I have a soft spot for out of print, vintage, and even antique sewing patterns. Kwik Sew is especially dear to me, since it was founded in 1967 by Kerstin Martensson under the name Sew Knit & Stretch in Minneapolis. She changed the name to Kwik Sew in 1974.
Kerstin was a fascinating woman. Born in Sweden in 1938, Kerstin worked in the ready-to-wear industry before becoming a pattern maker for the Viking Sewing Machine Company. In a great example of technology leading to new creativity for home sewers, Viking wanted to expand the market for its new “reverse cycle machines,” sewing machines that could create stretch stitches. Kerstin developed sewing patterns and also travelled to the US to demonstrate new techniques. Her work led to her branching out and forming her own company.
If you see any of Kerstin’s books for sale, grab them! I particularly love the Kwik Sew Method for Sewing Lingerie (1978), which comes with patterns for some of the garments explained in the book and some pattern-free sewing projects in the back of the book. Take care when purchasing online – the patterns are often missing or lost.
Kwik Sew patterns were beloved for many reasons: They typically included a wide range of sizes, they printed patterns on heavy paper, and their instructions were clear enough for just about any skill level. Designs tended to be solid basics and accessories that could become tried and true patterns. In my own sewing history, one of my favorite bra patterns is Kwik Sew 3594.
Her son, Eric McMaster, took over as President and CEO of Kwik Sew in 2001. Kerstin passed away the next year. In 2006, she was inducted posthumously into the Sewing Hall of Fame.
The McCall’s Pattern Company purchased Kwik Sew in 2011 and announced a merger in 2012. At the time, McCall’s website claimed that there were more than 800 Kwik Sew patterns, including fashion and craft, and that Kwik Sew “offers the largest selection of patterns for children, men, lingerie, swimwear, active wear, and fleece.”
I haven’t gone back and checked to try to figure out when it happened, but, at some point, the paper used for Kwik Sew patterns moved to the tissue-weight paper of just about every other commercial pattern. If that’s important to you, stick to patterns that were issued before 2012.
SomethingDelightful.com stopped selling Kwik Sew patterns online in 2021. It appears that at least some of the Kwik Sew patterns were reissued with Simplicity pattern numbers, but I’m not sure how many were transitioned over.