We have another of our new sponsors today. It’s awesome when new sponsors come on board, and Sarah Kirsten is a new one for me. We caught up with Sarah, the owner and designer to tell us more about these “patterns for creatives who enjoy the process of making”
**Use code INDIEMONTH for 20% off all Sarah Kirsten patterns through October 31st!**
Hi Sarah! Welcome to Indie Pattern Month! First, tell us a bit about your designs. How would you describe your style/aesthetic?
It’s such a joy to be here. Thank you for asking me to be involved! I would say my style is simple, clean, elegant, and I hope, something that goes beyond the surface of mere photographs or fabric. I really feel like sewing your own clothing and bags is an avenue to deeper self confidence and self expression, and I love being able to help people along that path by making patterns that are simple and accessible to sew with easy to follow instructions and sewing techniques.
How did you come up with the name for your label?
It was my brother’s suggestion actually. I’ve always liked labels that are the designer’s name. They feel strong and clear and stand out to me. So when my brother suggested I use my first and middle name, it was a clear YES.
My family has a tradition of our middle names being Scandinavian to honour our heritage. The night before I was born my mother read the American Girl Doll story of Kirsten. She was so touched by the story that she decided to make Kirsten my middle name. I was embarrassed for a long time that I was named after an American Girl Doll because I didn’t even like playing with dolls. But I’ve grown to love my name. I’m glad my parents decided to call me Sarah Kirsten.
We’d love to know the story behind your business. What inspired you to create and sell patterns? How and when did it all start?
It was one of those things where you need the other people in your life to tell you that you are good at something. Drafting has always been natural to me. Visualization of angles and shapes and sizes have always made sense in my head, so I didn’t realize for a long time that it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. And then there was the whole thing of feeling strange because I realized I had a talent that others didn’t and figuring out how to deal with that was difficult. I finally came to a place where I realized that in order to fully embrace who I am I need to fully embrace my talents. Along with that I realized that walking fully in my talents is the best way I can serve others in a true and genuine way.
My brother really helped me recognise my abilities, so I’m forever grateful to him for that. I think we often try to squash down what we’re good at because it feels like a big risk to step into what we’re called to do. He literally had to talk with me for over 10 years about it before I was willing to accept it. He finally convinced me to let him post a pattern I made for myself online. It got over 12,000 downloads and made us some money, so I began to take him seriously.
He had been telling me I should sell my patterns for a long time, and after I moved home from graduate school it just felt like the timing was right. I started drafting up a storm and learning how to illustrate. I put my first patterns up for sale in August 2017 and have been growing steadily since. It was really scary at first, but I’m so glad I decided to go for it. It’s been incredibly fun and fulfilling, and I feel very happy to have landed right where I am.
Looking ahead, where would you like your business to be in five years time?
I’d love to expand a little bit. I’d like to hire an employee or two to do some sewing, illustrating, and content creation. It’s hard to give up work because I love it all, but I recently started outsourcing some of my illustrating and it’s been really amazing to see how much faster work can get done when you have a team. It’s another one of those life lessons where you have to learn to let go of some things in order to grow.
Where do you do all your work? May we have a sneak peek behind the scenes at your workspace?
My parents graciously let me take over one of the spare rooms in our house as a workroom. My dad built a 4 story house with lumber from an old sawmill and did all the woodwork himself. My workroom is on the third floor and has beautiful hardwood floors, exposed rafters, blue walls, and two windows that look out over the front driveway with lovely tall trees and grassy paddocks of lawn. I’m so thankful for this space because it’s large enough for me to do all my sewing and designing and also photographing. It was my dream to have a workspace where I could have everything in one place, so I’m very thankful to have this room all to myself.
For my cutting table I use a door placed on top of two sawhorses made by my sister. I painted them all white and I think it looks really nice next to the blue walls. My sewing table is an antique, wooden, foldable sewing table with a ruler painted along one of the sides. It’s such a short table that I have to use a children’s chair to sit under it. I guess I like wooden antique things because I use an antique children’s chair, too. Since I’m rather small myself, the dimensions feel really lovely to me.
What is your favourite part of releasing a new design?
It’s fulfilling to see my patterns being made by others. It just makes my day when someone sends me a message with photos of something they made using my pattern. It’s incredible to see this thing I created going out into the world and being recreated in so many different ways by others. It’s an odd thing because it’s my pattern, but they are not my creations. It’s a strange and wonderful feeling to be a part of someone else’s creations. To know that the pattern I made is helping people create their own things… that’s one of the most satisfying feelings I’ve ever experienced.
We just love the beauty and simplicity of your designs! Which would you say is your favourite of all your designs so far, and why?
Oh this is a difficult one. I think I’m particularly fond of the Clover Apron. It’s cool and breezy and whenever I wear it I feel like a million bucks. I feel like it somehow expresses what I really want to say about myself, and I hope that it can help other people express what they want to say about themselves, too.
Who or what inspires you, either with your designs or with your business (or both)?
It’s interesting how RTW clothing conditions us to think about our bodies in certain ways. I thought my thighs were too large for a long time because they never fit in jeans that were the right size for my waist. But now (maybe partly because I haven’t gone jean shopping in a long time!) I realise that my thighs aren’t too large. I even have a thigh gap for goodness sakes! How could I think that my thighs are too large? It’s really an injustice to young girls to put those ideas in their heads about their bodies. I’m motivated to provide clothing for people that fits their body, that shows how beautiful their body is, to reaffirm people’s ability to make clothes that express who they are, and to make sewing as simple as possible and accessible to people who are just starting.
I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about how to show bodily beauty in a wholesome way. I think it’s easy to over-sexualise beauty or to want to portray your beauty through sexual means. But I want clothes that show how beautiful we are, even how sexy we are, through showing our elegance, femininity, and wholesomeness.
We understand you released your latest pattern – the Clematis Tote – last month (congrats on the release, by the way)! Will you tell us a little bit about it?
Thank you! I’ve been wanting a lightweight tote that you feel you can take anywhere. Something that feels like it’s right there with you to join on your daily adventures. Something you don’t feel like you need to necessarily keep clean but is ready to work and get dirty with you. A tote you can take to collect rocks at the creek, or pickup vegetables at the farmer’s market, or wrap up your camera in your backpack when you’re travelling. I noticed that a lot of the totes I ran across were either thick and stiff or lined with various pockets sewn in. I wanted a simple tote that is foldable and lightweight and gets softer and more beautiful the more time and memories it collects. So I was especially excited to bring that pattern to life and to see it being used that way in other people’s adventures.
Do you have any new patterns in the works? Any hints you can give us?
I’m working hard to get a bundle of patterns ready for a fall release. I’ve never tried a seasonal line of patterns before and I’m excited to push it out the door in the coming months. It’s one of those interesting things where it’s teaching me that I can’t spend forever on a pattern trying to make it perfect. I have to finish one and move on to the next and recognise that any changes I would like to make are so minute that they would hardly be noticeable to anyone. I have to let go of being a perfectionist or else I would never release anything!