Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pattern Designer Interview - Deanna from Birdsong Patterns

1. When did you start designing patterns and how did it come about?

First, thank you for interviewing me! I am really honored and appreciative. I am a new clothing designer! I started writing PDF tutorials for hair bows, fabric flowers, and other accessories in 2010. For the past year I have been intensely studying clothing pattern design, and just released my first patterns, using knits, in May 2013.

2. What training do you have or how did you learn?
I'm a trained journalist who also minored in art in college, and worked for about 10 years as a newspaper reporter. Then I worked in public relations/marketing for another couple of years. During that time I started a hair bow business, Birdsong Bows, and sold hair accessories for 3-4 years before I decided to write tutorials. I've sewn for more than 10 years but focused on quilts and other accessories; I never enjoyed sewing the patterns from the "Big 4" designers in craft stores - they were not very user-friendly for beginners, even when the pattern claimed to be easy. Inspired by others, I decided to crack open the books and learn how to design my own patterns and write my own instructions that *would* be easy to understand.

3. What is the process of designing a new pattern like?
To be frank, after the initial idea, it's mostly math. For my first two patterns, I decided to go with the basics in the the Not-So-Basic Tee pattern and the Comfy-Fit Leggings pattern. Additionally, it's a lot of computer time. In 2011 I took a community college class on Adobe Illustrator and InDesign, which were very helpful - without some of these types of skills, it's hard to make a professional pattern. The fun part is the sewing and trying my designs on my two girls, where I then make changes and more changes before sending the design off to others to test them on their children.

(modeled by my little girl - I tested this fabulous pattern)

4. What is the hardest part about designing a pattern in pdf form?

For me, it's the things that seem like they'd be simple - digitizing the pattern in different sizes and making sure it comes out accurately, so it's easy to print and use. Because this was my first time with clothing design, I did pay another designer to help me with that....but because I'm fiercely independent, I'm on my own next time. I didn't want to delay my pattern longer while I continued to work on this area of the finished product, and I wanted to deliver the most accurate product possible to my customers.

5. What is your favorite of your patterns and why?
I love every aspect of designing PDF patterns and tutorials, on some level or another. I love the "fresh idea" stage, then working on the design as an idea takes shape, and then seeing and photographing the final product after all of the time and effort spent on the details. And because I'm a writer, I do enjoy writing the instructions and tutorials for my pattern books and tutorials. It's fun for me to figure out the best way to teach someone how to accomplish each step. I don't go for concise writing as much as I go for informative writing - there's a difference, and I like to find a balance. 

6. Do you sew for your own family or for sale? What do you prefer more, sewing or pattern design, and why?
  I love sewing for my daughters, particularly my youngest, who is still enthusiastic about everything I make for her! I like sewing and pattern design equally. I really love sewing with knits because I like their drape and ease of wear, though wovens are fun to work with because of the larger variety of prints.

7. Have you learned anything from feedback from customers that you would like to share with other designers or wanna-be designers?

My clothing patterns are new, but with my past tutorials I know that customers appreciate that they're accurate, thorough, and well-designed. For newbies: Be prepared to be detail-oriented. There's no "quick entry" into the PDF design business....and free advice goes only so far. You'll have to either take a class or set aside time and study on your own. Without an accurate, nicely presented product, customers won't return! Also, if there's something you just aren't "good enough" at yet, don't hesitate to hire it out the first few times. When you're done, make sure your final product is tested, and then give it to someone else to proofread. It's hard to catch everything yourself, and testers are often too busy "testing" to catch all of your typos or other silly mistakes.


8. Best time and place to design?

I work from 8:30 to 2:30 during the week while my girls are in school, but as a new PDF launch deadline approaches, I also work on weekends and evenings for a couple of weeks. I do try to keep those times mostly free for my family otherwise. During the summer I work from 8-12 daily and then mostly take the afternoons off with my girls. I have a sewing "studio" in the finished portion of our basement, but I don't have an office there - I'm currently using my laptop on my dining room table, lol! 

 9. Favorite fabric of all time?

Wow, I'm not sure; my tastes change so much. I'm always drawn to a bright print, though, and I have a "thing" for paisley!

10. Favorite thing to do for fun?

I like dyeing fabric, quilting, and photography. I loved knitting but haven't had the time lately. The solids used in models' samples are all dyed by me, to coordinate with the prints....I like mixing colors and working with different color palettes. I guess you can say that color makes me smile! To relax and "stay young," I do yoga and pilates, and even do some running and weight training. A healthier body promotes a clearer head, at least for me!


Note from Kathy: I tested both the leggings and top patterns. I made my oldest girl a long sleeve top and long leggings and my little girl a short sleeve ruffle top and capris. These patterns are EXTREMELY well done.  I highly recommend them for anyone new to knits.  Deanna spent a long time writing many tutorials for how to hem knits, how to choose fabrics, which stitches to use to sew, and more.  They are must-haves for anyone new to knits or not feeling comfortable with knit fabrics and sewing. You will get a ton of use out of them. I promise!


There are so many wonderful new pattern designers on the horizon.  I hope you enjoyed reading about one new designer.  Next week, look for an interview with Sara Beth of Molly Blossom Design.

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