New to sponsoring Indie Pattern Month this year is Islander Sewing Systems. We were excited to discover Janet’s business offering indie patterns with all the extra support you need on her website and special “express” patterns for those days when you just want to smash out something fabulous 😉 Let’s find out more…
Mel caught up with Janet, the designer behind Islander Sewing Systems…
Hi Janet! Welcome to Indie Pattern Month!
First up, tell us all a bit about your designs. How would you describe your style/aesthetic?
I like to design modern classics, things that are staples in every one’s wardrobe and have the details and fit of current fashion trends.
How did your come up with the name for your label?
My label is the same as my sewing system that teaches industry sewing techniques for home-sewing, Islander
We’d love to know the story behind your business. What inspired you to create and sell patterns? How did it all start?
It always seems so cliché’ but it’s true for me too, I loved the idea of sewing from the age of 5. When I first saw my grandmother create a doll dress without a pattern right in front of my eyes, I thought it was nearly magic! At age ten I made it my mission to learn how to sew from my grandmother who lived more than 200 miles away. So each time we visited I would take a new project that included a technique I wanted to learn, from pockets, to linings and even bound buttonholes. The time I wanted to learn how to install a zipper, I took a break to play outside and when I returned, much to my disappointment, grandma had install the zipper, perfectly of course. I realized then I had never told her of my motives to learn the process. When she knew I really wanted to learn, it was game-on!
As a pre-teen I had the privilege of spending the summer in Southern California with my aunt, Margaret Islander. At that time, she was just learning some of the techniques that would one day be known as the Islander Sewing Systems. I enjoyed going to work with her one evening a week where I would see the industrial equipment used to train sewing machine operators for the garment industry. Over the years Margaret would share more of the techniques I needed when I began selling items I made with my sewing machine. I learned a wealth of knowledge on better sewing techniques and this information allowed me to hire private contractors to sew my products. These contractors were really home sewers until I taught them industry techniques that allowed them to sew from home and make a very reasonable hourly wage. I paid them by the piece but taught them the fastest way to make it. Win-win!
During the years I was conducting my sewing production business, I would often accompany Margaret when she was invited to teach at trade shows and special events. Her style of teaching was enthusiastic and engaging and I always try to carry on that tradition. When Margaret retired she asked me to continue her mission to teach home sewers that sewing can be more fun, faster and better, than they know. What an honor and a pleasure for me to share all of her special information and now some of my own, with other sewers. I am one of the lucky who work at what we love and therefore it doesn’t even seem like work, more like play. When I share this information I can see it in the eyes of the students how excited and happy they are to know a better way to sew. Nearly a day goes by without someone emailing or calling telling their story of how happy they are having learned our techniques and their only regret is they hadn’t learned it earlier. I cannot imagine enjoying anything more and I feel so blessed to be on this mission, all I can say is: “I want to teach the world to sew!”
Margaret’s original videos are still popular products sold on our website along with the book I wrote outlining her most popular video and live class, Industrial Shortcuts! I have now developed a line of sewing patterns with pattern guides that include industry techniques. My latest patterns titled “Express” include an express method for construction order. Currently I have 4 online classes on Craftsy.com, accept invitations to teach around the country and in Canada and I love every minute of it all!
Looking forwards, where would you like your business to be in five years time?
Continuing to expand across the globe, teaching home sewers an easier, faster and more enjoyable way to accomplish their hobby or businesses.
Where do you do all your work? We’d love to have a sneak peek at your workspace!
What’s your favourite part of releasing a new design?
Seeing how others interpret the design. Often they come-up with version of my pattern that never occurred to me but inspire me to create even more.
Thinking of your gorgeous designs, what’s your favourite of all your designs so far, and why?
It’s not a design but I have created a line of my patterns titled “Express”. I am very proud of this concept that takes the efficiency of sewing one step further than just the sewing techniques.
Who or what inspires you with your designs?
I had two very special mentors: Margaret Islander who developed the system and taught it to me. Clotilde Lampe was a fabulous and generous mentor in the sewing business. These two great ladies have passed on but still inspire me and I remember their support in everything “sewing” thing I do!
Do you have any new patterns coming out soon?
Two new patterns in the Express line: Men’s Shirt Maker’s Express and Women’s Shirt Maker Express. These are classic modern button-up shirts that can be constructed within 3 hours using the Islander Sewing Systems.