This week meet Peggy, the designer behind Sew House Seven! Peggy designed and made patterns for the apparel industry for many years until she decided to start her own independent pattern company, in 2014. Sew House Seven patterns are well established in the sewing community as some of the best women's patterns. They are well drafted and the instructions are very good. Keep reading to know more!
Why do you sew?
Oh for so many reasons. When I first started sewing as a young girl (around 7 or 8), it was out of a love of crafting and a need to make things. It later came out of neccessity when I couldn't afford to buy all the clothes I wanted and I didn't want to wear exactly what everyone else in school was wearing. Now I sew because it's just in my nature, it's what I do and have always done. I still have that need to create something and why not have that something be useful. My reasons for sewing have become even more expansive over time. I now like to sew for therapy - to have some alone time and to take my mind off of heavier matters. I love the compliments and the rush I get when people ask me how I made something or where I got my outfit. I love making custom, heart felt gifts for people. Sewing my own clothes makes me proud not to be part of the fast fashion crazy train and I can choose sustainable fabrics or support local or independent pattern and fabric designers as well as mom and pop fabric shops. And most recently, I sew because I love the sewing community both on-line and local. I wasn't aware of this loving, supportive community until I started my business three years ago. Sewing has brought so much more to my life than just clothes into my wardrobe.
When did you started to sew? And what was your first make?
My very first sewing project was in kindergarten - I guess at age 5. My friend Anne and decided that we would make dresses and shoes for each other. My mom had several yards of bright green cotton fabric that she let us use. We traced our bodies and made simple sleeveless dresses. We were too young to use the sewing machine by ourselves so we told my mom where to sew the seams but there were only shoulder and side seams - no hemming just rough edges. We hand appliqued dogs on the front. For the shoes, we traced our feet on cardboard and cut them out for the soles. We cut strips of the green fabric from the dress scraps and taped them onto the cardboard to make sandals. Our moms let us wear our outfits to school and I remember my shoes fell apart on the playground and my mom had to bring me some conventional shoes. I love how supportive our moms were to let us wear the outfits to school. Anne's mom was a weaver and pattern maker and she taught apparel design at the University of Idaho so no wonder she was supportive. She was a big sewing mentor in my life.
Toaster Sweater #2, pattern by Sew House Seven
When did you start to draft patterns? How was the learning process?
Well I guess you could say I started drafting at age 5 (my previous story)! I think as a teenager I was changing existing patterns and taking apart clothing and tracing pieces but truly drafting from scratch didn't happen until I took pattern drafting and draping classes in college. I think the learning process was easy for me because I was so familiar with sewing and fitting already. The most difficult part for me was being so precise, neat and orderly. My personality tends to be more freeform and disorderly.
How is your creative/design process?
Well... because I tend to be more freeform and disorderly, I have trouble with the organized processes of the business. I think that's partly because Sew House Seven is still relatively young and I'm working out the kinks and details. I don't know if I really have a great creative process but I know I need to create one. My business has recently picked up speed and has been growing quite rapidly from the pace I was used to. I find myself spending so much time shipping, answering questions and tending to so many other aspects of the business that there really isn't as much time for designing as I imagined so I really have to sneak it in periodically until I am able to hire some help. So far, my typical design process is as follows. I am generally always looking for inspiration whether it's from the general public, pinterest, shopping, travelling or art. I sometimes make quick sketches of ideas that I keep by my computer. I periodically go through the sketches and sometimes organize them or discard others. I am usually very busy for a few months after each pattern release but after the rush slows a bit, I try to put some serious effort into solidifying some of my design ideas. I sometimes start patterns when I have a little window of time here or there or really have the itch to get going on a style. Often, I find that a design I start gets side-lined and then when I pick it back up again, I either don't like it anymore or revise it quite a bit. When I feel it's really time to get a new pattern out there, I look back at all of the patterns I have started or designs I really like and see what is best for that time of year or what's happening in the sewing community. I am usually working on two or three patterns at a time but whatever one seems to be coming along the best is what eventually takes precidence. I then perfect the pattern, grade it, and sew up some of the largest and smallest sizes and see how those fit the models. I then often make more adjustments before having the patterns go out to a group of test sewers. A pattern typically goes through two rounds of test sewing. I usually make technical as well as design changes based on the test sewers results and comments. The test sewers are a very important part of the process. When I first started, I only used a few local test sewers. Since I started taking volunteer test sewers from the on-line sewing community, I get a greater amount of quality feedback and ideas. It also helps me connect with the sewing community and get an idea of their wants and needs. Not only is it important to the product, I really enjoy that part of the process as well.
How/where do you see yourself and your business in the future?
Well... I have some wild ideas that keep changing but the most concrete and attainable idea I have for the future of Sew House Seven is to hire one or two people. I don't see myself as a manager so I don't want too many employees, but a few to bounce ideas off and make it possible to get more patterns out, and create more blog and tutorial content would be great. I also hope to travel around and visit fabric shops and meet up with other sewists. I think it's so important but finding time to step away now seems to be difficult. Having someone to help could make that possible. I have also had this dream to design and offer sustainalbe fabric as I also have a textile and graphic background. I just love print design and I think there is a need for more sustainable textiles and prints for apparel. That was part of the original plan but now I just don't think I can spread myself that thin. Hopefully that's in my future.
Burnside Bibs, pattern by Sew House Seven
What sewing machine do you own? Is it the machine of your dreams?
I have a Bernina 330 and I love it! I learned to sew on my mom's Singer - I'm not certain of the model but it was a good one that cost over $300 in the 1960's. That thing is the bomb and she never services it - just cleans and oils it occassionally and it runs like a dream and always has. When I moved out of my parents house and had to get my own machine, I went through so many crumby, junky machines that only lasted a year at best. I was convinced that nobody made good sewing machines anymore until someone convinced me to try a Bernina. I bought the lowest end model and it has been great. I don't know if I need to upgrade but I've been looking into it. I don't really use many of the fancy stitches so the basic model seems to be serving me well.
What is your favorite make ever? Why?
Way back in college, I made a red waterproof, breathable hi- tech ski jacket for one of my best friends Mike. I did a pretty good job however, the seam sealing tape (among other things) probably didn't warrant it to be a truly quality technical garment. He was a big skier and went several times a week and he wore that jacket for years until it was in tatters. Everytime he tore it or the seam sealing tape detached, he would duct tape it. Eventually, most of the jacket was made of duct tape - it was pretty much silver and stiff as a board. His friends who were all wearing the best quality, hi- tech ski jackets were always giving him a hard time about wearing that old thing but he claimed it was sentimental. His friends finally had an intervention with him and retired the jacket and bought him a new one. It's always great when you make something for someone who really appreciates it. I think he appreciated it more than anyone else I've ever made anything for and that's what makes it so special to me. Another one would be my best friends wedding dress. It was very simple and maybe not my most elaborate make but, it was very time consuming because of the delicate silk georgette fabric and it was for such a special person and occassion. I was honored that she asked me to do it and she look absolutely beautiful in it.
What is on in the background while you're sewing?
Always something different. Today it's silence because I need quiet to hear my own thoughts when answering questions. Typically it's a podcast and generally an interview or something funny. However, lately I've been getting out my old records and listening to rock oldies from high school or jazz on the record player. Last week I listened to John Coltrain and George Shearing because I always love jazz in the fall.
Which is(are) your favorite pattern(s)?
Another tough question. I don't know that I truly have just one all-time favorite. I do really like the Ginger Jeans by Closet Case Patterns even though I've only made one pair and still need to fix the waistband on them. They did fit me quite well though. It's not a pattern that I take out and reuse constantly because I just don't have the time as it's a very time consuming project. I do think it's a great, well written pattern that is such a great staple and I see so many other people whipping out several pairs.
Who's your sewing/blogging/style/fashion/designer/quilter hero(s)?
I am greatful to Sarai Mitnick from Colette Patterns for paving the way for many of us indie pattern designers and I admire her business savy. I also love Heather Lou from Closet Case Patterns because she is a machine - turning out amazing content, hustling around giving workshops, making amazing patterns and being creatively smart and funny with her blogging. I love her tips as well as her suggestions and links to all things creative as well as music, books and anything else. I also love Marcy Harriel as Oonaballoona's blog. She has such fun style and she just seems like she'd be a blast to sit down and talk with.
Albert Street Pencil Skirt, pattern by Sew House Seven
What are your favorite sewing techniques?
Topstitching. There is a time and a place for topstitching and not every garment deserves it but when it does, it just makes your piece look so much more professional.
What is your least favorite sewing technique/step?
Buttonholes and hand hemming. I don't know why I still have an aversion to these steps. My Bernina even has a buttonhole function so it's easy and they turn out great. I think my brain has been permanently imprinted to dislike these steps due to my past, teenage self. When I was in high school at the peak of my sewing frenzy stage, I made so many items but would do everything but the buttonholes and hemming and then beg my mother to do them for me just hours before I wanted to wear them to school. Her amazing Singer did not have a buttonhole function (it's only fault) and therefore, buttonholes were a bit more tricky or so I thought.
3 Favorites - color, texture and fabric:
- My favorite color is green although, when buying fabric lately it's all blues and indigos. I love more handicraft, crude looking textiles that look like someone weaved them by hand. I do love a good drapey, silk fabric too. I wish everything could be sustainble and eco-friendly so I tend towards those as well.
3 things that make you happy:
- 1.Being a mom 2. Being active outdoors whether it's an easy hike or whitewater kayaking - just getting out in the wilderness and working my body gets my endorphins going. 3. Creating - typically sewing but generally being creative. 4. I should add that making time to connect with my friends is so important to me too.
3 random things about you:
- 1. I've been told that I'm a good story teller. 2. I'm a terrible public speaker 3. I can roll my stomach and flip coins with my stomach.
Life or sewing motto: Don't wait to do what you love.
Tea House Top & Dress, pattern by Sew House Seven
Thank you, Peggy!
Enjoy 20% off on all Sew House Seven patterns during this week! (Good until Friday, October 6th, 11:59 PST)
Next week we'll meet another great designer, stay tuned!