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As creator of the Vintage-Inspired Modern Style Design Challenge, Amy Barickman shares the history and inspiration behind this exciting competition, happening right now on BurdaStyle!

It began with a yellowed newsletter, perfumed with the storied scent of days gone by…

I had acquired it and others like it while hunting for artwork for my company, The Vintage Workshop. The newsletters were published between 1916 and 1934 by The Woman’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences in Scranton, Pennsylvania. These wonderfully illustrated and beautifully written publications provided wisdom and insight that remain relevant today. At the helm of these inspirational artifacts was Mary Brooks Picken, an American authority on fashion and sewing – but not exactly a household name in this day and age.

This entrepreneur, I learned, founded the Institute in the 1900s, educating more than 300,000 women in sewing and home arts via correspondence courses and encouraging women to sew for profit and pleasure. She wrote nearly 100 books on sewing, dressmaking, needle arts, and fashion, including the very first Singer Sewing Book and The Fashion Dictionary. She was also the first woman to be named a trustee of the Fashion Institute of Technology and a founding member of the Costume Institute (now a part of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art). Mary’s work inspired generations of creative, resourceful, enterprising women.

The more I learned about Mary, the more I identified with her achievements and passions. I connected with her as a teacher, an author and an entrepreneur. Like her, my business pursuits promote the domestic arts, fashion and empowerment of women. Through my other company, Indygo Junction, I have published hundreds of sewing patterns and dozens of books filled with handmade style for the creative spirit. I even discovered that Mary published patterns with McCall’s, who prints the tissue for Indygo Junction patterns.

Mary and I even shared a geographical connection. She began her fashion career in Kansas City at the American College of Dressmaking, mere miles from where I live.

Determined to share her teachings with today’s women, I published my award-winning book, Amy Barickman’s Vintage Notions:An Inspirational Guide to Needlework, Cooking, Sewing, Fashion & Fun, in September of 2010. Packed with inspirational essays, projects and patterns, recipes and more, Vintage Notions resurrects the timeless words of Mary and other instructors from the Woman’s Institute.

The common theme? Timeless vintage wisdom and style, refashioned with a modern voice.

In that spirit, I created the Vintage-Inspired, Modern Style Design Challenge — an opportunity for you to use your sewing skills and creativity to design a wearable fashion project! We’ll award $3,000 in prizes, including SINGER sewing machines and Coats & Clark thread packs, plus the winning design will be published as an Indygo Junction pattern.

Watch this video to learn more about the contest, and visit this page for details on how to enter. Pattern options can be found on Indygo Junction

Pictured below are 4 free patterns offered on Indygo Junction that were originally designed by Mary Brooks Picken, herself and can be used in the design challenge!


  • 486043_10200326557759449_664517254_n_large

    Feb 14, 2012, 03.19 PMby heidilea

    I’m definitely doing this—just have to decide with which pattern! I have a couple of ugly blazers that I think will make faboo purses with matching hats. And I see a dress in more than one of the apron patterns.

    My other friend is also using MBP to help her outfit her trans-atlantic trip in the fall—her 1924 book “Dressing for Women.” A couple weeks ago, I used the 1924 One hour book to make a tea frock (that had issues, more because of the sari fabric I used).

  • Bs1107_bus_0711_091__large_large

    Feb 12, 2012, 07.04 AMby Itsbeensewlong

    Definitely an Inspirational Lady!! Both of you actually…:) I too love all things vintage like laces and trims and fabulous buttons! So glad you are having this Challenge… as via this I have found your awesome patterns… Thanks for sharing the story on Mary Brooks Picken and I look forward to more tidbits about this great lady that we all have so much to be thankful for… a Great Female Pioneer! :) PS Love love love those bits of ephemera you have collected… :) Lou xx

    1 Reply
    • Burdapic_large

      Feb 15, 2012, 04.03 PMby amybarickman

      Thanks so much Itsbeensewlong! And if you like the vintage ephemera, I think you’ll be interested in the blog I’m posting on Burda today….there might be some freebies! :)

  • Lindaprofile2011_large

    Feb 9, 2012, 07.34 PMby bright-ideas-studio

    Yes, I do plan to enter, just waiting for my copy of the book to arrive!

  • Lindaprofile2011_large

    Feb 9, 2012, 02.33 PMby bright-ideas-studio

    This is fascinating! I love vintage ANYTHING but especially fashion and fabrics. I am so looking forward to reading the book from cover to cover!

    1 Reply
    • Burdapic_large

      Feb 9, 2012, 02.56 PMby amybarickman

      So glad you’re excited about it! I hope you’ve thought about entering the VintageModern Design Challenge?

    • This is a question
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