  9. I was a teen in the 70's and remember sewing that 3848 and wearing it out! I always thought the "models" on those patterns must be like 15 feet tall - such long skinny limbs!

  10. That's a lovely collection! I am forever trawling Etsy and Ebay looking for people who can't spell her name properly in the hope of a bargain! I made 6978 for my daughter a few years ago - the skirt is a wonderful shape, which isn't clear from the drawing. I have had more success with bottom halves than anything involving puff-topped sleeves, which are somehow the WRONG sort of seventies to my eye :)

  11. i see patterns at tag sales all the time!! ill keep my eyes open for Betsy Johnson for you from now on!

  12. Good to see you're playing along with Kerry, I get to see her vintage pattern collection when we meet up, as we usually have swapsies going on (aka destashing!)

  13. What a blast from my past. Especially 6534. I made every version of that top, always with the heart applique pocket. Matching skirts too, never made those pants though. I loved all her patterns for knits. The hems were so easy, just turn up the fabric, add two rows of stitching and voila!

  14. Oh goodness, what a blast from the past! I had half of these patterns and even made them in Betsy Johnson fabric (a turquoise challis). Felt so cool, even if I was the only girl wearing a dress in high school. Wish I had an old pic of myself. Thanks!


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