McCall Pattern Company’s Manhattan printing facility, which produces the sewing patterns for most of the major national sewing pattern companies in the United States, is closing after more than 50 years.
The Manhattan facility has 85 employees and will close permanently at the end of the year, said Abbie Small, executive vice president and general manager of the craft division at Design Group, the company that owns McCall.
“It was a very difficult decision that the company made,” Small said. “We’re grateful for the decades of valued experience and commitment of all the employees.”
Small said the company is moving the Manhattan printing to its facilities in Neenah, Wisconsin.
McCall’s printing facility has been based in Manhattan since 1969, and in 1970 expanded its space on what is now McCall Road to 147,000 square feet. It employed as many as 1,000 people in the 1970s, and about 500 people in the 1980s, according to archive stories from The Mercury. Small said at its height the facility printed and folded about 200 million patterns a year. Today it’s down to 20-30 million.
McCall is one of the “Big 4” sewing pattern companies: McCall, Butterick, Vogue and Simplicity Patterns. Those brands have changed hands a few times in the last five years, each time creating a bigger conglomerate, according to reporting by the Craft Industry Alliance. All are now owned by CSS Industries, which in January 2020 was acquired by the UK-based Design Group, a company that specializes in gift wrap and greeting cards.
The Manhattan facility originally printed patterns just for the McCall’s brand. When it purchased Butterick/Vogue, the company closed the Altoona, Pennsylvania, printing facility, and the McCall facility began printing those brands, Small said. McCall’s also prints patterns for independent pattern companies. The Wisconsin facility has printed patterns for Simplicity, New Look and Burda since 2007, she said.
Small said the machines in the Wisconsin facility are able to produce patterns on a thicker tissue, which is what customers want.
“All of this movement is being done because of the consumer,” she said. “We’ve had complaints about the quality of the tissue, and the tissue out of the Neenah facility is thicker.”
The Manhattan facility has five tissue presses and two folding machines. The company will scrap the machines, which have been in use since at least the 1960s, a source told the Alliance. It’s unclear what will happen to the building, which the company owns.
Small said the company will outsource envelope printing so it can produce envelopes with clearer graphics. She said all of the operations will remain in the United States.
In addition to the COVID-19-related shutdown in spring 2020, the McCall printing facility had production problems for a few months beginning in October 2020 because of a computer systems issue, the Craft Industry Alliance reported in December.
That caused production and fulfillment delays down the supply chain, but Small said those problems didn’t contribute to the decision to close the Manhattan facility. In fact, she said the popularity of sewing increased in the last year or so.
“Sewing has absolutely seen a huge upsurge since the pandemic,” she said. “Our motto here is to keep the sewing machines sewing. We’re really here to keep the best opportunity and the best product that we can acquire.”
Over time, the number of independent pattern companies and the number of companies offering digital patterns has increased, but Small said that wasn’t a factor in the decision to close, either. She pointed out that all of Design Group’s patterns are also available for download as PDFs, and the company’s catalogs are digital, too.
Small said the company notified employees about the closure last week and plans to close by the end of the year. She did not give specific information about severance packages.
“Some of the employees will remain virtual,” she said. “Those that can maintain their jobs at home will. So it’s business as usual for everyone in the plant. We’re getting ready to go into our busy season with fall. We’re hoping we’ll finish up on a great note.”