Mary Brooks Picken & Her Magic Patterns • Amy Barickman

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Mary Brooks Picken & Her Magic Patterns

WI 100th Oval logo CLRAs we countdown to the official 100th Anniversary of the Woman’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences I am revisiting the influence that the school, and it’s founder, Mary Brooks Picken, has had on my career. Last week I shared with you my book Vintage Notions, which was a compilation of Institute materials updated for a modern audience. Those of you who have read Vintage Notions have seen the twelve Magic Patterns that are included in each chapter of the book. Those patterns were the inspiration for my most recent book, The Magic Pattern Book.


One of the most intriguing parts of the Woman’s Institute materials is The Magic Page. This appeared in each issue of the Inspiration newsletter and contained a Magic Pattern, an invention by Mary Brooks Picken, which was a pattern that anyone could make that didn’t require any pattern pieces. The dimensions were decided by your own measurements and some easy math equations. With such a large collection of Inspiration magazines, I’ve seen almost the full variety of Magic Patterns, and have been amazed by the variety of styles that Mary designed – all without using pattern pieces!


There are twelve Magic Patterns in the Vintage Notions book, including the apron shown above. I have also chosen a selection of my favorite Magic Patterns, to offer as free downloads. I love the simple styles of the Slip On Jumper, Sateen Blouse, One Seam Skirt and Cropped Jacket, which you can download here. To see how a Magic Pattern is constructed, check out this apron tutorial that I made with Vanessa on her show Crafty Gemini Creates!6842704975_83db353bb1_oI was so inspired by the concept of The Magic Pattern that I used it as the base of my book, The Magic Pattern Book. Working with my friend and Indygo Junction designer Mary Ann Donze, we created 6 master patterns for the book; a tank, skirt, dress, cardigan, jacket and accessory. Then we collaborated on how to transform those base patterns into 6 new garments. The Magic Pattern Book contains 36 garment patterns transformed from those original base patterns.


This book is really a fantastic resource for those interested in garment sewing – beginner or advanced. With 36 different patterns you can make a whole new wardrobe! One thing that Mary often included in her Magic Patterns was the ability to make the project out of an upcycled material. In honor of that, I made sure that each garment in the book has an upcycled pattern option. Read more about my inspiration and adventures writing The Magic Pattern Book here.


Do you love fashion and sewing? Would you like more Magic Patterns? Be sure to check out my new project, Vintage Notions Monthly! This new monthly magazine will share even more material from The Woman’s Institute, including a monthly Magic Pattern.



  1. Becky PS

    Amy, thank you so much for sharing Mary with us. The new magazine is gonna be so wonderful!

    • Amy Barickman

      Thanks so much Becky! I’m very excited about sharing this material with everyone.


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