My honey and I are enjoying a breezy holiday in our favoritest city in the U.S. I’m feeling super chilled out and getting what seems like a personal living room concert from Beyonce & Jay Z, who are live for two nights at Giants Stadium. Her voice is just incredible, no? Especially when blasting across an entire city.
But it took me a few days to get chilled. When we left Austin I was smack in the middle of finishing one of the most labor-intensive creative projects I’ve taken on in a long time, and it was so hard to stop. I can almost smell the finish line…
My new lingerie pattern…
Behind that yellow bra you can see what became the beginnings of this pattern. This is as close as I have to a picture right now! I took this photo last summer and at the time I was experimenting with all sorts of design ideas.
It’s taken me over a year to develop this pattern! Patternmaking [well] and grading is hard work. Selling stuff is work, too. My Ladyshorts took me a month of solid concentration but I wanted to improve many things for my next pattern. I went back to the drawing board and did some hard research on sizing and even developed my own drafting and grading system. All the while I had a lot of doubts and reassessments. Did I really want to make a product from my ideas? Do I want to do all this stuff myself or hire others to do parts of it for me? Or am I interested in creating my own handmade line of lingerie with no sewing patterns at all? Do I want to have a business? Or am I just happy to make lingerie for myself, and occasionally blogging about it?
I’m glad I wrestled with these questions and took my time because it got me thinking harder about what I loved doing, what I was actually good at, what I wanted to learn more about and what I’d rather leave to others. And all the while I was wrestling with how to take my design and sewing further.
Perhaps you are someone who, like me, started out doing a craft or an art form as a hobby or pleasurable release in your free time but it evolved beyond that. You may have started blogging about it, and I believe blogging is a unique hobby, craft and time-skill in its own right. But what if those weren’t enough? I knew I didn’t want to be a professional blogger. My sewing and designing inhabits this strange world in between “hobby” and “profession”, and lately I’ve taken to calling it my “practice”. Visual artists use this term and I rather like it what it connotes–it helps make sense of what I’m doing almost every day.
Once I began working on my pattern in earnest, one thing became very clear for me. I love to teach and share what I learn. My friends would argue that I seek out new learning experiences just so that I can turn around and teach them. Patterns are one avenue through which to teach skills. Whenever I began to have doubts about whether the world needed one more indie pattern company–and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in those self-flagellating doubts about entrepreneurialship–I reminded myself about my passion to teach. I reminded myself how much I love patterns as tangible teaching tools. I love instructional design.
Whenever I’m learning something new, I appreciate sewing patterns that are designed to get your feet wet by introducing some basic skills and design elements but happily produce a good result from the first or second try. Some pattern designers are especially good at introducing simple basics–Colette’s Hazel, Sewaholic Renfrew and Grainline Scout come to mind–that are really helpful with basic skill-building and easy variation. Eventually, many sewists reach a point where they want to take a lot of creative liberties with a pattern, draft their own design elements, change up techniques and order or sewing, refine their fitting skills, etc. It’s very natural to progress to point of needing and wanting to deviate from a “follow this to get that result” and perceive patterns as mere jumping off templates.
Bras present a particularly unique learning challenge in that there are lots of little bits of materials and notions, and the fitting itself can fill an entire book. (And has.) I liken them to making something more like a handbag with all its unique notions and potential materials, except one doesn’t have to fit the handbag to a body. What I love about my new pattern is that it takes a little bit of the fitting frustrations out of the process, since it is not an underwired bra, and introduces basic sewing techniques and fabrics used in bras, but allows for a little bit of design fun. Plus it’s just hands-down my favorite bra to wear. I’ve made it many times for myself and feel a bit old world in it.
Now I’d love to hear from you: Did you have a favorite pattern for teaching you new skills? Did you feel happy about your finished project and did it leave you hungry for more in a good way?
p.s. My pattern launches in September! If you’d like some early peaks, consider subscribing to my e-letter, The Lingerie Maker.