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.
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!
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,
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!