Weekend Reading: Tropes, sports bras, and shine theory


I have this ritual. Every morning, either at home or first thing at the office, I write 1000 words.

There are many benefites to having a creative ritual like this, but one of the primary ones for me is that every day, I feel like I created something. Even if I spend the rest of the day answering email or trying to solve an unsolvable problem, at least I produced something.

The photo above is of a nook in our soon-to-be new HQ. I’m planning to turn it into the writing corner, with club chairs and pillows and cozy blankets and lighting. It will be a little retreat for anyone to use when they want to get a clear head.

I can’t wait to show more of the move-in as it progresses. We’re still trying to figure out how we’ll arrange things and what we need to buy (and what to get rid of).

Weekend Reading:

  • This week on Snippets, we talked about saving thread for basting. You can subscribe to Snippets here.
  • “There’s nothing about too thin, too pale and really sad that implies that people will want to buy an expensive good, and in fact, there is probably data that shows that happy people actually lead to more sales. But these ads are about labeling and fitting in and sending a coherent signal.” Seth Godin’s incisive comments on chucking out useless tropes.

  • A wonderfully geeky look inside a sports bra from verypurpleperson.

  • Devon shows the evolution of her fabric stash.

  • The Consumption Conundrum on Design Sponge. Kinda funny to see this next to a “Summer must-haves” slideshow, I gotta say. I’m not saying that to be snarky, either. It’s a tricky balance for bloggers, creatives, and independent businesses.

  • Don’t forget to download the new pattern hack for Laurel! I can’t wait to do more of these.

  • Favorite read of the week: ” I want the strongest, happiest, smartest women in my corner, pushing me to negotiate for more money, telling me to drop men who make me feel bad about myself, and responding to my outfit selfies from a place of love and stylishness, not competition and body-snarking.” Learn all about Shine Theory from Ann Friedman.

For more links every week, you can follow me on Twitter, where I’m always posting interesting tidbits I find.

image above via colettepatterns on instagram

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Download a free pattern hack: The mod-ified Laurel


I made this Laurel last month, inspired by some super-cute mod scooter dresses from the 1960s. I liked it so much, I made a free download of complete instructions so you can get more from your pattern too.

I’m a big believer in the LBD (little black dress), but in the summer there’s a variation that’s just as important in my lazy-lady’s closet: The LWD.



I am seriously lazy about what I wear in the summer. It’s got to be comfortable, cool, and easy to throw on without a second thought. And you know what? I think I actually look better that way.

This dress hits all those points and I’ve been wearing it at least once a week.

The fabric is a nice thick ivory linen. As much as I love to wear white and off-white, I really do hate having to wear slips underneath when it’s warm, so I went for something nice and opaque.

Since it’s linen, of course there’s some wrinkling. I don’t mind looking a little rumpled in linen, because it’s just so cool, breezy and soft.


The natural color does, I must admit, look a bit like muslin. But the fabric will soften up with more wear and become perfect, I just know it. Don’t you love clothes that get better with age?


The mod-ifications

To modify Laurel, I made a few easy alterations that you can do too. To get the complete set of instructions, click here and enter your email so we can send them on over.

  1. I added a horizontal seam along the hip line.
  2. I added in-seam pockets, set into this new hip seam.
  3. For the top of the bodice front, I cut it in two pieces instead of on the fold.
  4. I added a slight V shape at the neckline.


All the details are in the download, so check it out below.

I hope to create more of these free downloads in the future when I modify our patterns. In fact, I’m already working on the next one.

The cool thing is, when you download this one, I’ll be able to automatically send you the other freebies too when they’re done. Eventually, I hope to have a huge collection of pattern hacks to send out for free, so you all can get the most from each pattern you buy. Sound like fun?


Pattern: Laurel by Colette Patterns, with modifications (see download for instructions)
Shoes: Sven clogs
Bracelet: Tiny Armour
Sunglasses: vintage tortoiseshell glasses my friend Kittee gave me years ago

We’re hiring! Inventory Manager / General Office Assistant


Hey folks, we’re currently looking for someone to come work with us part time as our shipping manager and general office assistant.

This is a flexible part time position at our headquarters in Portland (currently SE, but soon to be NE). The main functions are shipping orders, managing inventory, and helping with customer service. There is also some light administrative work.

We have a fun, creative work environment with lots of room to grow and learn new skills.

You can read the full job description and info on how to apply here.

10 things I wish I’d known when I started sewing


Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and tell myself a thing or two.

Not about anything major. I’d let my young self make most of her big mistakes and learn her life lessons.

But it sure would be nice to give little me a few sewing pointers.

What I’d tell her wouldn’t be anything very technical. No lessons about seam finishes or zippers. Just some simple advice no one ever told me.

These days, so many of us are self-taught that we often don’t know what’s missing. And what I think we often miss isn’t necessarily the technique, but the approach and the mindset that will help us learn best.

Here are the 10 things I’d say to myself when I was a sewing novice:


1) Start with the right equipment.

I’m a big advocate for quality. My beautifully made Bernina is one of the best investments I ever made. It’s a pleasure to use and definitely makes my sewing better and easier.

When I started to sew, I had no idea that such machines even existed. One of my first sewing machines had so many issues, I felt like throwing it across the room every time I put my foot on the pedal.

If you are truly just dipping your toes and not sure if you’ll continue to sew, by all means start with whatever machine you can find.

But once you decide you like sewing and want to stick with it a while, get a machine you can grow with. It doesn’t have to be super fancy and expensive, but it should have the features you want and be something that will last. A well made machine will be worth every cent.

That said, they say the best camera is the one you have. Same deal. Don’t get discouraged if all you have (or can afford) is an inexpensive model. You can always upgrade later.

But don’t suffer with a finicky machine any longer than you have to.

2) Start simple

I got interested in sewing because I wanted to make really cool stuff.

When you’re in that mindset, eager to make all the beautiful things floating around in your head, it’s tough to hear that you should make pajama pants or a wrap skirt.

But starting with the basics gives you the confidence to keep moving. It also gives you a chance to make simple things you’ll get a lot of use out of, like curtains, pillows, or a bag.

They may seem less glamorous than a new dress just like the $400 one you saw the other day, but every time you use them, they’ll make you happy and excited to go back for more.

3) Learn one skill at a time

This is one of the biggest lessons I learned from knitting.

When I started knitting, I approached it a bit systematically. With each new project I started, I added on a new skill I wanted to learn.

My first project was a stockinette scarf (half of which I knitted with twisted stitches, by the way). Next, I tried a project that involved a bit of shaping. Then, I tried a sweater. Soon I was adding in cables, color work, and more.

This kind of approach helps you to focus on building skills gradually and intentionally without diving into the deep end too soon and becoming discouraged. I’ll talk more about this in a later post.

4) It’s not a race

I’ve mentioned before that I think self-imposed, arbitrary deadlines are the devil.

Being someone with a somewhat obsessive personality, I never wanted to leave a project half finished. I’d stay up until 3am to finish a dress I’d started that very afternoon, making myself insane, frustrated, and angry with every new mistake.

Chill out. When it stops being fun, move on. It’ll still be there later.

Nowadays, I have a loose rule that I don’t cut and sew on the same day. I break it for really quick and easy projects, but generally I find I’m much happier if I don’t turn my sewing space into a little sweatshop.


5) Become a fabric snob

This might seem to contradict my “start simple” advice, but I think it’s important to learn about what makes fabric work and why.

I cut my teeth on piles of cheap polyester and quilting cotton, because that’s what was available. It let me do a lot of sewing, so I’m not knocking it. And some of those quilting cottons were awfully cute.

But the more you learn about the wide world of fabric, the more your creativity expands and the easier it is to create the clothes you dream about.

It also gives you more chances to explore your personal style and aethetic preferences. Do you gravitate towards rough linen, or slinky silk charmeuse? Wool jersey or fine cotton lawn? Chambray or chiffon?

I’m not saying you should waste fine silks on experimental projects that you’re unure about. What I am saying is that learning about fabric is a worthy goal for anyone who cares about clothes.


6) Learn how to finish seams

I know I said I wouldn’t tell myself about finishes, but I wish I’d at least known that I should finish my seams.

Raw edges inside my handmade garments always bugged me, but I honestly had no idea what I was supposed to do about them.

When I learned about pinking shears, it was like an epiphany. Later, I discovered all the many ways I could finish the inside of my garment and it seemed like my confidence and enjoyment in my creations multiplied tenfold. Finally, they looked like they’d at least last a few washes.


7) Learn fitting basics

Fitting is a frightening subject for many, because the domain is so vast. There are countless combinations of adjustments you can make, and the very idea of altering a pattern might seem way beyond the skill level for a newbie.

It’s not. The process is dead simple.

Just make a test garment. Check out what looks weird. Pinch out excess fabric, or cut it up a little to make more room. Then make those same adjustments to the pattern.

But even more simple than that, the novice sewer should know that she is perfectly free to make these adjustments. Just try it out, see what you like, and tweak to your heart’s content. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.

8) Make things you can wear (or use).

Nothing increases confidence in your abilities more than actually getting to use what you make.

So even though I said “start simple,” don’t waste your time on things you don’t care about. Find that sweet spot of easy, versatile projects that you can make your own.

The more use you get out of your finished project, the more your confidence will grow.

9) Get help.

This would have been a tough sell on my younger self.

I love figuring things out on my own, sometimes to a point beyond all reason.

Even today, I sometimes forget that I have the entire internet at my disposal when I get stuck on things. I’m just so used to hacking away at problems instead.

This is not always ideal. You’ll learn much faster if you get help from experts now and then.

If you’re like me, you might prefer books, ebooks, or blogs to help you learn. Others might like online videos, and many people will get the most from in-person classes. But don’t forget, these things are there to serve you.


10) Mistakes are good.

There is no growth without mistakes.

Embrace them. Laugh about them. Accept that they are all part of the process of learning and do not reflect badly on you as a human being.

You’ll be much happier that way, and you’ll learn a lot more.

Weekend reading: Interns, floor plans, and pattern hacks


After about 4 years in our beloved Ford Building, we’ve decided it’s time to move.

When I first decided to move out of my kitchen, I was scared to death about the extra expense of paying rent. But I bit the bullet and got a tiny space under 400 square feet. It was oddly shaped, but south facing with a huge wall of factory windows. I couldn’t have been happier, and never regretted the decision for a moment.

After about a year and a half, I took a peek at a larger space in the building and immediately realized it was time to move up. Moving into our current headquarters allowed so much more growth. Kenn was able to start working with me and eventually become full time. I was able to hire people. We could set up different areas for sewing, design, and office space. Again, I was incredibly frightened to triple my rent, but again there have been zero regrets.

Now it’s time again. Again, I’m scared. But deep inside, I know this is the best possible decision.

The new space is in another beautiful old factory, this time with skylights, maple floors, and a lovely little kitchen. I can’t stop dreaming of all that we can do with it. One of my major goals for this year is to foster an amazing work environment, and this definitely feels like a step in the right direction.

Our move date is set for October, so I’ll be sharing more photos and stories of the set-up process later on. But for now, I’ll just keep sketching floorplans and pinning dreamy photos.

Weekend Reading:

For more links every week, you can follow me on Twitter, where I’m always posting interesting tidbits I find.

image above via colettepatterns on instagram

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