Sarah J Doyle – A Profile

By Denise Hall

Sarah Doyle has been in the mail order/direct response marketing, internet website and writing business for over forty years.  Her “entrepreneurial” experience began many years before, at the age of 9.

Living on a farm, miles outside the small town of Pawnee City, Nebraska, too young for a job or a drivers’ license, nine year old Sarah cracked black walnuts to earn money.

Imagine if you will…a young girl gathering all the black walnuts possible in the fall – sacks and sacks of them!  Then, as winter sets in, clearing the snow off a concrete step and cracking buckets full of walnuts with a hammer.  Then going back inside to dig out the nut meats.

A “get rich quick idea”?  I don’t think so.  The $1.00 per quart that Sarah charged for the nut meats would hardly make anyone “rich”.  But she says “one winter I made $75 from the walnuts and I thought I WAS rich!”

As a child Sarah learned something about a “desire” for extra money (no allowances in those days, she says!), a commitment to following through on a project and the thrill of personal satisfaction when customers ordered more and called back each year to get walnuts for Holiday baking.

From cracking black walnuts, to selling greeting cards to washing dishes in the high school lunch room, weeding neighbors’ gardens, and helping in the hay fields, Sarah learned early that there was “no free lunch” which helped to polish an attitude of persistence and determination that has carried over into her adult life.

Sarah officially started her writing career in 1970 with a military assignment to Taiwan.  She had been taking in sewing and alterations to help make ends meet for their family of 6 children, when her husband received orders for Taiwan.  She was excited about the prospect of being able to learn something about Oriental pattern making because it would give her a chance to “make patterns that would fit my customers perfectly”.

Now picture this scenario..,..housewife and mother to six children in an unfamiliar country, she can’t speak the language, can’t read the writing, but has a determination to learn the Oriental method of pattern making.  Then one Sunday at Church a young English speaking Taiwanese woman offered to help enroll her in a pattern making school and agreed to be her “interpreter” for the class, which takes place four nights a week for a year.

Once again dogged determination and a tremendous desire to learn pattern making helped Sarah get through the year of pattern making school to accomplish the goal and commitment she’d made.

Other military wives were caught up by her enthusiasm and began asking that she teach them also.  In classes of 10 students Sarah began teaching others what she’d learned.  She started writing an instruction book to make the teaching easier, and to make the knowledge available to those who were being transferred to other bases and weren’t available for her “one-on-one” teaching.

Even with the unending duties of housewife and mother, school projects for the children, boy scouts, girl scouts and secretary to the little league baseball teams, she said, “I made up my mind that I would write one page a day until the book was finished”.  “It was simply thrilling to see the stack of completed pages getting higher and higher”.

After returning to the U.S. and stationed at Offutt AFB in her native state, Nebraska, her story got picked up by the Omaha World Herald.  In the Sunday World-Herald Magazine of the Midlands, February 1, 1976, the headline “How Sarah Doyle Fills Her Spare Time” went out across the State and across the country.

Two weeks later in the same paper, in the editorial column, was written “Staff writer Judy Hamilton, who wrote our story about Sarah Doyle and her pattern-making ability, was overwhelmed with phone calls after the article appeared.  There were 30 or 40 calls to the office phone.  She decided to ask Mrs. Doyle, of Genoa, Neb., whether she, too, had heard from the readers.  Indeed she had.  By count, 164 letters within 10 days of the article and 34 phone calls, some from as far away as Utah, Kansas, Missouri and South Dakota, plus one letter from Ithaca, N.Y.”

Sarah started her “Sew With Sarah” business in 1975.  Starting with just that one book, “Sarah’s Key to Pattern Drafting”, and a long list of people wanting that book, Sarah now has over 35 sewing, pattern making, pattern make-over, craft, quilting, embroidery, sewing machine repair and general how-to books available.

Sarah Doyle, author of “Sarah’s Key To Pattern Drafting” has taught pattern drafting classes all over the country, to the general public as well as “for credit” classes for home economics teachers.  She then made the classes available by mail order so those who could not attend her classes would also have the opportunity to learn pattern making.

With the internet explosion, a fast paced society, and so little time for organized classes, Sarah once again filled a real need for the sewers around the world by painstakingly setting up and making available online every class, book and pattern she has available.  Online classes are convenient – simply download the class of your choice and work on it at your own pace and in your own place!  The variety of pattern making, pattern make-over and sewing/craft/quilting classes and patterns that are available will keep you busy for quite some time.  Choose whichever class you want and never have to worry about the class being cancelled or problems with your own schedule that won’t allow you to take part in the class.

Just as she thought everything was getting pretty well settled and classes in place, her life took another twist.

Her friend had a 9 year old daughter who had a 36″ chest, 34″ tummy and 38″ hips. Buying pre-made clothes for her was impossible since a skirt that fit in the waist had a length that went past the feet, and long sleeves hung several inches below her fingers in order to get a size that fit in the chest and shoulders. Her friend decided to try making some clothes, only to find similar problems with patterns. Thinking the new “plus” sizes would fit, she was disappointed to find that, while a 16 Plus would fit the chest, the “waistline” hung about 2-3 inches below her waist, the skirt length was way too long, the neck and armholes were much too large and the shoulder width fell way off the shoulder. After all, the measurements used in the store-bought patterns are for a “chubby” 16 year old, they’re not designed for an extra chubby 9 year old. Knowing that Sarah teaches and sells pattern making books and classes, her friend came to her for help in getting something to fit her daughter. Sarah took the child’s measurements, then proceeded to make a pattern from “scratch” using the girls’ own measurements as a guide.

This was the beginning of a new avenue for Sarah’s pattern making abilities.  She decided to spend time accumulating actual measurements of overweight and obese children, then getting all the measurements / ages of the children into a data base.  She then began working on a line of clothing patterns designed according to actual REAL measurements of plus size children, so that patterns will fit the majority of plus size children.  The patterns (PSC patterns – Plus Size Children Patterns) were added to the  website and became an instant hit.  She has now embarked on another endeavor – preparing each of the Plus Size Children patterns so they can be immediately downloaded.  Once again, she has filled a real need as recent statistics by the Centers For Disease Control (  have indicated that more than one third of all American children are categorized as “overweight” or “obese”. Buying or making clothes for the plus size child can be a very stressful and difficult process as there has been literally NO standard size that fits properly.

The little girl who once braved the cold and snow to crack black walnuts, has become a master pattern designer and writer, whose goal is to help the beginner and advanced alike to gain the knowledge they need.