Friday, April 18, 2014

Pattern Designer Interview - Lindsay of The Cottage Mama

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

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, Savannah Rose, I got this urge to create things for her nursery. I really wanted to sew some things such as curtains, pillows, etc.  but I didn’t know where to start. I had grown up with my mom sewing, but never took the time to learn from her. Since my mom lives in Texas and I live in Chicago, I didn’t have her there to teach me. Luckily my grandmother lives close by so I took a lesson from her and off I went. I consider myself self-taught for the most part, but she taught me some very important skills during our one sewing lesson.

After Savannah was born, I started creating clothing for her and I fell in love with designer quilting cotton fabric. As she would wear the clothes around town people would ask me if I sold clothing or baby goods. Shortly thereafter I started my blog ( where I shared my love of sewing, cooking and crafting and shared mostly the different sewing creations I made for Savannah (and our second daughter, Matilda). About a month later I started an Etsy shop selling handmade clothing. While it was fun at first, I slowly realized that I didn’t like creating the same piece of clothing more than once and what I truly enjoyed was sewing for my own children. As the demand got stronger, I began to lose some of the joy in sewing. And once I came to that realization, I knew I needed to make a change. I decided I would offer my clothing designs as printed sewing patterns that mothers and grandmothers could then sew themselves at home.

I offer all of my patterns in printed paper and PDF form now. The printed patterns are sold retail as well as through shops around the country and are mostly sold through my wholesale distributors. The PDF patterns are sold directly through The Cottage Mama website or through The Cottage Mama Etsy Shop and are available for immediate download.

I released my first book in October 2013 called ‘Sew Classic Clothes for Girls: 20 Girls’ Dresses, Outfits and Accessories from The Cottage Mama’. The patterns in the book are in PDF form on a disk in the back of the book and you can use the patterns to create an entire handmade wardrobe for a little girl in size 12 month – 10 years.

Buy the book here!

And finally, I have two sewing DVD’s out  too. One is a companion DVD to the book where I show you many of the techniques found in the book (it’s great for visual learners). The other DVD is about pairing fabrics and trims and I walk you through an adaptation of my Charlotte Apron Dress pattern.

2. What training do you have or how did you learn?

I didn’t go to school for fashion design……I actually went to college for musical theatre (yes, I sing and dance) and got my degree in Finance. If you would have asked me 10 years ago if I ever saw myself doing what I do now, I would have called you crazy. I learned pretty much everything from books and online and A LOT of trial and error.

3. What is the process of designing a new pattern like?

I flat draft all my patterns, so I generally draft it in a size 4 and then it is graded down to a size 6 month and up to size 10.  I use basic blocks that I’ve created and the patterns are created off of those. The pattern usually undergoes 3 – 4 modifications before I’m happy enough for it to go into grading. Once the pattern is graded from 6 months – 10 years, then the pattern goes into testing with my online Facebook group that has 55 of my beloved pattern testers that make sure that each and ever size and variation are up to The Cottage Mama standards.

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

Interesting question. I guess it’s making sure that everyone understands how to print it properly. If the 2” test square is off when someone goes to print, the pattern won’t line up properly and the fit will be off. Even if it’s 1/16th of an inch off, the fit will still be off. So educating people about PDF patterns and how to use them is the hardest part.

5. What is your favorite of your patterns and why?

This one is easy…….The Georgia Vintage Dress. It’s my favorite dress I’ve designed or sewn EVER. It’s everything a little girl could hope for in a dress. It’s  sweet, feminine, a little vintage, has a tad bit of whimsy and the fit is spot on (if I do say so myself). It also has a lot of wow factor and looks like an incredibly difficult dress, when in fact, it’s one of my easiest patterns to sew. Plus the fabrics can make the dress look completely different and it’s a fun pattern to use with embellishments.

6. Do you sew for your own family or for sale? What do you prefer more, sewing or pattern design, and why? 

At this point, I only sew for my family. I love sewing. That’s where my heart is, but what I love even more is inspiring others to sew and creating patterns is what helps me to do so. My favorite part of my job is traveling around the country and teaching classes because I get to meet all these amazingly talented women who share the same passion as I do………the love of sewing. I feel so blessed.

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

I have learned that designing great patterns is wonderful, but not only do you want people to love your patterns, you want them to know about you and who you are as a designer. It’s not just the pattern that creates a loyal following, it’s the love for the designer that creates customers for life. And the feeling is mutual……..I absolutely love and adore my customers and many of them I can now call my sewing friends.

8. Best time and place to design?

Saturday morning with a cup of coffee………when my husband takes the kids out of the house. Listening to my Caro Emerald station on Pandora. That’s a very happy place for me.

9. Favorite fabric of all time? 

Seaside by October Afternoon for Riley Blake Designs. LOVE, love, love it!!

10. Favorite thing to do for fun? 

I’m a big foodie, so I love going out to eat! 


Note from Kathy: Lindsay is one of the most genuinely nice people I have come across in the online sewing world.   I hope you enjoyed my interview with her!


  1. Loved reading this! Lindsay - you're fabulous. I'm a fellow dancer/singer here (I put dancing first because my singing is just passable). I'd be curious also to know how a finance degree has advanced Lindsay's business...this is an area where I feel like a fish out of water. Thanks for the great post, Kathy!