Friday, May 23, 2014

Pattern Designer Interview - MamaNene (Irene) from Serger Pepper

Logo serger pepper patterns

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

We can say I've sewn from my whole life!  I've learned from mom when I was a little girl, but she used to follow patterns directions LITERALLY! I am much more a free spirit, so I started adapting  them because they weren't flattering neither fitting well.  I started drafting my own patterns some year ago, at first using paper, pencil and rulers … but it was too much time consuming and not enough practical for my needings: I didn't have a sewing room with a huge sewing table (like the one I have now – I'm a lucky girl), so it was always necessary to wait the kitchen table to be free for some hours... and It rarely happened. I started google-ing to find an answer: Illustrator! I was already using Inkscape at my day-job, for drawing posters and flyers, so I loved using something similar and skipping a good slice of the learning curve.

2. What training do you have or how did you learn?
No formal training on my side, excluding drafting and grading books and the best and most complete course you can ever find: PatternWorkshop by  Lauren Dahl: she refined and distilled the whole process I was already roughly following and, each and every time I watch a new video or read some comments in the sweetest secret fb group ever I learn some new-to-me “secret tip”...  Anyone seriously interested in designing his/her own patterns should give it a try!

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

I know that every designer has its own process. For me it's more or less this:
While I'm swimming, a design materialize in my mind and, as soon as I get a piece of paper and a pencil (while my hands are no more wet), I draw an awful sketch. Then I look over it and decide what kind of “basic shape” it can be assimilate and start drawing it in my daughter (or mine, or dad's) size.  I sew the first muslin,  usually with old bed sheets or duvet cover or t-shirts jersey (I'm a frugal mom) and make any tweek I think it needs, changing the Illustrator pattern an sewing more samples until I'm satisfied with the design.  I grade it to the other sizes in my range, sew one more sample and take literally a thousand pics, to create the tutorial. Send out to the testers, wait their feedback and make changes basing on it. We always chat about my patterns and their testings and suggestions into our secret fb group, for “The Crew” only, the most awesome testers in the world!

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

Maybe sorting images for the tutorial! I always take So. Many. Pictures. that choosing is maybe the hardest part!  I find also somehow hard write release posts and Craftsy/Etsy descriptions... I'm a shy person and find really hard describe strengths and virtues of my patterns... I have a lot to learn to be commercial! Sometimes I read some descriptions that sells  product very well... I'm still not that into it!  On the other side, I love to fill my excel tables with numbers and formulas, could draft in Illustrators for hours and hours without stopping, so I really can't find hardest parts in this part of the process!
The Free Mod Dress Pattern

5. What is your favorite of your patterns and why?
One of my favorite is the Mod Dress, which is downloadable for FREE on my Craftsy page. It's born as a refashion from a T-shirt and a pair of trousers, all bold lines and sixties! One of the most challenging is my new one, thee Hands-Free Asymmetrical Bag: plenty of pouches for a cross-bag band that leaves mom's hands free for childrens. For adventurous intermediate seamstresses, is a practical bag with a fashionable shell!

6. Do you sew for your own family or for sale?
I don't sew for sale, while I sew for my family. I used to sell some little things on the past but it takes too much time and it's simply not worth the time I spend on it: everything must be perfect, in my sewing, I hate poor finishings!

 7. What do you prefer more, sewing or pattern design, and why?
 I love both the parts of the process but, when I have to relax, I sew without worrying of long thread tails and cleaning the sewing table just to have clean pics... Simply sew! I usually draft late at night, because... it doesn't make noise, as my serger/sewing machine do!

Free Refashion Raglan tee pattern with skirt

8. Have you learned anything from feedback from customers that you would like to share with other designers or wanna-be designers?
The most important thing I learned is that  you can't satisfy everybody, anything you do. It always makes me giggle when I read feedback and A says “please give me only measurements, so I can save paper and ink” and B says “thank you for giving me pattern pieces to print and not only measurements... I feel lost with them”... Been there?

9. Best time and place to design?
Whenever! Usually, I need to send my daughter out for some daddy-time... I simply am not able drafting with a curious 5 year old daughter around, asking questions all the time!

10. . Favorite fabric of all time?
This is hard for me... I usually refashion fabrics from pre-loved garments, but often I have access to out-of-the factory cuts: I live in a textile area where people have looms in their garage... There's an old tradition in fabrics and textiles here around!

10. Favorite thing to do for fun?
… sewing? Just  joking! I love to grow my vegs, starting from seeds and I'm a soapmaker too (olive oil and lye)
But the best thing I can think to do is putting together a 250 pieces puzzle with my daughter!

Note from Kathy. Irene lives in Italy. It is so fun to be part of a sewing community that stretches around the globe.  Please see yesterday's post for my first sewing with one or her fab patterns. I definitely plan to do more!


  1. Great interview! Near to learn some new things about Irene!

  2. Thanks Kathy and Irene! This was a great read.

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