Sewing & Knitting Patterns

The Simplicity Pattern Company were manufacturers of sewing pattern guides, under the “Simplicity Pattern”, “It’s So Easy” and “New Look” brands. The company was founded in New York in 1927 during the Great Depression. Simplicity allowed home seamstresses to create fashionable clothing in a reliable manner and at low cost. The patterns were manufactured in the US but distributed and sold in America, Canada, England, Ireland, ( Hickeys Fabrics) and Australia and by Burda elsewhere. In Mexico and Africa they were distributed by third-party distributors. The company licenses its name to the manufacture of non-textile materials such as sewing machined, dolls house kits, and sewing supplies. The company is now owned by CSS Industries.

James J. Shapiro (1909–1995) founded the Simplicity Pattern Company in 1927 and was its first president. The company was based on an idea of his father’s, Joseph M. Shapiro (1888 Russia—1968 California), a magazine ad salesman. The company at one point was considered part of the NYSE Nifty Fifty stocks.

In 1998, the company was acquired by Conso International Corp. Conso subsequently changed its name to Simplicity Creative Group Inc., and was then acquired by Wilton Brands Inc in 2013. It sold in November 2017 to CSS Industries. Until 2007, the company had its main plant in Niles, Michigan, USA.

Kwik Sew was founded in 1967 by Kerstin Martensson, who also produced many of the early designs and patterns. The company was an early leader in patterns perfected for use with knits. Originally named Sew Knit and Stretch, the company changed its name to Kwik Sew in 1974. Kerstin’s son, Eric McMaster, now runs the company.

The patterns are always expertly graded, easy-to-follow and printed on glossy white paper. Many of the early designs are wardrobe staples such as pull-on skirts, pants, t-shirts, bathing suits, rather than fashion forward styles

Patons business began as two separate companies: J & J Baldwin and Partners, founded in the late 1770s by James Baldwin of Halifax, England,and John Paton Son and Co., founded in 1814 by John Paton ofAlloa, Scotland. Both men had formed their businesses using the spinning mule developed by Samuel Crompton. They mainly produced yarns for commercial knitting machines.

The Paton family were regarded as generous benefactors in the town of Alloa, where they provided funding for a significant range of public building projects, including the town hall, public libraries, a school, a swimming pool, and a gymnasium.

The two companies merged in 1920 and diversified into producing wool for home knitters, as well as publishing knitting patterns under the “Patons Rose” and “Baldwins Beehive” trademarks.

By the mid-30s, the company had establishments across Scotland and Northern England, as well as Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The company branched out into various related lines of business, including the running of an angora rabbit farm in Staffordshire 1932-34 and the development of new products such as nylon and Terylene.

In 1951, the headquarters of the business was relocated from Halifax to a 140-acre site in County Durham, where a single-storey factory employing 4,000 people was developed at a cost of £7.5 million. The factory had its own railway sidings and produced 113 tons of yarn every week.

In 1961, the company merged with J & P Coats. The Patons trademark is still in use today. Ownership passed from Coats plc to Mez Crafts and then to DMC in 2020.

The yarn production facility at Alloa was closed in 1999. The bulk of the surviving business records from the Alloa operation, together with some material from other factories, is now held by Clackmannanshire Archives in Alloa.

The large factory in Launceston, Tasmania, Australia, a 35-acre site, employed over 2,000 people in the 1960s. The business was sold in the late 1980s, and by 1982 the factory employed 604 people. It passed through several owners until 1995 when it produced its last bail of yarn. The factory closed on 31 July 1997.

From the McAllister Collection, the Museum of Childhood Ireland