Hot! Dating Fabric Can Be Fun!

Border-print Yesterday, while up in Petaluma taking at sewing class at Stitch Craft, I stopped by a nearby antique store and scored 5 1/2 yards of this border print fabric for $15! I’m always searching for border prints after the success of my most popular dress ever and this piece would look just lovely made into a similarly-styled dress.

While the fabric was listed as being from the 1940s, the print made me think that it was at least from the late 1950s. It turns out that the piece still had a sticker with its RN number. I hadn’t a clue what that was so I did a quick search and uncovered this page that allowed me to lookup the company associated with the number. I still didn’t have a date and looking up “Promotional Fabrics, Inc” wasn’t successful. I then found this incredibly helpful page that I just have to share with all of you.

The article lists the probable dates associated with the number sequences. RNs were issued starting in 1952, so there went the 1940s description. In 1959, when WPL (the Wool Labeling Act of 1939) was discontinued and only RN # were issued, the sequencing began with 13670. The particular number of my piece of fabric was 22718. So that means the fabric was not manufactured earlier than 1959.

The article then has a calculation to figure out where your own number fits in dating.

Let’s say that your clothing label has an RN number that is 16627. You would subtract 13670 (the 1st number) from 16627 (your RN) then divide it by 2,635 (average issued numbers each year). 16627-13670=2,957 2,957/2,635=1.12…With this calculation we can estimate that this RN number was issued one year after this series began, so 1960. That tells us that this particular item was made no earlier than 1960.

So using that formula, it seems as if the fabric was produced around 1963.

Thanks, sewing. You proved once again that I have to use math in my life.


Mena Trott

Mena Trott started The Sew Weekly to document her attempt to sew all of her own clothes in 2010. Since then, she's made over 125 outfits and has way more clothes than she needs.


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  1. Cool! Thanks for this info!

  2. Some day I want you to post a tutorial on how on earth you find such lovely vintage fabric – our local antiques stores want the world for a hand-sized remnant, and ebay seems to deliver vintage lawn to you and nothing but polyester upholstery fabric to me!

  3. I LOVE it!!! Can’t wait to see your latest creation out of it! BTW, how is the dress for the Gatsby Afternoon coming along?

  4. Just discovered your most excellent blog! I love the dresses you have made so far and can’t wait to see what else you come up with. Thanks for the neat tips about dating fabrics – something I always seem to struggle with.

  5. Fascinating! I just discovered your blog, and as an avid seamstress on hold (too many kids, too little time), I could immediately relate.
    Bravo to you for reminding us of the value of this skill.