Behind the Scenes, January 2013

Hey everyone! After talk about what you like best about sewing blogs, several of you commented that you’d like to hear more about what happens behind the scenes here. So here we go! Here’s a little bit about what happened here in the month of January.

hello there! here's me, hard at work

Hello, everyone! Behind the scenes, I sit here at this computer…

I like this idea because it will help me to look back and see progress. I have a terrible memory, so it will be nice to have a record of what happened each month or so!

What happened in January 2013:

I was a guest speaker at the Textile Arts Guild of Richmond‘s January meeting. I was contacted by the guild back in the fall to see if I’d like to come and speak. Absolutely! I enjoy talking about my business and my love of sewing with anyone who will listen. Bonus if they also love sewing! I packed up the Smart Car with samples and patterns and gave a talk about how I got started with my business and what I do. I really enjoyed meeting and doing my talk, and chatting with the guild members afterwards.

Last year I did a handful of speaking presentations as well, and each time I would write a list, pack up the things I needed, and pray I didn’t forget something important like business cards or one of my patterns. When you’re about to speak in front of a room full of people, you want to eliminate as much stress as possible!

So this month, I put together a little kit for presentations. (Because it looks much better than arriving with an old cardboard box. Even if I like to recycle, appearance matters.) In it, I have 5 of each pattern and 10 of the Renfrew Top, my invoice book and cash box, business cards, pen and pencil. It’s in a sturdy tote with handles. I’ll look so much more presentable when I arrive at my next speaking event! (Coming up: two high schools and a sewing guild meeting. Now it will be so easy to grab my kit and go, and focus instead on what I’m going to say!)

speaking kit

I got a new pattern out for testing! This takes up a lot of time – writing instructions, drawing all of those little diagrams, figuring out cutting layouts and fabric requirements, formatting the pattern pieces and labeling them with notches, sizes, etc. I’m planning for an early March release, maybe late February if there aren’t too many changes after testing. I can’t wait to share this one with you!

barely a sneak peek at all!

(this hardly counts as a sneak peek, but all my other photos were too obvious!)

Added new retailers, including a few more in Canada! I’m excited to have more stores stocking Sewaholic Patterns in my home country: Haus of Stitches in Humbolt, Saskatchewan and Fabrications in Ottawa, Ontario. We’ve added several new retailers since the last time I talked about it, including the first retailer located in France – Brin de Cousette! Take a look at the list here to see if your favourite local store is one of them. Now that the list has grown, it may be time to clean up that page and make it easier to navigate. It’s quite a long page to scroll through now! (Amazing to think that two years ago, I only had four retailers carrying my patterns. Now there are over seventy!)

Sewaholic Patterns were nominated four times in PatternReview’s Best Patterns of 2012! This was really exciting to see as it’s based completely on your reviews. I’m surprised that the Thurlow was number one! I think it’s because so many trouser patterns are designed for mannequin-size thighs and butts, it’s refreshing that there is now an option that fits curvy butts and muscular thighs.

Speaking of thighs, I biked to work all January long, in near freezing temperatures. Sometimes I’ll mention cycling and someone will comment ‘you cycle?’ I do! I only took the bus one or two days when it was actually snowing and I felt it would be safer to take public transit. I haven’t talked much about cycling since this is meant to be a sewing blog but once in a while we can talk bikes.

pashley princess sovereign or claire, my new bike

(if only every morning commute was as pretty as this one!)

Went on a mini-break to San Francisco and visited Britex. It was only four days away from home but I came back refreshed and inspired. Best of all, it was sunny! Here, temperatures hovered around the freezing mark and I’ve been feeling the winter blues. But in San Francisco, people wore shorts! Flip-flops! (I frequently type flip-flips first and correct myself.) Four days without internet or phone was a delight as well, for someone who’s always connected. I came back refreshed and recharged, ready to take on the world. (Or at least, take on my little part of the world.)

san francisco

Rachel started her Hollyburn Sew-Along on her blog. She did a little interview with me and she tackled some of the questions that come up about this skirt, from sizing it up to removing the pockets.

Talked about Fun-Sewing Friday (soon to be renamed Freedom Friday – great name suggestion!) and how I struggle to fit sewing for fun into my workload.

actually started sewing something last friday!

(actually worked on sewing something last Friday!)

Asked the question “How Do You Make Your Sewing Projects Look Less Home-Made?” – a very popular post! If you haven’t yet, read through the comments for some great discussion and many helpful suggestions.

Nearly as popular was the post this week on “A Little Less Inspiration, A Little More Action” in which I vowed to stop the endless hunt for perfect inspiration, and sew already! I especially liked Truly Myrtle’s idea of sewing an outfit a month, from head to toe. Not only does she have a goal in mind, she’ll never end up with ‘orphaned’ closet items that don’t go with anything else! Brilliant.

Finished my knee socks. (No proper photos yet but they are done, twenty inches of ribbing later!)

Top selling pattern of January 2013:

The Renfrew Top! A year after its release, this pattern is still going strong. Second place goes to the Cambie Dress and third to the Hollyburn Skirt. This doesn’t include retailer orders, just orders through Thought I would say it’s similar to how the retailers have been ordering as well. I’m excited to see the Hollyburn skirt selling so well and equally pleased to see that the Cambie Dress is still up there on top! 

renfrew top


For new pattern releases, I know I can easily get behind if I don’t keep on top of my deadlines. I have to be both the manager, and the worker bee. It’s a weird situation, because I can let my own deadlines slide, and the employee in me can relax. Then the manager side takes over again, and reworks the schedule so that I can accomplish my goals, but again I am the one that needs to complete the work, not a team of staff.

So to help with this, I’m front-loading my work. I have several new patterns designed and samples sewn (thanks to Caroline!) so that I can work through the instructions at a realistic pace. I’ve set the release deadlines early, so if they slide it’s not such a big deal. I’m lucky in that I release patterns as they’re ready, not on a seasonal schedule, so if something comes up and I run a week or two behind, it doesn’t matter. It does mean I’m doing a lot of work that you won’t see for a while, but it means that more patterns will get released, so it’s a win!

My office has been a bit of a mess this whole year. I’d like to keep things tidy in here so when I arrive in the morning, it doesn’t look like a disaster zone. (I’m hesitant to type this because I don’t want it to be a monthly recurring theme. Embarrassing for me, boring for you.) I suppose that’s motivation enough to keep it clean!

office - stuff is taking over my top shelf here

(stuff is taking over the top shelf of my bookcase – and this is not the worst of it!)

I am trying to take lunch breaks. Isn’t that the silliest thing? At my previous job, most of us ate at our desks in order to keep up with our workloads. It was rare that we would sit down in the lunch room and take a break. Unfortunately, eight years of working that way has stuck with me, and I’m frequently (or always) eating at my desk here too. And yet the best things come when I stop and take a break! The other day I sat outside and ate my lunch, and I saw a woman walk by in the greatest striped dress! (I quickly sketched it out on a napkin so I’d remember the stripe pattern.) Ideas come when we press pause, not when we glue ourselves to the computer. (Or that’s how it works for me anyways.)

mmmm...sushi eaten at the computer

(yum, sushi at the computer…)

Overall, I love January. It always feels like a fresh start, and I am really enjoying the start of this year so far! I feel like the business is off to a good start and I’m doing OK too.

What do you think? Would you like to see a recap like this on a regular basis? (Personally, I am in favour of the idea. It’s so important to stop and take stock regularly of all the things we’ve done, instead of just focusing on the things that aren’t done.)

Here’s to a great and productive February!


63 Responses to Behind the Scenes, January 2013

  1. Katy Rose January 31, 2013 at 6:09 am #

    I am so proud of what you have become and how hard you’ve worked….You are such an inspiration!

    • Tasia January 31, 2013 at 10:11 am #

      Aw, thank you! :) It’s been a pretty amazing last two years, that’s for sure!

  2. Tasha January 31, 2013 at 6:15 am #

    I think it’s great fun to see a little snippet, I’m definitely in favor of you continuing it every month!

    • Tasia January 31, 2013 at 10:12 am #

      Great! I will keep it going then. Thanks!

  3. annabelvita January 31, 2013 at 6:23 am #

    Aww, I loved this post! I’ve seen lots of pictures around the web where people have stacked their expedits – maybe going higher (with a little ladder!) would help keep things in order? or

    • Tasia January 31, 2013 at 10:14 am #

      I’ve seen that double-stacked expedit too! I think you have to bolt it to the wall though and I don’t think I’m allowed to do that here.. it would give me a lot more pattern space even if I added a half-one on top! (When I get to that point hopefully I can move to a bigger office once again.)
      Though, I love the idea of a ladder! It would fulfill my childhood fantasy of having a library with a rolling ladder, except it’s pattern instead of books…

  4. CarmencitaB January 31, 2013 at 6:26 am #

    It’s a shirt!

    • Tasia January 31, 2013 at 10:15 am #

      It might be! It’s a pretty vague photo :)

  5. Rochelle New January 31, 2013 at 6:46 am #

    I love this!! What a great peek into your January. I can’t wait to see the new pattern, and I’m really looking forward to more Sewalongs in the future, since I missed out on the Hollyburn. Also, do you sew on a pfaff? My machine looks really similar to the one shown above and I can’t seem to get the tension 100% on it. Drives me nuts! (I’m beginning to think something’s broken on it because I’ve tried everything!) Maybe you could write a post about your machine and tips for tension? I’d reaaaalllllly appreciate a post like that :)

    Thanks for sharing a sneak peek! Xo

    • Tasia January 31, 2013 at 7:52 am #

      It is a Pfaff! I’ve never had problems with the tension on mine, it’s been a very reliable machine. If I were, I’d take it in to be looked at because I’d assume there must be something wrong, since it usually behaves so well!
      Or if you don’t want to do that, try retreading the machine, change your needle, and get out the manual for the troubleshooting section. Sometimes an old needle can mess up the tension.
      Hope this helps!

    • Tasia January 31, 2013 at 10:19 am #

      Rochelle, I looked up problems in my manual and here are some of the suggestions it has:
      – Only use good quality threads
      – Check bobbin threading path
      – Check how the machine is threaded
      – Insert a new needle, making sure needle is pushed fully upwards
      – Re-thread machine, making sure presser foot is up in the highest position
      – Remove needle plate, remove lint with brush
      – Apply drop of oil to the bobbin case (I have to do this when my machine sounds chunky and clunky instead of running smooth)

      Hope this gives you a starting point!

      • Rochelle New January 31, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

        Thank you so much for your help! I’ve tried those things already so I think the next step would be to take it in to my dealer and have it looked at. I’m glad to hear you’re happy with yours :) Hopefully mine is an easy fix! I do love it an awful lot. Again, I appreciate your help. Xo

  6. PepperReed January 31, 2013 at 6:54 am #

    I like the BTS recap; it’s nice to see the overall pic from this side as well. And… “Ideas come when we press pause, not when we glue ourselves to the computer.” YES! That’s why I’m logging off to go wash some fabric for the ‘culottes’ I’m making… :^)

    • Tasia January 31, 2013 at 10:21 am #

      Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Yeah, I find the best ideas pop into my head when I’m relaxing, or cycling, or doing something other than concentrating hard on coming up with something. Have fun making your culottes!

  7. Bess January 31, 2013 at 7:00 am #

    I definitely find this interesting! Please keep doing it. I’m also interested in exactly what it takes to create a commercial pattern, from sketches through sample sewing and grading to publishing. Could you consider posting about the process? I think a lot of us are curious.

    I’m excited about the next pattern, but I’m selfishly glad it’s not out yet — I have so much else to sew! Patterns and fabric are my downfall; I always think I have more time to sew than I do.

    • Tasia January 31, 2013 at 9:58 am #

      Hey Bess! A while back I did an interview with Sunni of A Fashionable Stitch, all about the pattern development process.

      Here’s the link if you wanted to check it out:

      This was back at the very start of my business, so some things have changed (I’ve added pattern testing and fine-tuned the process) but it gives you a general idea of how it all happens.
      There’s also an article in Threads Magazine all about independent pattern designers that might give you even more insight into the process from other people too:

      Hope this gives you an idea of the process – I’ll talk more about it through the monthly recaps as well!

  8. Diane @ Vintage Zest January 31, 2013 at 7:03 am #

    Omg, that it is the cutest bike!

    And congrats on all of the nominations for your patterns, definitely well deserved!

    Now that you mention it, I need to get to some sewing one of them ASAP. :)

    • Tasia January 31, 2013 at 10:22 am #

      Ah, thanks! Love my bike. It’s a fifty-pound tank that looks ladylike, perfect for me.

      I was so excited to see the nominations! Especially when it’s coming completely from positive reviews, yay!

  9. Anthea January 31, 2013 at 7:21 am #

    I love to read a monthly recap!

    • Tasia January 31, 2013 at 10:22 am #

      Great! I’ll keep on doing them then!

  10. Linda January 31, 2013 at 7:59 am #

    I am waiting for a coat pattern with a retro feel…hmmmm

    • Tasia January 31, 2013 at 10:23 am #

      Maybe! My goal is to have a pattern for everything, from pants to t-shirts to coats to sleepwear. :)

  11. Claire January 31, 2013 at 8:00 am #

    Thank you for such an interesting post.

    I’m so jealous you get to ride such a cute, skirt friendly bike to work!

    • Tasia January 31, 2013 at 10:24 am #

      Ah thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. Love the bike, it is SO skirt friendly! The guards and hidden chain make it easy to ride wearing just about anything, wide pants and skirts and long coats.

  12. Trisha January 31, 2013 at 8:07 am #

    Yes, please continue! I really enjoyed reading this behind-the-scenes post. It’s interesting to see into the life of a pattern designer. Excited to see what patterns you release in 2013!

    • Tasia January 31, 2013 at 10:24 am #

      Thanks Trisha! It’s an interesting life, never a dull moment :) Can’t wait to share new patterns with you all!

  13. Gem January 31, 2013 at 8:12 am #

    Woohoo, new patterns for 2013! Can’t wait to see what you’ve got in store for us. This was a fun behind the scenes post – I hope you do more in the future!

    BTW I live in Ottawa and am thrilled to see Fabrications selling your patterns. It’s such a great new store in a fantastic neighbourhood with lots of indie shops and good food… This means your patterns are now a 25 minute walk away from my house!

    • Tasia January 31, 2013 at 10:25 am #

      That is great! It’s always nice to hear good things about the retailers I’m working with, that you like the store and the area and plan to shop there, yay!

  14. Charlotte January 31, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    I agree – seeing the small business part of your life is just as interesting as the sewing to me. Very inspirational!

    • Tasia January 31, 2013 at 10:26 am #

      Thank you! There’s been a lot more business than sewing this month, that’s for sure.

  15. maddie January 31, 2013 at 9:17 am #

    Wow! You had a busy January. I think it is super clever that you have a presentation kit.

    • Tasia January 31, 2013 at 10:27 am #

      Thank you! I just came up with that this week… after I realized it doesn’t look so great coming in with a recycled cardboard box that’s maybe not in the greatest shape. Next time, I’ll look much sharper!

  16. Tilly January 31, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    I love this post, Tasia, and I would love if you made it a regular feature. It’s so important to stop and reflect on what you’ve achieved, rather than constantly thinking about the next thing on your to do list, which is so easy to do when you’re busy. It’s great to hear what you’ve been up to behind the scenes, and to witness how Sewaholic is growing. Very excited to see the new patterns too! xx

    • Tasia January 31, 2013 at 10:28 am #

      Thanks Tilly! I agree, it’s important to pause and note our achievements, instead of just rushing off to the next thing (which I am certainly guilty of!). Regular feature it is!
      Can’t wait to show you all the new patterns!

  17. Kay January 31, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    Loved reading your behind the scene recap, Tasia!! Please keep it coming. IT makes you more real.

    • Tasia January 31, 2013 at 10:29 am #

      Thank you for saying that! Sometimes I wish it looked more glamorous but you’re right, this is real. My photos are an accurate depiction of what it looks like here. I took that photo of me yesterday so it really is a look through the computer into my world.
      I will keep it coming! Here’s hoping my February is just as interesting. :)

  18. Erinn January 31, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    I just visited Fabrications and was excited to see your patterns there. All out of Renfrew tops though. Curses!

  19. Truly Myrtle January 31, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    Ooooo I jumped when I saw my name! Thanks for the shout out :)
    I love a peek behind the scenes – it satisfies the nosy parker in me ;) Can’t wait to see your new pattern. Exciting!

  20. Shannon January 31, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    I definitely would like to see more of these posts. I can see how the Renfrew would be your #1!! It’s awesome! I’ve only been sewing/blogging a couple years and after seeing the Renfrew pop up everywhere I had to make one. It’s a great one day project, super easy. I made the Thurlows as well and love them.

  21. Carolyn January 31, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    Great post! I’m particularly excited to hear that you’re going to be speaking at highschools, I dream of a world where lots of people of all ages everywhere sew; where brick and mortar sewing stores can make a comeback (as much as I truly appreciate everything the internet has done for modern sewing, I buy fabric and supplies as much by feel as by sight); and where I’m not such a novelty amongst people I meet. I hope you’ll post about your experience with this if it’s positive – and I sure hope it is!!
    Thanks so much for all you do. I love my Cambie dress and have plans for at least two more this summer, and a Minoru for the fall!

  22. sarah January 31, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    it amazes me that you do all of this on your own (with the help of a sample sewer?)! i love this genuine look into your workspace. it is hard to find things that aren’t so stylized and glossy nowadays! we appreciate your honest writing and wonderful work. looking forward to more in the months to come :)
    my black cotton lawn just came for my very first sewaholic pattern– the cambie dress–can’t wait to start a muslin.

  23. Carol January 31, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    Thank you for posting this. And all of the rest of your posts for that matter. I really enjoy I am creating patters right now to start a line of children’s clothing patterns and it is helpful to hear others in the field talk of their experiences. There is so much I do not know yet, but don’t feel so alone.

  24. Tracy Lucas January 31, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    What a great post, I love the idea of going back through the month and writing about what you have done, I bet it gave you such a sense of achievement.
    Also I am very glad to see your cool bike, I cycle to work every day, I have a bright pink helmet which causes lots of amusement where I work.

  25. Jessica January 31, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

    As one of the people who voted for updates on your daily life … I loved reading this! It’s pretty cool to see all the things you’ve got going right now (I read about pattern releases through the blog, but that’s about all that I ‘see’ if that makes sense!) I feel like you do a good job of getting into the minds of your customers and knowing what we want in sewing patterns, so it totally doesn’t surprise me that 4 Sewaholic patterns made the list. Glad the getaway was refreshing and relaxing, I hope you do more of those … and if you’re back in SF sometime and ever up for a meetup, give us Bay Area folks a holler, I’m sure we’d all love to meet you :-).

  26. Jill January 31, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    Great post! and I’m very excited to hear that Haus of Stitches is stocking your patterns! It’s a block from my mom’s house! (but an hour from mine) I’ll be sure to stop in next time i’m visiting, but its such a great store anyway I don’t need much of an excuse ;)


  27. Amanda January 31, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    Great post, Tasia! Funny, but Colette Patterns also had a blog post today with a very similar title. :) Very cool to see your behind-the-scenes adventures – I think you would be so great and motivating to work with! Can’t wait to see your new patterns this year. Oh, and those shelves of your colorful pattern envelopes are just so pretty!!

  28. Natalie January 31, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    I’m sitting here reading your post wearing a Renfrew top! I’ve now made um..well…five of them. I love love love it. I have plans for more….

  29. Lora January 31, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

    Tasia and Company:

    I’ve been wondering about the business and the steps it takes to arrive at a full-fledged pattern with different sizes and everything. This was a good start to understanding. Tasia, you come across on your blog as very genteel and kind. I think under that sweet exterior is a hard core of motivation and focus. Is there any wonder that your business is growing like a weed in a vegetable garden? It is amazing how multi-talented you are designing, speaking engagements, administrative abilities, and I bet you even play a musical instrument and sing!

    I enjoy your blog a great deal. I’m very glad that you aren’t getting too busy for us. The constant flow of useful sewing information is something that draws me back again and again.

    May 2013 be a great year for Sewaholic. Know, sweet lady, that we are all cheering for your success!!!


  30. Mary January 31, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

    Love hearing about your month. You know I am one of your biggest fans. Best of the new year to you and I would love to see you soon

  31. Jenny January 31, 2013 at 11:21 pm #

    I’m with all of your other readers- I think the monthly review is a great idea. A month is such a short time, but looking at your post it looks like you’ve had a pretty eventful time of it!!

    I don’t know about you, but I often get to the end of the year and think to myself “where did that year go?” I usually feel like I haven’t achieved much and that I’m another year older with nothing to show for it, but I think these post are a great way of reminding ourselves of all the things we have accomplised but maybe forgotten about as the year gets older.

  32. Deb February 1, 2013 at 12:22 am #

    Personally, I absolutely love being able to take a peak into your daily journey, everything in life is such a learning curve for us all. Your willingness to share and discuss with us so publicly is very very commendable, you truly deserve all the success in the world Tasia.

  33. tanya February 1, 2013 at 4:57 am #

    Wow,great post. I would love to see what is going on behind the scene. My guess that the new pattern is jeans. A great jean pattern would be fantastic.

  34. Maggie February 1, 2013 at 6:39 am #

    This is a great feature, I am definitely ready to read more each month. And I just got my Renfrew pattern in the mail :)

  35. Sue February 1, 2013 at 7:45 am #

    I agree with all of the above and love the idea of a monthly recap! It will also encourage the rest of us to reflect on the month past and share our acheivements, and sometimes disappointments when things haven’t gone quite to plan!

  36. fern February 1, 2013 at 8:59 am #

    Congratulations on getting so many best pattern nominations on PatternReview! I’ve made several Renfrews and Thurlows and I love them. Thank you for drafting patterns that are so well suited to those of us with pear shaped proportions!

  37. Susan February 1, 2013 at 9:52 am #

    Tasia, I adored reading this post and really hope you do it every month!

  38. Jenny February 1, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    I so enjoy reading your posts ~ always interesting. I can’t wait to see what you have on your cutting table. Is that linen? I’m already loving that purple whatever it is!

  39. Meraj February 1, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

    It sounds like January was a good month for you! — or, really, like you made _sure_ that January was a good month for you =) Like others, I loved reading this behind the scenes post. It’s super inspiring to learn about all the things you’ve already got down (presentations, pattern testing…biking to work in winter!) and the things you want to do more of (like, taking actual lunch breaks — a worthy and difficult goal :P)

    Hope you find time to write more of these in the future!

  40. TriMama February 6, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    I love the monthly recap! What a great idea.

  41. LLBB February 6, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    great post! I think it is great for us to connect with your business and great for you to have a record of your progress. for a couple years now I’ve been in the process of finishing my basement, and so often I think to myself ‘how are we only this far??’ But whenever I recount the process to others I remember all the work we’ve done and why it’s taken so long. So I can appreciate the value of this series for you!

    • LLBB February 6, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

      oh, and although I do kind of love the surprise reveals of your new patterns, I also enjoyed the sneak peak here a little bit :)

  42. Susan Morton February 7, 2013 at 6:39 am #

    I’m so happy to have found this your website! SO INTERESTING!
    I only sew apparel and would like to upgrade my sewing machine and serger. My sewing machine is a Babylock proline 6600 and my serger is Juki. I purchased them about 22 years ago. I would appreciate any feedback that you may have.

    Thanks, Susan

  43. Levone February 8, 2013 at 6:29 am #

    Loved this post, would definitely like to see this featured monthly. I can’t wait to see the new pattern. I would also love for you to introduce another tshirt/knit top pattern.