Dressmaking has Made a Massive Comeback!
There have been hundreds of sewing pattern companies since the 1800s until the present day. But now more and more independent and niche pattern companies have launched and now provide an eclectic modern patterns together with those providing a contemporary twist for enthusiasts of vintage sewing patterns. The following list includes some of the major pattern companies over the last two hundred years and also a growing number of small, independent pattern companies. Please see the bottom of the page for acknowledgement of the source information.
Advance began manufacturing patterns in 1933, which was sold exclusively at J. C. Penney Company. This company was quite successful from the 1940s through the 1960s. It appears to have gone out of business by the late 1960s. Advance was one of the pattern companies that Mattel authorized to make patterns for their Barbie fashion doll. They also did a limited line of designer patterns during the 1950s. Three of the designers for this line were Adrian, Edith Head and Anne Fogarty. The company continued through 1966 until it was sold to Puritan Fashions.
An American mail-order pattern company. This company seems to have been one of the last to convert to a printed tissue pattern. Several early 1960s designs have been found with the cut-to-size tissues.
The American Weekly was a Sunday supplement produced by Hearst for inclusion in their newspapers between 1896 and 1966. It featured sensationalist photos, text and illustrations. During the 1940s and 1950s the magazine also featured ads for American Weekly mail order sewing patterns available for purchase by mail.
Jen, the founder of Afternoon Patterns, is a firm believer in the power of sewing to connect with your clothes. Her patterns are inspired by classic silhouettes and each one “is carefully crafted, and designed to take you through each step of learning how to make your own clothes.”
Alice & Co Patterns
The simple and stylish dressmaking patterns from Alice & Co Patterns are designed by the mother-daughter team Alice and Lilia in London. For them, dressmaking should be fun so that you can sew inventive and stylish outfits at home with fast and simple techniques.
Athina Kakou Patterns
Athina is a 27-years young seamstress from Greece and on a mission to teach people how to sew and create the wardrobe of your dreams. She launched her own company Athina Kakou Patterns in 2018. The beautiful and feminine patterns are designed “for women of all ages, shapes and sizes”.
This German pattern company earned a “hard to sew” reputation among American seamstresses because their early patterns were multi-sized and came printed without seam allowances. Not known for fashion forward design, their patterns were first available in the US in the 1970s and often only in small sewing/fabric boutiques.
This is possibly the oldest of the pattern companies still in business today. Many of the oldest patterns currently available to collectors are from Butterick. They did a line of patterns in the 1960s and 1970s called the “Young Designer” series. Mary Quant, Betsey Johnson, Jean Muir, Kenzo and John Kloss were featured designers. These patterns have become highly collectable as representative of these designers’ early work.
Bestway, a UK brand name most people would associate with vintage knitting patterns. However, Bestway also produced sewing patterns and were sold through Harmsworth, a popular British pattern company from 1914 to 1953 with the 1930s being their heyday.
Blackmore was a British pattern company based in Bletchley, latterly Bletchley and London - one source says it was started about 1845 and published patterns till the 1940s. Patterns have various names: Blackmore; Blackmore Fashions; Blackmore Pattern; Blackmore Patterns; Blackmore So-Easy; and Pattern by Blackmore
Closet Case Patterns
Sewing became the centerpiece Heather’s life when she gave herself the 1-year challenge that only self-made things would enter her closet. Mindful of the need for modern sewing patterns with clear instructions, she decided to fully focus on her part-time passion and launched Closet Case Patterns.
If you’re looking for a pattern with sweet aesthetic, cute details and comfy design, make sure to check out CocoWawa Crafts. Lovely Ana is the face behind this London-based company and creates wonderful patterns which work all seasons depending on the fabric you choose.
Crafty Sew & So
When running dressmaking workshops at Crafty Sew & So, Sarah struggled to find modern patterns which were suitable for beginners. Therefore, she started designing her own patterns and My Handmade Wardrobe was born. If you’re looking for comfortable and stylish everyday essentials, make sure to check out her website.
DuBarry patterns were manufactured by Simplicity from 1931–1946 exclusively for F. W. Woolworth Company.
Friday Pattern Company
Based in Sacramento, CA, this super cool independent company focuses on modern women and creates minimalist and easy to sew patterns. Also, did you know that Friday Pattern Company “donates 5% of all proceeds to a rotating collection of the top-ranked charities in the world”? Makes you love their patterns even more.
Atelier Nuu Nuu
Sewing has always been a part of Gavari life – from watching her grandmother sewing garments to designing her first pair of butt-pants for her high school friends. With Atelier Nuu Nuu, she focuses on creating modern and elegantly designed sewing patterns sparked from innovation and expression.
Modern, fashion-forward and contemporary best describe this amazing pattern company. The clear and illustrated instructions will help you through the sewing process and ensure a professional look. Grainline Studio originally began as the personal blog of Jennifer Beeman and then expanded in 2011.
There were several companies that made patterns for Hawaiian fashions. The two that are most well-known are Patterns Pacifica and Polynesian Patterns. Other companies include Pauloa Patterns and Kekabi Patterns. Most of these patterns are for typical 1960s and 1970s Hawaiian styles – mostly muumuus, and some shifts, play sets, and cover-ups.
Many of the patterns from this now defunct company, featuring stars and starlets on their envelopes, are highly collectable. Those featuring Lucille Ball are particularly desirable. This company did beautiful dresses and suits throughout the 1940s into the 1950s.
I AM Patterns
Founded in 2015 by Marie-Emilienne, I AM Patterns has “inspired thousands of people around the world to cut, pin and sew beautiful clothes that truly resemble them.” Their beautiful and simple patterns allow you to add your personal touch to each garment and to be creative.
Itch to Stich
Kennis Wong and her partner in crime decided to stop climbing the corporate career ladder in America and to focus on a more fulfilling life instead. They relocated to Costa Rica and Kennis founded Itch to Stich. The patterns are modern and elegant with lots of lovely details and a high-quality finish.
Jennifer Lauren Handmade
Jen’s beautiful form-flattering patterns have a vintage touch while being modern at the same time. Jennifer Lauren Handmade has been founded on the belief “that there isn’t one ‘right’ way to do it.” Her instructions enable passionate sewers of all levels to have a beautiful garment in the end.
Founded in 1967 by Kerstin Martensson, who also produced many of the early designs and patterns, this company was an early leader in patterns perfected for use with knits. The patterns are always expertly graded, and are printed on glossy white paper. Many of the early designs are more wardrobe staples than fashion forward styles.
Le Roy patterns were launched in 1954. A press article in late 1953 announced that, for the first time in years, new paper patterns were coming on to the market, and would be in the shops in January. The new Le Roy patterns were “entirely British and cover the kind of clothes are essential to our way of life”.
This company had important designers contributing fashions as early as the 1920s. It is possible to find McCall patterns from the 1920s and 1930s with styles by Lanvin, Schiaparelli, Mainbocher, and Patou. In the 1950s McCall’s patterns produced another designer line that included French couturier Hubert de Givenchy and Emilio of Capri (Pucci). In the 1960s a new line called the “New York Designers’ Collection Plus” featured designs from some of the best American designers of the time including Claire McCardell, Pauline Trigere, and Geoffrey Beene.
These patterns from the 19th Century are quite desirable, as Mme. Demorest is considered to be the inventor of the paper pattern. The company was established in 1860, but by 1887, the business was sold.
Modes Royale patterns were sold in the most up-scale department stores in the 1950s and 1960s. They were known for their very stylish dresses and suits.
Marian Martin patterns (July 1931), Alice Brooks patterns (November 1933), Laura Wheeler needlework patterns (April 1933) and Claire Tilden garment patterns (April 1934.) They were all generated by one company with several mailing addresses in New York city. All of these pattern companies — Anne Adams, Marian Martin, et al — were featured in newspapers, which sometimes sold them under their own name. The remarkable thing about these patterns is that, by creating different names for its many pattern lines, the company that produced them all was able to sell them through competing newspapers in the same cities; in the case of The Wisconsin State Journal, the same paper sold both Alice Brooks patterns and Marian Martin patterns. The parent company was a major pattern producer, with hundreds of employees and two large buildings in New York. Wilene Smith located a 1976 interview which said a single newspaper ad could generate 58,000 orders! These brands were originally owned by Reader Mail company based in New York, and later to Hearst’s King Features Syndicate, Inc., to becoming a Hearst subsidiary as Hearst Patterns in 1980, and then becoming Reader Mail, Inc. later that year. It was eventually bought by Simplicity, and sold again in 2000.
The Maudella Patterns Company became a success in the years of austerity when clothes were often made at home. It was started by Maude Dunsford in her attic in West Yorkshire in 1937. The company made paper patterns for dresses and their designs were widely used by home and professional dressmakers up to the 1980's. Maudella's great gift was to take the latest trends from the most fashionable designers and translate them into affordable versions.
Megan Nielsen Patterns
Designing sewing patterns with real people in mind is close to the heart of Megan, founder of the company. She is passionate about “sewing beautiful clothing that you can wear every day.” Megan Nielsen Patterns have a contemporary style and the carefully put together sewing tutorials help you along the way.
The New York Pattern Company started in 1932 and continued until the early 1950s. They were unique in that the pattern sleeves had drawn characters rather than photos and the paper used was non-glossy.
With the dream of turning a passion into a career, the two sisters Saara and Laura founded the Finnish pattern company Named. Their modern garments “are a combination of Scandinavian clean-lined simplicity and interesting details.” The duo’s goal is to bring a new ethical and ecological perspective in contrast to the fast fashion industry.
Nina Lee is a London-based “independent pattern label celebrating the mighty power of making!” The patterns are not only inspired by this vibrant city but also named after places in London which are illustrated on the pattern envelopes. Being part of the makers’ movement away from disposable fast-fashion while at the same time have a rewarding and fun wardrobe is important to Nina.
Nude is an independent pattern company from Berlin, Germany, and has been founded by Maria. Her beautiful and feminine patterns are all easy to sew and, therefore, great for beginners and advanced sewers alike. If you want to treat yourself to a stunning women power pattern, this is the place to go to.
Prominent Designer Patterns;
American Designer’s Patterns
In the 1950s and 1960s these mail-order pattern companies featured fashions from designers such as Oleg Cassini, Ceil Chapman, Don Loper, Estevez, David Crystal, and Mr. Blackwell, (the originator of the 10 Best-and-Worst-Dressed list.) American Designer’s Patterns were the forerunners of Spadea Patterns.
Paper Theory has been founded for people who love fashion but don’t want to support the fast-fashion industry which pollutes the planet and enslaves garment workers. With her beautiful patterns, Tara proofs how modern and forward-thinking slow-fashion is so that we can all create a system that works for our future.
Papercut Patterns “is a New Zealand based pattern design house that celebrates the combination of women’s individuality and eco-friendly fashion.” Sustainable fashion, the freedom of expression and a positive body image are at the heart of the company and reflected in all their high-quality patterns.
Republique du Chiffon
The patterns from this French company will blow your mind. No matter what your style is, you will find an amazing pattern to fall in love with on the Republique du Chiffon website. The self-taught founder behind the label started off her adventure after becoming a mum and looking for something creative and home-based.
Simplicity patterns were known for their ease of sewing. These vintage patterns are glimpses into the clothes and home furnishings that decorated the lives of Middle America. They weren’t designer fashions – they were clothes worn by everyday American women. As such, they are vital statements of vintage fashion as worn by most Americans. Simplicity did release special patterns series. In the 1930s, they released a line of special patterns called Customode. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, they produced the Simplicity Designer line, with featured large envelopes and were of a high style than their regular lines.
Spadea was another of the mail order companies. These patterns are among the most prized by collectors. Many of the important and popular designers of the 1950s and 1960s designed patterns for Spadea, including Ceil Chapman, Jo Copeland, Suzy Perette and Lachasse of London.
"Schnittchen Patterns“ is an independent sewing pattern label based in Munich.” Silke, Patricia and Nadja is the power trio behind this sewing label creating a wide range of stunning patterns for all DIY-ers out there. Also, make sure to check out their free zero-waste patterns!
Sew Liberated “was one of the first indie pattern companies to emerge from the crafting renaissance and hopes to remain a small, friendly, and fashion-forward presence in the indie designer community.” Meg, the founder and creative mind behind the label, believes that sewing is a self-care practice and focuses on creating patterns that flatter the shifting bodies of mothers.
Sew Over It
Lisa, the founder of Sew Over It, founded the company in 2011 with the goal to teach as many people how to sew as she possibly could as she felt that sewing was becoming a lost skill. Nowadays, she passes on her passion for sewing through London-based classes and beautiful, feminine patterns.
Sinclair Patterns is an “independent fashion design and studio based in Gold Coast, Australia” offering pattern making services for home and business use. Their patterns are designed and drafted with love to fashion, comfort and style – a combination made in heaven.
Tilly and the Buttons
Tilly, the founder of the company, started off 9 years ago with a blog. Over the years, not only her blog but also her sewing skills evolved until she decided to quit her day job in 2013 to fully focus on Tilly and the Buttons. Together with her team, she creates gorgeous, easy-to-use sewing patterns, books and also online workshops.
Kelli is “the writer, creator, and designer behind True Bias.” She lives in Denver together with her family where she “designs patterns for home sewers and sew clothing for myself and my family”. Her patterns all have a modern and urban character which will give you the perfect garments to add to your capsule wardrobe.
It simply is impossible not to fall in love with the beautiful patterns from Untitled Thoughts. Brittani founded the company in 2015 as a way to express herself on a deeper level. As she grows personally, the patterns grow with her so that nothing is permanent but rather a constant flow of creativity.
Vogue Patterns began in 1905 as a mail-order feature in Vogue Magazine. The designs have always been fashion-forward and have featured fashion styling from many of the important designers of the 20th Century. Couturier patterns appeared as early as 1932, but at first they were not exact reproductions of the fashions shown on Paris runways. Beginning in 1949, Vogue Patterns began the “Paris Originals” featuring designs from the houses of Balmain, Schiaparelli, Lanvin, and Jacques Fath. In the 1960s, as the torch was passed to a new generation of designers, Italian and French designers Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Emilio Pucci and others joined the ranks of contributing designers. In 1967, Vogue launched the Americana series, featuring original fashions styled by American designers. Some of the contributing designers were Oscar de la Renta, Teal Traina, Geoffrey Beene, and Bill Blass. In 1984, in response to the explosion of avant-garde designers around the world Vogue Patterns launched the “Individualist” line of designer patterns. While these patterns are less than 20 years old, their limited production runs have made them highly sought-after, especially designs by Issey Miyake and Claude Montana.
Weldon & Company was a pattern company who produced hundreds of patterns and projects for numerous types of Victorian needlework. Around 1888, the company began to publish a series of books entitled Weldon's Practical Needlework, each volume consisting of the various newsletters (one year of publications) bound together with a cloth cover and costing 2s. 6d. Weldon's Ladies' Journal (1875–1954) supplied dressmaking patterns, and was a blueprint for subsequent 'home weeklies'.
Wearable Studio is “an indie sewing pattern business that publishes women’s patterns.” The patterns focus on feminity, comfort and elegance. Mel is the owner and founder of the company. There is nothing she loves more than spending the afternoon tucked away to sew and to create patterns for her customers.
Acknowledgement to the following sources: