We are really excited to introduce another new sponsor for Indie Pattern Month this year! MyBodyModel launched in June, following a wildly sucessfuly Kickstarter campaign. Erica Schmitz has designed a program that allows makers to input their own unique body measurements & generate a custom croquis to help plan their sewing! No more trying to envision in your mind how that shoulder treatment or this hem length might suit your particular body. No more trying to make decisions based on a mass-produced croquis that doesn’t truly represent your body. Ciara caught up with Erica to get all the details!
- First up, tell us a bit about MyBodyModel. How and when did it start, where are you based, what kinds of products do you sell?
Hi! I’m Erica and I started MyBodyModel to create body-positive fashion design tools for makers and designers. Our web app offers customized fashion sketch templates made to your measurements, so you can draw your ideas on an outline of your own body. You can preview your body model for free, and then pay to download in a format that works for you. MyBodyModel is a labor of love and a true community effort – We created the beta version of the app thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2017, and launched in June of this year. We’re based in Portland, Maine.
- What did you do before launching MyBodyModel? What made you decide to become your own boss?
Before starting MyBodyModel, I worked for 20 years in nonprofit management and consulting. And, I kept working my day job until just this month! It was a difficult decision to leave, but it finally got to the point where I just couldn’t juggle any more. Not only that, but the response to MyBodyModel has been so amazing – It became crystal clear that it was time to go all the way, and throw myself into this business 100%.
Starting MyBodyModel was never really about being my own boss – It just felt like something I needed to do. I first had the idea when I started making my own clothes a few years ago. With endless options of fabric and pattern combinations, I was literally lying awake at night thinking through all the things I wanted to make! I needed to get my ideas out of my head and onto paper. All I wanted was to be able to draw my ideas on an outline of my own body and see how they would look–But I couldn’t find any croquis templates that look like me.
Standard fashion illustration tools use a dramatically stylized croquis figure that is 9 or 10 (or even 11) head-lengths tall! Adult humans are typically between 7 and 8 head-lengths tall. I found some realistically-proportioned croquis products, but none of them looked like me. I tried tracing over a photo of my own body and I thought, there’s got to be an app for that! But there wasn’t. The idea kept itching at me for a couple of years. I thought for sure that someone else would do it – But nobody did. So finally I decided to make it happen.
- May we have a sneak peek behind the scenes at MyBodyModel?
Even though we’re still just starting out and it’s mostly just me working at my computer from a home office, MyBodyModel is very much a team effort. Thanks to our 725 Kickstarter backers and a matching grant from Maine Technology Institute, I was able to hire a local software development company to develop the app. For the initial beta development, we had a volunteer team of 18 testers who provided feedback throughout the process.
MyBodyModel’s gorgeous and talented team of Beta testers! Helen @helens__closet, Taylor @sewsincity, Andie @sewprettyinpink, Beth @SewDIY, Megan @Someday_Sewing, Erin @TuesdayStitches, Kim @IndigoDragonfly, Brittany @BrittanyJJones, Tiahna @AmmonLane, Lauren @lladybird, Mindy @thegeekyseamstress, Martha @garichild, Emily @selfassemblyrequired, Meg @cookinandcraftin, Chuleenan @csews, Melizza @pincushiontreats, Mary Alice @alicealexanderco, and Leah @mscleaver
With the release of the beta, we’ve had an incredible response from the maker community. Our customers describe the experience of creating and seeing their own body model for the first time as very emotional and even life-changing. And I can’t even begin to express how inspiring it’s been to see the different ways people are using their body model templates! Our Instagram and Facebook feeds are almost entirely re-posts of customer sketches, and so far our community blog has featured lots of guest posts from happy customers – including Monthly Stitch editor Ciara Xyerra!
Currently we’re working on some app improvements that will get us out of beta and into version 1.0, and we have an expanded tester team with 14 new testers. I’m also working with some amazing mentors – including knitting designer and Custom Fit creator, Amy Herzog, as our tech advisor.
The hardest thing over the first 18+ months of starting MyBodyModel while working a day job was having zero time off and basically forgetting how to rest and have fun. My husband and daughter were incredibly patient and supportive during that time. Since quitting my day job there’s definitely more pressure to make MyBodyModel a sustainable business, but it’s also nice to have more wiggle room on day-to-day basis, and I already feel my creative batteries starting to recharge. It’s an awesome feeling.
Having time to sew for at least a few hours per week, getting my butt outside for some fresh air at least a few minutes every day, and taking evenings and weekends mostly off for family time, are all part of my new self-care/life-balance routine. It’s still a work in progress but I’m starting to get the hang of it!
What are some of your favorite ways people have used MyBodyModel so far?
I love how so many people that don’t consider themselves “artists” are jumping right in and giving it a try – and producing such beautiful sketches! It’s hard to choose favorites, so here are just a few examples from our community blog…
- Planning a seasonal wardrobe
From Designing the Fall/Winter Wardrobe of My Dreams: Sarah @thelilacelk used her body model templates together with the Seamwork Design Your Wardrobe planner to plan her perfect cold-weather wardrobe.
From Planning a Summer Capsule Wardrobe with my Custom Croquis: Jaylyn @jaylynpacehandmade used her body model templates to narrow down her summer wardrobe making plans.
2. Choosing what type of garment to make with a special piece of fabric
From Sketch to Finished Makes, My Amazing Body Model: Mel @handmadebyditsytulip MyBodyModel traced her croquis on watercolour paper to try this beautiful printed fabric as a dress and as Tilly and the Buttons Marigold Trousers.
From How I Chose the Perfect Jacket Pattern for that Bold Fabric in my Stash: Chuleenan @csews used her body model templates to preview a bold polka-dotted linen fabric made up in a variety of jacket patterns.
From Sketch to Finished Makes, Digital Edition: Diane @dianestanleysews used her body model sketches to poll her Instagram followers about what pattern she should make with this striped french terry.
3. Playing with color blocking, pattern hacks, and more
From Four ways I’ve used MyBodyModel to plan my sewing: Megan @someday_sewing used the 3-models layout to explore a variety of design ideas including fabric direction, pattern placement, color blocking, garment types, pattern views, and pattern hacks.
From Sketchbook Chronicles, Swimsuit Edition: Martha @garichild used her body model templates to experiment with a variety of design ideas before sewing her first-ever swimsuit.
- Is there anything exciting & new coming soon that you’d like to share with us?
Right now we’re working hard on getting out of beta and into version 1.0. Beta sales are supporting this next round of development – We have a limited budget, so we’ve had to narrow down the wish list and prioritize the most important improvements based on user feedback. We’re working on some improvements to the shoulders, arms, and legs to reflect a broader range of measurements. We also hope to offer some ability to fine tune the figure, including the ability to move the bustline higher or lower, and ability to adjust the hip and thigh curves to reflect a greater diversity of shapes.
I’m also getting ready to make more tutorial videos for our YouTube series, Fashion Sketching for Absolute Beginners. I’ve heard from so many people that they’ve found the videos to be useful, and I’m excited to continue the series. I also hope to start a closed Facebook group soon for sharing sketches and supporting each other. And, I want to start sharing more Instagram stories and videos that show my own sketching process as well as more behind-the-scenes videos and photos – I’m a very introverted and private person but I want to be brave and start putting myself out there more.
- Do you sew or knit or craft yourself? What do you enjoy making the most? Any recent projects you’d care to share with us?
I love sewing my own clothes! I first started sewing a few years ago because I couldn’t find clothes that I liked in stores. I like clean and simple silhouettes with room to move, sewn up in soft and breathable fabrics, in neutral and earthy colors. I love drafting my own patterns and hacking indie patterns to make wardrobe workhorses that I know I will wear a LOT – and I’ve gotten better at choosing high-quality fabrics that will last a long time.
When I’ve put in the work to get a pattern to fit exactly the way I want it to, I like to make it again and again in different ways. For some people that may seem boring, but it makes me really happy! I have a favorite self-drafted top pattern that I’ve made in wovens and knits, at as a top, as a tunic, and as a dress, with different sleeve lengths – I’m still not tired of it.
These are old makes but I still wear them all the time: Just a few favorite versions of my self-drafted top pattern – as a short-sleeve linen top, a belted linen-rayon dress, and Nani Iro double gauze top with elbow-length sleeves.
The Deer and Doe Plantain Tee pattern is one of the first indie patterns I ever tried, and it’s still one of my favorites- Here it is sewn up as a wool jersey dress, striped bamboo jersey top, and bamboo jersey tunic.
A true wardrobe staple, my hacked jacket version of the Grainline Studio Hemlock Tee sewn up in caramel french terry – I wear this thing at least twice a week in the cooler months. I’ve also made a cropped version in gray ponte and a navy wool version with patch pockets.
Erica has generously sponsored three of the four IPM challenges this year! Contributers will have another chance to win with the One Pattern, Two Ways challenge happening this week. & another bit of exciting news: starting in November, the Monthly Stitch will be doing a monthly prize draw for every contributer who posts something for the relevant challenge that month. & MyBodyModel is going to be sponsoring the first month! Keep an eye out for the Novmber challenge announcement to learn more about that! I personally use MyBodyModel & I seriously love it so much. There’s no limit to the creative ways it can help you design your handmade wardrobe. Thanks again, Erica!