Day #8 – Sewing Volunteers

On the eighth day, I was contacted by a fellow creative entrepreneur seeking a seamstress. It seemed the local high school band had selected new performance costumes but had no seamstresses among the band boosters.  Sixty band members and several color guard members with each wearing two costumes.

Did I have projects on my machine? Yes.

Did I have clients waiting? Yes.

Did my house need cleaning, dishes need washing? Yes.

What did I say when the Uniform Coordinator told me of their dire need?



Day #5 – Sew-crastinating or Procrasti-sewing

Either way you want to say it, I did it on the fifth day of my sewing challenge.img_3487

I married the Big Banana some thirty-plus years ago.  I thought the sweetest, most loving thing would be to use my sewing skills for him. He finally agreed to letting me make him some boxers, or one might call them sleep shorts or short pajama pants. I decided since I would be the one to look at them as he lounged around the house that I would have some fun with them.

I have collected fabrics over the years for him.  Bold colors, manly prints or any yardage that I liked that was funky and fun was purchased with no other intention than Big Banana’s boxers.

I routinely bought my standard 1 1/2 yards for my tried-and-true Butterick unisex pajama pattern.  Every time I tossed the fabric into the stash, I thought to myself I should go ahead and stitch them up.  I would talk myself out of working on the boxers and into a different, more interesting sewing project.  This has happened time and time again until Big Banana’s stack of fabric (or threadbare boxers) became too much to ignore.

Today, I noticed the stack and pulled it out for the sewing challenge.  Now, six pairs of boxers are cut and sitting on the machine for a quick whip-up.

This I learned: Twelve layers of stacked fabric is too thick for even the sharpest scissors. (Six works just fine!)

Day #3 – Sewing Debrief

img_3480On the third day of my sewing challenge, I decided to act on lessons learned from Day #1. I sat down with patterns, notes and pen to perform a postmortem on the two garments I constructed.

First, I traced new pattern pieces using the latest alternations. I made notes both on the patterns and in my client notebook concerning changes made to the patterns to reach the final garment.  I documented, with dates, the final garments produced so that should I want to re-create the flamingo t-shirt dress, I will know exactly which steps I took.

Next, I folded each pattern piece neatly and placed it into a zippered plastic storage bag.  Then I labeled each bag with the client’s name. This I learned:  It only takes a few minutes to follow through on the sewing process.

There it is! You heard it here first. I cleaned up my projects, made appropriate notes and put everything away so that it can be found next time.  Now for the rest of the mess in my sewing studio…..

Day #2 – Fabric Shopping

img_3481This I learned: A vast majority of the population knows nothing about the fabrics they wear every day. 

Today’s sewing activity was a fabric shopping trip with a client to a nearby Joanns. We drove over an hour armed with a pattern, coupons and lunch money in search of knit fabric for a Cashmerette Concord or a Cashmerette Turner.  I did not realize there is so much knowledge involved in selecting fabrics.

For the non-sewist, fabric is a multitude of colors and designs. A non-sewist takes no care as to whether the fabric is knit or woven, machine wash or dry clean, lightweight with lots of drape or heavyweight and stiff. I never realized non-sewists were like this.  I am a third generation seamstress.  I’ve never known a day that I was not aware of the fabric content and care method of the clothes on my back; never not known what type of fabric a garment should be constructed of to be comfortable and wearable.

So, there in the apparel fabric section of Joanns, I conducted a mini private lesson on apparel fabrics.  Let me add, this is a lesson that is best taught in a fabric store because fabric shopping is all about touch and feel.  I honestly do not know how anyone less than an accomplished sewist can shop fabric online.

Let me just say, fabric shopping is my happy place!


As I shared on my Facebook page and my Instagram account, I will be challenging myself during September, National Sewing Month. It is time to “sew up or shut up” about my sewing.  I need to force myself to either make sewing my profession or let it remain a hobby.

Every Day in September, I will sew or do some sewing-related task such as pattern drafting,  designing sewing patterns, teaching sewing classes or some yet undiscovered sewing activity. Flowery verses on scenic backgrounds all over the internet proclaim that a person can find happiness by doing something they enjoy every day so why not give it a try?

I plan to blog each day’s efforts after posting the pics on my social media acconts. This will challenge me to practice the writing skills that I think I posess in hopes of making writing an easier, less daunting task.  I nothing else, I will learn a few things about sewing, writing…….and about myself.

A Survey for Sewists

I want to know how sewists use digital sewing patterns.  I wonder what my potential customer’s expectations are, what they expect to see within my digital pattern.  I also wonder “what are the little things that annoy my potential customer about digital patterns”.  How can I make my patterns better so my customers will keep coming back to my patterns?  I know there are a few things that annoy me about digital .pdf patterns.  Do they annoy other sewists as well?  Should I make an effort to try to solve some of those annoying little things in my designs?

The best way, I determined, to learn user behaviors and get a feel for how home sewists are using digital patterns was to ask my questions by conducting a survey.  The survey would be short, nothing scientific or worthy of a research prize.

First, I needed to identify a group of users.  It’s easy at an academic library or department store or a local restaurant to survey your customers.  One simply adds a survey to the bottom of the sales receipt or emails users an online survey.  How do I locate digital pattern users?  The pattern’s very nature causes their users to be isolated.  Facebook groups are formed for fans of many pattern authors but how do I reach out to a broader group of pattern users?  When identifying an easy group of digital pattern users to reach I thought of pattern testers.  There is a general Facebook group for pattern testers.  It is a group of over 1000 members that connects independent pattern designers with pattern testers. This is the group that I chose to survey.

I wrote up a survey of questions and posted a call within the Facebook group for anyone interested in answering a few questions. The survey was far from scientific.  It contained some very basic questions about how a sewist typically uses digital .pdf patterns and what may or may not be a source of frustration for them.

Here are my questions:

  1. Do you print pdf patterns?
  2. Do you print all or selected pattern pages?
  3. If you print, do you print in black & white or color?
  4. Do you tape the printed pages together?
  5. What device do you view your digital patterns on?
  6. Do you prefer a visual illustration of some type?
  7. Do you prefer line drawings or high-resolution photos?
  8. If you could have one wish granted to make .pdf patterns easier to use, what would it be?
  9. If you could tell pattern designers one thing, as a pattern tester, what would it be?

The response to my survey was amazing.  There were over 80 respondents and all of them had something to say about various aspects of .pdf patterns.

A pattern tester’s objective is to sew the item using the pattern instructions.  Their feedback to the designer is centered around the construction and errors in the steps or typos.  I don’t believe pattern testers often get the chance to comment on the entire digital pattern process as a whole.

So over the next several posts, I will be revealing my findings in an effort to, if nothing else, start some very real conversations about how modern technology needs to be applied to sewing.

What Digital Pattern Customers Want

There are courses and webinars by the dozens out there to assist creative entrepreneurs produce, market and sell digital sewing patterns.  I’ve listened to and read most of the information they provide on how to build a successful creative business.  One chapter or session is always dedicated to identifying my perfect customer.  The exercise takes me through steps to describe her, exactly who she is and what I can do to attract her to my products.  The exercise helps me find a way to convince my customer that she needs my products or services in her life.

But at no point, does the exercise take me through the steps of identifying what my customer expects from me.  In some ways, the current methods are basically shoving my goods down my customer’s throat and telling her why she should like it.  Have you ever tried to do that to a college student?

My day job has been to attract college students to the technology and resources that the campus academic library has to offer to assist them with completing their assignments.  I could identify my college student customer all day long and go to many lengths to convince him to use our services but until I listened to them, met them, spoke their language, I was wasting my time.

I liken it to visiting a foreign country.  One can stand on a street corner in a foreign city, holding a sign or bull horn and shout all day long in English about what one has to offer and I would wager, one would find very few customers.  If one wants to “pitch” something to someone, one must learn their language and one must go where they are, into their community or social gatherings.

I’ve seen no evidence of this in the sewing community.  I see all kinds of designers churning out and posting .pdf patterns for everything under the sun.  I see lots of promotion of said patterns; slick graphics, professionally shot photos, and complicated social media campaigns.  They are spending a lot of time following the advice for creative entrepreneurs.  In my academic library, we searched out the college students and researched how to communicate with them in their own language and through the avenues that they preferred.  We met with them and their instructors in their classrooms and we did surveys to find out exactly what they needed from us. We made many amazing discoveries that allowed us to get our message out to more college students.

So have any of the designers ever thought about asking their customers what they want?  Or are designers just designing simply trying to find that pattern that will sell for them?

As I begin drafting and writing my first pattern, my natural instinct is to ask “what does my customer want from me as a designer and pattern seller?”  I know as a sewing pattern customer, I have certain expectations and several problems with digital sewing patterns as they currently exist. I wonder if other digital sewing pattern consumers feel the same.  The best way for me to learn how digital pattern users feel about digital .pdf patterns is to ask.  So I asked.  And boy, did I get answers.  I got so much feedback, it is quite obvious that this community has never been asked what they want in digital sewing patterns.

So follow along as I write a series of posts on the survey that I conducted and the amazing answers I found.

The Problems with Pdf Patterns


I love the easy access to all kinds of patterns on the internet but I keep saying there has to be someway to make it easier. 

This is problem number one for me. Tape! It takes rolls and rolls, first of all. Tape has a different thickness and flexibility from paper. This makes it difficult to fold or roll or store patterns. 

Tape does not age as well as paper. It changes color with age and becomes more brittle increasing the chances the pattern will not hold together despite a use of yards and yards of it. 

Sewing for Plus-Size Girls

When I published my post in the Curvy Sewing Collection about sewing patterns for those little girls who are outside of the boutique clothing sizes, I was convinced there was a large gap in the clothing market for these little girls.  The plus-size community has really received a lot of attention over the past year and is finally gaining the voice that it long has needed.  So what about the little girls?  I expressed my opinions in my CSC post and here we are, months later, and I’m feeling even more convicted than before.

I’ve spent several months researching children’s, specifically little girls, clothing and if you do not fit into the cookie cutter sizes, you are completely out of luck.  So, I am determined to design some patterns.  I have several designs in mind. I follow lots of sewing and boutique clothing stores and designers on social media.  I see what is popular. I have enlisted the aid of a your 6-year old fashionista and she is advising me on what is hip and cool.

If I can stay on task, I want to design a few garment patterns for those healthy, but above or below average, size.  We all know those standardized size charts are merely suggestions anyway.  Real people come in all shapes and sizes.

So, here goes.  I would appreciate any suggestions, links, information about those sewists out there that are struggling with sewing for children who do not fit into the boutique fashions.


When Two Worlds Collide

My day job is in an academic library. I’m a library systems person……a tech geek. I’ve spent 35 years in this environment. I have the unique ability to take technology and translate it into common words of one or two syllables. I am the “technology translator” in my organization. Please don’t refer to me as a “librarian” as that definition requires an MLS or MLIS, neither of which I have. I am a staff person…..a professional staff, a para-professional, potato…!

My heart is in crafting, sewing and quilting. I’ve spent my entire life doing them. Sewing is my favorite. It really doesn’t matter what I am sewing as long as I am creating with fabric and thread. This love of mine never really meshed with my day job. Sewing blogs on the web and using .pdf files for patterns are the closest thing I can get to one of my worlds touching the other. I possess all of the skills to write and draft patterns yet can’t decide which items to design first. (That is for another blog post.) It has been a problem for me. I love technology. I love playing with it, tinkering in it, creating with it and bending it to my will. But there has never been anything about sewing that could use my professional tech skills other than blogs and social media.

Until now……

I’ve developed a way to use modern technology to organize my fabric and pattern stash AND carry them in The Cloud with me everywhere I go. While working on a project at work, it occurred to me that I could use the same skills for fabric as I do for books. The academic world and more specifically the library world are becoming firmly rooted in The Cloud.  Meanwhile, the sewing world continues to be dominated by piece of paper and little clips of fabric.

So would you be interested in learning how? Would you like an e-book, video demo, online course, or more? Leave me a comment, please! I can’t believe there are not others out there struggling with this entire problem.