Hola amigas/amigos! This is my inaugural post for Sewing Indie Month – and on the very first day!
When Mari from Seamster started coordinating this (monumental!) month of fun, she asked us to submit a list of other designers we’d like to collaborate with. I’m so pleased with who I was paired with (although really, it’s kind of a can’t lose situation with this group of pattern-makers!) This month I will be hosting a tutorial from By Hand London, posting a pattern hack on Fehr Trade’s blog and will be having a conversation with Mari on her blog.
Today I am thrilled to share an email interview I did with Dixie DIY.
Dixie DIY is someone I’ve liked and admired for years. She was one of the first sewing bloggers I discovered online and I was drawn to her casual, Texan style, great sewalongs & tutorials, and big ol’ heart. We’ve been in touch a number of times over the last year, and one of these days I’m going to make it down to Texas so I can give her a big lovin’ squeeze in person.
I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to talk to her about for this post. What follows is a conversation about making, designing, operating a sewing business and feminism. If you’re not familiar with her yet, I hope this gives you some insight into why I adore this lady so much.
For those of you who don’t know much about Dixie DIY, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hey, I’m Dixie, I just turned 27 and I like to sew and make patterns. I live in Austin, TX – land of BBQ, Tex Mex and 110 degree summers. I’m pretty lucky because Austin has a surprising amount of indie fabric stores and a bunch of other people who like sewing as much as I do.
How did your sewing journey start?
My grandma taught me some hand sewing when I was young. When I was 15 I saved up some money and bought a machine and sewed a bunch of tote bags and simple clothes. It wasn’t until college that I started sewing clothes; back then I thought I was too cool for patterns and instructions. Needless to say I had a lot of fails back then. But I learned my lesson and abided by the rules of patterns and now I’m much better. 😉
What made you decide to release your first pattern?
After reading a few books I decided I could manipulate existing patterns easily enough to turn them into entirely different designs. I wanted to share what I’d learned so I released a few free patterns in limited sizes just for fun. Looking back those patterns were pretty bad – the pattern pieces were ok but they had limited instructions with no pictures, no notches. I don’t even think I put the name of the pattern on every piece.
With my first pattern for sale I overhauled everything and now they’re a much better product all around, and something I can be proud of.
What is your design or style “identity”? What sorts of patterns do you like to create?
I think my style is definitely influenced by the city I live in. Austin is very casual and relaxed but creative and a little quirky at the same time. My Summer Concert Tee is a good example of that. I wanted a light, breezy shirt I could wear to outdoor concerts and festivals that happen here quite often. My Ballet Dress is a go-to when I want to look cute with out a lot of effort (which is pretty much all the time).
Do you hope to make sewing and pattern designing a full-time career or are you just having fun on the side?
Right now I teach sewing classes, blog, occasionally work at a fabric store and make patterns. The patterns probably make up 50% of my “job” per se. But pattern design can be a lot of work with digitizing the pieces, making a bunch of samples, grading, picture taking, instruction writing and size testing. I have a lot of admiration for those who can produce new patterns every few months and make it a full time job.
How has your design practice and process changed since your business has grown?
Well, on my next pattern I’m planning on extending my size range. I want more people to easily be able to make up my patterns without having to do a bunch of work themselves. With each of my patterns, bits here and there have been improved and now I know so much more about drafting than I did years ago. I even went back and updated my first pattern after listening to user feedback.
One of the reasons I wanted to interview you (my personal affection and respect for you notwithstanding) is because you were a tremendous help to me when I released the Bombshell. Not only did you freely and openly answer a lot of questions I had for you, but you created a fabulous series of posts on “Starting an Indie Pattern Company” that were invaluable to me when I started figuring out how I was going to grade and produce PDF patterns. I had no idea where to begin and it was amazing to have all this freely shared information from someone who had gone down the same road. Why did you decide to share your process and “secrets”? How do you think the sewing community’s kindness and generosity as a whole affects the way we do business as pattern designers?
Thanks! I fully believe that more growth in the indie pattern biz benefits everyone. Sewing patterns aren’t like Mac vs. PC. No sewist sews only one brand of pattern. The more option sewist’s have, the more they will want to try new patterns (maybe even mine!) Also, I’m never going to be able to create a line of patterns that will fit everyone’s body or personal style so I love seeing variety. Now we’ve got pattern companies designing for petites, plus sizes, pear shapes, large busts. There’s retro and modern options and even basics that become TNT patterns.
Where do you see the Sewing Revolution going? Is the current sewing revival a flash in the pan or do you see it as a more lasting movement?
Sewing used to be something women HAD to do because clothing was so expensive. These days people sew because the WANT to. Because it’s fun and they can make clothes no one else will have. Or they can make their clothes fit well and feel confident. Some even sew for the eco factor and re-use old materials. If we continue on the trend of “fast fashion” I think home sewing will be a lasting movement. After making my own clothes I find it hard to go into a store and willingly hand over my money for a polyester shirt that’s going to fall apart in a month.
What I like about Sew Indie month is that it is encouraging designers to reach out to one another and communicate as peers with skills and information to share, rather than looking at each other as competition. Do you ever feel competitive about designing? Do you think the market will continue to sustain all the emerging talent?
I love interacting with other designers and I don’t often see it as a competition. I definitely want all these companies to succeed. The only problem I’ve come across myself is worrying that I will unknowingly create a design and later it turns out to be really similar to someone else’s pattern. Indie companies are popping up all the time and it’s hard to keep up with them (which is why this event is so great!). But there’s only so many ways to make a shirtdress or a t-shirt for example so some cross over is bound to happen. You just have to design what you like and what you’d want to make. Sewing as a hobby is growing rapidly so I don’t really see there being a critical mass of pattern companies any time soon.
Lastly, I wanted to talk about feminism, and how it informs your creative process. You wrote a post about attacks on women’s rights in Texas a year ago that I found incredibly moving and brave. The sewing blog community isn’t known for being particularly vocal about hot-topic issues and it was refreshing to see someone bravely talk about something that meant a lot to her, even if it might have alienated people with different beliefs. I know that my personal feminism informs my sewing on a deep level – I wonder if that’s the same for you, and if so, how?
I very rarely talk about my personal life on my blog but that political issue was taking up a lot of my time so I felt I should address it about it in a way that related to my sewing journey. Often issues around women’s rights and sexism revolve around the theme of our physical bodies. In the eyes of society they can never be perfect. We’re always too thin or too fat. If we happen to have a large bust we’re too sexual. If we have a small chest we’re not feminine enough. We aren’t attractive if we have stretch marks. We get slut shamed if we wear a short skirt. And even more subtly we are told we should wear shapes that are “flattering,” no vertical stripes or large prints, no black near the face (rules like that are a huge pet peeve of mine. If you like it, wear it!).
This criticism is meant to take away our autonomy over our physical bodies. Women can never win this game.
Even most sewists feel nervous about posting a picture of themselves in a swimsuit they worked so hard to make. Which is why I loved the Bombshell swimsuit. Anyone can make that suit and be a bombshell! Plus the pride we get from making a challenging garment overwhelms the voice in our head saying “cover up those thighs” (or in my case “you need a tan!”)
Sewing is liberating in that way – we can make and wear exactly what we want and feel proud and beautiful. Sometimes sewing clothes we love makes us look at ourselves objectively and we realize 1) who we are – our identities, our worth, our rights – is not defined by our bodies and 2) Damn, girl! That dress is nice!
HEAR BLOODY HEAR! See what I mean? This lady is rad! Dixie has a new skirt pattern coming out shortly, and it’s lovely. I love the design lines and zipper pockets.
That’s it for us today. Super pumped to see all the cool interactivity that will result from all this camaraderie. It’s really inspiring to be involved with a community of business owners who want to support each other rather than tear each other down. The power of sewing knows no bounds!