If you didn’t already know, September is National Sewing Month, and I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to recognize it. To celebrate I am putting together a fabric, notions, and pattern giveaway each week this month on the Indygo Junction Blog!! So be sure to visit Indygo Junction and sign up for newsletter & blog updates to be notified!
According to Sewing.org, the observance of National Sewing Month began in 1982 with a proclamation from President Ronald Reagan declaring September as National Sewing Month “In recognition of the importance of home sewing to our Nation.”
September is a time to celebrate our passion, but we know the creative, therapeutic and calming effects of sewing are joys that we can celebrate throughout the entire year.
Mary Brooks Picken, entrepreneur and one of America’s premier 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 Correspondence School offered a platform for the women who shared a passion for sewing and needlecraft to connect. Here is an image from the school’s, Inspiration, newsletter dated 1922, which was sent to students each month. My book Vintage Notions, features many lessons, articles, and illustrations like this one for this publication.
Today the American Sewing Guild offers organized sewing clubs that allow for similar connections, not to mention online communities like our Indygo Junction Sewing Pattern Facebook Group. So, in honor of Mary and this month’s occasion, here is a little history lesson of some of her contributions.
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 with the collection that I’ve managed to gather. Her work is the inspiration for much of my own work and writing. I thought I would share a few books in my collection that Mary authored during several eras of her career.
The Secrets of Distinctive Dress: HARMONIOUS, BECOMING, AND BEAUTIFUL DRESS–ITS VALUE AND HOW TO ACHIEVE IT, was published in 1918 when Mary was the Director of Instruction at the Woman’s Institute. Here is an excerpt:
The Singer Sewing Book, first edition was published in May 1949, this copy is dated 1953. The acknowledgments share more of Mary’s contributions to sewing
Dressmakers of France was published in 1956, the “About the Authors”, explains Mary’s connection to Kansas City.
I thought I would share some parting words from Mary. These are excerpts from an article she wrote that was published in May of 1935 in Needlecraft Magazine, The Song of the Needle:
All my life, as a student, as a teacher, as a writer, I have worked with women. Especially have I sought to find the greatest common denominator of their interests. And I think I have found it in the almost universal desire for self-expression. For many years I directed the work of the largest educational institution in the world engaged in teaching women in the home. During a period of nine years, actually five percent of all the women in the United States wrote to us seeking help. For a time I was in almost constant contact with nearly a quarter of a million women and girls. My daily mail was a revelation of their hopes and ambitions. They wanted to express their desire to be attractive, and they found the way in the needle and in the use of beautiful fabrics. But it has been my observation that sewing has the most universal appeal for women, and it has been of great satisfaction to me during the last few years of depression that they have turned to it again. Girls who never had thought of making their own clothes now warm almost instinctively to sewing, and once the fascination of its creative qualities captures them they plunge into it with all the enthusiasm of youth. Women who have not sewed for years are taking it up again, just as many are turning again to knitting and crocheting, as variations of the creative urge.
In The Magic Pattern Book, I coined my term of endearment for Mary- the Fairy Godmother of Modern Sewing. This book is loosely based off of Mary’s Magic Patterns. You will find a Magic Pattern of Mary’s in each chapter of my Vintage Notions book. Here is a photo of Mary from September 1949 that I acquired recently!
In addition to fabric and patterns, we will be giving away a copy of my book Vintage Notions to every weekly winner during September. If you want to learn more about Mary and the Woman’s Institute, I have been sharing lessons and stories from the book as well as treasured textiles from my collection in the Indygo Junction Youtube series Vintage Made Modern.