"How Sarah Doyle Fills Her Spare Time"


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Reprinted from the Sunday Omaha, NE World Herald 2/1/76

From Taiwan to the massive, white frame home on the edge of this central Nebraska town of 1,000, she has brought an enthusiasm for the oriental art of pattern making.  She wants to spread the word.  Painstakingly she has fashioned her methods and 1300 drawings into a 194- page guidebook for other would be at home designers.

She paid to have the first 500 copies of  “Sarah’s Key to Pattern Drafting” printed by a firm in Lincoln, began doing her own demonstrations and promotions, and now is hoping that a nationally known publisher will do the rest.

“I got so excited myself,” said the petite, young homemaker.  “It was such a terrific thing, that I wanted to share it.  I’ve made things I never dreamed of making my own.”

These days give her some old newspaper and about 20 minutes and Mrs. Doyle is confident she can come up with a pattern for just about any wearing apparel her family of eight might have in mind.

“They’re always way ahead of me,” she said.  “When they come to something they like, they’ll say, ‘Hey, do you suppose you can make me something like this?’ and I can.  They just turn down the page to remind me.”

There are a lot of turned down pages in the magazines and catalogues around the Doyle house – and a lot of clothing in the closets.

She has lots of reasons, practical ones, for her pattern making:  Saving money, creating exactly what she wants, having an exact fit, never having two outfits alike.

Her statement that “I guess I’d rather sew than eat” is just as much a part of it.

Mrs. Doyle got her exposure to pattern- making, Oriental style, during a three-year service-related stay in Tainan, Taiwan.  While her husband, Reuben, an Air Force tech sergeant, looked after their six children, she would catch a bus and join young Taiwanese women in sewing and pattern-making classes for three hours, four nights a week.

For the Taiwanese, such lessons are a traditional prerequisite to marriage.  A Taiwanese friend she met in church helped Mrs. Doyle bridge the language and cultural barriers.

The motivation came from several sources.  She had been sewing since her grade school years on a farm near Pawnee City, Neb., and remembers being frustrated when she couldn’t find the right pattern.  Then four years ago, it became a family sort of project when she and Reuben combined households – his four children, her two.  Taking in sewing supplemented the budget.

“He’d lay out the material and maybe help cut it,” she said.  “I’d do the sewing.  We could do a lot more that way and it was pretty neat doing things together.”

They were both excited when orders came for Taiwan.  They had heard of Oriental sewing.  They decided Sarah should learn - - and he would learn from her.

Doyle wasn’t the only one who learned from her.  She was barely through the beginner’s course – one of three classes she would take before perfecting tailoring – when other air force wives were caught up by her enthusiasm.

She suspects part of the reason was the difficulty getting patterns in Tainan.

“We had a PBX ,” she said, “and you could order patterns.  They weren’t the latest ones and the selection was really limited.  Supposedly you could get them in three days.  Once I ordered some, but when I went to pick them up they’d already been sold to someone else.”

Mrs. Doyle, in classes of up to 10 students each, provided them with an alternative -- designing their own.  She began working on a book to make the teaching easier.

Women were asking her to set up still more classes when Doyle got the orders they had hoped for.  They would be returning to the Midwest – to the Silver Creek, Neb., Air Force Station, near Genoa.  Mrs. Doyle’s father, Warren Bloss, still lives on the family farm in Pawnee City.  If Florida-raised Reuben can tolerate the cold winters, they plan to retire in the area when his 20 years in the service ends in 1977.

The best she could promise her would be pupils was “I’ll send you a copy of my book.”

She kept her word. Even before the furniture had arrived from Taiwan last July and before the curtains were sewn together, Mrs. Doyle’s book was at the printers.

Her method, she believes, is as simple and basic as is possible. She needs 22 measurements from the person she plans to sew for.  With those figures she constructs a standard set of three patterns – bodice, sleeve, pants – that can be used as the standard for any creation.

She considers it a practical kind of designing – useful clothes, rather than fancy New York high fashions.  Hers is sketch-it-yourself style, using old newspapers for the patterns “because they’re around.”  She compares the learning difficulty to that of typing.

Mrs. Doyle sews like she believes like most homemakers do – between other household duties.  Her own sewing machine is set up in a nook off her kitchen, where she can interrupt a project to stir something on the stove or help one of the children with a lost item.

The afternoon we visited, winter coats were the project next in line – for Tim, 14, Robin, 13, Cynthia, 12, Anthony, 11, Denise, 7, and Michael, 5.  They would be wool ones, pile lined, the kind that might cost $25 each in a store.  She estimated her cost for all of them at $42.

“I guess you could figure my time, too,” she added, “but I don’t count that.  I spend my time doing something.  It might as well be constructive.”

So far copies of  Mrs. Doyle’s book have sold mostly by word of mouth.  She also has been demonstrating her concepts at get-togethers similar to the popular jewelry and house wares parties.

"It’s pretty discouraging trying to find a publisher," she said, "but the demonstration parties have been quite a bit of fun."

It’s just that she would like to spend more time at her sewing machine.


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