The Pattern Artist
By Nancy Moser
Barbour/Shiloh Run Press, 2016
Born into a life of hard work, English housemaid Annie Wood arrives in New York City in 1911 with her wealthy mistress. Wide-eyed with the possibilities America has to offer, Annie wonders if there’s more for her than a life of service.
Annie chooses to risk everything, taps into courage she never knew she had, and goes off on her own, finding employment in the sewing department at Macy’s. While at Macy’s Annie catches the eye of a salesman at the Butterick Pattern Company. Through determination, hard work, and God’s leading, Annie discovers a hidden gift: she is a talented fashion designer—a pattern artist of the highest degree.
As she runs from ghosts of the past and focuses on the future, Annie enters a creative world that takes her to the fashion houses of Paris and into a life of adventure, purpose, and love.
It’s been a while since I’ve read a Nancy Moser novel - two that I remember greatly enjoying being the contemporary stories The Seat Beside Me (2002) and John 3:16 (2008). She has also written several historical novels, and if The Pattern Artist is typical of her work in this genre, Nancy shines in this style as well.
There’s so much that I liked about The Pattern Artist, which opens in 1911 as we follow an immigrant maid from service to employment at Macy’s, then eventually the Butterick Pattern Company. The story is rich in historical detail, setting, and characterization. There’s also an element of suspense that seems realistic for the times. Not only does the setting come alive, but the era in which the story is set as well. The world of fashion, home sewing, and pattern design was fascinating to me. Difficult to imagine how the hobble skirt fashion trend ever became popular! While I have no ability when it comes to sewing, my grandmother was quite good at it and this story stirs up a lot of precious memories. I vividly recall shopping with her at Macy’s in Atlanta for patterns and fabric, later proudly wearing dresses she magically created on her Singer sewing machine. A later era than The Pattern Artist, but sweet nostalgia nonetheless.
It was easy to connect with Annie – strong willed, spirited, able to learn from obstacles and wrong decisions – and I appreciated that she is realistically flawed. Sean, a salesman at Butterick, is very appealing – sensitive, honorable, and wise. One of my favorite characters was Edna, the mother figure so needed by Annie and who just happened to have a strong faith. Annie wasn’t much of a believer in the beginning, but we get to journey with her as she matures and grows spiritually.
I enjoyed how some real-life characters and events were included, such as Macy’s inspirational owner, Isidor Straus. Molly Brown was also mentioned, a fascinating lady played by Debbie Reynolds in one of my favorite musicals, The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Another character that I was intrigued by is Annie’s coworker, Maude, and I hope her story will follow soon.
Spiritual themes are gently woven throughout – themes such as seeking God’s purpose in our lives, using our God-given talents and abilities. I especially liked how the concepts of physical independence and spiritual dependence were contrasted through Annie’s journey.
The Pattern Artist hooked me from the beginning and kept me eager to turn the pages. I’m eager for further development, so I hope there’s a sequel.
Nancy Moser is an award-winning author of over twenty-five novels that share a common message: we each have a unique purpose—the trick is to find out what it is. Her genres include contemporary and historical novels including Love of the Summerfields, Mozart’s Sister, The Invitation, and the Christy Award-winning Time Lottery. She is a fan of anything antique—humans included.
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I was provided a free copy of this book from Barbour Publishing. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.