Saturday, 21 March 2015

Being an independant designer

I wanted to talk about what it is like being a newly established independent sewing pattern designer for those who are curious. I am obviously fairly new to this business in terms of setting up a label, but it has been a long held ambition to design and work for myself. So here's my story so far since releasing my first pattern in October last year.

So, what has it actually been like since launching my first pattern?

Well, to be honest it is slooooow. I am small fry in the blogging world and with just over 250 followers on bloglovin have a pretty small reach. That combined with the fact that I do absolutely no marketing and a lot of new independent designers are also popping up means that it is unlikely to become an overnight success. The competition is definitely strong!

Have I entered into an already over saturated market?

I don't think so. Obviously I lean towards a certain point of view which supports my choices, but there is always room for new ideas and talent. I would say that if you are considering setting up a new pattern label, be prepared to work for free for a while (unless you already have customers lined up). If you have a strong brand identity that you can build on then hopefully patience and hard work will serve you well.

Why do I do it?

I do it because it is something that I feel passionate about (very important to keep up momentum) and I also love to share my work. I sew from a variety of pattern sources, but mainly have always self-drafted. I also love using vintage patterns from a style point of view and occasionally the big 4, but always come back to self-drafting.

What qualifies me as a pattern designer?

From the time I started sewing as a young teenager I was drafting my own patterns, but then I went to study fashion and textile design where I had formal training and now have a much more rounded sense of what I can achieve and what is best practice. I have received emails asking it is possible to design sewing patterns for sale without training and my response is this; nothing is easy, but anything is possible. You can teach yourself at home from books, but need to be very disciplined and organised with your approach. Accuracy and perfectionism is essential for any pattern maker. Some experience with a trained pattern cutter is advisable, as books can only take you so far in my opinion. You miss out on the passion of an experienced voice and also the helpful hints and tips, but if I've learnt anything over the years then never underestimate the power of determination. Basically, if you really want to make something work then you will find a way.

What next?

Well, I'll keep going and building up my collection of designs and hopefully people will get to know and trust my brand and know what to expect from me. There is no denying that there is a lot of work involved, but I am lucky that I can currently fit it around kids naps and evenings (I mean every nap and evening BTW) and, most importantly, I really love it.

Obviously this is only my experience and I don't know how it compares with other new designers, but if you are considering going down a similar path then it gives you an idea of what to expect. I think that was one of the hardest things to gauge really or what first reaction to expect, but it is all a learning experience.

For anyone looking for further tips there was a really useful post written by Tilly shortly after the release of my first pattern here. It actually really helped to make me feel calm about things and not get over anxious about slow/no sales. If you're in it for the long haul then take it as it comes and trust your instinct ;-)


JustSewJenna said...

Very insightful. I know a lot of work goes into what you do but please keep going because I love your patterns!!

Marilla Walker said...

Cheers my lovely! Xxx

Wend said...

I have just bought my first pattern from you as the Evan skirt just ticked a whole load of boxes for me. I have printed out the pattern and instructions and stuck all the bits together. So far I am very impressed: the instructions strike a non patronising balance between written and diagrammatic forms, the diagrams are clear, the pattern was arranged efficiently on the 'tiles' and was easy to put together, the pattern lines are clear as are all the notches, tailor tack marks and there are neat, concise labels to identify what edge is what. The printing, even of your logo, is designed to be easy on ink. I appreciate the level of thought and professionalism you have put into this and am itching to proceed- 2 items to finish first!

Marilla Walker said...

Hi Wend, is excited me so much! I'm so glad your experience has been positive so far and that is totally intentional with my logo. So happy you noticed! :-) xxx

Jennie said...

Great post Marilla! Fun to read about what goes on behind the scenes :)
I don't think people realise how much hard work & time that goes into making patterns. Good up the good work, looking forward to your future patterns! Xxx

Marilla Walker said...

Thanks Jennie! I am so glad to have met you (on the internets) and really appreciate your support. You are a good friend! Xxxx

Jeanette Archer said...

So glad you wrote this post, and wow, we are so similar in many ways! Thank you for being you. x

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad that you've found something that you're good at and that works with your family schedule! Look forward to seeing what you come up with next!

Marilla Walker said...

Jeanette, we are so similar!!! I really wish you all the luck with what you are doing and it's so nice to have a like minded person to discuss things with! :-) xxx

Marilla Walker said...

Thanks Sonja! Xxx

amanda stinton said...

Really interesting to read your design process. There's so much behind the scenes of what goes into designing/developing a pattern its interesting to hear your point of view! All of your patterns are so well thought out and well written I hope you have oodles of success with them all! xx

A Piece Of Cloth said...

It will pick up. I bought your Maya pattern a while back, printed it out but haven't gotten around to sewing one up yet.
The reason I opted for your pattern amongst all the options out there is that I think your construction and finishing instructions are far better than most others I have seen.
Keep it up. When I get around to sewing up the Maya i'll let the world know.

Marilla Walker said...

What a very sweet thing to say. Thank you! Xxx

Lisa said...

Nice to read! And very recognisable. Days without sales are scary indeed! But at least we get to do what we like most, so it's still worth it.