Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Sew Indie Interview: Teach Me Fashion

It's about time for another Sew Indie Interview. Today we're getting to know Heather, owner and creator, of Teach Me Fashion patterns. TMF is another Melbourne based indie sewing pattern company, and a relatively new one at that. In less than a year Heather has released six for sale patterns, and one freebie. So far, TMF patterns have included wardrobe basics with simple elegant lines. TMF patterns include brief instructions, but each pattern also has an accompanying youtube video showing the garment construction from start to finish! 

Heather and Harrison have kindly offered readers a coupon code ("TEACHMEFASHION") for 25% off any of there patterns. 

Heather, could you tell us a little about yourself and the role of sewing and design in your life?
I studied at Emily McPherson College back in the 70's then worked at the House of Merivale and Mr John in Sydney. I then returned to Melbourne and was given the opportunity to teach at Emily Mac, as it was affectionately called. I had loved my time as a student so I jumped at the chance. I was working with wonderful teachers who had a lifetime of experience and loved every minute of it. After a few years I travelled overseas to visit schools and colleges similar to our college. After returning to Melbourne I decided I needed more industry experience so accepted a position at Sportsgirl in their production & design team. I then returned to teaching fashion design at RMIT, where I have been for over the past 34 years! I love teaching students who share my passion for sewing & fashion design, the classroom is a great environment where I have taught some extremely creative and talented students, I feel very lucky to have had a job I am so passionate about. It was only once I retired, and realized I wanted to keep teaching people that the idea of Teach Me Fashion was created. I had wanted to do something for a long time, but hadn't found the time between work and children! The truth be known it was my son, Harrison, who planted the seed!
The Wrap Dress
When/how did you decide to take the plunge in beginning an indie pattern company?
I had wanted to teach a wider audience sewing and fashion design for a long time but it was always just an idea. I was originally thinking of creating a VCR to teach people, which shows my age! I recently retired which is when my son showed me all the people learning sewing on YouTube. I thought YouTube would be the perfect platform to share what I had learned over my years of teaching and teach anyone who was interested about the world of sewing and fashion design. We have created our first videos with patterns as I think that's the best way for people to get started, creating garments that they can wear and get excited about making.
Draped Skirt
Your very first pattern, the free Two Tone Singlet, was released late last  year. You have since released 6 more patterns! What's the secret behind your success?A great Mother & Son team. The obvious age difference means that Harrison knows a lot more about the internet, YouTube etc. I am learning fast but without each other's capabilities it wouldn't work. I focus on all things relating to sewing & fashion design and Harrison  handles all the website / YouTube and online parts of the business. We both have very different backgrounds and bring different skills to the business which helps us find answers and solutions to the problems we have encountered. However, we now spend a lot of time around the dinner table discussing Teach Me Fashion and learning a lot from each other. I can honestly say Harrison has developed a great appetite for fashion along the way. 

Draped Coat

Could you tell me a little about your design process? How does an idea grow to be a physical pattern?
We focus on finding out what the ideal garment is and aim for a garment that will suit a variety of body shapes, be possible to sew for almost any skill level, be 'fashion forward' and incorporate some good essential sewing techniques. I draft up the pattern and make it out of a basic fabric to see if Harrison & I like the look of it. Once we are happy with the garment I digitize it using a Gerber machine, then Harrison separates it into individual pattern pieces onto his computer. We have a fantastic team at Bison Creative who have done all our graphics and the layout of the introduction pages of the patterns (which is why they look so fantastic!). Bison Creative also  film & help us create the sewing videos on YouTube, they have been absolutely fantastic and we couldn't recommend them highly enough! TADA, our patterns are ready for the world. It is a lot of work with help from lots of talented people. We couldn't do it without them!
Draped Skirt
What is the inspiration behind your patterns? I have taught over 1000 students whilst being a fashion lecturer, so a lot of my inspiration comes from designs and garments that students have made over the years. It's something I think about and deal with every day, so when the opportunity came to make instructional videos and patterns I had a fairly clear image of what I thought would be great to start out with. I have found the videoing a new experience. Not quite as easy as a responsive classroom environment but hopefully I will improve over time! Since discovering Pinterest I also get a lot of inspiration from there.


Two Tone Singlet
What have you learnt throughout your career in fashion and pattern design and what advice would you give home sewers and wannabe pattern designers? Practice makes perfect! Stay inspired and make sure you try patterns and techniques that might be beyond your current skill level, that's the best way to grow your sewing skills. I'm biased but if you're really serious about progressing your sewing, studying Fashion Design at university gives you a great variety of skills and a platform to work in the industry. 
Elastic Waist Pants
Any hints about what's next to come from Teach Me Fashion? We are aiming to release 30 (!!) patterns by the end of the year. If the videos & pattern business is successful enough I am looking to create a pattern drafting course after, this is my real specialty within the world of fashion design & something I am very passionate about doing. If I can pass on this knowledge then people who can't access a university degree can gain a wealth of knowledge to enable them to develop their own designs. We will have to wait and see!

Thank you so much to Heather and Harrison for sharing their story with us. What an incredibly interesting life Heather has had, and continues to have, within the fashion and pattern design industry! I am so looking forward to making up my next TMF pattern, and can't wait to see what patterns Heather and Harrison release next. I purchased some beautiful grey wool blend yesterday. I see a Draped Coat in my horizons!


  1. What a wonderful read, such an interesting story and how great to know it's a mother and son team!