Vintage Notions Book – Amy Barickman Q&A

I have been so excited to share today’s post with you that I can barely stand it.  Amy Barickman was so kind to send me a copy of her new book, Vintage Notions.  If you haven’t heard of Amy, surely you know of Indygo Junction or The Vintage Workshop.  If you’ve been in a quilt shop anywhere, you’ve seen Indygo Junction patterns.  Amy is a creative force that has largely influenced the quilting and craft industry, and Vintage Notions is a book that will bring delight to any woman.

Today I am thrilled to share my interview with none other than Amy herself!

First, a bit about the book, as stated on the back cover:

“…Vintage Notions is an inspirational guide and creative collection that features needlework, cooking, sewing, fashion, and fun.  This book was inspired by the wisdom of Mary Brooks Picken, a pioneer in the domestic arts and international authority on dressmaking and fashion.  Mary’s sole purpose, which resonated so deeply with Amy, was to educate women, encourage their entrepreneurial spirit, and elevate the value of their work.
Mary’s name may not be familiar to you now, but in these pages you will be charmed by her vision and inspired by her “blueprint for living a simple, fulfilling life.”  In Vintage Notions, Amy Barickman joins forces with a previous era to preserve Mary’s work for a new generation and showcase it alongside her own extensive collection of vintage textiles, needlework, illustrations, and memorabilia.”
Mary Brooks Picken
Can you believe that in her day, Mary Brooks Picken wrote close to 100 books?!  She even wrote 64 textbooks in two years. She was born in 1886 and was THE authority on everything domestic in the early 1900s.  Her book, “The Secrets of Distinctive Dress,” was published in 1918 and sold more than 125,000 copies.  The kicker is that women didn’t even have the right to vote until 1920!  She also wrote the first “Singer Sewing Book”.
I have to say that from the moment I opened this book, I felt a feeling of nostalgia.  I had trouble putting it down.  In fact, over the holidays I carried it from room to room around my in-laws house for a couple of days so I could sneak in some reading whenever I found a few free minutes!  Vintage notions is filled with recipes (one tells us to check a cake for being done with a broom straw!), 12 patterns which I can’t wait to use, and inspiring essays (some of my favorites are “Walking Like a Princess” and “Disguising Generous Proportions”). 
What I love most about Vintage Notions is that it’s truly a book for all generations.  I talked about it with my grandmother, my mother, and my sisters, and we all appreciated it and related to it in different ways.  This book made me feel immense gratitude for Mary Brooks Picken and the path that she carved for women.  She taught our grandmothers, they taught their daughters, and their daughters taught us. 
I had to chuckle when I read “The Fabric Flower” article from 1927.  I guess trends really do always come back!  I wonder what Mary would think to see all the fabric flowers now?

Oh, and did you think that refashioning is a new trend?  Hardly…
Okay, let’s meet Amy:

Sew Much Ado: What was your inspiration for writing Vintage Notions?

Amy Barickman: For more than 20 years, I have been collecting vintage textiles, illustrations, ephemera and more. About 7 or 8 years ago, I stumbled upon some “Inspiration” newsletters from the 1920s produced by Mary Brooks Picken and the Woman’s Institute. I knew immediately that I had not simply stumbled upon a treasure-trove of wisdom, but found a kindred spirit in Mary. Mary’s sole purpose, which resonated so deeply with me, was to educate women, encourage their entrepreneurial spirit, and elevate the value of their work. This is what I have sought to do my entire career and why Mary has come to mean so much to me.

SMA: What do you feel is the most important lesson that we can learn from Mary Brooks Picken?

AB: I could go on and on about the lessons that Mary taught generations of women. At the core, however, is the notion that we should all consistently strive to live a contented and gracious life. To Mary, this meant finding fulfillment through creativity–even if it’s the simple act of baking cookies for a neighbor. It also includes finding one’s own sense of style and fashion or in being able to take care of yourself and your family in more fulfilling ways. Essentially, contentment comes when you’ve found your own creative voice and can use it in your daily life.

SMA: How has Mary Brooks Picken inspired you specifically?

AB: Mary made me look at my career as an entrepreneur and inspired me to get back to what I’ve always found the greatest fulfillment in–helping and encouraging others to discover their creativity. She inspired me to be a better teacher and showed me the value of sharing your life, loves and creativity with someone else or a group of like-minded folks. Personally, she reinforced my commitment to my family and in making sure I nurture my own creativity too!

SMA: Do you have a particular favorite project that is shared in Vintage Notions?

AB: The Fabric Flower from the April Chapter is easily my favorite. It’s an extremely versatile project that’s easy to make as well as being attractive. In fact, as I’m out and about promoting the book, you’ll often see me wearing one of the many I’ve made.

SMA: You’ve contributed so much to the handmade world, including this fabulous book — what can we look forward to next?

AB: As I mentioned earlier, I am dedicating 2011 to refocusing on teaching and education. I genuinely hope that more women (and men too!) will discover their creativity through the fabric arts, whether it be fashion sewing, quilting, or cross stitch…it doesn’t matter. To that end, we are currently in production on dozens of instructional videos you’ll be able to watch on–everything from adding grommets and creating bias tape by hand to using stencils and taking accurate measurements.

You’ll also see a ton of new patterns at Indygo Junction, more Vintage Notion-inspired posts on my blog at and, while it’s still a little too early to give-a-way too much detail…we’re going to be significantly expanding The Vintage Workshop. I can’t say too much yet, but we’re expanding the categories of items we carry, bringing in some of unbelievably talented artists to share their work and becoming more of an educational resource for folks who love vintage and want to expand their creative horizons. It’s all very exciting (and exhausting)!

Thank you, Amy!  I hope you all enjoyed hearing from Amy as much as I did.  I promise that this book does not disappoint.  It far exceeded my (high) expectations, and is a fabulous book for women both old (not that any of you are old, of course) and young. 

You can go here to purchase Vintage Notions, and Amy is even giving Sew Much Ado readers a 20% discount with the code “SLB”!

Similar Posts


  1. Oh don’t forget!! Mary Brooks Picken’s books are past their copyright and so they are free for full viewing on google books. That is if they have all been digitized and I know quite a few are! Everyone and anyone can enjoy a wonderful blast from the past in inspiration from Mary Picken!

  2. I just made one of the fabric flowers! It didn’t quite turn out as I expected due to my (poor) fabric choice. Fun project, nonetheless. I will be posting it very soon as part of my 365 daily project blog I’m doing.

    I love Amy’s book! I enjoyed your interview too! Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.