Saturday, January 23, 2010

Musical Patterns

The Wednesday evening before Christmas, I had the privilege of attending a family concert in a love old home in Sterling, MA. I've been to this home countless times over the past 35 years or so, but until this night had not heard that it was actually a historic landmark with an interesting story beyond what I already thought was interesting with its current owner (legendary musician/conductor/composer/teacher/mentor Virginia-Gene Rittenhouse of New England Youth Ensemble fame).

In the midst of the concert that various family members and friends (including myself) gave for each other, one of my oldest friends, and my sister's sister-in-law--Connie--told us the story of Virginia's house. I was fascinated! Here's the opening of its history from the Butterick website. If you like sewing and history, this story will interest you:

"The year was 1863. Snowflakes drifted silently past the windowpane covering the hamlet of Sterling, Massachusetts in a blanket of white. Ellen Butterick brought out her sewing basket and spread out the contents on the big, round dining room table. From a piece of sky blue gingham, she was fashioning a dress for her baby son Howard. Carefully, she laid out her fabric, and using wax chalk, began drawing her design.

"Later that evening, Ellen remarked to her husband, a tailor, how much easier it would be if she had a pattern to go by that was the same size as her son. There were patterns that people could use as a guide, but they came in one size. The sewer had to grade (enlarge or reduce) the pattern to the size that was needed. Ebenezer considered her idea: graded patterns. The idea of patterns coming in sizes was revolutionary. He experimented, creating heavy cardboard templates; it quickly became evident that the heavy cardboard patterns were not suitable for folding or shipping throughout the country. Ebenezer tried lighter papers and discovered that tissue paper was ideal to work with and much easier to package.

"The first graded sewing patterns were cut and folded by members of the Butterick family and sold from their home in Sterling, Massachusetts. In no time at all, they needed extra space and expanded into an adjoining house. As business continued to grow, they moved into a larger house in Fitchburg, Massachusetts and in one year, set up a business at 192 Broadway in New York City.

(from "Buttrerick History" website. To read much more, go to

1 comment:

La Tea Dah said...

Wow, an amazing story --- thank you for sharing!!!!