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A Book Review: A History of the Paper Pattern Industry by Joy Spanabel Emery

Joy Spanabel Emery’s book; A History of the Paper Pattern Industry,The home dressmaking fashion revolution is a must-have resource for anyone interested in the history of not only sewing patterns but fashion as well. The book is organized chronologically beginning with the oldest surviving book on tailoring published in Spain in 1580, and ending with the modern patterns up to the year 2010. With 200 well placed illustrations (125 color, 75 black and white), the book progresses smoothly through the centuries and decades.

Each chapter covers a period in history and the events that influenced the styles produced by the pattern companies. The section that was the most interesting to me covered the restrictions on fabric usage during the war effort of the 1940’s.

I found the book to be very interesting and enjoyable. As a bonus, she has included 9 sewing patterns with instructions that can be drafted to full size. Remember that the instructions are minimal for older patterns and these are not the exception!

Here is an example of a pattern that you can draft to your size.

James McCall Patterns

Right is a page from the book showing a James McCall pattern for a blouse. elow is another James McCall pattern from the book. This one is from 1909 and is part of the University of Rhode Island's Commercial Pattern Archive Collection.

antique sewing pattern, sleeve pattern, McCall, Ruffle cap sleeve
My early 1900s McCall sleeve pattern

I am a Lucky Lady..

Left is a pattern from my collection. I only keep a few here and there so, as usual, I considered selling this James McCall sleeve pattern from the early 1900s. I decided to keep it at least for now. I love opening that drawer and seeing such an amazing piece of history.

A Tool for Sellers and Collectors Alike

I have owned this book since 2014. I use it for dating patterns occassionally but mostly I just like to read through it and learn about the pattern industry. It is fascinating to me to watch how an entire industry began and how the companies differed in their business model and, which business models were successful and which failed and why.

1950s cigarette pants, crop top sewing pattern by Butterick
One of my ALL Time favorites - I love the illustration!

In closing, this book is packed with information that can be useful to pattern collectors and sellers alike. I recommend that you keep a copy handy for research or reading the about the history of the industry. You can purchase this book on Amazon or at many book shops.


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