29 August 2018

Evolution of our Pattern Envelopes

Evolution of our Pattern Envelopes - Tilly and the Buttons

Bit of a trip down memory lane today... You may have seen that we recently gave our sewing pattern covers a makeover, which got me reminiscing about how the artwork has changed over the years. I had a dig around and found different versions of the covers - I thought you might like to see how far we've come!



But first, our amazing assistant Jenny made a little video to showcase our new envelopes... isn't it cute?

You might find today's post particularly helpful if you're starting your own venture and are stuck on trying to make everything perfect from the outset. Launching and growing a business involves starting where you can and iterating regularly to improve over time. I definitely started small with Tilly and the Buttons, and it's still a work in progress every single day. I've written more about this in a couple of posts before - tips for turning your hobby into a business and achieving your goals.

Evolution of our Pattern Envelopes - Tilly and the Buttons

I launched my first sewing pattern, the Mathilde blouse, in January 2013 (over five years ago now - how time has flown!). At the time, I had grown a large blog following and my readers were asking for me to share the patterns I was making for myself. I had no idea if anyone would actually get out their wallets and buy something though, so started small to test the waters, running my fledgling business alongside my day job in the film industry.

The first pattern was PDF only, available to buy directly from my blog. The instructions were text only, supported by in-depth photo instructions on my blog for people who needed more help. I went on a course to learn how to create "flats", or garment technical drawings, and created a very simple cover myself.

Looking back, it's clear that the pattern cover was, ahem, very basic!! But this was a great place to start at the time. It didn't take too much time or financial investment, which was a great way to start a business as I could test the waters while working a day job and without having debts hanging over me. Also, there was a mountain of other tasks to focus on to get the pattern out there - finding the right grader, developing a sizing chart, setting up download and payment systems, creating the blog posts... Getting things done - especially something that feels so momentous and scary like launching your first for-sale product - involves knowing when a task is finished, and as good as it needs to be.

Evolution of our Pattern Envelopes - Tilly and the Buttons

By the following year I was feeling more confident about the demand - sales had far exceeded my expectations and I'd followed the first pattern with the Miette skirt. I'd also landed my first book deal, which had given me the final push to quit my job and focus on Tilly and the Buttons full time. So I decided to invest in getting my patterns printed.

Again, this involved a whole load more work - finding a large format printer, convincing them to work with me (I remember my original printer coming round my flat and calling my set up a "cottage industry", which gave me a push to grow it to prove him wrong!), working out postage costs, setting up a distribution arm (AKA my boyfriend and me stuffing envelopes on the kitchen table while I shouted at him to work like a machiiiine), learning about wholesale...

And working on the envelope design. I'd developed a good rapport with the designer assigned by the publisher to work on my book, Arielle Gamble (yes, she was so good I named a pattern after her!), so I asked her to work with me freelance on my pattern booklets and envelopes. As well as updating Mathilde and Miette, we created covers for my next pattern - which, I didn't know at the time, would continue to be a bestseller to this day - Coco.

Evolution of our Pattern Envelopes - Tilly and the Buttons

I recently stumbled upon these quick sketches I'd done to imagine what the covers could look like. I loved the idea of the garment being on a hanger, as if it were hanging in your wardrobe or you'd picked it up off a shop rail, with a monochrome graphic border print to make the products look fresh and modern.

We're yet to create that pinafore pattern on the left, but we used the name Bettine later for a different dress :)

Evolution of our Pattern Envelopes - Tilly and the Buttons
Evolution of our Pattern Envelopes - Tilly and the Buttons

Arielle then developed these concepts into some design mock-ups. The final design is the one we went with.

Evolution of our Pattern Envelopes - Tilly and the Buttons

More recently, we did a mini refresh on some of our patterns, updating them to the new brand colour palette which saw red replaced with pink. We also re-photographed some of the garments on dress forms to show their 3D shape.

Evolution of our Pattern Envelopes - Tilly and the Buttons

Fast-forward to a few months ago and I decided it was time for a more of a major design shake-up. Our patterns were looking cute as a range, but some of the photos weren't doing the garments justice. It had proved tricky to get some of the samples looking nice on the dress form, and some of our wholesale customers had fed back that customers were overlooking popular patterns like the Bettine dress until they saw pictures of it on people, at which point they snapped it up. So we decided to showcase the model photos on the pattern covers.

Evolution of our Pattern Envelopes - Tilly and the Buttons
Evolution of our Pattern Envelopes - Tilly and the Buttons

This presented a bit of a dilemma, as we wanted to show different looks that you can make with the same pattern, and ideally show more than one model if we could, but one single photo on the front looked sooooo much more eye-catching than multiple photos. 

My boyfriend and I stayed up way too late one night (well, late if you have a baby who thinks 4am is getting-up time) cutting and gluing envelope ideas and pretending our kitchen wall was a shelf in a haberdashery. In the end we went with one striking image on the front, with a smaller alternative image on the back. Our hope is that, if you're browsing in a shop, the cover image will catch your attention so you'll pick up the pattern and turn it over to see the technical drawings and photo of variations on the back.

Etta sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons
Evolution of our Pattern Envelopes - Tilly and the Buttons

And here they are - the new, improved envelopes! We're so pleased with how they've turned out.

Evolution of our Pattern Envelopes - Tilly and the Buttons

We're gradually updating our patterns to the new designs. At the time of writing, Stevie, Seren, Agnes, Etta and Marigold all feature the new covers, Coco and Cleo are coming in very soon, and we have some others out for print right now... Keep your eyes peeled!

Pattern cover designs and photos by Arielle Gamble, Fanni Williams, Jane Looker

1 comment:

  1. I love this - it's so great to see the evolution of the envelope design. Also a very good point about not having to make everything perfect from the outset. I recently started short YouTube videos about my crafting (I've only filmed two so far!) - but I had the thoughts that I should create a fancy introduction title/music for it, etc etc - and make it really polished for my first video. However, it was such a learning curve just figuring out how to film it, edit it, create a YouTube channel, upload the video... that I thought if I waited until I could create the perfect polished video, I'd never do it! Like you say, thinks can improve by iterations over time. Just starting is often a lot of the battle - then you can learn more and improve over time.
    Your new designs with the models on the front look so fabulous and striking - they really catch your eye!

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