Our pattern designer interviewee for July is Sew Projects!
Q ~ Tell us a little bit about the person behind Sew Projects and your journey to becoming a lingerie pattern designer.
Hi I’m Yelena. I am from the UK, specifically Norwich and Wiltshire!
So my lingerie design journey started way back when I was a teenager, I loved art and I loved lingerie! I took all the creative subjects after school and soon realised my textile projects were inspired by lingerie pieces, although they were more of an art concept so completely not wearable! I found my dream university course which was Contour Fashion at De Montfort university in Leicester UK, at about this time and knew I wanted to design lingerie!
Long story short but it actually took me 3 years to get in as the course was very competitive and my design capabilities weren’t up to scratch! The year before I got a studio in my hometown of Norwich and had the most creative year, I did lots of painting and designing and created some of my most treasured designs. I felt like I found my inner creative.
So, consequently I completed the university course and loved it, but was ready for it to end! My third year was very testing, not only for the fact there was a lot of work to do but also because I decided to live in and do up a narrow boat with my partner at the same time! (I wouldn’t advise it haha.)
After my time at university I worked for a lingerie brand in London. I did this alongside making and selling my own lingerie pieces.
About a year later my health deteriorated and I ended up giving up the job but still working on my handmade lingerie brand. Whilst this was more manageable I still struggled.
I remember having a conversation with my partner about how I could still create lingerie but for it to be easier on my health, and we came up with the idea of lingerie sewing kits and patterns. Not only did I think this was a good option for me but I really felt like I had been missing a community spirit, like I wanted to give more to people, and giving people the tools to create their own lingerie is something I felt really inspired to do.
So now I work for Sew Projects from my little studio boat, looking out onto the canals, with my home grown sunflowers on the deck and it really is very special even if a little short of space! :D
Q ~ I love that you have some patterns that have been clearly designed for beginners as an introduction to sewing lingerie, particularly the Penny woven brief. Was this an intentional market to design for?
Yes it actually was! I had been doing some maker's markets last year and people would say to me, I would love to make my own undies but I’m not a good enough sewer.
At that time I only had knicker patterns that were designed for stretch fabrics, which I think was intimidating people. So I thought I’d make a pattern specifically for beginners without the stretch fabric, but still using the general techniques to make knickers, so there came the Penny pattern! I’ve also included a lace version too, to inspire people to keep learning.
Q ~ What is your greatest joy in owning a lingerie design business?
I really do love inspiring others to be creative and learning new skills. I like to see people surprising themselves with what they can achieve and the reward that comes with that. Overcoming doubt is a big factor for people as when you put your mind to something you will be surprised by your skills.
I pretty much love all aspects to the business and the fact I can go from grading sizes in the morning to a sewing tutorial in the afternoon and then going to the post office. I love the variation. I find it so much less demanding than selling made to order lingerie and the rewards are greater. Passing on knowledge is a great feeling.
Q ~ You created and are currently promoting the #inspirejulychallenge on Instagram. Have you got any future fun, sewing community projects in the works?
Yes! It is my first sewing event on instagram so it’s very exciting to see what everyone has made for it! Speaking of it, if anyone is interested in joining and winning some super prizes head to https://sew-projects.com/inspire-july-challenge/
In terms of organising more, there has been some talk for another event in October/November time but nothings decided yet, so we’ll have to see!
Q ~ What fascinates you at the moment and how does that influence your work?
Well I’ve always preferred the comfy side of lingerie so this influences all my designs. I want to create patterns that are not only aesthetically pleasing and feel special to wear but also that fit our needs, which I think for lingerie it's very important. I design lingerie that I would wear (and do wear!) so I know the style is wearable for others too. Not only the look but how it fits and performs on your body.
I love designing the kits although I probably spend way too much time deciding on combinations! Hehe. The kits are usually inspired by comfy and sustainable fabrics and I do love bright and unique contrasting colours so I try to make my shop look nice and colourful!
Q ~ What are your goals for the second half of 2020?
The main goal is to get the patterns out that I’m currently working on. I usually have too many ideas so flutter from one project to the next, which isn’t great for business. I have a men’s boxer short pattern coming soon along with a menstrual knicker pattern that I’ve been testing every month for a while! :D
Q ~ And for the non sewing related question...You live in the Northern Hemisphere where it is currently Summer; do you have a favourite season and why?
Spring and Autumn definitely! Although spring gets spoilt by hayfever unfortunately! :D
Thanks Yelena! I can really relate to how much joy comes from helping other people find their creativity and producing patterns that help people start sewing lingerie is a great way to do that.
Also, hand up who now wishes their sewing studio was on a canal boat?!! *Raises both hands high in the air.*
You can find out more about Yelena and the Sew Project patterns at:
website ~ https://sew-projects.com/