Vintage Patterns: To Tape or Not to Tape

I wonder, when you see old sewing patterns that have tears and are dangling in pieces like a well-loved rag doll, do you wish they had been taped to prevent further wear? Or should they be left alone, kept pure, even if it means an unusable pattern?

As an owner of an Etsy shop, selling vintage patterns, in rough shape or not, I am not sure what to do when it comes to this issue. What do you prefer? Personally, I don't mind them being taped if it means saving a pattern from a DIY project or trash bin. But there are some tape jobs that are quite repulsive, however. I believe, if done tastefully, taping should happen.

Recently, when checking over patterns for completeness, I came across a pattern for a beachy ensemble. This pattern's envelope had the front detached from the back, with numerous rips, one being on the cover, starting from the top left to down right, about 3" long, about a third of the pattern. When looking at the pattern pieces, one of the shorts pieces had been folded and pinned together, not neatly mind you, and upon unpinning, I discovered that this shorts piece had been ripped across the hip, from one end to the other. Like a rogue amputation.

There is a bit of the tape coming through here, but has lost its stick.

From that point on, I decided to pull the pattern from my possible inventory, grabbed my iron and some tape (Most will advise you to use acid free tape, to prevent the yellowing that comes from most household tape), and began trying to perform pattern CPR. I also got the envelope carefully taped back together from the inside. The rips are still visible on the outside, but are secured from behind to prevent any more wear.

So, have you struggled with this or had this predicament? Please share your thoughts.



  1. For my own purposes, I'm ok with taping (but I'm also ok with cutting, which A LOT of people deem to be a mortal sin). I sew a lot, though, and I feel like these things were intended to be used and not to last forever and so I feel ok giving them some more love/life that way. From a selling standpoint, however, I don't think that I would tape anything that isn't already taped. I would leave that up to the purchaser to do at his/her own discretion. Obviously you'd want to mention any major tears/repairs that needed to be made in the item description, but I'd stop there.

  2. I tend not to tape, but I haven't found any patterns yet that have been in such tatters that they wouldn't hold together properly. Mostly, it's just wear and tear around the edges. I don't know, I feel like that's a tricky question. Some people wouldn't mind the taping, but others might. I don't even know which I would prefer! I guess I just would like the pieces to be all there. :) ❤

    bonita of Lavender & Twill

  3. In general, with vintage paper products, I'm extremely leery of taping. Though, being a paper crafter, I have plenty of archival safe adhesives to hand, the issue delves into a deeper one for me, which is altering vintage products at all (something I'm loath to do in most circumstances). That said, if the different between a piece falling to tatters and being taped, especially if it's with an archival safe adhesive, means it survives, then by all means go ahead. (I'd try to tape it from the inside, so as to somewhat preserve the integrity of the exterior, but I realize that with delicate old paper in the shape of vertical envelop, that is a lot easier said than done).

    Good luck and thank you for being up this topic. I often feel like preserving/saving vintage is something that isn't discussed enough in our realm, despite the fact that it's something that so many of us run into on a fairly regular basis.

    ♥ Jessica