Messenger - Vol. 2, No. 3, Page 17
Summer 1993
Crafts provide pattern to sewing career

     She's the vice president of Craft and Home Decorating for Simplicity
Pattern Co. Inc. in New York City, and there is even a line of Jiffy
patterns that bears her name. But, until she went on maternity leave, Abbie
Brockwell Small, Delaware '83, had never had time during her 10- year
career to make window treatments for her own Aberdeen, N.J., home.
     Now the busy, working mother of 2-year-old twins, she thinks when she
and her husband find their new home, she'll hire the 40-plus freelance
crafters who work for her to do the decorating.
     Small graduated from the University with a bachelor's degree in
fashion design. Two weeks later, while her boyfriend was reading the want
ads in The New York Times, he spied an ad for a home economics major who
knew how to sew. Small decided to give it a shot.
     The employment agency, she remembers, "interviewed me for about two
minutes and sent me over to Simplicity. Before I had even gotten back to
New Jersey, they had called and offered me the job."
     That first job-writing the guide sheet instructions for Simplicity
patterns-wasn't very glamorous. In fact, Small remembers it as "just plain
     Nine months later, she jumped at a chance to transfer to the company's
fabric library. She spent two years there as a fabric assistant and fabric
coordinator, ordering material, notions and trims for the Simplicity
catalog, charting colors and developing themes for seasonal color and
fashion trends. Next, she learned the business end of the company through
sales. A year later, when Simplicity purchased the New Look Pattern Co. in
England, Small became the New York liaison and spent six months planning a
huge launch party to celebrate the acquisition.
     After completing that project, she was asked to take over the
company's craft division. When she started in 1988, crafts accounted for 3
percent of Simplicity's business. Under Small, that amount has increased to
25 percent. When she went to the craft division, the company offered 30
craft designs; it now offers 117.
     Among other items, Small introduced a line of 60 craft booklets. Many
of them are "hard crafts" that do not require a pattern, and many are not
related to sewing. For a booklet on flower arranging, she contacted her
former college roommate, Robin Fertitta Greenwood, Delaware '82, who owns a
flower-arranging business in Baltimore.
     Another example of Small's innovation is Abbie's Jiffy Six Pack, a
line of window treatments that bears her name and can, of course, be done
in a "jiffy." Small says she and her staff of nine employees work with
crafters around the country to keep up-to-date on trends. She has seen cows
and bunnies come and go, and this spring, she anticipated the big sunflower
     Her staff works nine months ahead. In April, for example, they had
just put the finishing touches on the October Simplicity pattern book,
which features quilting and an item of which Small is especially fond-a
rub-on transfer called Pumpkin Puss (for those who hate to carve jack
     Small's work involves travel to regional craft fairs and trade shows
as well as television appearances. On The Home Show, she demonstrated home
decorating techniques, and on Creative Living, she appeared in three
segments demonstrating quilting, home decorating and crafts.
                                   -Beth Thomas