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.

Regards

Lena Merrin
thesewingspace.com
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 thesewingspace.com

Lily skirt – no surprises

Lena wore her Lily skirt at the Sydney Sewer Social and when she asked me to test this pattern I said Yes! Check out Lena’s Lily skirt post. I know some of you are testing this skirt too.

Here’s my first Lily using tulips. I love this Spring print.

Putting the pattern pieces together was easy to assemble.

I don’t have lots of floor space so I assembled the first few rows; cut out those pattern pieces; and then assembled the last few rows. The pages are numbered so the pattern pieces came together within an hour.

After I put the pieces together these ‘reference’ pieces were used to trace off my size. I might make Lily up for a few others in the family. It’s happened before.

Initial adjustments: Shortened the hip depth and then took 6cm off the hem. The lining is meant to be 7cm above the skirt hem but I’ve kept it about the same because I wanted to wear this skirt to work.

Technical stuff:
The zip area is reinforced with interfacing.  I’ve also used steam a seam lite 2 to finish the hem. Twill tape is used at the waist and you can see it so I’ll use fusible tape on the next skirt. French seams are used on this poly georgette for most of the skirt and lining. The lining is Sunsilky.

Final adjustments:

Lowered the front waist by 1.5cm.
Remove 0.5cm off the side seams at the waistline.
 
I’d love to make another Lily. I’ve worn this to work and I felt comfortable/safe wearing it to cross the road on a windy summer’s morning. And I felt pretty too.
Armband rough instructions
Thank you for your supportive comments about my armband. I felt pretty silly posting it up but I’ve found it works and I hope you can improve upon what I’ve done. The rough instructions to make your own version is on the armband post.

Sydney sewer meet up

We had lots of familiar sewing bloggers meet together on Saturday. I think fabric shopping was like background entertainment for us because it was so much fun meeting and chatting too everyone in real life.

While we got a helpful discount from Tessutis, I weakened with The Fabric Store’s 50% off sale.

This picture is from Little Betty blog, courtesy of Wendy. PS Wendy was glowing.

So while I don’t need more fabric, I weakened and purchased some silk pieces.


Pic left to right: Janelle, Rebecca and moi hunting fabrics. I wore my jungle print Yalta top. We hunted Janelle to find her perfect couture dress fabrics – successfully.

And Gabrielle was able to make it this time. I’ve been wanting to meet Gabrielle since Made-Me-May 2012.

Pic left to right: Yana, Lena, moi and Janelle.
Lena Merrin was there and gave us her industry-based fabric buying advice. Did anyone notice Lena’s skirt? Yana has been making some great maternity wear, as you can plainly see. All the best Yana!

So silks were on my shopping list, especially for the price. Did I mention that I’m easily swayed by a bargain.

Thanks to Kristy for arranging our meet up. I like Kristy’s idea of having the next meet up at a cafe because I had no ‘beans left in the can’ by the time it was time to go for drinks. Keep and eye on her blog for the next meet up.

I missed seeing Kristy, Jodie and Anne:((

BTW: Here’s an interesting fact. The Fabric Store has just ordered in rolls of the jungle print I was wearing. Now I bought this fabric at Pitt Trading (a Charlie Brown remnant) early last year. You know, that remnant bin with my name on it – LOL. So if you like this print, keep an eye out for it next time you’re in the store.
Small world!

Yalta by Lena Merrin

In early January Lena Merrin  of the sewing space sent out a request for 10 pattern testers. I registered and joined 9 other sewers to test her new pattern – Yalta ladies pattern by Lena Merrin Patterns.
While the Jungle January safari continues,
I hunted through my fabric stash and struck down a Charlie Brown remnant piece I bought at Pitt Trading and made this version. Meryl Streep (out of Africa) wasn’t a real fabric hunter but I am.
While Lena’s pattern is designed for knits, the grainline goes across the body, so I caught another chiffon print and made a woven jungle version. My curiousity said, why not try it? It’s only fabric.

I love this style because it’s comfortable in our stinking hot summer weather.
I’ve never used a downloadable pdf pattern so here’s what my pattern pieces look like.

So I shortened the length and took 1.5cm off the shoulder seam. I cut and sewed this blue version in 2 hours. Here’s Mum’s larger version but still the same length I’ve made for her birthday. I also want to make a skirt for her too.

Warning: Jungle January is addictive. More jungle pieces are building a health safari collection. I just love the Meryl Streep reference Anne.
PS: I’ve posted more trench coat references on the right hand column.