Today we’re introducing a new blog feature. We will regularly be highlighting one of the participants in our Boutique Sewer Program. These talented individuals are creating unique, handcrafted garments from Oliver + S patterns and are selling them through a variety of channels. We’re always interested in talking with our program participants and seeing the interesting things they are making. We thought our blog readers would be interested in meeting some of them too.
We’re kicking the series off by sharing a recent email exchange we had with one of our boutique sewers—Rachel Baker from Brisbane, Australia.
Rachel, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background? How did you learn to sew?
I had always been fairly convinced that I had not a single ounce of creativity in me. Seriously. I used to tell my mum how awful it was that my sisters were the creative ones and I was all logical and cerebral.
But then, after having my second child (a daughter), something clicked. I became obsessed with the idea of learning to make skirts. I couldn’t afford a new sewing machine at the time so my Grandmother, who was a dressmaker and now makes the most elaborate quilts ever, bought me my very first sewing machine. I started sewing the day after it arrived, and I have barely taken a day off in the last two years.
How did you first discover Oliver + S patterns and the Boutique Sewer Program?
I had joined a group of sewers online who have now disbanded, and they were talking about these beautiful Oliver + S patterns. Once I saw them I totally fell in love, and after receiving so many compliments for garments I made from them I decided to look into selling my work. That’s when I found out about the program.
Your garments always have a consistent delicate and sweet feel to them. Do you have a specific style or aesthetic you’re trying to realize?
I’m coming to realize that I’m girlier than I thought I was. I love classic styling (which is one of the reasons the Oliver + S patterns appeal to me) with a slight twist of funky awesomeness. Even if it’s just the coolest little trim or an unexpected flash of color in the hem facing. I think Oliver + S gives you a chance to do that with their patterns.
How do you determine which fabrics to match with a pattern?
That’s a good question. I generally start with what I have in the house, and then move onto how I think the fabric pattern will look done up in either pleats or gathers. I don’t like my fabric to overwhelm the garment style. I want people to notice the shape of the garment before the fabric. I also love mixing up colors so they are the tiniest bit offbeat but not enough to make them obviously so. Sometimes it takes ages to work out exactly what fabrics to use.
You’ve sewn from many different Oliver + S patterns. Do you have any favorites?
I completely adore the Bubble Dress first and foremost. It’s extremely simple to sew and the style is so flattering on little girls’ bodies. It washes brilliantly and is very easy to iron.
Where do you sell your garments?
I have an Etsy store where I sell many of my garments. I sell all my dresses as one-of-a-kinds. Or, as has happened in the past, a purchaser can message me and I will make a dress to the buyer’s specifications. I really love making special orders. It’s extremely satisfying when they are received and loved.
How do you determine how to price each garment you sew?
To be honest, I don’t make a huge profit. I add up all materials used for each garment and then add an hourly rate for my time.
What have you done to market your business that has been successful for you?
A couple of things. Blogging and slowly finding my place in the market has been a huge lesson for me. I’ve learned so much by watching others at their various stages of business owning. Twitter gives me a fair amount of business. And you should never discount word of mouth.
Sew something amazing, package it beautifully, and the buyer will tell others of their wonderful shopping experiences with PinkLizzy Sews and Oliver + S patterns. I think also being true to myself and the styles and fabrics I like has helped me.
I also think that the support I’ve had from Oliver + S has been wonderful. I get lots of views to my shop and blog coming from the Garments page of the Oliver + S website. Some of those lead to sales, and that has been very excellent.
Do you have any plans for the future?
So many plans! Over the next few months I’m adding women’s sized Arty Skirts to my range to satisfy the hundreds of women who’ve requested them. I also am about to embark on some serious physiotherapy to help alleviate some of my intense sciatic pain. I hope to start university in the next few years to study sociology. I will be adding my daughter to my homeschooling day next year! We’ve got a million family holidays planned to New Zealand, Paris, Sydney and our old home, Ballarat in Victoria Australia. We might have another baby if cluckiness completely overwhelms us (it’s looking likely actually). All while I sew, and sew, and then sew some more for good measure. It’s going to be fantastic and I can’t wait!