We’re pleased today to introduce you to a new brand of digital sewing patterns that are now available in the shop. Peggy Mead is the designer and pattern maker behind Sew House Seven apparel patterns for women. Peggy launched Sew House Seven with the intent of creating simple, easy-to-follow patterns that encourage and inspire beginners, yet appeal to sewists of all levels. She’s a professional designer and pattern maker and has a very interesting story about how she came to be designing her own pattern line.
Hello there! I’m Peggy, and I am the designer and pattern maker of my little brand of sewing patterns called Sew House Seven. I am so thrilled to be invited to share my patterns on the Oliver + S website! I want to introduce myself and tell you a little bit about my background and how Sew House Seven came to be.
I live and work in Portland, Oregon, now but I grew up in Moscow, Idaho, around a pretty creative family. I started sewing around age seven, and by age thirteen I was making most of my own clothes. There was very limited shopping in Moscow back then, so most of the kids wore the same clothes from the same few shops. I loved making my own clothes because not only did I enjoy dressing in my own unique style, but I also felt so empowered and proud when I could say, “I made this!”
When I went to university, I studied biology and nutrition, but I somehow ended up with a graphic design degree. Although the creative arts were my passion, I never imagined that I could have a decent career in the arts. But my father encouraged me to go back to school to study apparel design as he saw that I was passionate about it and had a knack for it. So I ended up with a masters degree in apparel design from Oregon State University. I went for a masters degree with the idea that I might teach.
My first substantial job out of school was as a pattern maker and later a designer for Jantzen swimwear. As a pattern maker at Jantzen, I sometimes traveled to the Miss America pageants to fit swimwear on the contestants. This was such an odd job for me as I wasn’t much of a beauty pageant girl but, rather, more of a rock climbing tomboy. However, it was a great opportunity because I worked beside the amazing and talented Pete Menefee and watched him create costumes and tell stories about costuming for Hollywood.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but Jantzen was a great place for me to learn and hone my skills. Back then, the designers and pattern makers were required to take on so many different tasks that now seem to be limited to individual, different jobs at most companies. All of those different skills have allowed me to switch careers and take on a variety of different jobs within the field.
One of the most valuable opportunities I had at Jantzen was working directly with our factory which at that time was right next door. I would write up general instructions for how my swimsuit patterns would be constructed, and then someone from the factory would come collaborate and refine the instructions and equipment with me. Back then, Jantzen made some pretty crazy and unique swimsuits that really challenged me and made me think outside of the pattern making box of rules I had learned in school. I think I continue to do this with my own patterns now because of that experience.
I left Jantzen to freelance as a pattern maker and designer for several small companies, and I also had a short-lived gig teaching draping at the Art Institute of Portland. More recently, I worked for Pendleton Woolen Mills as a surface and sweater designer. I left last year to focus on Sew House Seven full time.
I learned so much in the apparel industry; however, I think that it has really changed. Pattern making seems to be a lost art in most US companies today as they turn to more overseas production. Fast fashion, waste, and over-consumption seem to have presided over quality and uniqueness. I became disheartened with the industry and felt a need to return to what truly inspired me about apparel design in the first place. That is sewing and creating.
I started Sew House Seven in the summer of 2014 as a side project while I worked at Pendleton. I cannot tell you how many hours I spent as a kid looking through pattern books and dreaming about designing my own patterns. I just never thought it was a possibility. But after all the experience I had gained working in the industry, I realized that I really wanted and needed to start my own line of sewing patterns. I decided to give it a try.
The original premise of Sew House Seven was to create simple, unique patterns and thorough instructions that would encourage beginning sewists while also appealing to sewists of all skill levels. I wanted to help create a positive sewing experience for beginners by offering patterns for styles that could be finished quickly and not need too many fit adjustments. I wanted the sewist to come out of the experience with a wearable garment that would inspire them to sew again and again. I have since added a few styles that are more intermediate level, and I will continue to sprinkle those in on occasion. Who knows, maybe I will add an advanced style or two later on down the road.
Despite being a bit of a tomboy and spending much of my time outdoors, I find myself drawn to very feminine (not frilly) women’s styles, and that is how I tend to design. I try to make each style unique with some interesting design details while still being somewhat simple.
Here are a few of my patterns; some are classic styles and some a little more forward. Another thing I love about sewing is how different fabric choices can totally transform the look and feel of the same pattern.
Here is my Tea House Dress pattern in silk for a more traditional, almost vintage look.
And here is another Tea House Dress. This one is made in cotton ikat for a more contemporary look.
Here are a few more patterns from my line. This is the more edgy Nehalem Pant and Skirt.
Here is the trendy yet classic Burnside Bibs Overalls.
And this is the classic Rose City Halter Dress.
I now love my job, and I have to pinch myself every day when I realize I’m living my childhood dream! I am so proud to be part of the amazing sewing community that I never would have discovered had it not been for my pattern line. Sewing people are the best people! I was a little worried going into the business that I would have to be a saleswoman and be very competitive (something I’m not so comfortable with) but on the contrary. All of the pattern designers, bloggers, and sewists I have met have been so helpful in promoting each other and helping each other learn and collaborate.
One of the best parts of this job is when people share photos of their makes. I love to help those who are having trouble or high-five those who were victorious, and I am always amazed and often inspired by how others put their own touches on my patterns and turn them into their own personal style and work of art. I feel like I have finally found my happy place!
You can visit Peggy’s happy place and find all her patterns in the Sew House Seven section of the Oliver + S shop.
Bravo, Peggy! I loved reading your story and how you have learned so much along your creative journey.
Beautiful fashions!! These look easy for the new seamstress, yet someone more experienced could embellish a lot on them! Thanks for sharing.
Interesting! Fashion for skinny 66-year-olds is lacking.
Congratulaions on launching this business. I too am a dedigner and pattermaker in the apparel industry. I have longed to creste a value business for the home seamtress also. I use to run my own fashion studio for apparel manufacturers in various garments. I am proud to see you have accomplished your dream.
Hi Margie! Your business for apparel manufacturers sounds interesting. Let me know if you do start your own business for home sewers.
Congratulations! Looking forward to trying one of your patterns with my own choice of fabric. Love the teahouse dress sleeve & neckline.
Really interesting background story, especially the swimwear. I love the utilitarian but feminine aesthetic of Sew House 7 patterns, the Burnside bIbs are on my cutting table.
The Tea House Dress in silk looks so cute! You’re right different fabric choices can totally transform the look and feel of the same pattern. ‘m going to try it and see how it looks with the wax fabric I got on my trip to Ghana. Anyways, I enjoyed reading your story, thanks for sharing!
Thank you all for taking the time to read my story. Happy sewing!
Congratulations on reaching your childhood dream! I am so happy for you. Plus you are a hometown girl! I grew up in Eastern Washington and am very familiar with that North Idaho area and now live in Portland. Keep up the good work! Make Portland the fashion center of the Northwest!
Hi Mary Ellen. I used to drive up to Spokane to do any shopping for things I couldn’t or didn’t want to sew. There wasn’t much shopping in Moscow. How funny that we both ended up in Portland. I hope our paths cross here sometime. Thanks for the kind words.