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Monday, December 31, 2007

Jacket Pattern Design Process

It occurred to me while in the mess you see to the left, that it might be interesting to 'sewing crazy ladies' like myself, to follow along in the creative process. My 'system' is not real pretty - but the 'trip' is sure fun. Sew..... follow along with me. I hope doing so will encourage your own creative sewing for 2008!
  • The first photo at the left ... well, it was MORE of a mess before I snapped this picture. YES, it is the floor - in my basement. What you see is my 'piles' of a sweatshirt, with coordinating trims, my favorite "Crone Art" button/embellishments (thoseon the white cards), etc. As I 'piled' goodies, I also envisioned what design they might best become.
    This 2nd photo is really the 'pattern reject' pile - at least for now. These will likely become KITS - this great idea that my friend, Bev - who accompanied me to the Houston Quilt Festival - talked me into. My 'mantra' has been 'ONE-OF-A-KIND' jackets - so how can I hold fast to that and still do 'kits'??? Well - I have drawers and drawers and boxes and boxes of fabrics and goodies, so my current 'plan' for kits is to just start grouping them together and come up with 'skeleton' design guidelines. I'll sketch on a sweatshirt 'blank' for the front of the 'Kit', suggest one of my basic (growing collection) of my Creative Sweatshirt Jacket patterns. Price according to the 'goodies' included. Number the kit, take a picture for my files. Da da - a "Kit". Bev tells me that quilters LOVE kits. OK - so these will be my kits. With my files, it will be easy for me to 'consult' with the Kit owner as she designs - because I'll be able to refer to the specific 'Kit' she has purchased and is working with. If all goes well, I'll premier these 'Kits' at the Puyallup Show at the end of Feb.
    What you see here in the 3rd photo are 'baskets' of projects. I have approximately 4 baskets for each of the 4 new patterns I'm working on. The yellow sheet in each basket gives my beginning ideas for designing with the goodies in that basket. It was both fun and challenging to 'envision' a stack of goodies into just one of my pattern concepts. Right now those pattern concepts are:
  • UNITY - a design where you slash the sweatshirt through the middle horizontally - like an Empire line - below the bust, in the midriff. Below then can be any other fabric, sweater, jeans, even the same sweatshirting fabric, but embellished, fitted, etc. An example is the maroon jacket with floral trim around the neck on the front of my Vol II. The 'line' to which I am referring is at the bottom-most button.
  • REFINED - a design that actually guides you in removing the sleeve, cutting a 'cap' to the sleeve (as much as possible), creating an 'armscye' by cutting and fitting the remaining 'jacket' in that area, and re-inserting the new sleeve. This will even further 'refine' the fit of the 'sweatshirt being used as fabric and matching ribbing'. Other 'fitting' techniques will also be included - darts, seaming, etc. to further 'refine' the sweatshirt into a great jacket!
  • PATHWAYS - is the angled design, where a strong diagonal crosses the body. I'm 'real excited' about this one. I've done several of these over the past 2 years, and they always cause great comments - and "HOW did you DO that?" questions. Many of the 'piles' you see above just 'said' this design to me.
  • FRUITFUL - is another pattern. It is probably the first of many like this - in which I pack embellishment ideas.
To the left, you see the 'organization' of my ideas. I've set up a folder for each of the patterns, plus future pattern ideas. Scibbled on the front are some of my favorite ideas. Above, are the color charts for my 'blanks' - my 'fabric + matching ribbing' - better known as sweatshirts. I'm especially excited by the numerous great colors in the USA Comfort Color line of sweatshirts. Though I love the Authentic Pigment Brand, the quality and supply seems to remain increasingly 'iffy'. Give me 'MADE in the USA' any day!

Over at the right, you can see 'inside' ond of my files. This is inside the Fruitful file. You can see notes from my skimming through favorite books like "Options" from Lois Ericson - one of my all time favorites, magazine and catalog tear-outs.... see on the lower left a home dec bed with pillows? That one grey pillow there has a brilliant use for these wonderful dyed wool strips of selvage I've found! Ooooooo - can't wait to get started.
Time to 'publish' this, write a newsletter, and get started.

By the way - I'm looking for about 5 more of you willing to be 'TESTERS & REVIEWERS'. I need people who will both test my directions, give me suggestions for increased clarity, and also review my end products and post about them on sewing boards, blogs, etc. I'm looking for a good variety of sewing expertise 'levels'. If you're interested, please let me know with a quick email to me at

I invite your comments on this creative process blog. Thanks for reading...

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Static Guard

I FINALLY found spray Static Guard at my local grocery store - in the laundry detergent section. Here in cold, DRY central Illinois it is a MUST HAVE when wearing anything but natural fibers. Whenever I wear my Slinky pants or any skirt - I spray it like mad on my legs to eliminate static cling.
By the Way - I NEVER use fabric softener. I have a drier that dings when clothes are dry - and the tech guy said using softener sheets would coat it and make it not work.

Oh - and the lint trap in your drier - you need to test it occassionally. If you put it under water - water should go right through. IF not - IT is coated, and not working properly. Wash it til water can go through. Also can get coated from fabric softeners...

Give me my Static Guard!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sewing Patterns - What's happening?

Pattern Sales - What has happened??? What I'm writing here is just MY OPINION - and I invite your comments on this post!

I've been selling independent designers' patterns retail since 1990 when I first opened my retail store. (In fact, I also produced patterns for women in the heirloom sewing style/industry in the late 8o's and early 90's.)

I believe the designers seek to offer something different, and more 'interesting' than the 'Big' pattern companies. For myself, I also sought to 'teach' through my patterns with wonderful, COMPLETE directions. The main companies then included Vogue, Butterick, McCall's and Simplicity. Burda, Neue Mode, & Kwik Sew have now added to those major players in a significant way.

Price? Well - we all know that even though the Big companies have generous pricing, that they are ALWAYS on sale - everywhere from $.99 to 75% off the top Vogue pricing - and almost everyday. When they're not - well another SALE is just around the corner, and us prudent sewers await! Independent pattern pricing ranges everywhere from $8 (rare) to $20 and more. Sales from the designers are rare (with the exception of expo show specials).

Instructions? Well... of all of them, I can only personally 'brag' on two to three lines for better than normal instructions. In general, I see - and hear of problems with everything from pattern pieces that don't align, to lack of any uniform sizing, etc. In fact, these 'problems' led to my decision to add value and help insure success with this investment by adding my "Londa's 2 Cents Worth" - writing a review, and adding to the directions, clarifying, teaching, etc. to include with the patterns sold at my sites that I'd personally stitched up. This became the backbone of my Londa's Fashion Club.

Marketing? Regrettably, even as a 'seller' for the designers, usually I find out about a new pattern issue in a magazine ad. Hardly any support or merchandising exists on the part of the designers. But then - they like to sew and design, not market. I understand that. Regardless, a little help would be great. Only a handful do this at all! Makes it kinda hard as a retailer...
Also - with slow pattern sales, it is very, very hard to keep patterns that might be ordered in stock, as all have minimum orders that have to be placed - so where does that leave me if I get an order for a pattern I don't have - but really only need that ordered pattern, as I have the others in that designers' line well stocked??? Very few work with distributors - and the few that do, even their lines are not fully represented, so that is not a solution either. I'm sure you can see the problem that puts retailers like myself in...

Design? In general, the designs offered at what are really high priced patterns really aren't anything different from what can be found in the 'big' companies. If I'm going to spend some extra bucks on a pattern, it needs to be something DIFFERENT! IN fact, some of the better designers (Connie Crawford, Marcy Tilton, etc. are with one of the BIG companies now anyway.

I'm bored to tears with simple T-shirts, tops, simple skirts and endless 'perfect' pant patterns. Hey - for me, I BUY those boring garments! AND, I do so at prices that I can't afford to take my time sewing them instead. Just Dec. 24 I the "After Christmas" Sale at Chico's caught my eye. I dashed my hubby off to the coffee shop, and In I went. Half off of already reduced pricing........I left with a pair of velvet knit pull-ons for $19, black and grey poly/rayon fine, wonderful gabardine trousers with back tailored pocket, invisible zipper (nicely inserted, and stabilized, even with a ribbon around the bottom of it inside), and a great facing treatment ('interfaced' with slightly stretched firm elastic!) - LONG enough too! AND - golly gee - I'm a Size 2! (Would have been a 1.5 if they'd had them - but hey, I sew so I can take them in a bit! ) What did I pay for these $88 regularly priced (and worth that in my book!) trousers? $19 each!

Confessions: Over the last year, I've also become a big fan of 2nd hand ReSale Shops. Here in town, Karen's is just great. I've gotten like new pants, jeans, etc. for - sinfully LOW investment! It's great!!!!

Time is my issue! Running business and this Grandma Duty thing leaves me painfully little time to what time I do have must be spent to nourish my soul - and that is my own designing of FUN, CREATIVE JACKET sewing...whether it be my sweatshirt jacket variety, or other jackets. I must add, that I also took many of the Chico jackets into the dressing room - only to be pitifully disappointed! Lack of interfacing, pulled linings, etc.... VERY disappointing!
The truth is, I don't NEED many clothes - my lifestyle just doesn't support that. Hey- I work from home! My game plan 3-4 years ago was to stitch away on great garments, testing patterns, and making great samples - then to sell them at my online website devoted to that, and at fine art fairs around. That worked for awhile - but comparatively, the sewing expos are far more monetarily successful than these types of shows! Also - business has grown to the extent that it is often 3 or 4 pm before I'm done with business and would have time to sew anyway!

Just me? I really don't think so. I see fewer and fewer of the designers around at the expos - at least the ones I've attended. I know the expenses of doing these shows, and I can easily see that selling patterns alone in a booth would be a hard way to go to have a 'successful' show. The successful ones are selling great fabrics, or something else as well. I load up a cargo van to the hilt with a variety of different products to attract and keep buyers in my booth. I've lugged boxes of these patterns to the shows, only to lug most of them back home again.
I note some are not advertising in the print magazines any longer - understandable - you wouldn't believe the prices of those small ads!

Reviews? Rarely do I see the independent patterns reviewed at Pattern these days. Hummmmm....... I see more reviews for 'self drafted patterns' - the pattern-making software is definitely making inroads, and hurting these pattern sales - at least it appears so to me.

New Sewers? Yep - there's lots of them - and HOW EXCITING! Take a peak at They are re-cycling, sewing by hand or on very inexpensive, basic machines, re-fashioning, and doing their own thing! I can't see this crowd spending $16 for a simple pant pattern - no way! 99 Cents - yea...

My Business Reaction/Decision is to sell out all in-stock patterns EXCEPT what I consider to be valuable, creative JACKET and VEST patterns.

All in stock pants, skirts, and dress patterns are at 40% SAVINGS - and this went into effect December 24, 2007 -
Have Fun Shopping!
Your comments are most welcome. I'm anxious to know your feelings/experiences, etc. Women can always change their minds! In the end, good business practice rules where I invest my inventory dollars.

Christmas Vest for Grandson

This is the Christmas Vest I made for my 2+ year old #1 Best in the WORLD Grandson! We bought him the little plaid shirt (no reason int he world to make that - at the price we bought it for! - Also bought navy pants...). Then, took him shopping for red fabric. What a chore/delight that was! He pulled down every bolt he could get his little hand on while riding in the cart! Gotta teach that child fabric shop manners... Anyway, we selected plain red Polar Fleece. I self-drafted the pattern from taking measurements of him, and using a little plain top. Worked fine, EXCEPT I kick myself for doing a high round neck on the vest rather than a V - which would have laid so much better with the shirt collar. Cole had a real fun time picking out the buttons - opting for the Dump Truck Buttons over snowmen! "Hammer" is our THING. Our best times together are going off in Nana's Car to construction sites. Especially the earth-moving portion of construction. He loves it all - and even if the "Man not in it" on the trucks - meaning we're there at a time the 'Bobs' aren't working - that is no problem. Cole just loves to even LOOK at the piles of dirt and all the big trucks, etc. Cheap - Fun - and, really, much like sewing! I'm more and more and more intrigued with how it all goes together in a building, how everyone knows what to do, etc. etc.
Anyway - back to the vest. I 'finished' the edges by cutting facings and a hem binding, and putting them on the OUTSIDE of the vest - topstitching with rows of straight stitching and zigzagging in Navy thread - kinda looking like 'tire tracks' in my mind! I did the stitching - THEN cut close with the rotary cutter on the outer edges. Quick vest - maybe 1.5 hours altogether. Oh - under the buttonholes - I inserted a strip of woven interfacing to stabilize. The buttonholes were then just straight stitched rectangles, carefully cut through the centers. Worked great.
I was even a 'cool' Granny - letting him wear his shirt tail OUT, sticking out below the vest... Now, when MY son was small - that tail definitely would have been tucked in, belt on, etc! Still a hard look for me to 'like'! :)