From humble beginnings as a sewing blogger to becoming the go-to gal for independent sewing patterns, Penny Arrowsmith is the lovely lady behind Dresses & Me. Her great website stocks Colette, Grainline Studio, Sewaholic Patterns and many more. For those of you who like to make awesome garments but want to avoid the generic pattern brands, Dresses & Me is the place to visit!
You are the clever person behind Dresses & Me (which has really enabled my learn-to-sew quest!) Tell me a bit about your journey to establish this awesome site.
Hi Joanna, thanks for asking me here today I started my blog in 2011 writing about the clothes - mostly dresses - that I'd sewn. I realised pretty soon that in NZ we were missing out. There was no NZ-based provider of indie sewing patterns and I thought to myself "I could be that person" so I made some enquiries and got started importing them.
All of your stocked patterns are from independent pattern designers - why is this important to you?
So many reasons. I think it's important to support creativity and creative businesses. There's a movement away from the mass produced and towards artisan or indie or craft (or whatever you like to call them!) enterprises. These micro-businesses foster community in a way that large companies - they work tirelessly for their customers and their customers rally around them to champion them. I love the feel-goodness of this area of the sewing world!
You just posted a pre-order for a range of patterns from the amazing Grainline Studio and you've already sold out of one of them - what kind of patterns are most popular?
Well it's pretty unusual to sell out of a coat pattern in high summer but that's exactly what happened! Jen from Grainline Studio makes lovely patterns and the Cascade Duffle is no exception! My most popular type of pattern are certainly the dresses (particularly the Alder Shirtdress right now) however my highest selling pattern is the Renfrew knit top by Sewaholic.
I think more and more people are getting interested in making their own clothes - are you getting a lot of beginners visiting your site?
I guess it's hard to say unless I already follow that customers blog or Instagram! I'm aware that there are lots of people who are interested in sewing but perhaps feel intimidated by complex patterns when they first start out. There are some great resources out there - tutorials on the designers' blogs, YouTube and even asking people on Twitter.
Do you get much chance to make stuff for yourself? What kind of things do you like to make?
I love to sew for myself! Mostly I make impractical party dresses like my recent Georgia dress. Right now, as I've started working full time again, I'm looking at building my work wardrobe. I've already made some Scout Tees and I'm brainstorming some Oakridges. I'd love to make some Hawthorns shirt dresses too.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to make their own clothes but doesn't know where to start?
I would say throw yourself in the deep end - buy some fabric and a pattern and have a go. Post about your sewing on social media and you'll be pleasantly surprised by the generosity of time and expertise that comes your way. I would also caution against using vintage patterns as they often only come in one size (which is disappointing if it's not your's) and the instructions can assume a lot of prior knowledge. I've written some posts on my blog about my tips on pattern and fabric choice for beginners too.