Meet Our Advertisers #[something mumble]: Michelle Lee of Patterns from the Past

So yes, we're restarting this long-forgotten feature — more to come!

Meet Michelle Lee, of Patterns from the Past []

How long have you been in business?

I started my business around December of 1995, (yes, I was an early adopter of the World Wide Web). Before I had a website, I sold box lots of sewing patterns on listservs.

What motivated you to go into the vintage pattern business?

I have been interested in vintage fashions since I was a child.  Some of my favorite books were the Wizard of Oz series by L. Frank Baum.  They were filled with beautiful illustrations of 1910's and 20’s fashions.  I started sewing vintage clothing in college and found it was cheaper to go to tag (yard) sales and buy large boxes of sewing patterns than to just buy the patterns I liked. When I began my website, I was already a web author for other companies. I started my business to sell off my collection of extra patterns more easily.

What did you do before this?

I was a high school Biology teacher and a part time historical researcher of vintage fashion for Past Patterns.

Where are you based? 

I’m a half hour North of Boston near the border of New Hampshire.

What's the weirdest/best/craziest/most beautiful thing you've ever found? 

I have this pattern in my private collection. 


I know I will never make the dress – but I love the illustration and the how someone would feel wearing it. I think a friend of mine gave it to me years ago.

What do you have in stock that you can't believe hasn't sold? [

I love these McCall’s dress patterns from the 1940s.  They came from an old store that closed in the 1940s – they are in excellent condition.  I acquired over 100 of them many years ago.  Only the smaller sizes are left.  I’m surprised that I still have so many on hand given how unique they are.

What do you dream about finding?

A box lot of dress patterns from the 1930s.

What do you enjoy most about working with patterns? 

I love looking at all the illustrations.  There are an amazing number of designs produced for sewing patterns. I also enjoy the range of sizes that the patterns where produced in, such as the petitable, half size, and chubbies … There were patterns designed for all shapes and sizes of people.

What do you wish someone would ask you about your site?  

"Can I give you credit for your pattern in my film/tv show or school musical?"  There are several movies and dance companies that have purchased patterns from my company, and I worked with the TV show Mad Men – but I have yet to see my company name in the credits.  I love to help find costumes for vintage productions!

It's a good day at work when … 

I can ship out my orders AND add new patterns to my site.

If I ran the internet for a day I'd … 

Find a way to put my site on top for vintage pattern searches!

The blogs I read (other than ADAD are …) 

I love reading about the projects people are working on at Sew Retro.   I’m also enjoying the research about vintage sewing patterns that Unsung Sewing Patterns is doing.

You'd laugh if you knew this about me …

That I have over 3 times the amount of patterns in my back stock than I have on my website.  Maybe I should cry rather than laugh.  The order processing and data entry never seems to end for me!

2 thoughts on “Meet Our Advertisers #[something mumble]: Michelle Lee of Patterns from the Past

  1. I love this feature.. Wonderful to hear the history and background of other pattern sellers.. I have more than 8 times of unlisted stock yet to be listed in back stock! so 3 times is not too bad! There is always room for more stock.. Thank you Erin for posting this and sharing…


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