Amy Barickman – Vintage Made Modern

(Originally published January 2015, Inspired to SEW #13. Written by Rita Farro.)


Amy with Chloe.

Amy with Chloe.

Amy Barickman’s motto is “Vintage Made Modern.”  Her company, Indygo Junction, has published well over 1200 patterns and is considered one of the most prolific and successful independent pattern companies in America. Here at Inspired to SEW — we are always asking the same question: What is Amy’s inspiration?

In the 1980’s Amy Barickman’s mother, Donna Martin, started a business in their home in Des Moines, Iowa teaching people how to make teddy bears. It eventually grew into a brick and mortar store that not only catered to crafters and sewers, but also carried clothing, jewelry, and gifts. Amy believes that growing up around her mother’s business sparked her own creative and entrepreneurial spirit.

Influenced by her mother’s connections to the local creative community, right after college Amy started Indygo Junction.   She wanted to work with artists and designers, and the pattern business seemed logical.

Amy is also a popular teacher and a successful fabric designer.  In 2013, she debuted a new fabric line with James Thompson Co., Crossroads Denim, as well as a coordinating line of patterns.  A new cotton line will be launching at the 2015 Spring Quilt Market with RJR Fabrics along with a series of patterns to complement the collection.

Like most entrepreneurs, Amy lives her business day and night.  Collecting vintage sewing and dressmaking content has long been Amy’s passion. Her vast vintage collection inspired her to create another website, The Vintage Workshop (, which specializes in clip art for papercrafts, scrapbooking, wearable art, needle arts, and sewing.

Amy and Emma.

Amy and Emma.

Whether she is teaching,  traveling, or working in her studio, Amy constantly finds inspiration for patterns and fabric or new design concepts. She takes notes and nowadays her iPhone is an indispensable tool. She is an avid photographer and has built a frequently used library of nature images. Fashion is a major influence on her work and she looks to magazines and blogs to keep up with current trends.

Amy says, “My studio has natural light coming from windows on three sides. I have my vintage collection on display, including an entire wall of vintage sewing and dressmaking content — so I am surrounded by inspiration. Oh, and Chloe, my cat, is a constant fixture as well — she makes a great mascot!”

Amy’s life and business are centered in Prairie Village, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri. But her parents grew up in Michigan and return to their family home on the Torch River each summer to vacation. This is Amy’s “happy place.”  She loves going there in the summers with her husband, Bob, and their two children, Jack, 16 and Emma, 12. Amy says, “We enjoy the wonderful family time there. I am reinvigorated by nature’s beauty and the wonderful escape from traditional workdays. I love Northern Michigan’s art fairs, antiquing, and small-town shopping opportunities.”

Mary Brooks Picken

Mary Brooks Picken

In 2008, Amy discovered Mary Brooks Picken, and it’s fair to say that inspiration has turned into an obsession. When Amy starts talking about Mary, she lights up with burning enthusiasm and energy.

Mary Brooks Picken was born in Kansas in 1886. Her sewing and design talent was apparent at a young age and she decided to make sewing and teaching her profession. She eventually attended and graduated from seven schools of dressmaking in Kansas City, Boston, and New York. She married in 1906 and had a traditional home life but her husband died in 1911. Several years later, Mary was an instructor at the American College of Dressmaking in Kansas City when she was recruited by the International Correspondence Schools.

In 1916,  she founded The Woman’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The school combined correspondence courses with classroom instruction in dressmaking, millinery, cooking, fashion design, beauty, and homemaking. It attracted students from around the world as enrollment climbed to almost 300,000 women, making it the largest school in history devoted solely to the education of women.

Mary Brooks Picken was a pioneering businesswoman who was considered the international authority on dressmaking. She authored the popular textbook The One Hour Dress and How to Make It.  It was a bestseller and brought national attention to Mary and the Institute. She went on to write nearly 100 books on sewing, dressmaking, needle arts, and fashion.  She taught at Columbia University and was the first woman to be named a trustee of the Fashion Institute of Technology. Her accomplishments introduced her into the most prominent circles of her day and made her a celebrity in her own right.

AaVintage_Image_4Amy said, “I connect with Mary Brooks Picken as a teacher, an author, and an entrepreneur. Like her, my business pursuits promote the domestic arts, fashion, and empowerment of women. Through  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.”

The more she learned about Mary, the more Amy identified with her achievements and passions.  “As I was doing research about Mary and the Institute, I discovered an entire body of work. She is my sewing soul sister. Mary’s publications, lesson plans, newsletters, and columns were beautifully illustrated and wonderfully written. I realized that much of the information and wisdom in the pages was still relevant for women today and provided a blueprint for living a simple, fulfilling life.”
Determined to share Mary’s teachings with today’s women, Amy published her 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. Amy added her own Modern Notions reflections on Mary’s Vintage Notions essays.

AMAGIC-PATTERN-Cover-2dOne of Mary’s popular columns’ was The Magic Page, with instructions for garments and accessories creating patterns from diagrams. Mary’s philosophy of fashion was to express your individual style, and she encouraged that by offering different options for her patterns. Amy expanded this idea into the concept of using a basic pattern with six variations of the design to create multiple unique projects, thus The Magic Pattern Book, published in August of 2014. The book is a great value with 36 patterns for an entire wardrobe! It also features another popular trend that parallels Mary’s teachings, up-cycling! From men’s dress shirts to cashmere sweaters a recycled option for each pattern offers a “thrifty” option!

The Magic Fashion Show,  featuring designs from The Magic Pattern Book, is currently traveling with the Original Sewing and Quilt Expo. Amy will travel to a few of the shows herself to emcee the Fashion Show. In 2015, she taught at several OSQE shows, as well as The Sewing & Stitchery Expo in Puyallup, Washington.

The website was created to support Amy’s move into writing and book publishing. It has become a resource for vintage sewing images, eBooks, patterns, etc. Amy is on a mission to share the best sewing-related content from The Woman’s Institute as well as lessons and wisdom from Mary Brooks Picken.

Amy Barickman’s Vintage Notions is a stunning book, jam-packed with beautiful images and inspirational content. It is organized by the months of the year. The January Thimbleful of Happiness is a good way for us to kick-off 2015. Mary’s words are as relevant today as they were a hundred years ago . . . .

Happiness needs no accessories
For it is in itself omnipotent
It takes hold in the heart,
Builds its nest, and brings forth
Its own birds to sing for you.

— Mary Brooks Picken

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