Welcome to the second interview in the Pattern Designer Profile series! This month I have a fascinating chat to Karu of Studio Costura about the importance of flexibility in your design planning and what's coming next with her popular lingerie pattern line. Enjoy!
Q ~ Tell us a little bit about the person behind Studio Costura.
My name is Karu and I live in Madrid, Spain. I’m actually from Estonia (a small country on the other side of Europe) but I’ve been living in Spain for more than a decade now. My day job is being a sewing and patternmaking teacher in a local sewing academy. I worked in the textile industry as a seamstress and fabric cutter and after that I studied patternmaking and worked as a patternmaker and sample sewer for a while. When my daughter was born I needed to find a part time job and as a lucky coincidence I was offered a teaching job at the local craft shop. After working there I also started to teach sewing classes at home in my spare bedroom and this is when I started Studio Costura as a sewing blog to promote my own creative business. Today I’m running an online shop selling bramaking supplies and I’m designing sewing patterns...I still need to pinch myself every time I think about how Studio Costura has grown in time and where I am today. I never thought about sewing as a career that I wanted to pursue when I was younger but one thing led to another and I’m extremely happy to say that I work doing what I love every day now. I guess I’m someone who likes to “go all in”, so for me being my own boss is the best solution...it’s definitely not an easy road (you get the good and the bad) but I can’t imagine spending my days otherwise.
Q ~ How would you describe your aesthetic?
That’s a good question (I’ve never really thought about it, hehe), I guess the aesthetic of my work is very closely related to the aesthetic of the design I like personally. I can play around with a variety of elements but I think I mostly go back to modern silhouettes, neutral tones, clean lines and in general “less is more” feels like me most of the time. I like lace in lingerie but I’m cautious of going too “girly” when making the samples for my patterns...for example I always use black lace for the pattern covers!
Q ~ The Mara bralette has recently taken the lingerie sewing world by storm - How do you want sewists to feel when making/wearing your designs?
I’m so happy to see the Mara bralette gaining popularity, I really put a lot of hours into that pattern! When I started to work on Mara I knew I wanted to make a bralette with cup sizes as most of the bralette patterns don’t come in bra sizing so I was determined to make that happen...even though the easy way out was just making a pattern with my regular sizing in mind as then I could have used the already existing and proven pattern blocks. The thing is that every time I design a new pattern I want to offer something new and useful for the sewing community, not just design wise but construction wise too. I knew that many seamstresses with bigger cup sizes struggle to find a wireless bralette pattern they like that would come in their size (luckily there already are great underwired bra options!) so this was my main focus when working on that pattern. You can’t really imagine how great I feel every time someone with a C or D cup tells me that she liked that pattern...I really feel that the work I create matters and is worth the time and effort. This is only the first size range and I’m more than aware that I’m not offering more sizing options yet, but my plan is to make a bigger size range happen...it will take time, but it will happen eventually.
I always see myself more like a sewing teacher rather than a sewing pattern designer and I think that this is something you can really see in my work, or at least I hope it does shine through: I really try my best to offer great quality instructions. Coming up with a new style, designing a new piece, it’s fun and definitely a very enjoyable part of the process. But at least for me it’s only a tip of the iceberg. Deciding on the construction methods and writing in depth instructions is the part of my work that takes most of the time. I want the sewists to feel that they “are taken care of” when sewing with my patterns, I really try to add as many tips and tricks as possible to the instructions because I know how scary sewing lingerie can look like when you just start out. I work with students in person every day and I can see which are the parts of the sewing process that confuse them the most so I try to write my pattern instructions in a way that when someone uses them at home they would feel like they were in a class instead!
Q ~ How has your work evolved since you began designing lingerie?
It has been about two and a half years since I started working on PDF patterns and I sure have learned so many things along the way. Design wise I’ve tried to create a cohesive pattern collection with different styles so sewists can choose their favourite one according to their unique likes and I think I’ve managed to do that. I don’t think that my design has directly changed in this time (I’m also aware that it’s not a long period of time), I’m building a pattern line little by little by adding something new every now and then. I think that I’ve gotten better at writing the instructions both by the experience with in person classes and the online feedback so I really hope that this part of my work will keep on improving too in the future.
Q ~ Your Hanna bralette has become quite an iconic design for lace. Do you have a favourite material for lingerie making?
That’s such a nice thing to say, this pattern really has been a customer favourite and I’ve been amazed by the pretty bralettes people have been sewing with it! I have to say that lace is my number one choice as everything you make with lace looks beautiful. I also really like viscose knits as they are super comfortable to wear and sew up beautifully.
Q ~ What fascinates you at the moment and how does that influence your work?
I guess it’s a very boring answer but I mainly just look around Pinterest and see what my favourite rtw lingerie brands create to get inspired for my own work. I never draw any designs and I usually come up with new ideas by just sewing up samples or when I see a pretty lace/fabric that inspires me to try out something new.
Q ~ What are your goals for 2020?
2020 is definitely a year to be remembered...I’m writing this when we’re about to start to go out again after more than two months of a strict lockdown here in Madrid and it has been a challenging time for sure. Luckily me and my family are well and I’ve been able to work from home designing new patterns and writing up a bunch of tutorials for my blog. In an unexpected way this crazy time has allowed me to take a step back from my very busy work life teaching classes and I’ve been able to work more on the patterns which has been great to be honest.
I’m not very good at planning, haha, I mean I do plan a couple of months ahead but I definitely don’t have a year plan when I think about my work. I usually have a couple of projects in line I know I want to start and for this year I’m thinking about making some loungewear patterns and I really want to make a bra especially for smaller bust sizes. I know it’s usually more difficult to find patterns that fit bigger cups but us smaller busted women also struggle to find the fit we really like so it’s a project I want to work on as it’s a personal need too. As I can suddenly be inspired by whatever I see out there I can always choose new projects along the way too, I’m not super strictly organized and I try to be flexible as this way I can always be motivated. I also have to say that from time to time I burn out and I need to change projects to keep myself sane so I usually work on a non lingerie related pattern instead!
Q ~ And for the non sewing related question....what is your favourite food and why?
That’s a good one because I looove to eat, haha. I’m seriously obsessed with all the desserts, sweets, cookies, cakes and so on...if you ask what places to visit when you’re in a neighbourhood I'm familiar with, I probably first give you the list of my favourite bakeries, haha. Talking about proper food and not only desserts...lately I also really like spicy Mexican and Peruvian food which is quite easy to get here in Madrid as we have a lot of latin restaurants.
Thanks Karu! That was such a lovely insight into your work as both a sewing teacher and a designer and it interesting to read how the two co-relate.