And, of course, those who enjoy the satisfaction and quality of hand-stitching still use them the "old-fashioned" way. Embroidery transfers have been available from many, many different companies for well over a hundred years.
This overview addresses a major roadblock for the vintage embroidery transfer enthusiast -- the lack of organized material about vintage transfers. It's an ongoing reference project open for use by everyone who enjoys vintage transfers. Naturally its value to the stitching community depends on accuracy and depth of information. Whenever possible information has been checked with two or more sources and educated guesses are identified as such.There's a lot of information here, but many questions remain unanswered. Expect to find only one or other in an envelope: although it may be marked "blue and yellow," there should be a separate stamp telling which actually is enclosed. Many companies eventually switched to a lighter or "electric" blue that would show up on light and dark fabrics. A flat ink transfer, especially if red, may be a multi-stamp pattern that fades as the transfer is used. But if the flat ink is blue, yellow or green, it's probably a single-use transfer that has been used. Vogart transfer packages from the 1940s and 1950s bear a distinctive red and black banner at the top with color graphics of the embroidery motifs below.
Although you'll also find transfers with numbers in the 200s, 600s and 700s, there are actually only about 200 unique patterns. The company reissued popular patterns from time to time, changing the number but nothing else. Vogart switched to multi-use transfers and updated their packaging in the mid-1960s. These are the same transfers -- and the tissue sheets are identical. These are relatively rare: both the envelope and the ink changed early on in the company's history. Over the years both the package size and motif graphics stayed constant, but the logo and outer border were updated several times. Blue and red combinations are the older transfers; the yellow envelopes are relatively modern (and what you'll find in stores today). Motifs are printed in flat red ink on a sheet of heavy newsprint (sadly prone to splitting at the folds). The transfer numbers and the motif graphics remain the same. Workbasket grew quickly from its humble beginning as a small fold-out in 1935 and its transfer sheets were wildly popular.
You may find a complete set of cute motifs for tea towels, a stunning cutwork pattern, a dainty layette motif, plus several different floral motifs -- all on the same sheet. Workbasket transfers do not have a title, and some may not have a number. But the majority are are numbered in the 900s, and the company was very straightforward in its system -- so they can be dated easily. Smaller sheets (usually without numbers) can be identified as magazine inserts from the staples holes, but not readily matched to an issue. Workbasket transfers, but they are not the same company. But the photo is an ad, and the actual transfer could be just about anything. Always ask questions if the description matches the envelope photo!
By and large, however, you'll find the group's focus is on the magazine and crochet projects, rather than the embroidery transfers. Our overview looks at their pre-1960s transfers. The sheets are marked with the company name and transfer number -- sometimes on the edge, sometimes in the middle. Don't be shy about asking for better envelopes photos or even a scan of a small part of the actual transfer -- these are real treasures!
The small (5-1/4" x 6-1/4") brown envelopes with black graphics were used in the early 1900s; the logo style and print resources can narrow the date. Small greyish/brown envelopes with color labels were only used for a few years (late 1920s and early 1930s). Although back issues of its magazine are the main source of information for the early transfers, the company published separate counter catalogs for its needlework patterns and many survive.
If we can't find one online, we'll work on a dating chart. From the mid-1940s, the company used the 7000 series of numbers for its transfer patterns. Dating can also be done from needlework counter catalogs and a dating chart is on our to-do list. Simplicity's started in 1927 as a low-cost alternative to the other established pattern companies and quickly became a popular brand. Nevertheless, many of their embroidery motifs were charming and remain very desirable today. Our best guess is that it dates to the 1910s. The single-use transfers are printed on a fairly heavy tissue sheet which is marked with the company name and pattern number. Transfers included with patterns are on separate tissue sheets marked with the sewing pattern number. Before buying a vintage sewing pattern for the embroidery transfer, make sure it's actually included. Many sewers had no interest in embroidery and the transfers were lost or discarded. Other patterns (typically layettes) were popular for the transfers in the first place -- they may be cut or missing even though the sewing pattern itself is intact.
Doll Embroidery Patterns
As a general rule, you'll find the find the transfers folded right into the tissue bundle of unused pattern (but very large sheets may be folded separately). Used patterns often have the transfer sheet tucked into the instruction guide. Each day's pattern offering was different and ranged from sewing patterns for adult and children's clothing; toys, dolls and doll clothing to sew, knit or crochet; and embroidered or crocheted household linens and decorative items. The patterns may have a brand name or be generic. Patterns from the 30s and 40s were mailed in 4-1/2" x 8" envelopes; larger 6" x 8" envelopes became the norm in the 1950s. The return address on the envelope may be the pattern company brand, the newspaper that advertised the pattern, or both. With few exceptions, the embroidery motifs and all instructions are printed on a single sheet that unfolds to about 17" x 27". Early examples may have a separate printed instruction sheet.
Overview Of Vintage Embroidery Transfer Patterns At The Sewing Palette
The company name (if one is provided) and transfer number are marked on the instruction section. The transfer number also appears on the motif section. The outer mailing envelope is your best bet to date the transfers.
You may find a date right on the address label, or the postmark may be dated. More commonly the envelope will have undated metered postage, but the numbers can be used to establish a time frame. That may simply be because these brands focused on sewing patterns.
We not have any of these transfers in our collection to show you. Hang on to these if you have them, but be very careful because the glassine tears easily. Along with short stories, recipes, housekeeping tips and such, each issue included a few pages devoted to needlework. These publications focused on fashion sewing and/or crochet, knitting, tatting and embroidery projects with the occasional general interest article. Consider the stunning bluebird transfer shown here.Starting in 2012, we will sort through our collection of vintage magazines and post lists of the transfers featured in each issue -- which will at least help with dating. If there's interest, we'll also include photos of the very vintage transfers in our own collection. If you have vintage magazines or transfers issued by the magazines and are willing to provide information for the guide, please let us know!
Imagine having ready availability of silk and cotton thread, in different finishes, from dozens of different companies!
The embroidery issues were books numbers 8, 11 and 12 and included tissue sheets of hot iron transfers bound (well, stapled) into the center fold. There is also a guide to embroidery stitches and several cross stitch charts in each issue.
The quarterly publication covered crochet, knitting, tatting, and embroidery patterns and included a hot iron transfer centerfold. The company advertised extensively and old publications often featured beautiful ads for their thread and yarns, kits (stamped goods, floss and trims), and various needlework pattern books. In the early 1920s the company produced a series of hot iron transfers in book format. Each book had a theme (bedspreads, baby motifs, etc.) and consisted of assorted embroidery motifs printed on tissue sheets and staple-bound together in a heavy cover. These do come up for sale from time to time, but it can be difficult to find one that is both intact and has not been folded down the center. These three companies are just a few of the many thread manufacturers that existed and no doubt there are hot iron transfers out there from other companies as well. But we can warn you to be cautious when buying vintage magazines and hot iron transfer books. Many times the transfer sheets are missing or cut into, and casual sellers often don't notice. Know your seller, and ask questions if the condition is not clearly stated. Here are a few of the names we've seen most often. By the 1940s the company switched to a 7" x 8" envelope with color graphics and navy blue borders. You'll also see window envelopes like the one shown here. Walker transfers are single-use in an electric blue raised ink, printed on tissue paper.Monarch is another name that was on the market for many years, but we haven't been able to track down any information on the company or its history as of yet. The dates of many vintage sewing patterns are known, so a comparison of envelope types and graphic styles helped us establish the era of many transfers. Please read our disclosure for more info. Embroidery is a humble craft that only takes a few inexpensive supplies to get started. It’s great news for anyone interested in beginning their own embroidery practice. But once you’ve got your hoop and a rainbow-colored selection of floss, now comes the eternal question: what do you want to sew?
You can make up your own images, of course, but many newbies and advanced stitchers alike enjoy completing embroidery patterns created by other people. Hand embroidery patterns can take many forms; they can be illustrative scenes, repeating motifs, or script-style text. Patterns can range from basic stitches to complex techniques that are for advanced crafters. But whatever your skill level, the best part about sewing on embroidery patterns is that it’s easy to challenge yourself once you’ve mastered a particular style or stitch. It’s easy to obtain a pattern and begin sewing. Looking for a pattern that includes supplies?