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Pattern Reviews - Advance A (9938) for Barbie

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Review - Advance A for Barbie
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The Midge Factor

Since there isn't a brand-new doll in my future anytime soon, I decided to review patterns for doll clothes instead. As far as I know, nobody else reviews Barbie patterns, so why not ?
 Vintage 1961 Advance Pattern A (aka 9938)

Pattern Envelope
Check eBay for availability and price

When you find this pattern, GRAB IT ! It remains one of my all-time favorites, yielding surprisingly sophisticated doll clothes without the usual head-scratching, forehead-pulsing, brain-jamming issues that come with many other commercial patterns !
Despite its age, it's readily available on eBay - do a search for 'Advance Barbie patterns' and you'll get several to choose from. I paid $5. for mine, and it was uncut, complete with directions and the cute 'Barbie Sewing Book' leaflet - even the envelope is in good shape. Other web sites sell it as well, but why pay $15. when you don't have to ? Just make sure it's complete *before* you bid ! Just don't look for it by the year I posted - I've seen it listed from '1955' to '1965' and everywhere in between, so I'm not sure what it's exact age is !
There is one little thing - it may turn you off, or give you hope. This pattern is actually designed for little girls to use ! With some help from Mamma, of course. You may get a bit tired of the directions telling you to let Mommy do this or that, but hey, if it was made to be worked by 8 year olds, you stand a darn good chance of doing well with it.
The 'Barbie Sewing Book' is cute, but isn't very necessary unless this is your first sewing project. It explains, simply and easily, some of the basic terms of sewing. So it's great for the absolute beginner.
It's a bit different from, say the Simplicity patterns you can buy new right now. Each of the six patterns is on one sheet of tissue, and the directions are on the same sheet. Cut the square of pattern pieces away from the directions, and place that part on the fabric. You'll have to pay attention to single thicknesses, where the fold is, stuff like that, but it's a pretty easy way to handle the layout. Of course, more experienced sewers may choose to cut the pattern pieces out for less waste and more flexibility, but it all depends on what you're comfortable with.

Once you've got it cut out, the directions take you through construction, step by step, taking time to explain along the way. I got thoroughly spoiled by this pattern - many of today's will say 'do this' without explaining how. This one explains it all. You may need to refer to the Barbie Sewing Book once or twice, but on the whole, it's very easy.
It does rely a bit much on hand-sewing things like armholes and cuffs. It doesn't take long, and gives you a bit of a break from the sewing machine. Buty you may prefer to hem those up before you sew the seams - what's referred to as 'using flat construction' basically means sewing up hems and cuffs and armholes before they become sleeves, bodice, and skirt.  Hand sewing a 2-inch circle is a bit of a pain.
It walks you through darts, half-darts, collars, and gathering almost effortlessly. I'll be honest - the tiny-looking Mandarin stand-up collar on the Oriental Sheath nearly had me locked up worrying, 'How in the world am I gonna do this ?' ! But it went in just right the first time. I was amazed at how easy it was. By the time you've made the first of your selections, you'll want to make them all ! And then, you'll want to customize - make the sheath longer, leaving the straps off the all fits so well, why not make it your way ?
That's the real beauty of the Advance patterns - they fit ! Well, they do if you remember that the seam allowance is a half-inch, instead of 3/8 or 1/4 inch like many other patterns. My first sheath was a bit baggy because I used a smaller allowance out of habit. It may help to mark where the seams go on the wrong side of your fabric. That also helps keep your stitch line straighter, too.
The pattern calls for using everyday chalkboard chalk to make pattern markings on the fabric, but I still prefer the old tracing wheel and paper. Still, it was nice to see that frugal, don't-need-a-lot-of-new-stuff mindset here.
Whenever I buy a pattern, I always scan it first. I made eight of the Oriental Sheaths, and tore the paper printout up completely. I can't imagine what I would have done to the original, almost antique tissue. Once you try this one, you'll want to use it again and again, so if you don't have a scanner, you may want to make a few copies of it at your local copy shop or the like.
There's an example of the Sundress and Oriental Sheath, Views 1 and 2,  on the 'Absolute Beginner' photo page. I hope to add a few more here. As soon as I can rememer where all those sheaths went...
I hope one of my favorites becomes one of yours !