Behind the Scenes, May 2013

Five months into the year, and things are going excellently for Sewaholic Patterns! (Which is me, but I do tend to think of my business as its own entity. Both the business and I are doing well!)

hello there!

I have taken your advice and kept up with the red lipstick! I have to say, it does make me feel pretty.

What happened this month:

Launch of a new pattern! Here’s something you can wear every day and feel comfortable around the house, while still feeling put-together. I wanted to make a cute pair of PJ pants with modern details, such as the faux fly feature and the contrast piping.

It’s easy for pyjamas (pajamas? whichever you prefer!) to look sloppy and saggy, and even though they’re comfortable we still want to look a little bit pulled-together, just in case. These are cute enough to answer the door in when the Fedex or pizza delivery person knocks! Make a matching Renfrew top and you’ll have a cosy outfit that’s perfect for movie night at home.

tofino pants

You may also notice that the lines in this pattern are thicker and the lettering is thicker as well. The printer has problems printing very thin text, so I’ve changed it for the future. I hope this also makes it easier for you to work with the pattern pieces! These are things I didn’t think of when I did the very first pattern, and it took a few glitches to realize what the problem was and how to make it better. Now we’ve made it better!

Speaking of this pattern, Karen from Didyoumakethat is hosting a Pajama Party! Want to sew up the Tofino Pants along with hundreds of other cool women around the world? Now is the time!

tofino pants side and back

The Tofino Launch went really smoothly, except for one minor drama. I finished stuffing the very last envelope just in time for the big launch. The shelves were loaded in my office all ready for incoming orders, and the extra stock was boxed and ready to take down to the storage room. I’m feeling so good I might just get a treat at the Starbucks downstairs and sew for the rest of the afternoon! I load up the boxes, take them down to storage… and there’s water on the floor of the storage room.

I quickly put down my load, and check to find where the water is coming from. It’s dripping from the ceiling, an inch in front of my shelves full of pattern stock. Water is splashing on to my pattern boxes. I start to panic. I reach up to touch the box on the very top shelf.. and the box is soaked and squishy. I go to take it down and as I slide the wet box down from the shelf, a wall of water pours down from the shelf. Total panic! I climbed up to feel the wall that was dripping and the drywall was squishy and soft, soaked all the way through. Turns out there was a blocked pipe that burst, good thing I happened to finish packing on a Friday instead of over the weekend!

I ended up having to unload the entire storage room and bring all of my inventory up to a spare office. It took me over two hours to move all of the boxes, and of course I was wearing a dress and heels. In the end only three boxes were significantly damaged, and I was thankful that I went down there before the leak got worse! (Since then I’ve moved my entire inventory again to a separate secure and dry storage locker. Now that I have 12 patterns that’s a lot of boxes to move around!)

things that you don't want to get wet

(an idea of what my storage looked like!)

When something like that happens, you have to look at the positive side or it’s just too much to think about. What if I hadn’t finished packing the envelopes that afternoon? What if the pipe had burst earlier and drenched my entire inventory? What if my stack of boxes on the floor didn’t have a plastic box at the bottom, but a cardboard one? You can’t predict what kind of disasters are going to happen in business, all you can do is prepare as best as you can and tackle the issues as they arise. (And have insurance. Definitely make sure you have insurance so you can sleep at night!)

Sewaholic Patterns is now an incorporated business! This month I worked on setting everything up to make this happen. There’s a bit of work to do, lawyers and accountants to talk to, and even new bank accounts to set up. Once it’s all in place we’ll go from being Sewaholic Patterns the sole proprietorship to Sewaholic Patterns, Inc. Pretty cool, eh?

What this means is that the business and I are officially separate entities. It gets taxed and I get taxed, but at different rates. I could sell shares, and take investments. (Perfect for when I make my appearance on Dragon’s Den! No, that isn’t actually happening but I love watching the show and secretly imagine how I would respond to the same questions being asked about my business.) I am doing this at the advice of my accountant so I know it’s the right time. This will mean more paperwork for me, but a stronger business structure that looks more legit to the outside world.

I made a dress! I’d made this pattern before, in 2010, but it was wearing out so I wanted a new one. The pattern is McCalls 7743, a vintage pattern from 1965, and the fabric is Nani Iro double-gauze that I bought at Spool of Thread in Vancouver.

mccalls 7743 little letter dress

I made a few changes for round two, but there are still things I will tweak for round three! That’s the beauty of making the same pattern multiple times. You can change it just a little each time to get it perfect for you.

We looked inside two vintage dresses, a black eyelet shirtdress and a red lace wiggle dress. Many of you admitted to always looking inside garments, whether vintage, second-hand or brand new! You’ve asked to see what the dresses look like on me, so I am planning to dress up and take photos to show off the dresses properly.

Top selling pattern in May 2013

The Tofino Pants! Very exciting to see the new pattern in the top spot. This new pattern is flying off the shelves! I would imagine that’s because it’s comfortable and easy, and just about everyone can find room in their closet for a cosy pair of lounge pants. Second place goes to the Cambie Dress and third to the Renfrew Top.

top selling sewaholic patterns

Report on last month’s challenges

I really appreciated all of the comments about growing this business after last month’s recap post. It certainly isn’t an easy decision, figuring out how to handle growth smartly. I am thinking of the future, planning what I want it to look like, and deciding what things need to happen to get me there. The more sales, the easier it is to make decisions relating to money! I will say that every big decision I’ve made so far has worked out well, specifically moving into an office from my home, then later upgrading to a larger office. I haven’t regretted either choice and as soon as the decisions were made, I never looked back. So I’ll get to that point with outsourcing and hiring too, I’m sure!

Here is what I have already planned to do:

I am outsourcing my bookkeeping, because I am terrible about keeping up-to-date. I like looking at the numbers and I like knowing if I made money last month, but I was running about four months behind. (I did January and that’s it.) In the office I work in, there’s accountants and bookkeepers right here in the same office! Right across the hall even. Yesterday the accountant came in and did my books on my computer while I worked on other things, and I am now all caught up! That’s way faster than if it was left to me to do. Not only am I much slower at entering things into the system, I prioritize other tasks before the bookkeeping and so the books sit and wait. Not anymore!

Caroline and I are going to work on some special projects together, so you may start to see appearances from her on the blog! She’s come in to help on the weekends and it’s been such a relief to have her assistance. During our weekend workdays, we came up with several ideas to try. I hope you guys like what we come up with!

There are a couple other things I’m working on but haven’t finalized yet, once there is more to say I will be sure to talk about it!

The thing that I need to keep in mind, and I can be a little bad at this, is to balance work and life. The business needs to run so that all people involved are enjoying their work, but equally enjoying life outside of work. Just because I can work twice as many hours, do everything myself, and not have to hire someone, doesn’t mean that’s a good decision. In fact I’m pretty sure Mr Sewaholic would stop liking me, and my friends would miss me, and work would become the only thing I have going, which is dangerous. Sure, I may think about sewing and making stuff all the time, so much that I have created my dream job in the sewing world, but that can’t be the only thing that defines me. I may be a sewaholic, but that’s not all I am!

Here comes June, the longest day of the year, and summer in Vancouver! We only get a few months of nice weather so I am going to work on that work-life balance thing and try to enjoy it, as well as get things done. Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Like this? Read more Behind the Scenes posts!

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40 Responses to Behind the Scenes, May 2013

  1. didyoumakethat May 31, 2013 at 6:18 am #

    What a truly wonderful and eloquent blog post. I for one appreciate you sharing so candidly – it’s a fascinating insight and carries messages about life that carry beyond sewing, that we can all relate to! (Oh, and thanks for mentioning the Pyjama Party, launching on Monday!)

    • Tasia May 31, 2013 at 11:36 am #

      Thank you! I am glad you enjoy my sharing and find it interesting, I hope that it explains what running a business is like! It’s not all roses but I would hate for anyone to think that and then be disappointed when they started their own business or worse, felt like they were failing when it wasn’t perfect all the time.
      Yes! Pyjama Party! You spell it like I do, PYjama instead of PAjama. Thanks for hosting! Can’t wait to see the party photos!

  2. Jenny May 31, 2013 at 6:33 am #

    I love these posts! It’s so exciting to me to read about how your business is doing. My job is very plain and boring. I think about sewing a lot and when I’m not thinking of sewing I’m fantasizing about what else I should be doing instead of sitting my life away at this desk.

  3. Angela May 31, 2013 at 7:26 am #

    Interesting post! Glad to hear you are making the lines thicker on the patterns, I had some difficulty in a few places on the Lonsdale. I figured it out, but with aging eyes things get harder as the years go by. :)

    Congrats on going incorporated – sounds like a ton of paperwork.

    I’m ready for the pajama party, my last pair of PJ pants had an atrocious fit!

    • Tasia May 31, 2013 at 11:34 am #

      Oh good, I am glad that the lines are going to be better for you guys. I didn’t want them to be too thick so that it’s hard to distinguish the different sizes from each other, but they were printing too faintly so this should be an improvement. If you make the Tofinos I would love to know what you think, if it’s better!

  4. Elena Knits May 31, 2013 at 7:33 am #

    I’m so happy for you. This is a big leap, and it means things are going in the right direction! I’m sorry for your damaged boxes, but at least they were just a few.

    • Tasia May 31, 2013 at 11:33 am #

      Thank you! Yeah, never a dull moment around here. Just when I start to relax, something happens!

  5. Jessica May 31, 2013 at 8:25 am #

    Wow – what a busy month (as always). Thanks for your thoughts on altering the Minoru – always did like to bite off overly complicated projects, but I’m mulling … I am! Whew, disaster averted! It’s funny, those of us on the outside would never, ever think about the potential for something like that happening, I’m glad you were able to get through with minimal damage! (Would you have room to keep an old pair of flats in the office? I used to do that when I worked in San Francisco and wanted something comfortable to take a 15 minute walk at lunch …)

    I hope you do find some work-life balance over summer! ‘Tis the season to do so! I mean, photographing dresses would call for beautiful, outdoors locations — in new spots that require some scouting and exploring, eh? (Haha) Thanks so much for bringing us in for a peek each month!

    PS: Hm … think Tofino would work for casual linen pants? If someone wanted to, say, dip their toe into pants making in the gentlest possible way?

    • Tasia May 31, 2013 at 11:32 am #

      Yes, I think the Tofino would work for casual linen pants, they are relaxed but not too slouchy, and the details like the faux-fly and tie belt will make them work for outside the house. You could skip the piping if it’s too much or if it interferes with the drape of the linen. They’re fairly easy for a first pants project, I say go for it!

      Yup, busy month! Good stuff and crisis-management stuff too. I usually keep flats here but sometimes I end up wearing them home. I also now keep rubber boots here for days when it starts out nice, but ends with pouring rain! And I used to keep my wool shawl here for the aggressive air-conditioning but brought it home over the winter. It’s nice to have the little things around that make work comfortable. Oh! And I also have fuzzy slippers here for sinking my feet into under my desk. Yeah, I have a lot of shoes here. Just apparently not the right ones at the right time!

  6. Kelly May 31, 2013 at 8:26 am #

    Every month I have to tell you that I love these posts! It is just so interesting to hear about your business. Congratulations on becoming incorporated and bringing your business to its next phase!

    • Tasia May 31, 2013 at 11:28 am #

      Thank you Kelly! I am so glad it’s interesting, sometimes I worry about being boring because it’s not all sewing-related. Yes, we’re on to the next chapter of the business, who knows what the rest of the year will bring!

  7. Diane @ Vintage Zest May 31, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    That’s terrible about the leak, but at least there’s the silver lining about catching it on a Friday, like you said! Happy weekend!

    • Tasia May 31, 2013 at 11:25 am #

      Exactly! Have to look on the bright side, otherwise it’s too much of a downer. Have a good one!

  8. Loretta May 31, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    Tasia, I’m so happy for you! I found your blog around 2 years ago, and have been following it ever since. I wish you could come down the road a few blocks and re-arrange my sewing room for me! Tee…hee…I have 4 large bins of fabric taking up floor space. I don’t wish to part with it as it’s good fabric. Mostly I sew for dolls and sell online. Your patterns make me wish to sew for myself but my waist has disappeared. LOL I’m trying to lose weight to get it back again. I enjoy your monthly updates. I’m so sorry to hear about the burst pipe! Yikes. Insurance is good, and it could have indeed been worse! I’m looking forward to really and truly purchasing one of your patterns soon. Your blog posts really inspire me.

    • Tasia May 31, 2013 at 11:24 am #

      Haha, I have my hands full keeping it organized in here! (I had to spend some time cleaning up before letting the accountant in, it was rather messy in here.) Glad you enjoy the monthly updates and it’s neat to think that people right down the road are reading at the same time as people halfway across the globe!

  9. Trisha May 31, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    Again, thanks for sharing. I love these posts!

    Congratulations on Sewaholic Incorporated! What an accomplishment! I can’t wait to learn more about what that means as you grow. Just as you watch Dragon’s Den and secret imagine yourself on the show, I like to watch you and secretly imagine myself with a creative business.

    (Also, yikes about the water damage… so scary. Glad you caught it when you did.)

    • Tasia May 31, 2013 at 11:22 am #

      I know eh? Sewaholic Patterns, Inc. It’s so official sounding. I am so glad that you enjoy reading about my creative business. I hope that I’m showing a realistic look of what it’s like – a lot of fun things, a lot of scary things, some truly rewarding moments and some very questionable moments. Tons of decisions to make, to the point where I don’t even want to decide what to have for dinner at the end of the day! If you do want to have your own business one day, I hope that some of the things I’ve shared have been helpful. The biggest suggestion I have is to not be afraid. We’re all afraid but it’s how you handle that fear that matters. If you have a good idea but you’re afraid to try, you’ll never know. And if you do try and it doesn’t do well, don’t take it personally and decide whether it’s worth revising and trying again or if it’s not the right approach.

      • Trisha May 31, 2013 at 11:55 am #

        Tasia- thank you so much for that kind response. It really resonates with me right now. I’m currently reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In.” It’s a book about women in the workforce, and she talks a lot about taking risks and not being afraid. I’m only 2 chapters in, but it’s been a real eye-opener so far. I highly recommend it.

        • Tasia May 31, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

          Thanks for the book recommendation! I’m adding it to my library list (the running list of things to look for next time at the library) right now. About starting a business, I would recommend The $100 Startup, it talks about businesses that were started with very little money, with tons of examples and stories. I read it over holidays last summer (yup, apparently I even read about work on vacation!) and really enjoyed all of the stories. It was really inspiring! I also really liked Delivering Happiness, by Tony Hsieh the CEO of Zappos, I’d read that just before starting my business and again, found the story inspiring even though it’s a completely different industry and business model.

        • Tasia May 31, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

          ps. not like you asked for more book ideas, but I thought I would return the favour!

          • Trisha May 31, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

            Love it! I’m adding your books to my queue.

    • Joanne May 31, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

      I’m guessing that Dragon’s Den is similar to “Shark Tank”, a show currently airing in the U.S. about entrepreneurs pitching their business ideas in hopes of getting funding from a panel of venture capitalists. As a budding entrepreneur, I watch Shark Tank and love that show!

  10. Beth (SunnyGal Studio) May 31, 2013 at 9:03 am #

    these posts are great, I have been so interested in your situation since you started the company and congrats on the success. I would love to see you on on the TV program – it is Shark Tank here in the US.

    • Tasia May 31, 2013 at 11:19 am #

      Yes! I’ve seen Shark Tank, some of the judges (judges? probably not the right word, investors more like it) are the same. If I am ever going to be on Dragon’s Den I will let you guys know! Wouldn’t that be terrifying and fun? I bet I’d get questions like ‘do people still sew?’ and such. Thanks for reading along the whole time!

  11. indigorchid May 31, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    I love reading these posts – it is so interesting reading about the different challenges and learning opportunities (and opportunities in general!) you’re experiencing as you’re growing. And especially, to see your ponderings and reflections on some of the choices that needs to be made! It seems like you’re striking a very nice balance on how fast to grow, and when (and why) to start outsourcing tasks like bookkeeping. I wish you a very enjoyable summer!

    • Tasia May 31, 2013 at 11:17 am #

      Thank you! I feel like these are the type of thoughts that many business owners and entrepreneurs have, but it’s rather scary to admit that we’re unsure about anything. We have to keep up a confident appearance! Thank you all for listening while I work these things out. If even one of the things I share along the way is helpful to someone then it’s worth writing it all out. I know for me I will forget most of these feelings within a year so I will be glad I’ve written it all down to read later on.
      Oh yeah, having the bookkeeping out of my life is awesome! I wish I’d done it sooner.

  12. Sandra May 31, 2013 at 10:38 am #

    Congrats on the growth of your business! I bought 3 of your patterns after making the Renfrew top, which I love.
    Glad you did not have much more water damage, you can drive yourself crazy with the what -ifs, things happen just the way they are supposed to happen.
    Life balance is tough, I have a great boyfriend/partner, a full time job and a teenager. And I LOVE SEWING! I am glad to see that I’m not the only one that thinks about sewing all the time.
    Thanks for your posts, the patterns and you sharing of yourself.
    Look forward to more posts and patterns.
    :)

    • Tasia May 31, 2013 at 11:15 am #

      Thank you for the orders! Oh yes, I can’t allow myself to sit in ‘what if?’ and start picturing the worst. There are too many ‘what if’ possibilities that will drive me crazy – what if people stop sewing? what if people stop buying patterns? what if my business fails? what if there is a fire? (Before I had insurance I used to dream about arriving at the office to see flames coming out of my window here. Bought insurance and the fire dreams went away, funny how that works..) I have to stop and remind myself that I will figure it out along the way.

      I am reassured to hear that life balance is hard for everyone in our own way. We’re all trying to fit everything into the same 24 hours!

  13. Lynn May 31, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    Oh, yes, Tasia, definitely make room in your life for more than the business! It is important to remember that as much as you love your business, it cannot love you back.

    • Tasia May 31, 2013 at 11:12 am #

      Isn’t that the truth! I really like that point, it rings true for me. It’s a rather one-sided love affair isn’t it? Although I get to chat with the most amazing people through the blog and because of the patterns so there is a personal element to it.

  14. Marguerite May 31, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    Tasia, I really think that with all that is going on you should include writing your blog posts into a book! Your sincerity comes shining through, not to mention your friendliness and kindness. Many of today’s bloggers (maybe in an effort to seem hip or something) come across as rude or self centered. You,on the other hand, are ladylike and respectful.
    Let me join all the others in wishing you the best on your business endeavors. You have a quality product and a devoted following that will only grow. And I can appreciate your not wanting to sacrifice your family and friends for the business. You’ll find a happy medium, I’m sure!
    PS enjoy the nice weather while it lasts

    • Tasia May 31, 2013 at 11:39 am #

      Thank you Marguerite, that means a lot to me. I would hate to come across self-centred! Which is really hard to do when you write a blog because by nature, a blog is about the writer and their story. And these recaps are specifically all about me, my business and what I did in a month. Ladylike and respectful is a massive compliment. Thank you!

  15. Mitch May 31, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    Ooo your water leak in the storage room – you were definitely lucky to catch that in time. We had the dishwasher drain come apart in the ceiling of our den – which is right beside our master bedroom that had only been finished 2 weeks before. Luckily, while we had to replace all the drywall in the den, our bedroom was perfectly dry.

    And definitely, make time for a non-work life. My parents ran 2 home-based businesses and at times, it took over everything. We had people phoning on Christmas Day because they had mis-placed parts & could they just stop by & pick them up – and my parents said yes! I hated the business and resented them at times because they couldn’t say No. When I got older, my parents would have me answer the door if it wasn’t business hours because I wouldn’t cave in – I’d (not so politely) ask if they’d noticed the business hours posted on the door & then tell them since it wasn’t that time, good-bye. At least, your business is away from your home – you have it leave it – no one will knock on your door at 7 am on a Sunday looking for patterns.

    • Tasia May 31, 2013 at 11:44 am #

      Oh yes, that is a really good point. Thank you for sharing what it was like to grow up with home-based businesses. That was one of the deciding factors in moving my business out of the house. I couldn’t stop working, it was always there out of the corner of my eye, and even when I would do something supposedly relaxing, like watching a movie or the hockey game, I’d think of all the things I could do at the same time to be efficient. It was really important to get that out of my home life! And the other great thing about an internet business is that it happens online, not in real life. No one is physically coming to see me all the time. I can turn off the computer and the phone and separate myself from it.
      I had the person above me in my old apartment install the bathtub drain improperly. First time they ran a bath, bathwater went right through the ceiling! Worst thing was I had just spent three months renovating my bathroom all on my own with my mom’s help.. and it was all ruined! So yeah, water damage is the worst, and the absolute worst is when it happens on top of fresh renovations!

  16. Joanne May 31, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    Tasia, I have been reading your posts for about 3 or 4 months now and have not previously responded but I have to say that you are such an inspiration! I haven’t sewn for a few years now – I let work and life get in the way – but am getting back into it now along with knitting an crochet. I just finished a crochet sweater about a month ago and it turned out beautifully. I am also a Graphic Designer and have been trying to get my freelance design business off the ground for awhile and appreciate your entrepreneurial advice. It is my goal to create my own dream job too so that I can leave the “rat race” of commuting, business suits and office drama! It is people like you that show me that it can indeed be done and though it won’t always be easy it is achievable and rewarding!! Keep up the great work!

  17. RobinD June 1, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    What a pretty dress you’ve sewn – the Nani Iro double-gauze is delicious.
    Everything is going so well; it is a major treat to watch as new patterns keep coming out and seeing the many beautiful versions in the blogosphere.
    (and yay for insurance! thank goodness it wasn’t a worse disaster!)

  18. Adeline June 1, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

    It’s exciting when people say they have found their dream job because it really takes gut to take the leap of faith and at the same time it gives people faith (like me) that it can be done and to truely enjoy something you are passionate about. :) I’ve never been to Canada and reading your posts just makes me want to visit soon.

  19. Becky June 2, 2013 at 6:10 am #

    That’s so exciting that you’ve gone incorporated! It definitely says a lot of positive things about how you’ve handled the business so far, and I’m very happy for you that you’ve gotten to the point where you can outsource the necessary but less fun stuff like the bookkeeping. (I have to handle my bookkeeping on a much smaller scale for the flute lessons that I teach, and I’m always falling really behind on it, too!)

    Love the Tofino, and I’m hoping to be able to pick that and the Robson up soon, once I’m done packing and moving all of the rest of my stuff!

  20. Leigh June 4, 2013 at 8:17 am #

    Marvellous to hear you’ve managed to outsource a job you really didn’t enjoy. Not so marvellous about all those wet patterns, especially as they’re your bread and butter. I used to be an archivist, and the mere thought of leaking pipes, or sprinkler systems makes me break out in a cold sweat. Water damage sucks.

  21. Stephanie June 9, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    I really enjoy these updates, as well as your gentle and friendly blog voice. It’s neat to have an inside view of the process. You deserve all of your success! (PS: Glad to read that only a few of the boxes were damaged.)

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