About

I began Sense and Sensibility Clothing as a newlywed back in 1996, creating unique garments and never dreaming I’d one day sell my patterns to women all over the world! That’s me on the left in the photo with a dear friend who created the first catalog for Sense & Sensibility Clothing. Wonderful memories! I gave that catalog to friends, family members, and interested strangers and began sewing for women in my local area. Then my brother convinced me to put up a website in 1997, and my tiny cottage industry quickly boomed. Before too long, I had to keep a waiting list and limit my orders so I could manage them. When my first two children were born, I sewed during their naptimes. I thoroughly enjoyed creating beautiful, feminine garments for my customers. But I knew the day would come when I’d need to retire from the sewing end of the business.

Me with my girls! (2004)

As a stay-at-home wife and mother, I never planned to devote eight hours a day to my sewing or pattern designing. While I thoroughly loved sewing for others, I was also committed to my family and did not want to rob them of precious time that could not be recaptured when my children were grown. With the arrival of our third son in 2001, I took time to refocus my plans and efforts for Sense and Sensibility.

Many customers had asked me to sell copies of my patterns. At first I wasn’t sure about drafting patterns for a wide range of sizes, but I finally took the plunge  in 1998, introducing my Regency Gown Pattern. The immediate success of that pattern convinced me that there was a market for wearable, historical patterns that evoke the grace and charm of times past. I developed subsequent patterns slowly over a period of five years, and today I have 20 patterns available. I am so delighted to have met ladies from all over the world who share a passion for lovely, feminine designs. The pattern business grew at a rate that astonished me, and I was delighted in 2005 to hand over all the order fulfillment to the Shank family, which runs a home-based mailing business in my home state. Kim and her family fold, package, and ship all the patterns, as well as making trips to our printers and suppliers in Virginia. This business absolutely would not function without the Shanks, and Kim is the gal you’ll talk to if you have questions about an order, shipping, or opening a wholesale business account. :)

I’ve enjoyed sharing the vintage patterns, graphics, and catalog art I have collected over the years in my Vintage Images section. I love to study original garments and patterns for inspiration, and it has been fun to put up an online gallery so that others can enjoy what I’ve found. I also like to show off your work! If you’ve used my patterns to create an outfit, please feel free to share your photographs for the Show and Tell section. It’s so much fun to see the results of your own adventures in sewing! Haven’t tried sewing historical clothing but would like to get your feet wet with some assistance? Check out my Online Sewing Classes!

The Chanceys in 2010

As our family grew, I took lengthy sabbaticals from pattern design and poured my efforts into homeschooling. While that is still my primary focus, I now have more time with older children helping out, so I’ve been creating some accessories for the Edwardian era and working on several fun new retro-1950s patterns for girls and ladies! Our family now lives in Africa for my husband’s work with Persecution Project Foundation, so we’ve got lots of new adventures that will keep us busy–but I still plan to sew and create patterns!

I’ve posted lots of Sewing Tips to show you how easy it is to alter patterns with a little imagination. I hope these online tools prove helpful as you use the patterns! And, as always, I am happy to answer questions about my patterns through the FAQs.

Feel free also to post a note on my Message Forum. It is a community of kindred spirits, all helping one another with sewing ideas and more!

All the best,
Jennie

Jennie Chancey
Founder, Sensibility.com

Our family in Kenya!

 

P.S.

A lot of people ask me if I have a college degree in fashion design and wonder how they can get started in a similar business. I do not have a degree in fashion design and never formally studied sewing or pattern design. My mother taught me all that I know, and I’ve gleaned countless techniques from my collection of vintage sewing books (eBay and BookFinder4U are excellent sources for old books). I believe that the best way to learn this craft is by doing, and I can tell you that making mistakes often leads to brand new designs and ways of doing things! I’ve apprenticed over a dozen young women in sewing and pattern design in addition to teaching others through my online sewing classes. Many of these young ladies have gone on to start their own successful home sewing and design businesses–one even costuming a small feature film! The secret to success is perseverance and a willingness to study the ways our foremothers did things. I don’t use computer-aided design programs, finding them clumsy and difficult when it comes to getting a beautiful fit. Invest in a good dressmaking mannequin and play “dress-up” with her! You can drape outfits just like couture seamstresses have done for hundreds of years. No college degree required! If you’re serious about learning pattern drafting, feel free to contact me, and I’ll be glad to talk with you! I love to see new designers achieving excellence outside of the “system” and getting started at an early age. If you’ve got the desire, go for it!

6 Comments on About

  1. Donna Flinn
    January 8, 2014 at 7:44 am (11 months ago)

    Hi there – I looked at your site – It’s amazing!….I love it!!…Thank you for sharing your talents and skills with us…and I saw your family pictures…You are truly an inspiring woman to me..thank you and God Bless You….Donna Flinn from Pittsburgh, PA

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      February 11, 2014 at 10:18 am (10 months ago)

      Thanks for the sweet note, Donna! It is always a joy to find kindred spirits, and I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my site! :-)

      Reply
  2. Jennifer Vaughan
    January 12, 2014 at 3:56 am (11 months ago)

    I so love your website, and your patterns. Your Regency style dress pattern was given to me by a friend whose daughter purchased it years ago, and left it behind when she moved off to college and then marriage. Lucky me!

    I grew up with a mother who hated to sew, and a few generous teachers who taught me the basics. Your patterns, and on-line tutorials have taught me everything else I’ve learned in the last three years. I’ve purchased several other patterns of yours since that first one, and would love to send you pictures of your work as it has been made manifest through my humble efforts.

    I am also a home schooling mom, and part of our lessons include regular hand-work projects. My eldest, now 14, this summer made her first period costume: a tenth century Viking apron dress (not a pattern you have, but still fascinating. Not a scrap of fabric is wasted in the making of it. I’d love to sent you a picture of that one too.) We can now count three sewing machines (thanks to kind friends who didn’t want them anymore), and four budding seamstresses in our house-hold.

    Harrisonburg, VA is also on my map of dear places. A very special old friend of mine hails from there, and lives in a retirement community — or did, it’s been a couple year since I’ve heard from him. I met him out in my old home town of Seattle over 20 years ago, but he always looked forward to being back in Harrisonburg.

    Peace to you and your whole lovely family in 2014. Thanks for all you do to keep hand-crafting and beautiful clothing construction alive.

    Jennifer Vaughan
    Worcester, MA

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      February 11, 2014 at 10:16 am (10 months ago)

      Thank you so much, Jennifer! I am so glad you’ve enjoyed all the tutorials and tips. When I first started creating patterns, I just decided to put up all the instructions I would want if I was a newbie. ;-) If you think of anything that’s missing, I’m always happy to take requests for future tutorials. Happy sewing! Warmly, Jennie

      Reply
  3. Yvonne
    January 28, 2014 at 4:05 am (10 months ago)

    How to purchase a pattern?,catalogue? of offered patterns..It is a very comfortable style..
    Thanks..Yvonne

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      January 28, 2014 at 9:46 am (10 months ago)

      Hi, Yvonne! Just go to the menu bar at the top of the page, hover over “Shop,” then hover “Patterns” to see the list of pattern eras. Choose an era to see all the patterns available under it. Or you can click the photos in the slider/banner at the top (Georgian Era, Regency Era, Romantic Era, etc.) to do the same. Happy sewing!

      Reply

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