16 July 2013

A Day in the Life of Grainline Studio

Don't you just love Grainline Studio? Their sewing patterns are modern, semi-androgynous (in a good way) and wearable styles, and the blog never fails to inspire. Jen Beeman is the brains behind Grainline, juggling her business with a part time job as patterncutter for another company. "But what's in her sandwich?" you enquire. Read this month's A Day in the Life to find out...


"Hey guys, Jen here from Grainline Studio! I’m pumped to share a day in my life with you, though I’m still not quite sure what a typical day for me is I’ll do my best. Each week I have two types of days. The first is when I’m at home working on Grainline Studio and the second is when I work as a patternmaker for a local designer. I’ll start with Grainline Studio first.


The majority of the week I work from home on Grainline Studio. On these days I usually get up around 8:30 or 9am. I’ve never been much of a morning person so my day skews towards the later hours. I roll out of bed and head straight to the tea kettle before I even think about doing anything else. After some tea is brewed and consumed, my brain begins to function properly and I can change out of the pajama situation into something more appropriate for working. I have a bit of a studio uniform, skinny black jeans cuffed twice, a tank, an oversized t-shirt, button up, or sweater depending on the season, and softsole Thunderbird Minnetonkas. At that point I usually check my email, blog reader, etc. out on the back porch while drinking tea until I feel like I can eat breakfast. I’m one of those people who can’t eat right away after waking up, but once I do I also have a seasonal breakfast uniform. Summer time is Greek yogurt, homemade granola, honey, and berries, and winter is oatmeal with brown sugar, dried fruit, and chopped nuts. I just love a good rolled oat, what can I say.

After breakfast I start working on one of various projects depending on what I have going on at the moment. My studio space is in my apartment so I don’t have to travel far to get to work. I got incredibly lucky and landed a cute 2 bedroom apartment in a beautiful neighborhood so the smaller bedroom (which honestly I would call an office) houses my machines, desk, and computers. I don’t have much of a living room, instead of a couch or TV I have an industrial cutting table and a stool. To each their own I suppose, though you’ll see the problem with this setup when I describe my typical evening later on. My rolls of paper, fabric, and rack of patterns are out in the living room studio area as well.

What I’m working on from day to day varies immensely depending on what I have going on at the moment. It could be anything from sketching new designs, drafting and testing new patterns, working in Illustrator on new patterns and technical illustrations, sewing up variations on existing patterns, or photographing new garments. I’m sure there are a million more things that I am forgetting as well. I also am semi-obsessed with Instagramming so that happens a lot during this time, perhaps you’ve noticed.

I don’t have a designated lunch time, I just take a break when I’m hungry which occasionally means forgetting to eat, but I’ve been obsessed with this particular sandwich lately. Toasted bread (gluten free for me!), a fried egg, feta, Valentina hot sauce, half an avocado, salt, and pepper. I literally cannot get enough of this sandwich. While eating lunch I check my email again and sort of regroup on what I’ve gotten done so far and what I still need to do. After lunch I usually turn off NPR and start listening to music while attempting to finish my endless to-do list. I keep working in this manner until around 6 when I go for my evening run. I’m really into the evening run with no music. It gives you time to digest and reflect on your day and really clear your head. I have a 4 mile loop I do around my neighborhood that I’ve finagled to go down only the most garden filled streets. When I get back from that, I shower, eat dinner, and unless I can rope someone into going for gelato with me at our local gelato place, Black Dog, I quite possibly start working again writing new blog posts or doing accounting work until I go to sleep. That usually happens sometime between 1 or 2 am if I’m lucky.


Long before I started releasing sewing patterns and actually before I had even begun blogging, I started working at my current job as patternmaker at Alice Padrul Bridal here in Chicago. I actually had to look at my resume to see when I started working for Alice - 2008. I fell into this job while I was still in school when one of my patternmaking professors had to leave and offered me her job there. On the two days a week I work for Alice, I don’t have to be at work till 10 so I usually get up, have some tea and breakfast, relax around the house with my cat and maybe check my emails or do some crosswords. I usually leave for work around 9:30 and I’m lucky enough to be able to walk there so long as it isn’t raining.

Once I’m there I’m on my feet all day drafting patterns for new dresses for our line, drafting or correcting custom client patterns, and assisting Alice with muslin fittings for our brides. Around 1 I’ll take about a 15 minute break for tea and yogurt then get back to it. We’re in our busiest season now so there’s always a million things to do. We have quite a lot of vintage dress reworkings and reproductions at the moment as well as a few historical projects we’re working on that are really interesting. As the only native English speaker there I’m also responsible for the company blog. At 5pm, work is over and I walk back home to continue on with Grainline Studio work. I’m pretty into this job, Alice is a really talented designer and artist (you should see her watercolors) and I often refer to her and her husband Gene as my Russian parents to my friends and family. When I slammed my finger in my door one afternoon at home it was Gene who drove me to the hospital. They really are a sweet pair - I really hope everyone is lucky enough to work for someone so appreciative and caring at some point in their lives. It’s amazing how much harder you want to work for these people!

Having your own business can be an incredibly rewarding and stressful endeavor. The fact that any success I have is directly related to the amount of hard work I put into the business is both amazing and terrifying, but ultimately pretty empowering. I sort of just fell into this though requests for the patterns of garments I’d posted when Grainline was nothing more than my personal blog but now that I’m doing it, I know for certain that there is nothing else I’d rather do. Every time I get an email from someone who loved a pattern or see a new garment made from one of my patterns I’m so excited. I keep waiting for it to get old but it literally never does. I love that I’m enabling people to have confidence in their own ability to do things themselves successfully and the pride they can take in that. As far as any advice I’d give to someone looking to start their own business - imagine how hard you think you’ll work, then multiply it by 10. Follow your instincts, try not to doubt yourself, and be honest with yourself and others. Talent is great but talent without work ethic is nothing. It doesn’t hurt to pick up a hobby completely unrelated to your business either. You’re going to need it!

As far as what’s next for me, more patterns, more tutorials, and we’re inching towards those printed patterns I’ve been talking about forever. It’d be great if I weren’t such a perfectionist!"


Jen, you are officially awesome. Readers, check out Jen's new Lakeside pyjama pattern - want!

If you reading A Day in the Life, catch up on previous posts with other fab people who have turned their love of stitching into a career - including DIYcouture, Victory Patterns and Ohhh Lulu.