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]