Vintage Notions

An Inspirational Guide to Needlework, Cooking, Sewing, Fashion, and Fun

Vintage Notions is the culmination of a personal journey that started twenty years ago when I began collecting rare sewing and needle art books, vintage home arts magazines, and cookbooks. I reached a pivotal point in my collecting when I came across the work and wisdom of Mary Brooks Picken. 

As I researched this book, I was struck by the idea that everything old is new again. We are once again interested in the domestic arts our grandmothers practiced daily. We take pride in thrift through refashioning and recycling. We look to live contentedly and graciously. I hope that Vintage Notions will allow readers to reconnect with the past and their own creative spirit.

“This is my all-time FAVORITE book! Such inspirational goodness in it. And how amazing it is that the things we do now, women, have done for 100+ years. Repurposing, vegetarian meals, etc. Thanks so much!”

– Sue

Vintage Notions: The Story Behind the Book

image of Mary

Mary Brooks Picken

I first discovered Mary Brooks Picken in the summer of 2008, while returning from a creative workshop in Omaha, Nebraska. I began reviewing several vintage newsletters and magazines that I had collected while hunting for artwork for The Vintage Workshop. They were published by The Woman’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences in Scranton, Pennsylvania, between 1916 and 1934, and they were inspiring. Combing through the aged pages of these wonderfully illustrated and beautifully written publications, I realized that they were still relevant today and provided a blueprint for a simple, fulfilling life.

I began to research further, scouring flea markets, antique shows, and the Internet for more material about Mary and the Institute. I tracked down her living relatives who graciously shared their memories. I even made a trip to Mary’s beautiful townhome in New York City and her summer home in Pawling, New York, a beautiful country home overlooking the Hudson Valley, and visited with her nephew.

Researching and writing Vintage Notions has been an odyssey for me. And while my endless hunting for great vintage material will never stop, I understand the drive behind it now in a way I did not before I encountered the work of Mary Brooks Picken. It seems that all along, part of me was searching for the answers that Mary and her work provided. Her work shows that dignity, joy, and meaning can be derived from the home arts.

vintage postcard

The Woman’s Institute

Inspiration newsletter featuring pattern.

Mary Brooks Picken

Amy with the Inspiration newsletter.

I conceived of my new book, Amy Barickman’s Vintage Notions: An Inspirational Guide to Needlework, Cooking, Sewing, Fashion, and Fun, to rescue Mary Brooks Picken from obscurity and to reintroduce the clever sewing patterns, cooking basics, beautiful illustrations, and inspirational essays from the Women’s Institute’s newsletters with a fresh and modern voice. It is filled with creative ideas, practical advice and charming anecdotes that celebrate the domestic arts.

Vintage Notions is the union of all of the things that are important to me as an artist, entrepreneur, and homemaker. I have collected the very best vintage material from the Institute’s newsletters and married it to my own extensive collection of vintage textiles, needlework, illustrations, and memorabilia.

Each chapter of Vintage Notions represents a month of the year and features seasonal recipes, crafts, decorating and beauty tips plus some of my own thoughts about the material. There are twelve easy-to-make, chic sewing projects. Each season has its own storage pocket, a clever place to stash away clippings, fabric swatches, and any little notion that inspires you in your creative pursuits. Learn about this award-winning book in this video trailer.



Department of Cookery

Gather Friends for a Book Club!

Vintage Notions Book Cover

Vintage Notions is organized by months, sharing entrepreneurial wisdom, inspirational essays, and historical insights about fashion and home arts that have an uncanny relevance to today’s women of all ages. It makes a great book to create a book club. To get more information on creating a book club visit the link below.

Check out my Vintage Notions video series on YouTube

This series will share my book chapter by chapter, along with  my passion for vintage fashion, sewing, fabric and needle arts. Watch as I curate and ideate treasures from the past into modern design and products. This video will introduce you to the series.

Vintage Ladies

“My most cherished gift”

Your Vintage Notions book is my most cherished gift. I have been reading each season through this unique year of 2020, it’s like my “happy place”! Everything stitching is so nice and draws me back to when my grandmother and Aunt taught me to sew both by hand and machine. Childhood memories of making gifts and even now as an adult makes me a huge fan of you! Thank you for all you do. I appreciate the emails of such interesting topics from the book that I receive. One day, the next generation will continue to be inspired from your teachings, as we are from Mary Brooks Picken!

– Carilyn

I feel blessed to have found you, and to watch the world of Vintage Notions come back to life, a world not very removed from our own, but somehow got lost in the years gone by. I am stunned by the beauty and practicality of the essays and guides to living our best lives.

– Ann

Thank you for sharing everything Mary Brooks Picken, vintage, sewing, and printables. I think of them often when I sew. I also remember the second I saw your book, and opened it, it felt like I found a piece of home. It always brings a smile to my face and heart. I am grateful, what you have shared has touched my life. Thank you!

– Jen

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