The Pattern Artist
By Nancy Moser
(c) 2016, 2021
Spoiler-free book review by Joanne Brown
9 out of 10 stars
I already have a love for this author’s books …
I have read quite a few books by Nancy Moser – Just Jane, Mozart’s Sister, Washington’s Lady, and Masquerade, to mention a handful. She is normally an excellent read. I was not disappointed this time either: The Pattern Artist is another of her can’t-put-down books. Her characters are well done and her stories include vibrant depictions of the time periods through the actions and conversations between the characters as well as by the actual details she describes.
This book had the same, and without giving away the denouements of any of the suspenseful moments, I will tell you a little about it.
The set up:
The Pattern Artist begins in New York City in late summer of 1911: Annie Wood, a 19-year-old upper housemaid and two other lady’s maids, who are all from England and who just travelled from England with their employers, the Kidds family, are riding in a carriage to the Friesen’s place. Lady Newley (Kidd) and her daughter, the viscountess, Henrietta, are visiting for six weeks. Annie is enjoying the view and watching the people of New York, but the two other maids in the carriage with Annie are priggish and haughty towards the New Yorkers and America in general as well as towards Annie.
When the carriage arrives at the Friesen Mansion, we quickly discover that not only are the two lady’s maids uppity with Annie, but also, they have her do all the work they don’t want to do, or are unable to do, themselves. They leave her to take up their personal baggage.
The Friesen’s hall boy, 13-year-old Danny, notices and begins to help Annie. She is interrupted by her two companions, the lady’s maids, (their names are Miss Miller and Miss Dougard) telling her that the three of them need to go unpack and help Lady Newley and Miss Henrietta dress. While helping The young viscountess dress, they realize that already plump Miss Henrietta has put on weight. We find out that Annie has already let the seams out on the current dress. This is a normal problem regarding Henrietta, and so Annie will probably be letting the seams of more dresses out.
Miss Henrietta chooses her dress for dinner and tells the maids that the beading under the arms is abrasive. She wants to have it fixed for dinner.
The altering of clothing is a job that a lady’s maid normally does, however, Miss Miller and Miss Dougan always pass this chore to Annie. Annie has a knack for it and over the five years that she has been doing this for the Kidds family, she has become very good at it, She actually likes doing it A LOT.
It is time for tea and the two lady’s maids tell Annie that she is not allowed to go for tea because the family’s clothing still needs to be hung up, AND the beading on the dinner dress needs to be fixed. They leave her alone to do the tasks while they themselves go have tea.
Annie is bummed because she hasn’t eaten since the family left the ship early that morning. She feels famished! As she begins hanging up the clothing from the trunks, Danny comes to visit her with tea and biscuits “cookies”. They chat for a few moments and Annie tells him that he reminds her of her brother who passed away when his appendix burst. He is a bit of a scamp, but quite loveable.
Danny discovers that Annie wants to be a lady’s maid someday. She has already worked her way from under housemaid … who has to take care of the chamber pots, to an upper housemaid who doesn’t, and gets to dust the knick knacks. He asks Annie if it is possible to work up to that position and she says that Lady Newley has implied that it will happen.
I’m not going to be a hall boy forever.’ … ‘What are you to be, then?’
‘An Adventurer.’ … ‘Do you have any specific adventure in mind?’
‘I’m open to whatever comes my way. I refuse to jiggy up my life by making hard ‘n’ fast plans. … ‘You’re a chancer.’ … ‘You take risks.’
‘That’s me. Wild and free. Free in spirit now, and free in body eventually.’ … ‘So you do have a plan.’
He hopped to his feet, raising his right fist to the sky. ‘I plan to be deliriously happy!”Part of Danny and Annie’s conversation while sharing tea and bisuits/cookies.
Annie meets Iris that evening. Iris is Danny’s sister and a maid in the Friesen Manor too. She and Annie share an attic bedroom. Annie, Iris, and Danny soon become the best of friends.
Three early dilemmas …
- Danny and Iris want to take Annie to visit Macy’s. However, they will have to sneak away from their duties to do it. Annie wants to go but isn’t sure how to go about getting out of the house … Should she ask permission? Should she sneak out and hope not to be caught?
- Grasston, a first footman who works for the Friesen’s, begins to harass Annie, pinching her, leering over her, and making her very nervous. He has done this to Iris already, so much so that Iris is afraid of Grasston and Annie becomes rightfully anxious about him. Annie suggests they go to his supervisor or theirs, but Iris won’t do it for fear that Grasston getting angry and taking a revenge on them. Grasston also makes a comment about Miss Henrietta’s heaviness within Henrietta’s hearing. Annie stands up for Miss Henrietta telling Grasston to show some respect.
- Annie discovers that Miss Dougan and Miss Miller have been taking credit for all the sewing and bead work Annie has been doing over the past years. Annie is horrified as she realizes that this takes away her chances of becoming a lady’s maid.
After the evening meal, Annie headed toward the back stairs. Suddenly Grasston grabbed her arm and dragged her into the laundry. … ‘What are you doing? Leave me alone.’
‘Sorry, … but you’ve made that impossible.’ … ‘I’ve been demoted to second footman for a week.’
‘It serves you right for being so rude. Miss Henrietta is a wonderful woman and a guest in this house.’
‘A big, fat, ugly guest.’
‘You are the ugly one. Ugly inside and out.’
‘You’d better watch out, Annie Wood. You can’t hide from me.’ He let go of her chin then swatted her behind before exiting the room.”Part of the confrontation between Annie and Grasston in the laundry room the evening Grasston made his comment about Miss Henrietta’s heaviness.
Annie, Danny, and Iris end up spending a night asleep on the streets. The next morning Danny convinces the owner of Tuttles’ Bakery to give them breakfast, jobs, and a place to stay.
Hello, girls. Danny says you’ve had your money stolen and are in need of some food to fill your stomachs.”Mrs. Tuttle Chapter 6
Even more later …
Annie gets a job working for Macy’s where she helps women choose patterns, fabric, and accessories etc. When the Butterick Pattern salesman, Sean Culver, comes to sell his wares, he flirts with her like crazy!
Mildred is a coworker who is not very good at her job. She is jealous of Annie because Annie is very good at hers. She tries various ways to get Annie in trouble. One of the things she does is accuse Annie of speaking poorly of the Butterick patterns. The reality of the situation is that Annie was working with a woman who didn’t like the sleeves of the pattern she was buying, and Annie, restating the problem made some suggestions about how to blend the sleeves of a different pattern, actually ended up selling the woman two patterns instead of one or none.
Grasston starts visiting Macy’s. He shows interest in Mildred. When Annie tries to warn Mildred about what Grasston is really like, Mildred thinks Annie is just jealous of Grasston’s interest because most of the people who come into the store gravitate to Annie.
Annie ends up learning to sew from Edna Holquist, the sewing machine sales woman at Macy’s. Later, Annie ends up becoming Edna’s housemate and good friend.
Bad things happen in Annie’s life … to keep the review still spoiler free, I will only tell you that Grasston is just a BAD GUY.
Sean Culvert continues to show interest in Annie. When Annie tells her side of the story about the two-pattern sell, she draws a quick sketch to demonstrate what she shared with the customer. Sean is so impressed that he tells the right people at the Butterick Pattern Company about her talent. He ends up getting her an interview for a job as a pattern artist for-home-sewers at Butterick’s. She is offered the job. She is not sure whether to take the job or not. She does love working at Macy’s.
Do you really think your destiny lies in selling fashion? Or designing it?Edna to Annie Chapter 15
Annie takes the job at Butterick’s
Annie comes to the attention of a rich woman, Mrs. Eleanor Sampson, who tries to get Annie to leave Butterick and start her own line of reformed women’s clothing, clothing that will give the woman freedom of movement in these changing times. Annie is invited to dinner to discuss this idea. …
Annie likes working at the Butterick Pattern Company. She quickly learns about patterns and making clothing. She makes friends with Maude. The two pattern artists end up going to Paris for Butterick – and incidentally, so does Sean – to see the latest fashions. Annie and Maude are to view the styles and come up with similar designs and what we would call knock-offs.
While at one of the fashion houses Annie runs into Lady Newley and Miss Henrietta. Miss Henrietta has lost a lot of weight and is in Paris to purchase her trousseau as she is now engaged to be married. She tells Annie that her inspiration came from Annie’s courage.
Annie, Maude, and Sean get to tour a little bit of Paris on their own. A lovely scene occurs which is somewhat predictable in it’s happening, but not in its outcome. Mr. & Mrs. Sampson meet up with Annie in Paris and try to convince her again to leave Butterick’s and start a different type of clothing. They want to finance the whole endeavor. Annie isn’t convinced, but after finding out that they will all be going home on the same ship, she agrees to have a long conversation with them on the cruise back to New York.
Annie quickly made a tiny sketch on the piece of paper they’d each been given to note the models and dresses they liked. …Annie simplified the dress into what could become a sewing pattern.”Chapter 28
Another moment of suspense . . .
April 10, 1912 Annie, Sean, and Maude are headed to their train to board their ship to sail home. When the porter at the train station wants to take Annie’s luggage. She declines. Her case has all her sketches and notes in it from the fashion shows and she doesn’t want to lose them. With five minutes left til boarding time, they run into Mr. and Mrs. Sampson. Amid the chaos, Annie hears a little French boy crying. She runs over to him but she can’t speak French. Sean can, so she calls him over. He discovers that the little boy’s mother is missing. And, she’s expecting a baby.
The conductor yells, “all aboard.” (But in French!)
Annie tells the gang she isn’t leaving this little boy alone and scared. Sean says if they miss the boat they will just catch another, so everyone stays to help the little boy find his mother. They do find the boy’s mother, and they do miss catching the boat.
Mr. Sampson made arrangements for passsage on another ship and booked three rooms at a nearby hotel – at his expense.”Chapter 29
In the end …
On the boat Annie makes some life changing decisions … and if you want to know what they are, you have to read the book. LOL… and if you want to know how she lives out the decision – and what decisions she hasn’t reconciled yet, you will have to read the next book of this trilogy, The Fashion Designer. But, this book can stand alone, so by choosing it, you are not committing yourself to reading the entire trilogy. I just think you might want to. 😁
It’s really hard to write a totally spoiler free review! I have left some clues about the action, but I think I succeeded in not giving away the “aha moments.” This book was really a great read. So good that I immediately went and purchased the other two books in the trilogy. I gave the title of number two above. The third one is called The Shop Keepers.
The first one of the series I got for free through a really cool site called BookBub. The other two I paid like $1.99 each through the same site. BookBub is a really cool site that offers newer titles for really cheap – to read online. If you subscribe to them, they send you an email a day with a handful of inexpensive offers based on your survey list, and most days there is a free book or few in the offers.
One Final thing!
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