A 2022 Round-Up
Reflections, resolutions and a Q&A
2022.... another year gone by!
I'm writing this in the last working week of the year. My state of mind is 'chill'. The last couple of years I've enjoyed taking a slower pace in December and this is now a tradition I'm enjoying keeping. It feels like I'm softly nose diving into Christmas, no complaints.
I absolutely love to reflect at the end of each year and then make plans for the coming one. It's a satisfying way to tie up loose ends and make sense of the flow of life. I also love to read other people's reflections and resolutions so I'm boldly assuming you might be interested in hearing mine.
Without further ado...
Mood of the year: Sitting in a gentle third gear. Making progress but without exhausting myself.
Best moment with Modern Sewing Co.: Finding a love for film photography and opening up to self portraiture. This process has freed up the pace that I can release new patterns and made the whole creative process feel really cohesive and personal.
Worst moment with MSCo.: Realising that I can't please everyone and taking some rather feisty negative feedback (yaaasss)
Lesson learnt this year: If you loop two threads through the needle you can sew a button on in twice the speed (I reckon this has saved me about 2 hours of time across the year...)
How I've changed: I'm WAY more chilled. 18 months of running this business has been fantastic and a huge contrast to running my previous business. I have my evenings and weekends back and that feels nice. My stress levels are down and I'm more available to life outside work.
Next year?: I'd like to really define the vision of what I'm working towards. I'm looking forward to exploring this and doing some planning in the new year.
Further down this email you'll find the Q&A session and I've scattered some suitably wintery photos, all taken on my film camera in the past week or so. As mentioned above I'm really enjoying using film as it gives such depth and character to each photo.
I hope you enjoy this reflective email and I'll be back in the New Year with a 2022 Inspiration Board round-up!
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,
I opened up the floor for questions so thank you to those who sent them in. There are some really nice ones here and I enjoyed answering them. In no particular order...
Can you live off your income from your small business?
I can! But it took me a while to be able to. I had many years of unbelievably cheap rent in London (renting from a family friend) and this enabled me to start a business in my 20s. It is NOT an easy career choice to start a small business and the journey was challenging with some big highs and lows. But I've now got a good business that supports my life in London so it was worth the years of extraordinary hard work.
I love your classic style! How do you know what is a timeless detail vs a trend that will pass?
This is an interesting question! I think a lot of my designs are rooted in very classic construction techniques and I don't think they ever really go out of fashion. When I started designing I really focussed on shirts as they're the pinnacle of timelessness. I used to look at Saville Row and take inspiration from the kind of garments you'd see there but then add my own practical, workerwear twist to things. Everything is anchored in some sort of tailoring detail (apart from the loungewear). Even the Jesse Jumpsuit and Celia Dress have lapels and the Leila Shirt has a classic cuff and placket. For me it's about making sure that part of the has a construction detail comes from classic tailoring and the rest of it is built around that.
I would like to make a unisex version of the Worker Trousers but there is so much on my list and so little time! I can't say it's a priority right now but it's on the mental to do list.
What patterns do you most enjoy wearing?
I guess this is seasonal, although the Spring Trousers are a favourite all year round. I really like the Unisex Shirt paired with Daphne Trousers. And the Jesse Jumpsuit on its own is a winner but I'm yet to make a winter version.
Suggestions for finding really nice fabrics for a reasonable price?
I suggest trying to find deadstock warehouses which will buy old rolls of fabric from other places.
I also suggest asking to do a burn test in the shop if you're unsure if something is a blend. I've been lied to before and bought what I thought was an expensive wool for it to semi-melt on my iron. You can do a burn test by snipping a tiny bit of fabric and lighting it with a match or lighter. If the fabric starts to melt in any way then you have a blend.
When a natural fibre is blended with a man-made fibre (aka acryclic) it means that it will be cheaper but it also means that it's likely to melt if you press it too hard and with too much heat. Good sewing benefits from being able to use an iron without fear of something melting so it's much better to work with purely natural fibres if possible.
Sewing on a budget tips?
I'd start by using the same pattern a few times. Check to see if you can create different versions of something by switching up the fabric or doing a design hack to get value for money.
I also think that if you're a beginner, investing in a sewing workshop will save you time and money used on fabrics for practise sewing projects. It may sound counter intuitive but by spending £50 on a workshop you'll learn how to sew much better and end up with a garment that might take you 3/4 attempts otherwise.
I also think aiming for really high quality sewing makes the whole process cheaper as firstly it will take you much longer to make (therefore slowing down your sewing consumption pace) and also the higher quality the piece the more likely you'll be wearing it for a long time.
Other tips include:
- bulk buying neutral buttons that you can use for a variety of garments. I find that wood and metal buttons are the most flexible to work with lots of different fabrics.
- bulk buy boxes of threads in neutral colours and then choose fabrics to go with the threads you already own (I like William Gee as they do good prices for boxes of 6)
- The feature doesn't always need to be expensive fabric, you can choose a very simple and cheap fabric and then pair with a contrast thread and a nice button to elevate the feel.
- Ask for vouchers for fabric shops as presents
- I'd be interested to hear more ideas on this, hit reply if you have any and I'll share them on insta!
What do you do whilst your sewing?
I usually have a cup or tea balanced on the end of my sewing machine and I love listening to podcasts - Desert Island Disks, How to Fail and the Adam Buxton Podcast.
Would love to know more about your style inspirations or mood boards you create to inspire you.
My style inspiration always starts with part of a garment, such as a collar, a pleat, a pocket or a seam line. Somehow it’s these tiny details that are the start of a whole pattern idea. I’ll often walk past someone and see something about their garment I like - for example I once cycled past a girl with back vent on her jacket and I had to stop to take a sneaky photo. I then build out the design from that one point, trying to find balance around that particular feature.
My pinterest mood boards all follow this same thread. The overall aesthetic will be similar to my own but when I get excited is when I see something like a lapel and collar at a slightly different angle or length a cuff that has an interesting proportion. I never copy, I'll look at something and think how can I do better than that.
What non-fashion things do you get inspiration from?
I love this question. I get inspiration from sitting back and watching other peoples talent, whatever form it’s in. It’s most likely to be one of two things - a beautifully shot film with brilliant costumes and incredible acting. Or live music with real heart and soul. I love looking at what other people can create, it really inspires me to keep going and to do better.
Top UK fabric shops?
Merchant & Mills and Raystitch.
How is the transition from having a clothing business to a sewing business? Anything you miss? Any regrets?
Good question, the transition has been great and I’m finding this business FAR less stressful to run. Keeping up with the fashion seasons was exhausting and I found it set a pace that was hard to keep up with. I really like that sewing patterns aren’t going to be out of fashion or ‘old’ in 6 months time, there’s a longevity that I really appreciate.
One thing that I do miss is the fabric curation and sourcing and putting together a collection of clothes that compliment each other. That kind of creative outlet felt very fulfilling. But I don’t miss managing supply chains, I much prefer that I can focus on designing and sewing with this business.
Which is your favourite machine & process?
My favourite machine is my old Brother industrial machine. But this is closely followed by my new industrial iron. And my favourite process is pressing a placket, it's so satisfying.
Are you planning a spring pattern collection?
From now on I’ll be launching patterns one at a time as it takes so long to develop a collection of patterns. I’m yet to figure out how regularly new patterns will come out but the next two are in motion - the 'mystery coat' for January and the Belle Shirt from Henri in Feb, both pictured below with the Daphne Trousers.