If you didn’t already know, September is National Sewing Month, and I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to recognize it. Mary Brooks Picken, entrepreneur and one of America’s premiere authorities on sewing and fashion in the 20th century, has been a constant source of inspiration to me and my work. As I reflect on all that she accomplished during her career, I feel there is a new light shed on the impact that sewing has had on women’s creativity and ingenuity throughout history. Mary and the Woman’s Institute offered a platform for woman who shared a passion for sewing and needlecraft to connect. Today the American Sewing Guild and Burdastyle offer organized sewing clubs that allow for similar connections. So, in honor of Mary and this month’s occasion, here is a little history lesson of some of her contributions. (You can click the timeline below to see it at full size.)
Not only was Mary Brooks Picken an expert sewer and seasoned teacher, but also a prolific author. I’ve spent a lot of time researching and tracking down Mary’s published works, and I’m thrilled at the collection that I’ve managed to gather. Her work and illustrations have been the inspiration for much of my own work and writing. Most recently, I have designed a fabric line, “The Dressmaking Collection” which was inspired by illustrations from The Woman’s Institute curriculum. The imagery from these publications also influenced the design of my own book Vintage Notions.