SIM: An Interview with Mari from Seamster Patterns

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Sep 182015
 

I’m honored to share with you this interview with Mari from Seamster Patterns, the brains behind the entire Sew Indie Month! Today we get into the nitty gritty and find out what makes Seamster Patterns tick.

(To see other SIM posts from this year, check out Kate & Rose’s tutorial on turning Olive into a folkswear inspired top with a front zip, or my tutorial on Fehr Trade’s site on turning her PB&Jam Leggings into a yoga style pant with wider legs and a wide waistband.)

Don’t forget that all PDF patterns are 40% off in celebration of SIM. Take advantage of this sale by using code SIM40OFF.

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1. Sewing Indie Month is an amazing event for the online sewing world. What inspired you to create the event?

The first Sewing Indie Month started around when my company turned 1yr old. I started it because I felt like such a tiny, unknown fish in a larger pond. I wanted to get to know and become friends with my fellow designers; sometimes it can get lonely working away at home without anyone to talk to who has done exactly what you’re trying to do. And I was bored with the traditional methods of marketing that were being used online. While there’s not necessarily anything inherently wrong with those methods (I use some of them myself), I wanted to see if there was another way that could feel genuine and not only help my company grow, but would be fun for my customers while thanking them for their support. As someone who has never been big into certain kinds of competition, the idea of working with the competition to celebrate each others patterns and the people who sew them seemed like an exciting experiment.

2. How do you balance your time between organizing SIM and creating new patterns?
Honestly, I don’t. The Sorrel Dress & Top that finally came out with the 1st SIM Bundle that launched in August was meant to be launched before last year’s SIM. There is such a huge amount of work that goes into organizing SIM that I have to put all my own patterns on hold as the month gets closer. And with all the extra work that has gone into hosting the bundle sales while dealing with some family medical issues this year, I still haven’t gotten the Sorrel into the Seamster store!

3. What helped you decide to start your own pattern company…what was your “aha” moment?
There were a lot of things that lead up to deciding to start my own pattern company, like graduating during the recession and seeing that my only “career” options included working for a decade at soul crushing office jobs until I could finally hope to get the smallest of promotions. But if we’re talking about a single moment, it would have to be when I decided to not live as if I was horribly depressed. Three people I cared about died in less than a year. Once the third one passed I realized that if I stayed mourning I would end up looking at my life in ten years and have only those horrible office jobs to show for it. That didn’t seem like a fulfilling or enjoyable way to live. Obviously you can’t turn depression on and off like a light switch, but giving my life purpose, working for something for myself instead of for some uncaring company, helped me become happier and more fulfilled in the long run.

4. How has your company changed since it began? What have you learned that you can share with newer designers?
I would say I’ve changed more than Seamster has. I’ve gotten better at using various software programs so that’s helped speed up certain parts of the pattern making process. And I’ve become more committed to taking a bit of time out for myself, mainly with getting back to reading. Right now I’m on a 19th c. binge, only reading books written during or about the 19th c, which means a lot of Jane Austen. So to newer designers I’d say make sure you take a bit of time each week to do something that makes you happy, but doesn’t in any way feel like work. Not surprisingly, you may find you’re more refreshed and ready for work when you get back to it. But when you’re in the thick of an exciting project, like your first pattern launch, or are racing against a deadline, it can be hard to remind or give yourself permission to do such things.

5. What types of designs are your primary focus? Are your designs influenced by your style and fashion sense?
I focus on creating interesting basics for which you can’t already find a ton of, or hopefully any other, patterns. For me a basic is a pattern with uncommon style lines or a pattern puzzle that I can wear in a number of ways. It’s basic because it’s versatile. That’s because dressing in clothing with unique details makes me happier than wearing what are more traditionally thought of as plain basics. I design with my lifestyle in mind, which means I design with young, urban, public transit commuters in mind. So my skirts tend to be longer (to avoid legs sticking to train seats) and more contemporary in style. Since I don’t just want 20-to-30-something women who live in big cities to sew my patterns, I add options to the patterns that look good on different body types and suit people with very different lifestyles. For instance, when making the Honeycrisp Mittens I couldn’t see myself ever sewing them without conductive finger tips, but not everyone needs that option, so I made one that does not use conductive fabric. And on the Sorrel there’s an option for a straight skirt on the dress, which looks horribly unflattering on me, but looked great on all the ladies who were fit models for me. So when making a pattern I start with a specific idea, then branch out to a design that can suit a range of people with the addition of a few options and with a simple change of fabric.
6. What are you finding is the hardest part of having your own business?
Finding the time to get everything done and learning to not beat myself up when I don’t make my self-imposed deadlines. I recently had to take about a year off from Seamster to take care of and then mourn my grandma. Truthfully, it’s been very hard to see all the patterns I had planned for that year not get made or worse, to see other designers come out with similar ideas. So resigning myself to the fact that I’m late to the game and may need to shelve some things and that that’s OK is the hardest part right now.

7. What is your favorite part of having your own business?
Having a larger budget for fabric 😉

8. How do you bring your sewing/pattern/designing day to an end…or do you?
If I have a deadline, then the day doesn’t really end until after midnight when I’m too tired to keep working effectively. If I don’t have a deadline then I’ll try to stop sometime in the evening, usually when my partner Quincy gets home from work.

9. Do you still have time to sew patterns from other designers?
Lately I’ve been trying to make more time for sewing other designers’ patterns. While I love my own patterns (you have to to spend months churning out muslins to develop a single one), it can be a lot of fun sewing someone else’s pattern. And since I tend to feel guilty when not doing something productive, I can tell myself I’m doing market research, it’s just market research that ends with me getting a pretty new garment :)

10. Is there anything else you would like to add?
I’ve started listening to more podcasts and I think anyone interested in food or science ought to try at least one episode of the Gastropod podcast. It’s really great to sew while listening to it!

 Thank you for sharing Mari! There is still one more post from us to go up for SIM month so stay tuned…