top of page
  • Londa

LOVE your Sewing Patterns even MORE when you read the HISTORY


As a pattern designer myself, I understand all that goes into the production of patterns for garment sewing.  Take a trip with me back into the history of pattern development, and you’ll treasure your pattern collection even MORE!  I’ve found this on the internet at:  http://butterick.mccall.com/butterick-history-pages-1007.php

My comments are added in maroon.  Everything else is copied and pasted from the link above. I have also added photographs obtained from the internet for added interest.  

The McCall’s  Story

In the 1860’s, James McCall, a Scottish immigrant and skilled tailor, became the U.S. agent for an English company called the Royal Chart, a system for drafting patterns.  In the 1870’s, he began to offer his own patterns.   Unlike today’s drafted patterns, these were simply cut from his drawings.  After his death in 1884, his wife and others continued, and expanded the company, offering patterns in a magazine called The Queen of Fashion, with a circulation of 75,000.  By 1897, with its new name, McCall’s Magazine, it had a circulation of over three million.  In 1919, McCall’s introduced many innovations, including cutting lines, garment section descriptions, seam allowances, grain lines, and stitching lines, all printed on the pattern pieces.  Previously, all this information had been conveyed by just perforations on the pattern tissue.


erforated sewing pattern

Early patterns ONLY contained perforations as ‘directions’ and labeling!


1901 McCallsMagazine

Early patterns ONLY contained perforations as ‘directions’ and labeling!                                              McCall’s Magazine from March 1911

In the 1920’s through the mid 30’s, McCall’s purchased and copied couture originals from more than 60 Paris designers.  In 1932, they were the first to introduce full-color illustrations on pattern envelopes and catalog pages.


Apron McCall early pattern

Early McCall’s Pattern for Aprons


In 1921, Marvin Pierce, who was former First Lady Barbara Bush’s father, joined McCall’s patterns.  He worked his way up to become president of the company in 1946.

In 2001 the McCall Pattern Company and Butterick/Vogue Patterns merged.  They are currently housed at 120 Broadway in the Equitable Building which achieved National Landmark Status in 1978.  The corporate headquarters in New York Houses the creative team, in-house photographer and photo studio, and Vogue Patterns magazine.  A facility in Kansas houses their pattern printing and distribution along with a commercial printing business.

I (Londa) am proud to share that my patters and books and knit DVD are also sold at the McCall’s website under Other Patterns…  

http://butterick.mccall.com/londa-s-creative-threads-pages-5243.php


Heirloom Bonnet

The Butterick Story



In 1863, Ebenezer Butterick changed the face of home sewing forever by creating the first graded sewing pattern.  The company he fouded continues to lead the way in make-it-yourself fashions 150 years later.

The year was 1863. Snowflakes drifted silently past the windowpane covering the hamlet of Sterling, Massachusetts in a blanket of white. Ellen Butterick brought out her sewing basket and spread out the contents on the big, round dining room table. From a piece of sky blue gingham, she was fashioning a dress for her baby son Howard. Carefully, she laid out her fabric, and using wax chalk, began drawing her design.

Later that evening, Ellen remarked to her husband, a tailor, how much easier it would be if she had a pattern to go by that was the same size as her son. There were patterns that people could use as a guide, but they came in one size. The sewer had to grade (enlarge or reduce) the pattern to the size that was needed. Ebenezer considered her idea: graded patterns. The idea of patterns coming in sizes was revolutionary. He experimented, creating heavy cardboard templates; it quickly became evident that the heavy cardboard patterns were not suitable for folding or shipping throughout the country. Ebenezer tried lighter papers and discovered that tissue paper was ideal to work with and much easier to package.

The first graded sewing patterns were cut and folded by members of the Butterick family and sold from their home in Sterling, Massachusetts. In no time at all, they needed extra space and expanded into an adjoining house. As business continued to grow, they moved into a larger house in Fitchburg, Massachusetts and in one year, set up a business at 192 Broadway in New York City.

In the beginning, Butterick specialized in men’s and boys’ clothing. Not until 1867, after three years of operation, did they begin to manufacture women’s dress patterns. They were, of course, enthusiastically received, and Butterick expanded h