Back in design school, one of our best professors frequently gave our class the assignment to go home and each sketch 50 dress concepts before class the next day. To come up with that many unique ideas in one evening, on top of our full course-load of homework, felt unimaginably difficult. But it took that many sketches to really push out new and imaginative designs, and somehow we always managed to complete the task on time.

I recently gave myself the same type of homework and spent the past three full days filling a sketchbook with page upon page of ideas for future sewing patterns. Hopefully when I look back at the designs I’ll find some useful ideas, now that the fall patterns are at the printer and it’s time to start work on the spring collection.

While I was in the studio, looking for some inspiration, I also came across some other sketches and thought you might enjoy seeing them. These are the spring sewing patterns, not in their first incarnation as preliminary ideas but as part of the package I send to Dan, our illustrator, each season, so he can paint the paper doll clothing. Among the many ways that I communicate with Dan are sketches I make showing him what the clothes should look like on the dolls. I also send photographs, fabric and color swatches, and lengthy notes about each garment. But the sketches are the most useful part of the package, I think. I can show exactly what the silhouette is: how long a skirt should be, how closely (or loosely) a garment should fit, where the pockets are placed and how the collar sits. Here is the Ice Cream Dress (sorry for the smudges; I generally work with pencil on vellum so I can draw directly on top of the a paper doll to get the proportions right.):

I get to pretend that I’m an illustrator when I do this, except that I use a lot of words to show what I mean. Dan doesn’t have that luxury. (On the other hand, he’s a professional illustrator; I merely need to communicate an idea, thank goodness.)

Here are the other spring patterns, just for the fun of it:

So I spell out (literally) a lot of information here, but there is one area in which I let Dan have complete control: I always suggest a few props to coordinate with the name of each pattern, and Dan chooses exactly which prop to draw and how to show it. He’s never disappointed me. My favorite prop is still the bunny slippers. After he finished the painting, I found an exact match for them and bought them as a prop for Quilt Market.

Ok, back to my sketches.



  1. I love your sketches. I sketch all the time but I am not particularly good at it. I just love to do it. Vellum is a great idea though. I keep colored pencils in my purse and the car as well as at home, so I have sketches on all kinds of wadded up bits of paper. Maybe my sketches would be better if I actually bought nice paper on which to do them…..hm…

  2. ASM_Blue

    That’s some serious sketches!! (you’re so full of surprises!!!)
    Dan illustrations are really work-of-art, but your sketches are just as gorgeous!!
    Thanks for the behind-the-scenes sharing!!
    (Love the bunny slippers as well.)

  3. Sandi

    These are wonderful. Now I want fabric with covered with your sketches for my sewing room curtains! You should put them together and post on spoonflower.

  4. What a joy it was to see all your lovely drawings of the clothes. And I really liked reading about the process too. So much work behind the making of those fabulous patterns. šŸ™‚

  5. emily

    Wow, this is really interesting. I can hardly wait to see the fall collection! šŸ™‚

  6. Love this post Liesl, it’s great to get a behind the scenes view. It would be really interesting to read some more about how you come up with each collection… what inspires you, how many designs you start off with and how you end up with the final collection etc.

    Thanks again for making sewing so enjoyable.

  7. You can’t imagine how much I enjoyed the peek into the process on this post. Carolina

  8. nicole keller

    Lovely to share ,Liesl, thankyou.

  9. That is such a great idea! I want to go sit down and brainstorm a crazy number of something… anything! Handbags? Clutches? Hmmm.

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