On a snowy day in Sterling, Massachusetts in 1863, Ellen Butterick sat at the kitchen table to draw a pattern on to some gingham for her son Howard. She sketched the cutting lines with her wax chalk. That evening she mentioned to her husband how nice it would be to be able to get a pattern in the size that she needed instead of the one size that patterns came in.
Her husband Ebenezer, a tailor by trade, was intrigued by his wife's idea. He began playing with the idea. He made heavy cardboard templates in several different sizes. The problem - the heavy cardboard would be difficult to package for sale. After trying many types of paper, Ebenezer Butterick settled on tissue paper. It was easy to work with and the ideal material for folding and packaging.
In the beginning, the patterns were cut and folded by members of the Butterick family. They sold the patterns from their home in Sterling. The business grew and soon they had outgrown their home. They purchased the house next door but soon they had outgrown that space. They moved to a larger home Fitchburg, Massachusetts and soon after moved the business to 192 Broadway, New York, New York.
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In 1866 Butterick expanded it's pattern line from men and boys to include women's dresses and skirts, capes and jackets. This was met with much enthusiasm from his customers. Butterick produced these in 13 sizes, skirts in 5 sizes.
As the demand for graded patterns increased, Butterick started publishing Ladies Quarterly of Broadway Fashions, a year later in 1868 they added the monthly publication Metropolitan. Both of the publications were a showcase for the Butterick patterns as well as fashion trends. These magazines made it possible for ladies worldwide to purchase Butterick patterns from their homes by mail. This expanded the market greatly as remote locations hadn't had an opportunity to buy patterns before.
In 1873, the Delineator was introduced to market Butterick patterns.
Toward the close of the 1800's, Butterick & Co. had grown to include 100 branch offices. They had also expanded to include offices in Paris, London, Vienna, and Berlin. More patterns were sold in Paris than in any other location worldwide.
With the immense growth of the business, Butterick designed and built the Spring Street building in 1903. The building was 16 stories with huge skylights that were two stories higher, the tallest structure in the Manhattan area. Butterick became the largest publisher in the United States with the U.S. government being the only exception.
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In 1904 Butterick received close to 30,000 letters from readers and consumers with ideas, questions, and suggestions. It became evident that the company needed to have a department to field all of the correspondence. This service continues even today through the website.
In the 20th century, the Delineator provided so much more than patterns and fashion articles. Women came to rely on it for homekeeping tips, universities, as well as professions.
With the event of World War I, the textile and fashion industries in Europe were halted. New York became the fashion center for the world.
In 1941 President Roosevelt declared war and all resources were committed to the war effort. Rationing of textiles was introduced and Butterick negotiated with the government to make it a reasonable compromise. With Ready to wear clothing unavailable, paper patterns again soared.
Sewing has had it's ups and downs over the years. Currently there is an upswing in the popularity of home sewing and fashion design. What's next? 3-D printing is going to change the face of design. New collars, cuffs, you name it you'll be able to create it!
Visit Etsy.com - Pattern Patter or one of the shops above to find the perfect vintage sewing pattern.
Patterns to the right can be found on Butterick.com