Another new sponsor for Indie Pattern Month this year is Sew House Seven. Sew House Seven hails from America, and has a range of gorgeous womenswear patterns. Kat caught up with Peggy, the designer behind Sew House Seven, to find out more…
Hi Peggy! First up, tell us all a bit about your designs. How would you describe your style/aesthetic?
For the most part, my designs have been pretty simple. My original goal was to focus on quick simple designs to encourage beginners to sew. My hope is that my pattern instructions are easy enough to follow that new sewists won’t be discouraged and that they can come away with a wearable project without a battle. That being said, I think the designs are really something that sewists of all levels can enjoy. And going forward, I plan on throwing some more challenging designs into the mix.
As for my style, I’d say it’s romantic and feminine however, lately most of what I gravitate towards and pin on Pinterest is minimal, clean, simple and modern. I start out designing that way and then it always seems to morph back into that familiar romantic feminine quality that I guess I’m all about. Maybe it’s also that I’m drawn to printed fabrics as part of my background and training as an artist is in print making and graphic design.
How did your come up with the name for your label?
The name Sew House Seven came about as my husband kept calling our house a sew house – it was always a mess with sewing projects while I was in the beginning stages of creating. Sew House eventually stuck but it seemed like it was incomplete. Meanwhile, my son was about to turn 7 and he was really excited about it. The number seven just rolled off the end of Sew House and made it sound complete.
We’d love to know the story behind your business. What inspired you to create and sell patterns? How did it all start?
Well I have a degree in apparel design and I’ve worked in the industry as a pattern maker for NIKE bags, Jantzen swimwear and various other freelance design and pattern making jobs as well as a draping instructor at the Art Institute of Portland. I just recently quit a long time job at Pendleton Woolen Mills as a surface designer and sweater designer. I had dreamed about designing my own patterns for a living for over 20 years. In high school I used to daydream about designing while looking through pattern books I just never thought it could be a reality until recently.
I’ve always had this need to be creating something however, it’s not always satisfying designing for someone else as there are too many restrictions, you can’t do what you want and there are too many different opinions to consider. I think I knew after my first real job that I needed to do my own thing – it just took me a while to figure it out. When I started as a pattern maker at Jantzen, our factory was right next door and I could communicate with them easily. Now most companies have moved production overseas and pattern making has almost become a lost art in the U.S. industry. I have become disheartened by the process – all of the production waste, cheap labor, overseas shipping back and fourth and difficult communication. I really wanted to do things my own way and I wanted a creative job that was more meaningful.
Even though I’d dreamed about designing patterns on my own for years and had lots of industry experience, I didn’t know how to go about it. About 10 years ago I bought a book on how to start your own pattern business. I read it however, I was discouraged as the author said she never made much money at it. Then a few years later while shopping at Powell’s bookstore on my lunch break, I spotted a Colette pattern for sale and I realized that someone else was out there making independent patterns and that really inspired me – lit a fire under me I should say. I did a bit more research and then just went for it without really knowing the business. I didn’t realize there were already several successful independent pattern designers out there. I hadn’t really been sewing much for myself with my busy schedule and so hadn’t frequented the fabric shops in a while and wasn’t aware of the on-line sewing community. I felt like such a late comer – all of this great stuff was going on and I didn’t even know it!
Looking forwards, where would you like your business to be in five years time?
In 5 years I hope to be making a living at this ha ha! Not to be all about money but I feel like I’ve finally found my happy place and I really hope that I can continue to pursue this as my full time career and not just as a hobby. I recently quit my “day job” at Pendleton in May to put my heart and soul into Sew House Seven full time. I guess I don’t have huge plans other than being self sufficient, with a business that customers can count on. I don’t need to have several employees however, another person to bounce ideas off and help out would be nice. I do hope to be a more well rounded business. With more time to focus on it, I hope to soon add tutorials, tips and more patterns. Hopefully some travel will be involved as well so I can meet up with customers, other sewists, pattern designers and shops and maybe even teach some classes.
Where do you do all your work? Reckon you can share a photo or two with us, so we can have a sneak peek at your workspace? 😉
I do all of my work out of my home in my new office that isn’t worthy of pictures yet. Our house is a fixer upper and while my office/workroom is a step up from my dining room table, it’s still not finished – just like the rest of our house. I do have to say that my husband is on a remodeling mission and has done so much in a short amount of time however, when you’re living in the dust, it’s never fast enough.
What’s your favourite part of releasing a new design?
The very first sale. Even if the design isn’t a big hit, one sale means somebody out there likes it and that’s exciting. It’s so much work to make a design come to fruition so to know I’m reaching someone out there is just so rewarding. I also really, really, really enjoy watching the buzz and excitement of the sewing community reacting to a new pattern. I love to see how others interpret the design – what fabrics they choose, how it fits them, and what version they make. It’s all very rewarding.
Thinking of your gorgeous designs, what’s your favourite of all your designs so far, and why?
Well, it was the Mississippi Avenue Dress – it’s my most popular pattern however, my new favorite is my latest pattern the Tea House Top and Dress. I had this pattern all set to release last spring of 2015 but there was something about it that wasn’t sitting right with me. Something about the sleeves was bothering me and I didn’t think it would be a big seller so I wasn’t sure I wanted to invest in the printing costs to produce it. Then I wore one of the dress samples to work and had loads of compliments on it. Later, I wore the top out when I met with Heather of Closet Case Files and Binny at Josephine’s Dry Goods and they both encouraged me to release the pattern. A few pattern testers started wondering what happened to it and why I hadn‘t released it. So… I relooked at it, made some adjustments to the sleeves, sewed it up in some new fabrics and just fell in love with it! It’s one of the most diverse patterns in my line in that it really looks different depending on what fabric you sew it up in and there are 2 variations and 3 lengths that can vary the look.
Who or what inspires you, either with your designs or with your business? (Or both!)
Hmmm…. that should be an easy question but I’m not sure there’s one easy answer as far as design inspiration. I don’t really have a muse. So many things shape and inform my aesthetic – my activities, places I visit, my friends, magazine and on-line images as well as what I’d like to wear. Perhaps now that I’m working from home instead of at a down-town office, my designs will be predominantly sweatshirts and pajamas – ha ha.
As far as business inspiration and role models, so many of the Indie pattern designers inspire me. I’m not trying to butter you up but I am so inspired by how you manage to do it all and do it so well. (Kat blushes!) I’m floored at the talent and drive of so many indie designers out there. Sarai from Colette is a big inspiration for so many of us with all that she’s accomplished and how much she has grown her business. Although she inspires me, at this point in my career I can’t imagine managing several employees and taking on that much but it’s so great that someone is doing it.
Do you have any new patterns coming out soon? Any hints you can give us? (We’re so impatient, haha!)
I have a top/sweater pattern that will come out in the Fall. I was trying to release it this past winter but didn’t get it together in time so I’ve decided to wait to release it. I have another pattern that may be only offered as a pdf file. It has both a skirt and a pant version and I hope to release it as soon as possible but it always takes much longer than I plan so I’m not sure of the timing. Now that I’m devoting more time to the business, I plan on being more prolific – hoping at least.
Thank you so much for chatting with us Peggy! (I’m still blushing from your lovely words!) Best of luck with the career shift – we’ll be looking forward to seeing what you come up with next.