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 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 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 .  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 .   I’m also enjoying the research about vintage sewing patterns that 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!