"Sarah Doyle Fits Her Life Into a Pattern"


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Reprinted from the Pensacola, FL News Journal 5/30/83

Inside a charming, Old Chicago style brick house, just off Mobile Highway, there lives a talented homemaker with no complaints.  Cooking, sewing and keeping her home handsome are a large part of her day-in, day-out duties – but Sarah Doyle is not the average everyday housewife.

Doyle has taken her tailoring talent a step further – she not only makes her own clothes, but she makes the original pattern.  The 37-year-old homemaker is currently promoting two books she has written on the subject of pattern making.

Doyle got her exposure to the Oriental art during a three-year service-related stay in Taiwan.  While her husband, Ruben, a former Air Force Tech Sergeant, looked after their 6 children, she would catch a bus and join young Taiwanese women in sewing and pattern-making classes.

Such lessons are a traditional prerequisite to marriage for Taiwanese women, but Doyle saw them as a terrific way to learn to make clothes that fit.  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 or when one had to be altered.

“I discovered early that people are not made the same,” says the petite woman.  “I was really excited at the idea of making patterns to fit me and my family.”

The only American student in the class, Doyle took little time learning the art with the aid of a translator (Taiwanese women instructed the class).  After attending a few of the beginner classes, Doyle knew she had found a life-long hobby.  Her enthusiasm trickled down to other servicemen’s wives who asked Doyle to instruct a class in the art.

As she advanced to higher-level classes, she began teaching the course to Americans – her husband was her first student.

She says he wasn’t as enthusiastic about the course as she was. “But he didn’t love to sew either.  He would lay out the material and maybe help cut.  I’d do the sewing.” She said.

In classes held in her home, Doyle provided students with an alternative to pattern altering – designing their own.

“The main benefit of this hobby is that you can design your own styles,” says the homemaker.  She adds that the hobby also saves money spent on patterns that are often used once and thrown away.  By making her own pattern, she is at liberty to throw it away after one use, since the patterns are made at little cost.

She says her method is simple, basic one that requires no experience to learn.  “It’s as easy as cooking.  It’s just a step-by-step method that takes practice,” she says.

According to her method, she needs 22 measurements to start on a patterns – bodice, sleeves, pants – which can be used as the basis for many creations.

Doyle says she found it difficult to illustrate to her students the measuring techniques required for pattern making.  After a few classes in which she had actually cut out patterns (made from old newspapers) and attach them to the wall so that every student could see, she decided it would be easier to write a book.

While still in Taiwan, she began work on what would be a 192- page guidebook including 1300 illustrations.  She worked on the book between household chores, when her six children were in school or in bed.

“My husband designed the cover, I did the illustrations,“ she recalls.  “It took about two years to finish that book but I wanted to make it easy enough to learn if I were not around.”

Doyle’s book wasn’t published before she left Taiwan, and neither did she complete courses that she had begun teaching to American friends.  Instead, after receiving orders to return to the United States, she left with a promise to her students that they would receive a copy of her book.

The Doyle family returned to the Silver Creek, Neb., Air Force Station, her hometown area, in 1975.  Shortly after that, her book was released from the printers.  More than a thousand copies were quickly sold by word of mouth alone.

The incentive was there for Doyle to start on another book.   Her first book, tailored to meet the needs of women and children, contained no guidelines for un-proportioned men.  Her second book, written while she was in Nebraska, would include patterns for boys and men and advanced pattern making for women. 

In 1979, after her husband had retired from the Air Force, the family moved to Pensacola, her husband’s hometown.  The homemaker’s enthusiasm for pattern making and sewing was not lost in the move.  She continued teaching pattern making in her Bellview home, and in the meantime passing that talent on to her 15-year-old daughter, Denise.

Doyle is considering writing a pattern-making guidebook that would cater to young teens, since she was 10 when she started sewing and her daughter was about that age.

Doyle spends a great deal of time working in her quarter acre garden, where she grows squash, beans, okra, corn, and strawberries.  When her hands aren’t busy in the garden they are working in the kitchen.

“I’m what you’d call an easy going or easy-to-please person.  I’m happiest when I’m working.  And with my current lifestyle, I’m very happy.”


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