Review and giveaway: A History of the Paper Pattern Industry

The winner of this giveaway is commenter #21, Emma Smith!  Congratulations!! Review and giveaway: A History of the Paper Pattern Industry

In A History of the Paper Pattern Industry, author Joy Spanabel Emery explores the history of the paper sewing pattern, from the very first published works for tailors to today’s printed patterns for home sewists.  She looks at how the printed format, fashion styles, marketing, and consumption of paper patterns have evolved through the years.

Included are 125 full color illustrations and 75 black & white illustrations.  (The photos you see in this review are all black & white because my pre-release copy did not include color.)

And at the end, 9 complete sewing patterns to make reproduction vintage garments from different eras.  (Brief assembly instructions are included.  You will need to scale the pieces up to full size in order to use them.)


This is an academic book appropriate for someone who is wanting to make serious study of vintage patterns.  This book would be an excellent resource for vintage pattern collectors!

I don’t know that I fall into the category of a vintage pattern collector, but I do  find myself drawn to older sewing patterns.  And I’ve long been intrigued with the paper sewing pattern as a technical document.  So much information packed within a relatively small space!  Now that I’m reading through A History of the Paper Pattern Industry, I’m learning more about historical context of older sewing patterns.

Review and giveaway: A History of the Paper Pattern Industry

One section I found particularly interesting was that on the effect of 1940s rationing on the styles of clothing available in sewing patterns.  Not only was yardage restricted for the home sewist, but the styles were restricted as well.  A “no fabric over fabric” rule meant there could be no patch pockets or knife pleats. Skirt circumference could be no more than 72”.  The next time I pick up a 1940s pattern, I’ll see the designs with a new layer of appreciation.


I have a copy of A History of the Paper Pattern Industry to give away to one Craft Gossip reader.  To enter, leave a comment here telling me your favorite decade for style.  I’ll choose one comment at random as the winner.

Deadline for entry is midnight CST, June 17, 2014.


  1. Jennifer Brooks says

    My favorite decade has to have been the 70’s. I’ve been, not a hippie, but a folkie, forever, starting with wearing my grandmother’s Russian immigrant embroidered shirts even in high school. Full skirts, peasant blouses, Gypsy pants, shirts that support embroidery, caftans–that’s my kind of sewing. I have patterns from the 70’s, and still use them!

  2. Kim says

    I have to say that I like the 1950s. There was no rationing of fabric, and the “New Look” was influencing women’s styles. Pattern writers believed that American women could sew and accordingly wrote the pattern directions to that audience. I have a few patterns from the 50’s and they are my favorites. The fit is excellent.

  3. DebJo says

    Love the dresses on Downton Abbey when Titanic sank. Don’t care much for baggy 20’s fashion on the show

  4. Jackie Monahan says

    I loved the styles of the early 1950’s – some of the dresses and gowns of that era were so glamorous, while for the first time, women’s clothes were fun and casual, along with functional. I think the children’s clothing from that time was comfortable and adorable.

  5. Sue H says

    Fond memories of the 60’s! Back when I was young and could wear the minis!! The bright colors and bold prints. I remember this one dress I made: lime green and navy blue mini! Gone are those days! Long live Twiggy!

  6. Beth butcher says

    I have a whole stock if sixty patterns that I love, but not for me, a mini skirt with my legs! No thanks, they are all kids patterns and my little girl Elsie looks so cutie in vintage style, do have to watch the hem lines, they can be shockingly short at times, as for me I’m a seventies girl, maxi dress? Yes please :-)

  7. says

    Oh! The 40’s and 50’s were especially nice, though a few early 60’s styles were good too. Okay, I admit it! I can’t choose! LOL This book would be neat to have!

  8. Anna N says

    I love the forties. Perhaps it is the no frills silhouettes forced by the war that caused the styles. Color blocking and surface decoration during that time were wonderful.

  9. jonquil says

    I would say the late Victorian, 1890-1900. Possible early Edwardian. My absolute favorite go-to pattern is the Walking Skirt.

  10. Barbie Meyers says

    I love to sew and everything to do with it. My favorite is the 1980’s because that is when I sewed all the time! I love to collect beautiful patterns from any decade.

  11. Melissa Sanders says

    I love the 1950’s style. I have to say this was a hard choice for me because I like the 40’s and 60’s also.

  12. Jeannine says

    My favorite for the 20th century would be the fifties…the styles were fun. I can pick out favs from every decade since 1800 but then I am a nut for patterns and fabrics of the period.

  13. Barbara K says

    My favorite fashion decade was the 1950s with the New Look. It was a return to femininity. The fabrics were plentiful and beautiful. It was great time to develop sewing skills, to achieve a flawless fit, and to cultivate fashion sense. My favorite designer, Edith Head was making movies the standard for American fashion. I would love to read what the pattern making industry did to keep their customers happy.

  14. Nathan and Laurie says

    My favorite era is a toss up between the 30’s-40’s and Victorian. the apparel has some shape n form.
    We would love a copy of that book, and would make the clothing to wear!!
    Lorili Design

  15. Emma Smith says

    I love the 1930’s with the era of film stars and the glamour of the bias cut clothes. I was lucky enough to go to a museum in Worthing last week where the curator allowed us to look through his archives and examine lots of garments. it was a wonderful experience and was interesting to see the pattern cutting and construction techniques they used.

  16. Trudi Roser says

    I love the time period from 1860 to 1890 because the styles were so varied. Recent time I love the Rock-a-billy look and the 60’s. I like the big bell bottom look. I was young during the 60’s and they really made an impression. Maxi dresses, fringe, and headbands were all the rage. I used to braid my hair to look like I was wearing a headband.

  17. Jaan L says

    Love the 1920’s and 30’s. It has been made worse by Downton Abbey. Love those dresses that Mary wears

  18. Missy k says

    I’m confused. The top says entries are closed, but below it states you are accepting entries until the 17th. So, i will enter on the chance that it is open. I love fashion history. It is hard to pick one decade, but I would have to say the 30s.

  19. Susan Samuel says

    It has to be the seventies. Those flared trousers and gypsy style tops – what could be better.

  20. Jolene Eriksen says

    My favorite decade has to be the 50’s. Not the poodle skirt 50’s but the early 50’s. The clothes were so sharp. I loved the suits.

  21. Marchia says

    I love vintage patterns, particularly from the 30’s & 40s and the retro look of the 50’s. Certainly, fashion trends reflect whatever is going on in our world with lots of theory that the length of hemlines, for instance, predict what business trends & stock markets will do; or conversely are a reaction to such things. And I knew that obviously, things were in short supply during wartime. But I did not know there were actual guidelines and rules set out. Although I guess that does not surprise me. Definitely sounds like an interesting book. Thanks for offering up a copy.

  22. Anna Nusbaum says

    This looks like a great resource book! I love all eras, but would especially like to see the 30s and 40s.

  23. says

    I love the 1950s fit-and-flare drop waist full skirt dresses, and the glamorous 1930s evening gowns. I’m more likely to wear the 1950s dresses, of course, since 1930s evening gowns don’t really fit into my day-to-day wardrobe.

  24. Mae Conatser says

    I, too, am confused as to the status of this giveaway and I, too, will enter based on the latter info of a June 17th. closing date. I guess I’m odd, but I like the easy to wear current styles. Of course, we are all about retro and vintage styles these days so the option to hark back to an earlier era is easily done. I do like history and I do like patterns so I would like to have the book, “A History of the Paper Pattern Industry.” Thanx for the op to win.

  25. Brenda J. Moore says

    I’ve always been a fan of the 40s’ military”esq” styles that happened for women. The introduction of those great high-waisted, pants and a figure flattering jacket for women.

  26. Claire C says

    This book looks great, I have done lots and lots of Dressmaking it would be interesting to read about the history of it. So I do hope I win it. Fingers and toes crossed…

  27. Jane S. says

    I like the tailored look of clothing from the 1940’s and 50’s, but I was a teenager in the 70’s so I love that era the best!

  28. says

    I would absolutely love this book, thanks for the review. My favourite decade is the 40s simply for all the beautiful coat patterns from that time. It also seems that a lot of the styles really were originals!

  29. Cindy S says

    I like the 70’s and I wish high waist jeans would come back in style. The tunic type tops and wedge shoes already did, so where’s the jeans?!?

  30. says


    I hope this contest is still open,date of closing???
    I enjoy all the era’s of clothing. It is interesting to note that we have gone from wearing layers and layers of clothing to hardly any.
    Thanks so much for the opportunity to win such a interesting book.

    Happy days.

  31. MPaula says

    I love the idea of Medieval clothing but would not like to wear them, especially not the layers and layers of women’s clothes. Renaissance Fairs would provide a venue for these ‘costumes’. I am trying to find a pattern/instructions for an ‘outside’ pocket (worn around the waist, not an element of a piece of clothing). A fanny pack would only work with a bustle – and I am not interested!

  32. Anna (sixtyfourcolorbox) says

    I’m a fan of the 50s, though I tend to wear more of the 60s styles due to my body shape. I just don’t have a very slender waist to pull off the silhouette of the 50s.

  33. Denise Swanson says

    It’s hard to have only one favorite. I guess it would be the 50’s. I like the modern patterns with a 50’s influence.

  34. Kylie C says

    I can not fully express my love of the New Look fashions so late 1940’s through the mid-1950s without a doubt.

  35. Kim Turner says

    I love the utilitarian styles of the 1940s. Their minimised use of fabric means that the styles are flattering for us larger ladies.

  36. Pat Cobb says

    I love to look at the old patterns at the garage/estate sales when I get a chance to go. I think the 50’s were beautiful and graceful. Then the 70’s were sort of artsy or maybe craftsy. I bought some older patterns at an estate sale not long ago for lounge and apron patterns. Love that you are willing to share.

  37. Becky PS says

    I’m a 50’s gal. Love the feminine dresses and practical fashion too.

    Thanks for the chance to win the book! Looks fascinating.

  38. says

    My fave decade is the 1940’s. I’ve a few vintage patterns and have made them. They are so economical with fabric and fit beautifully. I hope I win the book!

    Thanks for offering the giveaway!

  39. says

    Oh my gosh! This books looks amazing! I’m addicted to vintage patterns, mostly from the 70’s. I love lingerie patterns from the 40’s too though. Most of the time they can pass for dresses and beautiful tops today~

  40. Julie Henderson says

    I recently inherited a fairly big box of patterns, mostly 60’s & 70’s, w/ a few of 50’s in there, & they’re all such fun images/illustrations. I just want to say: I admire the creativity & resourcefulness of the 40’s, particularly having to observe the fabric rationing & such, still managing to look glam & stylish. Thanks for the giveaway! :-)

  41. TMac says

    Oooh, this looks very interesting. Love the 20’s, 30’s & 40’s. Thank you for offering this great giveaway.

  42. Jess says

    50s or 60s. I have a few vintage patterns but have yet to cut into them; I’m still working on finding the right fabric to go with them!

  43. Anne Marie says

    50’s are fun! We watch Leave It To Beaver with the kids, and hubby likes to say, “How come you don’t wear dresses like that?!”

  44. Andrea B says

    gosh -that’s a tough one. I love the style and prints of the 50’s but also like the class of the 20’s – all that beading!

  45. Christy H says

    This book looks amazing! If I don’t win it I’ll have to find it somewhere for sure. I love the 20’s!

Leave a Reply