Meet the Designer: Melissa of Bella Sunshine Designs

Meet Melissa Prendergast, the designer behind Bella Sunshine Designs! Melissa wanted to be a fashion designer since she was a teenager. She was taught to sew and draft patterns by her grandmother. Fast forward several years, her dreams came true and Bella Sunshine Designs was born after Melissa became a mom of two beautiful girls!

 Why do you sew?

 To get my creative energy out, to relax, and to make something that no one else has. I love going out in public and watching the shock on people's faces when I tell them I made the outfit they just said they loved.


When did you started to sew? And what was your first make?

 My grandmother taught me when I was 9. The first thing I made was a hat and then a matching dress. In fact, I even have a picture!


When did you start to draft patterns? How was the learning process?

 My grandmother taught me the basics as a young girl. In fact, her sister worked as a professional pattern maker, so designing is in my blood.


How is your creative/design process?

 I often joke I have designer ADHD. I don't work on just one design at a time, but about 5 or 6. I work on one, get bored with it, and complete another task on another. I think it's part of the reason BSD has releases all the time. Also, I don't sleep much. I work a lot of time. It's like an addiction to me. I just love what I do so much.


How/where do you see yourself and your business in the future?

 I would love to see BSD expand to other products including paper patterns, fabrics and notions. I would also love to start a sister company featuring ready-to-wear styles for those that do not sew.


What sewing machine do you own? Is it the machine of your dreams?

 I'm a bit of a machine hog. My main machines are a Brother SE400, a Brother 1250D (both combo embroidery machines), a BabyLock Evolution serger, a Johnston ruffler that is mainly just for fun, and an old treadle Singer that was my great grandmother's that is just for looks. If I had to replace my main machines, I would probably get another Brother or a BabyLock. They work like a dream and rarely give me any problems. I also have a dedicated BabyLock coverstitch on my wish list as I get tired of switching my main serger back and forth all the time.


What is your favorite make ever? Why?

 Man, that's a hard one. I would say one of the things that has been my favorite was my Gabriella's coat pattern. I had never sewn a winter coat before I designed that pattern. The first time I bagged the lining and turned it right side out I totally geeked out. I could not believe I had made something so beautiful.


What is on in the background while you're sewing?

 I like to jam to Switchfoot on my wireless Beats headphones.They always get me in a great mood.


Amelia Maxi Dress & Top for Girls, pattern by Bella Sunshine Designs


Which is(are) your favorite pattern(s)? 

 The favorite pattern that I've personally designed is probably the Alice Pleated Dress. The ladies version is especially beautiful. I feel so elegant when I wear it. As far as other designers, the Pensacola Beach Petal Top by Seaside Notions is one of my favorites. It is so different than everything else out there. I teased Nicola when she drafted it that I was secretly mad that I didn't think of it. ;-)


Who's your sewing/blogging/style/fashion/designer/quilter hero(s)?

 My grandmother was probably my biggest inspiration to me. Not only was she a very talented seamstress, she was a very talented artist. She supported her entire family just off her art and owned multiple businesses throughout her life. She was always pushing me to do better and not take shortcuts while still being one of my biggest cheerleaders.


What are your favorite sewing techniques?

 Understitching! It's not done a lot in PDF patterns, and I feel it gives a garment such a high-end feel. I have a weakness for high-end designer clothes, and almost all of the garments feature this technique.


What is your least favorite sewing technique/step?

 I hate hemming circle skirts. So much so, in fact, that as I'm doing it, I am constantly wondering to myself why in the world I decided to make a dress with a circle skirt. Then, I finish, try it on, and I am quickly reminded why. Because they are gorgeous!


Describe yourself in 3 words: ambitious, creative, kind.

3 Favorites - color, texture and fabric:

Right now I am obsessed with double brushed poly. Seriously, all fabric should be that soft! And I love fabrics in bright colors that remind you of the beaches of the Bahamas. There is a reason why Lilly Pulitzer is one of my favorite designers.

3 things that make you happy: 

  • My family,
  • Designing,
  • and Coffee.

3 random things about you:

  • I used to work as a professional photographer photographing high end weddings every weekend in Miami. I quit when I started a family because working every weekend was so draining.
  • The first registered business I ever owned was when I was a teen. I made handmade jewelry. I was a terrible marketer and pretty much only sold jewelry to my family. Before that, I used to make flower arrangements and crafts when I was about 9 or 10 and sell them in the shop that my parents owned. I think it's safe to say, I've never been cut out for like in the corporate world. The entrepreneurial spirit in me in strong!
  • Both of my girls arrived into the world lightening fast. In fact, with my youngest, I was shopping at Target at 7:00 pm and by 8:30 pm I had a baby in arms. Both the doctor and my husband almost missed the birth.

    Life or sewing motto: 

    I have a couple:

    Joy comes from within. It does not depend on your circumstances. No matter what happens, you can always choose to be joyful.

    The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now. Don't let fear hold you back from doing what you really love.

    Anything worth doing is worth doing well. My mom has told me that my whole life, and it's always stuck with me.

    Thank you, Melissa!

     Amelia Maxi Dress & Top, pattern by Bella Sunshine Designs


    Enjoy 20% off of ALL Bella Sunshine Designs patterns through this week! (Good until Friday, June 23rd, 11:59 PM PST)

    Come back next week for another episode of Meet the Designer series! 

    Happy sewing! 


    June 19, 2017 by Sara Soares
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