10 December 2013

Behind the Scenes... Going Loco for Coco


In case you're wondering how my latest Big Project is coming along, I thought I'd give you a peek into what's going on behind the scenes. To remind you what I'm on about, I'm working on getting my dressmaking patterns printed. That sounds pretty simple written down like that but actually involves a mountain of soul searching, head scratching, researching, planning and hardcore work! The feedback you gave in my recent questionnaire was super useful - full of interesting insights into how you approach sewing and brilliant ideas for how to make the learning process easier. Plus a hearty dose of support and encouragement, which is always appreciated - thank you :)

Just to keep things fresh, I'm starting with a new pattern. Now, I could keep the design completely under wraps until the release date in the name of surprises. But this time I thought it might be interesting (for me as well as for you) if I pull the curtain back and blog about some of the process. As well as offering you an insight into what goes on behind the scenes on a project like this, perhaps live blogging the process will spur me on towards the finishing line!



So what's the next pattern? Well... without wanting to give absolutely everything away (you still want a bit of a surprise, right?) the starting point for the design was my Breton Tunic Dress, AKA the Dress I Want to Wear Every Day. If you're a regular reader, it will come as no surprise that I've been dreaming about releasing a perfect Breton top/dress pattern, and now I'm finally doing it! Yay! I say "starting point" since the pattern has been through various iterations since I made that dress, plus the pattern will also include some other variations which are just sooooo swoonsome... I hope you love it as much as I do! Oh yes, and the pattern is named Coco, bien sûr.

An early prototype for Coco

So where have I got to? I've been busy prototyping, in other words sewing up squillions of versions of Coco, wearing each one out and about before tweaking the shape, fit and features for style and comfort. I've also been working out the most simple way of sewing a knit garment like this - and the most simple way of explaining how to sew it - so the pattern is super accessible to new stitchers. Each time I make another version of Coco, I follow my instructions word for word and refine them to ensure they are clear, generous explanations without over-complicating things. The pattern is now back from being professionally graded - the raw file that comes back looks nothing like a sewing pattern as we know them, so I'm now working on turning it into a nice-looking, user-friendly format. The next step is to get feedback from a pool of pattern testers. This takes time but is a really important step - just because I like the design and understand the instructions, that doesn't mean that other people will! I use a mix of both experienced stitchers to spot any pattern errors and beginners to ensure the instructions are clear and easy to use. I also need to find a reliable printer that can meet my requirements, plan and take the step-by-step photos for the blog, find a photographer for the finished garment pictures, get the instruction booklet and packaging designed, work out the logistics of distribution... phew! (Did I mention I'm also editing the layouts of my book right now? Bring on the holidays!)


As well as developing the pattern, I've been working out the format of the printed patterns, instructions and packaging. I want the printed patterns to be fresh and appealing, and it needs to be clear what the product actually is to someone who's never seen a sewing pattern before. All while keeping costs down to ensure the final price is right. Which brings me on to the business side of things. I've gone back to school! This Autumn I started the School for Creative Startups, a really amazing course led by serial Doug Richard of Dragon's Den fame. I was extremely fortunate to be awarded the HRH British Made bursary from the Duke of York to participate on the course, thanks to what I've done with this here blog. Crazy, non?! Whether Prince Andrew himself is an avid reader of T&TB is yet to be confirmed... The course has got me thinking seriously about how to ensure what I'm doing is sustainable and to grow it for the future. My dream is to one day be running T&TB from a bright and colourful office-studio and to employ collaborators to work with me... wouldn't that be amazing? It may just be a dream for now, but life is too short not to try to realise your dreams, so it's a goal I'm actively working towards. In the meantime, I'm getting my head around business legislation, cash flows, distribution... so much to think about!



Now that I'm a full time... erm... blogger-author-designer-teacher-entrepreneur, I'll probably start sharing more of what's going on behind the scenes. Personally I love reading those kinds of posts on other blogs by women who are their own bosses (such as Tasia), so hopefully some of you might find it interesting too. Plus it'll be good for me to pause and reflect on how things are going - if a little daunting posting it all on the internet, so be gentle, y'all! If you have any questions about how I do what I do, post them below and I'll see if I can cover them in future posts. In the meantime, wish me luck!

[Soundtrack: 'Steady Pace' by Matthew E. White]

84 comments:

  1. Great post! x
    www.lornaswishingwell.blogspot.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
  2. you are busy! that all sounds fab and coco is so cute. i also now have "loco in acapulco" stuck in my head. just thought i'd share the love...

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love these kind of posts! It is so inspiring to see how other creative people run their businesses, and it makes me want to start my own. Indeed life is to short to not try, so I better start dreaming!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Love this Tilly and of course can't wait for the new pattern (and book)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Tilly, I love this post. Its great to read about your process and the behind the scenes of a business especially one that is just starting up. I think I am probably not the only one who would like to know a back story of how you got this far? What turned your blog from a hobby to a job and a book deal! Please share more. Also I am totally excited about your new dress/top pattern, its just what I am looking for.

    Zoe http://tadpegs.blogspot.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the post, Zoe. It's still relatively early days and I don't want to jinx anything (!), but if other people are interested in how I turned blogging into a book and full time job, I could share something about that in the future...

      Delete
  6. You really inspire people, that's so beautiful to see

    ReplyDelete
  7. oooooh looking forward to the new pattern! i've been wanting something very similar, though i'll probably have to hack it out myself since i want it for christmastime... best wishes as you work through your exciting projects!

    ReplyDelete
  8. This is great timing for me. I've been struggling with a knit dress at the moment.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Can't wait for this! I am a novice sewist and have not yet branched out to knit fabrics. I am put off by the fact that I do not have a serger and have not found instructions for using an ordinary sewing machine that give me enough confidence to take the plunge. The prospect of a pattern with dedicated, detailed instructions is very exciting. Will the instruction cover how to sew the garment without a serger?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! The instructions will assume that you don't have access to a serger/overlocker, so lots of tips for sewing knits on a regular sewing machine.

      Delete
    2. Excellent. Now I really can't wait!

      Delete
    3. I agree - fantastic. This was my question as I was reading the post. Tilly, you certainly are in great touch with the questions I have as a beginner. I thought you had ESP when I found your post about the pros and cons of using quilting fabrics for clothing.

      Delete
  10. Very inspiring post, thank you for sharing the process. It all sounds very well thought out and I'm sure it will be a great pattern that I'm definitely going to try,especially if it's for the less experienced too ;) Best of luck!!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I was just telling a friend that we should quit our jobs and open a business (or four)...seems like a pipe dream, but you're making yours happen! Congrats, and thanks for inspiring the rest of us!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wow Tilly... You just blow me away with your determination and your focus. It's amazing! You are so talented and dedicated - you deserve the very best of luck with everything you set out to achieve, and achieve you will!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw thanks Joanne, that's kind of you to say x

      Delete
  13. Hey Tilly! This is so exciting that you're posting your progress so openly. I am also in the process of starting a home sewing pattern company, although I may be a step behind you (but I believe we're using the same grader! It’s a small world!) I am a pattern cutter by trade but I think the home sewer approach has to be different to industry approach, so it's not necessarily an advantage. It really excites me to read DIY blogs as seeing people make clothes for fun keeps my enthusiasm for my job alive and reminds me fashion is meant to be fun and individual (the reasons I got into it in the first place!) I have been researching printers and have as yet only found one company set up specially to do this in the UK. http://www.sewprintuk.com I’m not at a stage to test them yet so let me know if you do! The printing and packaging is definitely the stage that intimidates me most, I need to try and turn that anxiety into excitement!
    Sally

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wishing you lots of luck with your own venture, Sally! I'm so glad you find the world of DIY dressmaking inspiring too, the self-reliant attitude of makers inspires me every day, and it's just such an exciting time for it.

      Delete
  14. It's lovely Tilly! Sounds like you really are working on a lot! Book, Patterns, Blog, Business! Wow! Good for you, I hope everything works out and you are able to follow your dreams!

    I just finished watching the GBSB series on Youtube (because I'm in the US) and I loved how you included your own design in the show!

    ReplyDelete
  15. I sew stuff but never attempted to sew knits and have to say, I'd try this Coco.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Wishing you every success with all of your future plans. An exciting time I think.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi Tilly, Thanks for letting us have a peek into your process!

    Cheers, Suzie
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/DressmakersAnonymous/ (feel free to join!)

    ReplyDelete
  18. Ooooo, I am excited for this one...I have been thinking about drafting something similar ever since you first posted this- now I can just wait for the pattern instead! Thanks for sharing your process too, it's always interesting to read about what goes on behind the scenes. If you ever need more pattern testers I have had some experience doing that and would love to help!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the offer of pattern testing, Kelly, that's great to know. I've already got testers for this pattern but may do an open call in the future if I need any more...

      Delete
  19. Tilly wishing you the bestest biggest luck in the world...you really deserve it...you have worked hard for it.
    let me know if you need another pattern tester??
    My email is whatshewantsnow@hotmail.co.uk
    best wishes Daisy

    http://lazydaisyjones.blogspot.co.uk/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Daisy, that's kind of you. I've already got testers for this pattern, but may do an open call if I need any more testers in the future...

      Delete
  20. i love the colour combination of our outfit and wish you all the best for your future

    ReplyDelete
  21. Cheering for you and looking forward in sewing your dreams became reality. You can always bounce ideas with me as I got an MBA in creative industries.

    ReplyDelete
  22. This is my favourite blog. I love Tuesdays and Fridays!
    If you ever need a novice pattern tester, please let me know. I'd be so happy to test it out!

    ReplyDelete
  23. I have been hoping that you would make a pattern for this dress - if you want an experienced but rusty pattern tester - I am very willing!!
    I love reading about the process of creativity and really enjoyed this blog entry - thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  24. I look forward to more behind the scenes peeks and can't wait to get my hands on that pattern! xoxox

    ReplyDelete
  25. What an inspirational post! Once I get my oral exams finished tomorrow, I long to work harder and more on my own business (in a completely different field, though). Posts like this makes gives me so much inspiration so keep ´em coming! :-) And I can´t wait to have the finished product in my hands, a breton style top/dress sounds perfect! :-) Best of luck to you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad to hear it! I love reading posts like this on other blogs too, and am following more and more small business lady blogs these days...

      Delete
  26. I love this dress and I love the tights you paired with it!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Thank you for this post I find this process fascinating. Will you be looking for testers or do you already have some lined up?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've already got testers for this pattern but may do an open call in future if I need some more...

      Delete
  28. Your new pattern is looking very promising. You work so hard you deserve to succeed. I've just bought your Miette pattern and am looking forward very much to making it when all the holiday hard work dies down...an early merry Christmas to you, Tilly!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, that's very kind of you to say.

      Delete
  29. Yes! I find these posts fascinating! Thanks for the sneak peak and high fives for all the hard work :-) Look forward to seeing the latest pattern when it's ready!

    ReplyDelete
  30. I really enjoyed that post Tilly...great insight on what it takes to make a pattern. Phew! That's certainly some work! Am very likely to buy this one as well when it gets out

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks David! Yes, it's hard work... but extremely fulfilling at the same time.

      Delete
  31. Yay for the new pattern! I've looked at that dress on your blog a few times and had vague plans of making something like it, sans pattern. But now I don't have to! Thank you for enabling my lazy side!

    I love the behind the scenes posts, it's always interesting to see what goes into these sorts of things (always WAY more than I would otherwise realise).

    Good luck with everything. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha yes there were quite a few requests to share the pattern, so I thought I'd better get on with it!

      Delete
  32. I cannot wait for this pattern to be released and plan to wait until it is for my first ever knit/stretch fabric attempt - I have every confidence it will be worth it. I look forward to hearing more about how you set up and run your business. Good insight for those of us who wonder if we might do the same one day! Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There will be lots of tips for beginners on using knits - it's easier than you think!

      Delete
  33. Tilly, it goes without saying that what you've achieved, just on the level of sheer hard work, is staggering. I would also absolutely love to know your thoughts re brand building and online communities and engaging social media. I believe and know you'll fulfil all your dreams - and heaven fore fend anyone who says otherwise! Which brings me to my next question. How do you avoid the nay sayers, not least of which is the nay sayer in your own head?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great questions, Karen! I could talk all day about both of those...

      Delete
  34. This makes me so happy! I am new to sewing but LOVE your blog and have been hoping for exactly this pattern to be released by you. I cannot wait to snatch it up (and your book also).

    ReplyDelete
  35. Wow this pattern looks wonderful - very much looking forward to the finished product. It's so inspiring to see someone pursue their dreams, and learn about the steps they take along the way. Perhaps sharing your stages and milestones will put you in touch with help you need - surely there's a great photographer or printer or graphic designer reading this right now who'd love to collaborate! Thanks for taking the extra time to tell us all about it :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Blogging the process - flaws and all rather than just the shiny finished product - makes me feel rather exposed, but hopefully the benefits will outweigh the drawbacks :)

      Delete
  36. What a year you've had Tilly - well done! Looking forward to more blogs about the pattern making process and of course more news re. your lovely-looking Coco pattern. Have a fab Christmas - sounds like you deserve a little holiday!

    ReplyDelete
  37. Congrats on getting a scholarship of sorts! Must be amazing getting one step closer on the path. In terms of the dress - the photo you've shown (which probably isn't even the current design) is very wide on the shoulders, meaning visible bra straps. The sleeves are also rather poofy, which some might like; but maybe it would be worth including two different sleeve patterns, one for poof and one without (for those who don't know how to slash and fold)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed - if you read the text you'll see the pattern has been through many iterations since I made this dress, and the original dress post explains how the neckline inadvertently ended up that wide, if you're interested.

      Delete
  38. Great read, thank you, and love the look of your new pattern!

    ReplyDelete
  39. Thank you for all your post :)
    I can't wait next "behind scenes" :)

    ReplyDelete
  40. Yes, I love "behind the scenes" - especially great tips for all us just barely started : ) Hope you get a few minutes to yourself to enjoy the holidays with all you have going on at work!

    ReplyDelete
  41. I really enjoyed reading this post, Tilly - ta-dah moments are great but it's also nice to feel as if you're part of a process and have in some small way, just by reading about it, contributed to the finished product. I'm also thinking of starting my own business next year and reading about others doing the same thing is helping me to be brave enough to make the decision to actually go for it. We only get one shot at this life, eh? :-) x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You and other readers are *definitely* part of the process and contribute to my projects more than you probably realise. It's you and other readers who inspire me and motivate me to keep going!

      Delete
  42. I love your blog - especially reading about your behind the scenes posts. Good luck with your new pattern and I look forward to your book being released!

    ReplyDelete
  43. I love behind the scenes post - mostly because I'm nosy! ;) I'm looking forward to seeing the finished pattern, I haven't sewn with knits before but I do love a Breton stripe so am looking forward to tackling your pattern! x

    ReplyDelete
  44. Oh LOTS of luck Tilly. It all sounds wonderfully exciting and I can't wait to see how it all evolves. so excited that the Breton tunic dress will be your next pattern:o)

    ReplyDelete
  45. You're absolutely right Tilly, life IS too short not to realise your dreams, but I have no doubt whatsoever that you'll achieve them! It's really fascinating reading about the whole behind the scenes process, can't wait to see the packaging for your first paper pattern. And I especially can't wait to get my hands on Coco! ;) xx

    ReplyDelete
  46. Hi Tilly your award was so well deserved, very well done. Love the sound of this new dress pattern, love the Breton one, although it looks much nicer on you than it would on me! Always look forward to reading your blog and admiring your fabulous work. Have a great weekend Tilly, big hugs
    Dorothy
    :-)xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    ReplyDelete
  47. Really exciting to read about Coco, I love Breton stripes and this is a really useful looking pattern! Can't wait to try it out.
    Hearing more about what you're up to and the thoughts and processes involved in building your creative enterprises is interesting and inspirational, so I'm glad you're okay with putting this out there, even though it feels pretty exposing.
    It would be great to hear more about what aspects of it all you've found yourself enjoying more than you expecting. And what parts you didn't realise would be such a nightmare too! And if it's changed your relationship to sewing itself.
    Here's to 2014!

    ReplyDelete
  48. What a wonderfully inspiring post Tilly! Loving this sneaky peek behind your very busy scenes, you're amazing! I can't wait for Coco and everything else you have in store for us too. You're well on the way to realising your dream and I'm cheering for you all the way ;o)

    ReplyDelete
  49. Ooo, I'm excited for this pattern to be released, I LOVED that dress of yours! Thanks for the behind the scene sneak peak :-)

    ReplyDelete
  50. Can't wait for the new pattern!! I'd love to learn more about knits as a newbie!!

    ReplyDelete
  51. I love the knit dress, it's a nice and simple pattern. I think you've read my mind because I was thinking about the different knit top patterns I own, trying to choose the one I could easily transform into a simple knit dress :) BTW, if you need a confident beginner as a pattern tester, I'm here! ;)
    Mary @ http://handmadebymaryall.blogspot.it

    ReplyDelete
  52. Oh Tilly this is so exciting to see! I cant wait to see the finished book!

    ReplyDelete
  53. Oh my, you're doing everything I want to do with my sewing! Good luck with the business, I'm sure you'll do just as great with this as you have with the blog.

    And I know that you already have an abundance of testers, but I'm always ready if you ever should need another one. :)

    ReplyDelete
  54. You have no idea how much I'm salivating for this one. Le sigh.

    ReplyDelete
  55. How did I miss this! I love the dress Tilly + I've just bought the perfect striped stable knit for it too (yay!) - pic here

    ReplyDelete
  56. Thanks for sharing this behind the scenes post! It's super interesting to see how others work. I just sent off my new pattern to my pattern testers - it's so much work getting everything done!

    ReplyDelete

Feel free to chip in! Please don't comment anonymously though - you can leave your email if you don't have an OpenID. Comments on older posts are moderated for spam so won't show up immediately.