Grace in LAX

Would you believe you can shop for fabric after a 14 hour flight? Grace is a fabulous fabric enabler. You know Grace’s blog – Badmomgoodmom.

Hugging silk tweed fabric at a great price.

We met recently through Me-Made May 2013. Thankfully Grace had the time to rescue me from my first failed attempt to meet but second successful attempt to get a T-Mobile sim and she took me to SAS Fabrics in Hawthorne, LAX. I wasn’t able to get my act into gear early enough to visit Trash4teaching (T4T) but from Grace’s experience, T4T is a good place to shop.

Laughing our heads off at hugging fabric.
SAS Fabrics is an amazingly huge place where it you can buy fabric by weight. There are notions. Rows and rows of all sorts of notions being sold a ridiculously low prices. And you wouldn’t pick this store from its street view. It is huge and if you have a bunch of projects you want to complete, this is the place for those bits and pieces you need. As Grace says, fabric shopping is a great way to overcome jet lag. She was right in my case.
We were both happy with our haul and we’re both wearing me-made outfits. Grace is great at using her stash. She’s wearing her fail to win outfit.

Now on Day 1 of my trip to the States it would have been very easy to pick up lots of great prints and notions to fill my suitcase just at SAS Fabrics, but I was restrained. My haul only weighed in at 5 pounds. So I was able to farewell LA with 1 suitcase that had plenty of room left. Thank you Grace for the blue FOE and ‘seams great’.

A couple of workout wear fabrics, silks in classic prints and some notions (not shown).
I missed the opportunity to meet KC Sheehan (another sewer who cycles) as I over estimated what I could do in a day with a very tired hubby.

You were right KC. Next visit I’ll add in a few days (hire a car) to get to the garment district and fabric shop with you and Grace.

I love mexican food now.
While Grace and I fabric shopped DH said he was going back to the hotel after Grace picked me up, but he decided to stayed a Culver City Westfields and shopped at Old Navy. His energy returned:) Grace’s theory about shopping to overcome jet lag was proven to work for both of us.

For dinner we met up for real Mexican food (see the cooks above) and our husbands joined us. We had a great night. We all cycle so sewing didn’t dominate the conversation.

The next day I bought a Mexican cooking basics magazine at LAX as we waited for our NY connection, to remember the great day I had with Grace.
Thank you Grace and Mark. I hope to catch up with you next visit KC.

Piece of cake – Kwik Sew 3693

While I was on holidays I did enjoyed a few local delights in the States – with glee. So now I’m back home, winter has arrived and I’m training in the mornings to get rid of those excess kilos of ‘delight’. 

This fleece jacket is Kwik Sew 3693. A good basic hoodie jacket that uses minimal pieces and very few notions. Just one long open-ended zipper in any style or configuration is all you need plus thread. Imagine using a swarovski zipper for a swanky jacket? Imagine…
I really got used to Hawaii’s weather. This cold is such a stark change from wearing shorts and swimmers everyday.
Would you believe these tights/leggings kept me cosy too? The combed fabric and long leg style did the trick. But I digress…

The fleece jacket is a navy colour. I have to play with the camera settings bit more to get the colour right. There’s no lining in this jacket so it was quick to make up.
By the way, the pockets are sewn on after you’ve finished the jacket so the pockets will always sit in the righ position for your hands.

This is ‘as good as it gets’ at 6am in the morning

I followed the instructions and Kwik Sew instructions are really clear and simple to follow. If your zipper is bigger that the pattern suggests, use it because it will bring the hood up closer to your face and keep you warmer in the cold. See the second picture from the top.

I can’t really blame these Hawaiian cookies pictured for my self-inflicted weight predicament. Nor can I blame the cinnabons I ate with Shannon, the great Mexican food I enjoyed with Grace, Chai lattes, cake donuts with icing,  hot dog at the Mets game, Crackerjacks, burgers, pizza or cakes from Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken, NJ. Oh and not the Mac Attack (3 types of mac n cheese) I had for lunch with Kyle and those donuts!! But I had to try them all.
I can only blame moi.

Next up
I wasn’t able to post much, or reply to comments or sew while I was on holidays in the States but my next few posts will show the sewing aspect of this trip.
I’ve already mentioned the food 🙂

Thank you all for reading the interviews I did post while I was on holidays. I thought this might give you something different to read for a change.
Thanks Mari, Laura and Lena for preparing your responses. I have enjoyed working with you.

Meet Lena Merrin

You may have seen the Yalta top and Lily skirt that I tested this year. These are patterns by Lena Merrin. She’s a local pattern designer with lots of industry knowledge and she’s the only pattern designer I’ve met face to face (so far) since I started enjoying pattern testing.
As I have mentioned my pattern testing was done for nix because I love the whole process and working to a deadline.

Meet* Lena

What do you love about sewing? I love how my ideas and drawings come to life. I love having a total control over appearance, quality and fit of everything I wear and ability to express myself this way.
Sewing is also very calming to me. Many ideas come to me while I sew, many problems get solved and issues put behind me. I also love drafting patterns: the calculations it involves gives me a feeling of order and predictability. So really, sewing is my meditation 🙂
click here for this resource.

Do you come from a long line of sewers/pattern drafters/crafters? My mother is a great knitter, I have inherited her perfectionism and attention to detail. She knows how to sew and can sew very well, but she has this fear of cutting into fabric. I, however, have never hesitated to cut and try new things. I am grateful to my mother for teaching me to be meticulous and never stopping me from wearing my creations (no matter how strange they looked).

I also had a distant relative who was a seamstress extraordinaire. I heard she could sew perfectly fitting clothes for my mother without a single fitting. She also won a few fashion awards. Unfortunately she passed away when I was very young. So most of what I know I had to teach myself.

What does a work day look like for you? I have a young family and because of it my work day does not have set hours. I work in short bursts of 1-2 hours at a time throughout the day. I usually work on several projects at a time – one can be in a design stage, another one in a pattern stage or a sewing stage. During the week I also meet my sewing students and on weekends I meet my clients and sew for myself (when I get the chance). My weekends are usually busier than my week days, so I am fortunate to have such an understanding family.
Click here for this reference.

How long have you wanted to start a pattern line? When I started blogging about the clothes I make I was often asked which patterns I used. This gave me an idea to sell my patterns. It was a natural continuation of what I love doing. I don’t dwell on things for too long, so once I got an idea to start making my own patterns, I immediately gave it a go.

How did you choose your pattern company name? I was quite unimaginative and called my patterns Lena Merrin Patterns. For now I am the only one in the team, but things might change and so might the name.

What inspires you? Perfection, quality, clean lines, character, the element of surprise. I am a very visual person and I love colour and pattern.

I got an idea for my Lily pattern when I saw printed silk chiffon folded on the table. The lower layers were visible through top layers, creating the amazing tridimensional image. With the added movement of the skirt the fabric and the print came alive.


Yalta came about when I draped striped viscose knit on the mannequin, trying to avoid the predictability of the horizontal stripe. The combination of diagonal stripe and drape produce a relaxed and chic effect.
My latest pattern Jackie is all about silhouette, wearability and style. This coat can be dressed up or down, it is versatile, fresh and stylish.


I also love fitting clothes. Analysing and solving fit mysteries is a good brain exercise, and trouser fitting is a great challenge if you are looking for one. I have achieved my perfect trouser fit and I often help other sewists with their fit dilemmas.
These are the perfect fit trousers that Lena recently made.

Do you have a mentor? I have recently made a new friend, who has been in the industry for over 30 years. I am learning a great deal from her and I have noticed some positive changes in the way I sew already. I guess I can call her my mentor.

What challenges have you had with your pattern line? My greatest challenge was trying to keep track of all the little details that make the pattern great. I wanted my patterns to be clear, but not overloaded with details and instructions. Finding the balance between industry’s laconic pattern language and elaborate instructions for home sewers was one of the biggest tasks.

Learning to use illustrator and other software was another challenge, because my knowledge was zero at the beginning of all this.

And, of course, trying to find time for all this work while raising a family, blogging and sewing for clients!

Do you have a 5 year goal in mind? Sewing pattern world domination, of course

What advice would you give others who are thinking of starting their own pattern line? Know your customer, listen closely to the feedback, and have a strong sense of who you are and what your patterns are about.

Write down what starting a company involves, down to a small detail and go from there. Journey of thousand miles begins with a single step.


Lena Merrin
Lena Merrin Patterns

*1. all opinions are the interviewee’s own.
2. this blog post is not sponsored and has been published for people to know the maker better, understand the ins and outs of pattern making biz from one person’s personal journey.
3. all images are copyright of their original owners and used with permission for the purposes of discussion and illustration

Meet Laura Nash

Laura Nash is the designer behind Sew Chic Patterns. Remember Fifth Avenue? Well Beatrice is in the pipeline. No occasion to wear Beatrice to as yet, but I’ll find one.

Meet* Laura

What do you love about sewing?
Good question! I love sewing for the creativity it provides. It gives all of us the ability to combine color, style, and silhouette in a way that is flattering. I also love sewing because it’s a technical skill.

Sewing is both a science and an art, so it seems to me that everyone can enjoy sewing at some level.

Do you come from a long line of sewers/pattern drafters/crafters?
I have a cousin that is a professional artist, so does that count? My grandmother and mother both sewed but did not enjoy it at the same level that I do. I think they both sewed out of necessity, not for the enjoyment of it. I have an aunt that still sews, but for the most part my extended family isn’t heavily into the arts.

What does a work day look like for you?
The day always starts by responding to email and processing orders. The middle of the day is spent on whatever need has the highest priority or the shortest deadline. It could be updating the website, making progress on a new or established design, printing more stock, preparing or planning for an event or class, ordering or sourcing supplies, going on a photo shoot, checking a vendors work…the list is long! At the end of the usual work day I make a trip to the post office to mail the orders. It’s a chance for me to get out and see the sky. Then back to work until bedtime. Nights and weekends I work on the extras like blogging and mailing list updates.

How long have you wanted to start a pattern line?
It was the dull fashion of the 1990’s that set in motion a determination to go to college for apparel design with the thought that perhaps eventually I could start a pattern line. I was going to ensure that at least I would never again be the prisoner of dull fashion again!

How did you choose your pattern company name?
The first 3 patterns were originally issued under the name of “Nostalgic Pattern Co.” I chose the name because of the historic nature of my aesthetic. My family warned me it was a bad name, but I didn’t believe them. After a year or so, I hired a friend to create a new logo, but first I had to come with a new name. I knew that I wanted the word “sew” in it. Wanting to help, my friend sent me a brainstorm list of about 20 name combinations and Sew Chic was at the top. I was worried that “Chic” would give me trouble knowing that many people wouldn’t know how to say it or spell it, but I liked it enough to start working on a logo idea right away. The next day I sent her the graphic and asked her opinion of it. She said it was perfect!
Because the project was over as quick as it started, she never charge me for it.

What inspires you?
Shape, form, repetition, harmony, color, modesty, kindness, eloquence, honesty, character, quality, sharing, gratitude, light, cheerfulness.

Do you have a mentor?
I do try to watch and learn and glean wisdom from people where ever I go, whomever I interact with, and from the books that I read. I very much admire and love to study the works of the past fashion designers such as Madeline Vionnet. She shunned the label “designer” and always called herself a dressmaker. Highly inventive designers like Charles James and Cristóbal Balenciaga where masters of shape in the clothing arts. No one designs like that anymore.

What challenges have you had with your pattern line?
Most problems are logistical. It’s difficult to source quality vendors and raw materials. The internet helps, but networking is better.

Do you have a 5 year goal in mind?
Within 5 years I hope to have many patterns in every category of women’s wear. I also want to do patterns for men. Children’s wear is less of a priority because there are already many independent companies doing childrens clothing. I will continue to teach at sewing expos, attending 2 shows a year- fall and spring. I will also be teaching video classes.

What advice would you give others who are thinking of starting their own pattern line?
If there was one thing that would guarantee success, I would tell them to do their prep work and go to college! Having ideas and being able to sew and draw a little is not enough. This job is so much more, and to do this without an education is starting with a huge handicap. When I started school, I would have called myself an expert seamstress, but it would not have been enough. Besides discovering my talent for design, I learned so much more, and I’m still learning! I cannot even imagine starting any other way, and credit much of my success to the fact that I got an education first.

Laura Nash
Sew Chic Pattern Company
Mail:595 Dampier Dr.
Philomath OR 97370
Phone: 541-929-9000
Toll Free: 866-623-9052

*1. all opinions are the interviewee’s own.
2. this blog post is not sponsored and has been published for people to know the maker better, understand the ins and outs of pattern making biz from one person’s personal journey.
3. all images are copyright of their original owners and used with permission for the purposes of discussion and illustration

Meet Mari Miller

This year I’ve done a bit of pattern testing for a few new pattern lines for nix and I’ve enjoyed pattern testing to help out new comers. This has given me a few new things to sew.

Sometimes I’m making the garment using just the pattern without instructions but I get to work with the pattern designers themselves. We usually ‘speak’ via email and most pattern designers work in different countries and timezones but that just adds to the fun of pattern testing.

Mari Miller is the lady behind the Avocado hoodie I’ve made for Mr V and myself.

Meet* Mari…

What do you love about sewing?
So many things!
I love how calm yet exciting the process is. Of course, having fun things that fit will is a great incentive too. I’ve always been drawn to tactile things, so working with great feeling materials and wearing them just plain makes me happy. I need to work with my hands and sewing is a wonderfully sensuous way to do that, between the feel of a crisp linen or buttery soft silk to seeing solid colors that pop and fun prints.

Do you come from a long line of sewers/pattern drafters/crafters?

Yes and no.
Both my grandmas knew good, basic crafting skills. You had to in order to live through the Depression. However, those skills weren’t really passed down to my parents’ generation. And I never saw either of my grandmas or my mother sew. Although, my one grandma did try to teach me how to knit when I was in grammar school, but I didn’t take to it until I was much older. It’s a shame she didn’t teach me how to crochet though- even after she had gone blind she could crochet flawless lace doilies. I want to be that skilled!

What does a work day look like for you?
It depends.
On days when I go to my paying job I get to downtown Chicago by 9am and do the usual grind (as a legal assistant) until 5pm, at which point I go home and sew or spend some quality time on the computer doing all the behind the scenes work for the company. On my “free” days I get up and spend my time sewing up muslins, working away on that computer again, or filming a short video for a tutorial.

How long have you wanted to start a pattern line?
Around under a year, although I’ve been dreaming up fashion designs since I was a little girl.

What made you decide to set up a pattern line?
I graduated while the economy was taking a nose dive so I ended up with some really awful jobs, the kind where you’re treated like a machine, your boss literally throws their dirty tissues on your coat (although I don’t think she did it on purpose), you’re encouraged to under-perform and there’s absolutely no possibility of advancement. After a few people I cared for died, I knew I couldn’t keep living like I was. It was time to start making my own opportunities and living the life I wanted. I had dreamed of owning my own business for years, but never before had it seemed so important to stop putting that dream off. Ever since I was a little girl I had loved to sew; it was the one constant thing that never changed, so starting a sewing-centric business seemed the natural choice.

How did you choose your pattern company name?
It was the name of my blog, because when I started it I wanted to talk about whatever caught my fancy, be it sewing, science, art and architecture, or chocolate. Before that, for my undergrad degree, I had gone to an art school that encouraged students to study many different, or disparate if you will, disciplines. Working to bring together many different media and modes of working is my favorite way to live and to create things.

It also seemed to describe the lives of a lot of people I knew – they weren’t just moms or dads, judges, data entry temps (as I had been), or business owners – they took on many disparate roles in their lives. How long ago was it that you couldn’t be both a school teacher and a wife or a bank clerk and a photographer? People nowadays seem to be doing more and more different things all at once, yet they don’t always have exciting wardrobes to accompany all their needs. You can get up, put on the same boring suit or office casual attire, go out to dinner with friends in that same clothing, get home, toss on some pajamas or yoga clothing, then go to the grocery store or running the next day in the same kind of yoga attire. For a lot of the people I know, their closets are made up almost entirely of clothing for just those two ends of the spectrum: work attire and lounge wear. I think that’s why a lot of us look into our closets and groan that there’s nothing to wear- we’re bored with it all!

There’s something special that happens when you put on a garment you’ve sewn that doesn’t fall squarely into either of those categories. That’s what Disparate Disciplines Sewing Patterns is about, making clothing for those other occasions in your life. Sure, the patterns can work in more “wardrobes” than just the ones they were designed for, but they’re about sewing with things in mind outside of just work and the grocery store. It’s about creating a wardrobe that encompasses all the disparate roles you take on instead of just making pretty dresses or just making work clothing. There’s nothing wrong with solely doing either, but creating a well-rounded wardrobe can be a big confidence booster.

What inspires you?
Many things: people on the street, nature, TV and movies, the list goes on. For instance, with the Avocado Hoodie I was inspired to solve a problem: cold hands while walking with my arms around my boyfriend. That’s also why I included details like the thumb opening and overlapping hood- you need that extra protection when you live in the northern climes! As for making the cuff start above the wrist, that was inspired by seeing a longer cuff on a knit sweater during my morning commute. That way the beginning of the cuffs could also line up with the beginning of the hem band, a detail I hadn’t seen on other patterns. Sometimes the inspiration comes from another kind of practicality, like using up scraps of fabric. That’s how the original draft of the wrap skirt started.

Do you have a mentor?
I have a few friends off of whom I bounce ideas and ask for advice.

What challenges have you had with your pattern line?
Managing people’s expectations. I’ve learned that some people project their hopes and expectations onto the patterns. They want your pattern to match their exact lifestyle and get upset when it doesn’t, but you can’t be everything to everyone. That’s why there are so many different indie pattern companies, we’re all catering to a different fashion sense and lifestyle.

As for logistics and day-to-day work challenges, it’s always the little things!
From the post office, to computer problems, people getting sick and so on. A lot of small problems add up to larger ones. But one of my favorite challenges has been learning how to use new software. It’s incredibly time consuming and often frustrating to make the instructions, yet I’ve really enjoyed expanding my skills to learn how to use vector based graphic design programs (think Photoshop without pixels), as well as video and sound editing programs.

What does your pattern line offer to the sewing community?
My pattern line offers modern designs with details not seen in many sewing patterns. There are great companies out there that do a modern look with a more loose silhouette and less defined waist, like Grainline Studios. Other companies produce excellent basics, like Sewaholic. Companies like Colette produce really pretty dresses.

Disparate Disciplines helps you create a special, wearable wardrobe that works for all parts of life, from those days you need to lay around the house but still want to feel a little fashionable to times when you need that pretty dress. It’s about creating patterns that fill all the gaps in your wardrobe.

Designs focus on interesting seaming and construction, while staying feminine and comfortable. Waists are more defined in modern cuts that sometimes give a nod to the past. It’s not about appealing to both vintage and modern lovers, but about appreciating fashion’s past while looking to the future. This can be seen best in the 1401 pattern which can be made as a dress or a top. The silhouette was based on 60’s sheath dresses but the seaming details are more modern.

Do you have a 5 year goal in mind?
My main goal is to create a business that modestly sustains me, so I can stop working in a cubicle while also fostering a growing online community full of people who sew things that make them happy.

What advice would you give others who are thinking of starting their own pattern line?

Honestly assess your skills, strengths and weaknesses. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make a website or take photos up to the standards to which I aspired, so I decided to work with people who do those things well. That was also why I hired a pattern maker. I could draft and grade the patterns myself, but would they be as good as a trained professional with a computer program that can match seams up to tiny fractions of an inch? I’ve got a bit of a perfectionist in me, so how many hours would I need to dedicate to drafting “perfect” patterns that fit a range of figures, continually re-doing my work and worrying to death that things weren’t up to snuff? Could my time be better spent doing other things?

Keep in mind that starting a business, not just pattern drafting and sample sewing, takes tons and tons of time. The amount of time you put in will make the difference between a fun hobby shop on Etsy that takes the edge off your fabric addiction and a serious store like Colette patterns. You can set up a blog in five minutes, but setting up a store takes a lot longer. There are so many things that don’t readily come to mind when you’re initially fantasizeing about your new venture: you need to register your business, educate yourself on sales tax, import all that tax info into your online store, etc. The list really goes on and on. These time consuming and often tedious details add up to a more polished online presence. So think about how much effort you can put into the business and try to judge if that time will realistically help you meet your goals, whether they’re making pocket change or being as big as McCall’s.

Also, read “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing” by Kathleen Fasanella. Having been published in 1998, it is a little out of date; it also talks about manufacturing a line of clothing instead of creating sewing patterns. However, it offers a wealth of helpful knowledge, from things like how to hire a pattern maker to the importance of style numbers and a bit of grading theory.

Mari Miller

1. all opinions are the interviewee’s own.
2. this blog post is not sponsored and has been published for people to know the maker better, understand the ins and outs of pattern making biz from one person’s personal journey.
3. all images are copyright of their original owners and used with permission for the purposes of discussion and illustration

Plum tights

Road testing gymwear can reveal shortcomings of a make before your wear it as planned. Having cold ankles while testing these plum tights made it quiet clear they were way too short – even for me.
The first version was made with two-way stretch knit so the length was part of the stretch.

This plum version has one-way stretch with a soft inside for warmth.

This fabric is the same as the fabric I’ve used in the v-neck top above. I won’t be wearing these pieces together. It will look too matchy-matchy.

Like the orange zippers? Another stash piece used – yay! That’s the 7cm band I added to keep my ankles warm.

The fit on my hips, waist and legs worked but not the capri length  To add the ankle band, I unpicked and resewed in the zipper.

Love it when I can match the top stitching at the seams. You can clearly see the back centre seam is longer than the front centre seam. The waist band was sewn on with the elastic in it. No elastic casing insertion required. The top stitching on the seaming is coverstitched.

Lesson to self
Keep the tights shorter for two-way stretch knit. Add length for one-way stretch knits.
I do have a rad knit print waiting for a running pair. Hi Melissa.