Saturday, December 22, 2012

Helpful Hints for Vintage Pattern Sellers

First let me start by thanking you all for your lovely comments on my last post. They meant the world to me and from now on I'll try and incorporate a bit more of myself into my posts.
This post isn't exactly personal, but I've been wanting to post about it for a while. This is important to me, and you I think you might have already gathered, I make patterns personal!

As you know, I buy a lot of vintage patterns online. I sell quite a few as well and while I don't necessarily consider myself an expert, I would at least say that I have a good deal of experience in the matter.
Today I would like to talk a bit about mailing patterns.
There are some great things that sellers do to make the arrival of a much anticipated pattern that much more special, and there are some classic pitfalls that inexperienced sellers fall into. We will address both.
But first, let's dwell on the positive. There are a few sellers who I will consistently shop with because they have wonderful patterns, but also because I know that when the pattern arrives, it will be well cared for and exactly as described.
There are two in particular who stand out and deserve to be recognized for their amazing customer service.

Firstly, Miss Betty of Miss Betty's Attic. She has an incredible selection of patterns from every era, and she seems to have an inexhaustible source of really unique patterns. Every pattern I have bought has been wonderful, very reasonably priced, carefully packaged, and quick to arrive.

Secondly, Barbara of Floradora Presents. Barbara's prices are fair and a bit to the higher side of things but completely worth it.
Image From Floradora Presents on Etsy.

As you can see from her standout shop images, she takes particular care with how her patterns are presented, and this also shows in her packaging. Every piece is always meticulously ironed and crisply folded and the patterns are carefully packaged.
I bought a lingerie pattern from her recently and the tiny pattern pieces that went with the bra were carefully wrapped in a tiny length of tissue paper to keep them from escaping!

Now, for the pitfalls of pattern selling and shipping I would never name names unless I had had a truly horrible experience with a seller, which I have not.
I'm just going to outline a few do's and dont's from someone who often gets 2-3 patterns in the mail each day.

  • Iron the pattern pieces if they are crumpled beyond recognition. You'll need to pull them out anyways if you're going to make sure all of the pieces are there, so take a few extra seconds to iron them if they're a mess.
  • Put the pattern in some sort of plastic baggie. Resealable ones are really nice but they cost more. The simplest and least expensive way to protect them is with a bit of kitchen plastic wrap (don't use the new sticky cling wrap!). I don't personally recommend this method as it makes it difficult for the buyer to unwrap the pattern. Instead, use tissue paper or even a scrap of fabric.
  • If you like, throw in a little extra something for a good customer. Some of the goodies I have found with my patterns are a cute card of buttons, a bit of ribbon or bias tape, an old postcard and more. --Make sure it's lightweight though, you don't want to pay more for shipping.
I recently purchased some panties from Ohhh Lulu and I was delighted with the entire package even before I opened it!
  • DON'T use tape on a damaged envelope or pattern piece. They lose their value if they have been taped all to hell. (for more on proper pattern repair, see this article.)
  • Don't sell a pattern without counting the pieces first. Make sure you've checked the pattern for completeness!
  • Don't tape the hell out of the mailing package either. Just use a strong envelope (manilla is great) and a strip of packaging tape on the seal. Packages that have tons of tape on them are very hard to open and there's a good chance that your customer will damage the pattern attempting to get it out with a bowie knife, can opener, meat cleaver etc. Be sure to write DO NOT BEND on the envelope. Mail carriers don't know not to bend sewing patterns unless you tell them!
  • Don't get hair in your packing tape. Pay attention to the tape that you're using, is it clean? Has it caught renegade hairs trying to make a break for it? It's pretty gross to open a package that has the hairs of a stranger randomly stuck to it. This might sound silly but you would be amazed at how often I have packages arrive in the mail with a few fuzzy DNA samples attached. I also take special care to make sure that cat hair hasn't somehow found its way onto my packaging supplies by keeping everything in a lidded plastic bin.
  • Don't forget to promote your shop! Include your business card if you have one. Tuck it inside the plastic sleeve the pattern is stored in - it's less likely to get thrown out that way.
One great thing you can do to stand out to a customer (you want them to remember you and come back again!) is to make your packaging memorable somehow.

For instance, I just sent an order to a special customer recently and made sure that my packaging was as unique and original as the beautiful contents.

You can also make your mailing envelopes more memorable as well. You never know who is handling the mail before it's delivered and if you packaging is pretty, they may be tempted to remember you and look your shop up later.

These are just the tip of the iceberg but I don't want to rant in too much detail about something so particular. I'll be posting again soon about care and keeping of your vintage pattern collection, and how to use vintage patterns safely without damaging them.

I hope that all of you have a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza and a great weekend as well.
Also, don't forget to enter the giveaway sponsored by Patterns from the Past! A winner will be chosen on December 27th.


  1. Great advice, I will definitely be making some changes to my packing. Thanks!

  2. I ship all of mine as-is (no additional tape or ironing to pattern pieces), but they're inside of a comic book bag with the cardboard back, and then placed into a padded envelope. It's not the super fancy stuff you've described, but I've never had anyone complain about them showing up in sub-par condition. :)

    1. Erin, thanks for sharing the comic book sleeve idea, that's great!

    2. At this point I use comic sleeves/backer board (both acid free) for everything I buy, regardless of the state they're in when they arrive, but I definitely notice who jams things into envelopes and who is careful. :)

  3. How do you make your envelopes? I love it!

    I bought my first ever vintage pattern from Miss Betty's Attic! I love all the great finds she has.

    1. Hi Miranda, thanks for your comment! I use a stamp and white ink, then I draw the little tag string onto the envelope. I let the whole thing dry and then I add the address on top.

  4. Can you ship patterns "media mail?" They are printed material so I'd think you'd be able to as long as you weren't including any "extras."

    Oh, and the comment about comic book sleeves and boards is brilliant!

    1. Hi Leslie, I'm not sure if you can ship them media mail or not, though it is definitely worth looking into. They don't have Media mail here in Norway but when we move back to the U.S. that would be a good thing to know!

    2. In the US you CAN NOT ship sewing patterns via Media Mail. Media Mail is defined as "Bound Printed Material". About 5 sewing patterns in a manila envelope without cardboard backing is under the 13 oz - which is the first class max. Sewing patterns in general do not weigh a lot.

      I personally add a stamp to my invoices, if I am shipping a larger order I am able to add extra items. I do ship my sewing patterns inside a plastic bag that is taped and contact my customer if this is a question about the quality of the pattern, if it was not stated on my website.

  5. Great post! I love your creative packaging and have already begun to stash away unique objects and ideas to further "woooo" my customers!

  6. Great idea :) i love it!

  7. Beautiful! Well packaged goodies are definitely part of the fun. I'm often reluctant to open them! x

  8. Aw thanks for mentioning me. Packaging and wrapping is one of the most fun parts of the process and it's something I LOVE about buying from Etsy especially. Everything I have ever bought has been so beautifully wrapped which shows you that the seller really cares about what they are creating. Great post!!

  9. All terrific ideas and reminders, thank you for posting! It's always the little things that mean so much - and a reminder for us customers (of which I am one)...remember to leave feedback where possible. This way other potential customers have more info to go on rather than "Thank You". or "Great pattern!" - this is something I'll have to remember myself... ;)

    Verry Merry Christmas to you and hubby!!! :)


  10. Great suggestions!



  11. Before adding little extras to your patterns check your countries mailing policies. I ship from Canada and to have my patterns qualify to be shipped as a document [fastest and least expensive way] they may contain nothing other than paper.

    Also as to ironing patterns, the jury is out on this one as paper preservationist will tell you it is detrimental to the paper. The heat dries out and damages the paper.

  12. Dear Anna, Hi! This post is timely and I really like what you have to say on the subject of packaging and mailing of patterns. I have often received patterns that come in those awful gray "mailing" bags. I can't tell where to cut to get the pattern out. I have to like squeeze the pattern to one end as carefully as I can and then cut a small amount in the opposite end, but when I do this it often isn't enough to actually open the package so I have to cut deeper. Once I ended up cutting the pattern itself, accidentally! If only people would maybe put the pattern in a plastic bag, like a zip lock bag, and then somehow attach it to one end of the gray mailing bag and put instructions like "cut this end only" if they absolutely must use those awful, unsupported gray mailing bags. Sigh. Sorry for my rant, but I really have a problem with those type of bags. I know they are cheap for the seller. Thank you, Kathy from Arizona

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  14. I do tape a bit more than just the flap because I don't want any bits of the envelope getting caught in the travels, ripping the envelope and losing the pattern somewhere.

    I also don't iron because I don't want to dry or wear out the paper at all. Sometimes, I will if it's really, really bad but I usually just smooth out the wrinkles and neatly refold when I am checking them.

  15. I don't "collect" patterns for the antique value, so tape on the envelope doesn't bother me. Tape on the pattern pieces, however - you better be darn sure you do a more accurate taping job than I can!
    One thing I really dislike in sellers of vintage/used stuff: A lot of people seem to store their for-sale items next to the highly-scented anti-static dryer sheets, or spray them with mold-remover, or something. Artificial scents can give me a worse headache than mold does! Please, be considerate of people's allergies. If paper goods are mildewed, say so in the copy, and let us be prepared to take whatever steps we know are safe for our allergies.
    (I recently ordered a replica flintlock pistol from an ebay seller, and it arrived scented! What is this??