Saturday, 2 August 2014

Sew Indie Interview: Iconic Patterns

Today we're getting to know Lena Merrin, owner and creator, of Iconic Patterns. Another Australian based  indie sewing pattern company. There's more out there then you first think! Lena has released 5 patterns to date, including a FREE cami pattern. Iconic Patterns are incredibly diverse, from sleek work wear (Knot dress and Wiggle skirt) to outer wear and even jeans! There's something for everyone and Lena has kindly offered a discount to readers (see end of post)

Lena, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and the role of sewing and pattern design in your life?
My love of sewing and design became apparent very early. As a little girl I had lots of dolls, but I only played with them by swapping their clothes and sewing little dresses.
We were taught sewing at school - and when I say sewing, I mean taking measurements, calculating and drafting a pattern, learning all about a sewing machine and it’s mechanics, etc. These classes were a revelation for me, a whole new world and a beginning of a life long obsession with sewing.
I can’t think  of myself separately from design and sewing. There isn't a day in my life when I am not working on or planning my next project. 

Jess Jeans

When/how did you decide to take the plunge in beginning an indie pattern company?

Before I decided to organise everything properly, I’d often get asked which patterns I used to make my clothes, and my answer was always the same - I draft my own.
So the decision to start a pattern company was organic. You see, pattern company or not, I will never stop designing and drafting new patterns, so why not share them with others? (Yes please!)
Thus far you've released one free pattern and four for sale. What's the secret behind your success?

Someone once asked me “would you still be sewing, even if you were not paid for it?” I said “of course!”. Sewing is what I love doing, and when you love your job, you don't count the hours till the end of your work day, quite the opposite - there are not enough hours to get everything done. I have a strong work ethic, I am a super quick learner, I know how to get what I want, and I have very understanding husband who puts up with my obsession.

Wiggle Skirt
Could you tell us a little about your design process? How does an idea grow to be a physical pattern?

It all starts with small things - an interesting detail, a colour palette, a photo. Then I start collecting these bits of inspiration and organising them, creating a collection. One day I just know what it is going to be - the idea comes and I start sketching until I find a perfect combination, capturing the idea. After this I draft a pattern and sew it several times, working out the small details, order of construction and difficult points. Then I try a garment on a model and work out possible fit problems. I also sew a sample for myself and wear it - some issues become apparent only after I’ve worn a garment several times. After this a pattern goes to a professional pattern grader, who checks every single notch and seam and makes sure it is flawless.  And after this I finish the pattern myself: I draw illustrations, write instructions, etc, etc, etc.
 What is the inspiration behind your patterns? 

My current collection is inspired by vintage fashion. In saying that, I didn’t want it to be very literally vintage: many elements are borrowed from a bygone era, such as silhouette of my wiggle skirt, an a-line cut of Jackie coat, a bow tie on my blouse and an elegant neckline drape of the dress. At the same time I wanted to keep it fresh, so I added very modern skinny jeans and a camisole. An unexpected combination of seemingly contradictory clothes have always attracted me, this is how unique personal style is created.

Jackie Coat
 What have you learnt throughout your career and what advice would you give home sewers and wannabe pattern designers?

What I’ve learned is that you shouldn’t be afraid of failure. A failure is something to embrace. We all make mistakes and get into difficult situations. The only difference between a novice sewist and an experienced one is that the seasoned sewist can see some possible problems far in advance and has more tricks up their sleeve to save the situation. Often you have to fail to learn.
Any hints about what's next to come from Iconic Patterns?

I have just released a much anticipated dress pattern and out next is a bow tie chiffon blouse (I think I heard some readers shriek at the word “chiffon” haha). Don’t worry, I put so much information in my sewing instructions, that you’ll be able to sew anything and get a very presentable result, even with chiffon.

Knot Dress
Thank you so much, Lena. What a wonderful opportunity to gain such a fundamental understanding of sewing and pattern design in your schooling. I, like most of us, simply received the "how to sew a calico drawstring bag" and pyjama pant lessons. I'm incredibly jealous, but glad these lessons set you up (along with a lot of hard work afterwards) to be able to provide such interesting and diverse patterns. I'm very excited about the new Knot dress (line drawing above), the bodice gorgeous! 

There is currently an Iconic Patterns Jackie Coat Sewalong being run by Janelle of and Maria. Their posts have been incredibly detailed thus far and have included some great coat variations as well. I plan to sew along (I'm just a little behind) and there is still time to join in!

Lena has generously offered a 15% discount code ("sewnbyelizabeth15") on Iconic Pattern products excluding the newly released Knot Dress and the Jackie Coat. Discount is valid until 16 of August 2014 and can also be used to purchase Lena's e-books and files. 

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