In The Pattern Artist by Nancy Moser, Annie Wood left her dysfunctional family to go into service as a housemaid in England in 1911. She had a knack for sewing and alteration and hoped those skills would pave her way towards becoming a lady’s maid. She accompanied the family on a visit to America, and a number of factors worked together to compel her to run away with a couple of friends to see what life had to offer in this country.
Their first few days are rough, but then Annie lands a job at Macy’s Department Store in the sewing department. Her suggestions for her customers are noticed favorably by her managers, but negatively by a jealous coworker. A Butterick pattern salesman sees her potential and recruits her to join his company as a pattern designer.
Annie’s path is not always smooth, though. A number of obstacles, dangers, and a tragedy block her way. But she hopes, with hard work, determination, and a faith just beginning to bud, that she might find her own American dream. She learns “Humble beginnings are a badge of honor. It’s not where you begin, but where you end up” (p. 187).
This book caught my eye because I have enjoyed many of Nancy’s books, plus I used to do a lot of sewing and worked in a fabric shop for years. It was fun to read of how all of that worked in the early 1900s.I had not heard before of the Reform Dress Movement, an effort “started in the 1840s, rejecting the unhealthy confinement of the female form, and promoting practical clothing” (p. 189), but I am glad it helped get rid of corsets and ridiculous fashions like the hobble skirt.The movement plays a part in Annie’s career.
I enjoyed the author’s explanations in the afterword about how she came to include some of the various historic details. And somehow I totally missed the double meaning of the title until I read it in that afterward, but it should have been plain to me. Realizing that made me enjoy the story all the more.
It dawned on me at some point that the family Annie first worked for was in Nancy’s Summerfield (Manor House) series. I have only read the first book in that series so far, but it was fun to make that connection.
Overall quite an enjoyable read!