What Happened in April

Hi readers, it’s the beginning of a new month and that means that it’s time for behind the scenes. April has been another busy month for me – both with Dresses & Me and in other parts of my life. So read on if you’d like to know what’s been happening.


The Shop
This month I achieved one of my goals for 2014: bringing Colette Patterns to New Zealand. I use the word “achievement” mostly because of the endurance required to make this happen! I began organising this last October so I’m pleased (and relieved) that it has finally happened. At the moment we’ve got the latest patterns and there’s an order of Colette’s classic designs flying across the ocean as I type.


Recently I’ve had a survey up on the site too. I’ve had several requests to stock Deer & Doe patterns in the store. I WOULD LOVE TO! …Unfortunately this is not possible as they only allow wholesale orders for brick and mortar (physical) shops. I’ve emailed Eleanor twice since opening the shop but it looks like they’ll be holding on this model. In the meantime you can buy them from her online store.

I want to make this next comment brief. If you have anything you’d like to talk to me about regarding the store or my blog *please* contact me. Even if – gosh – especially if it’s negative. I’d far rather know and have the chance to remedy it than loose a valuable customer and your respect. Please, please just contact me – please?! Yes, I had a complaint.


If you write a blog you probably already do this and know it happens, but I wonder if non-bloggers do? I actually spend a lot of time emailing people to keep the blog interesting. In April I organised collaborations and sponsorship for Kat and Mel’s Indie Pattern Month. Indie Pattern Month is a celebration of independent sewing pattern producers. Mel and Kat have put a huge amount of work into organising sponsorship (read: awesome prizes), planning competitions as well as moderating the Monthly Stitch site. This is all work that they do in their own spare time, just cos they want to and I think that deserves a bit of praise!

I have also been organising to host a sewalong! Whilst I can’t say too much at the moment, this will be using one of the patterns in the shop at the moment and it will be in the middle of the year.


So what have I actaully sewn this month, I mean this is a sewing blog after all! Well I finished off my Charlotte skirt and, of course, my Batwing dress (yet to take photos). Is that it? Well not entirely… I’m nearly finished making my Brigitte Dress and I started making a Jasmine by Colette. Except that in truly amateur fashion I burnt-melted a hole in it whilst ironing the darts flat. So that has completely stalled.


I also had a giveaway on the blog this month! Entrants took instagram photos of their cats and used the hashtag #catsforcolette. This competition was held to launch the Colette range at Dresses & Me. To see all the entrants search #catsforcolette on instagram. They’re pretty darn cute. Luna won with the gorgeous photo above.

Tea cups all set up in our new apartment

I’d be completely lying if I said I flew through April. In reality it was a slog! I moved house, wrote a public relations strategy for university and began writing two more essays! I know not many people feel for the plight of the student but I’m working a lot harder this time round at uni. Perhaps I’m a bit older and wiser… or just older with a less demanding social life!


Perhaps the best, and sadly, the most commersumer-tastic, thing to happen this month was the arrival of my freight boxes from London. As the last leg of my trip was backpacking we sent a lot of heavy or unnecessary things home to NZ. So when the boxes arrived I was greeted with spices and a tea set that I bought in Morocco, a 100% wool coat I bought in London, books that my family had sent me while away, fabric I bought on Goldhawk Road and a mulled wine mug from Potsdam, Germany. All of these ‘things’ have memories attached so it was lovely to have them in our home.


Behind the Scenes: March

March has been such a busy month at Dresses & Me HQ. I’m getting straight back into blogging and creating strategies to grow the shop now that I’m back from devouring churros, fawning over art and swimming in the Mediterranean. So what have I been up to?

The Blog

In March I starting writing a new series call A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Sewing. In the first post I talked about how to choose a pattern for your first sewing project and in the second post I offered some thoughts on where to start with fabrics. If you’re anything like me you’re self-taught and spend a lot of time wondering what the ‘correct’ way of doing something is. I’m hoping this series will offer some help for new sew-ers. I have many ideas for upcoming posts but if you have a burning question or topic send me an email [penny at dressesandme .com]


This month I made a pair of Pleated Pants and two Georgia Dresses (here and here). I was pretty stoked that my FBA turned out well as this was one of my first attempts at pattern editing – and you know what? It worked out and it wasn’t as painful as I had feared! I also cut out my Simple Sews Batwing Dress. I am currently sewing this together…

March also mean Meet Up! The Auckland Sewists’ Collective meet up at Tasca Cafe and had a riot. You can join our Facebook group to fine out about the next one here.


The Store

This month I officially launched Dresses & Me’s new website and logo. And because I am always looking for feedback on the store I developed a survey! I’m such a geek but I just can’t help it. On the survey you can tell me which patterns you’d like in the store and any other feedback (and you can do it anonymously if you prefer). So far I’m getting a clear indication that New Zealanders are keen to have Colette Patterns in the store next. So you’ll (hopefully) be pleased to read I’m working pretty hard to make this happen! Watch this space!

I have not be able to move the discount codes over to the new site yet. This is a very time consuming task as it requires manually entering randomly generated codes, creating individual discounts. If you want to make a purchase  using yours please send me an email. I hope to have this completed by the end of the month.


I was also really happy to be able to restock the whole Sewaholic range this month. Tasia’s latest design, the Gabriola Skirt, is a maxi skirt with a fitted waist and hips. It is very flattering and gloriously floaty for this great extended summer we’re having in. I also created a new patterns page so that all the newest patterns are in the same place.

What else did I do? I had a sale on all Victory and Cake Patterns and you guys pretty much bought up the whole stock! I will be placing a new order with Victory when Kristiann when she releases her latest pattern, Hannah (very soon). I don’t have a lot of sales (only had two since opening last June) so if you’d like to know about the next one join the mailing list here.

In March I also returned to study. I’ve previously completed a BA hons in sociology and art history, and while I enjoyed learning I felt totally burnt out by the end of the four years. This year I am studying Public Relations and I’m thoroughly enjoying it! But along with self-directed study and time management comes the inevitable procrastabaking (baking instead of writing a 4000 word literature review) and procrastaplanning (planning cool holidays or events instead of reading journal articles). These procrasta-pass-times have featured heavily in March for me. So tell me off if you see lurking around me too much on instagram!

To keep study spirits high I’ve been listening to this song heaps – enjoy!


Inside Cake Patterns – An Interview with Designer StephC

StephC is the designer and boss-lady at indie pattern company Cake Patterns. Cake Patterns has risen quickly to prominence in the sewing community since it’s unveiling in July of last year. Steph’s first printed pattern, the Tiramisu knit dress was a runaway success. Since then she has designed and printed four more patterns – The Hummingbird and Pavlova separates, as well as the Cabarita and Bonny Sailor Riff t-shirts. StephC lives in Brisbane and blogs at 3 Hours Past The Edge of the World.
These days you can download PDF patterns off the internet for less than the cost of a paper pattern. Why was it important to you to provide your customers with printed patterns too?

Even though it’s relatively cheap and easy, most people don’t want to go to the trouble of printing and assembling their own patterns. It’s a personal preference. The market for PDF patterns is really small compared to the number of people who sew. In order for me to be able to make a job out of pattern design, I need to make paper patterns.

Hummingbird Peplum Top & Straight Skirt Cake Patterns I love your envelope art! You’ve chosen to have to have a diverse set of models which is unusual when you compare your range to pretty much everything else. What does this say about Cake Patterns?

Mikhaela (Cake’s cover artist) and I decided to work together in part because we have similar convictions about “beauty.”  In the world we live in “beauty” has come to mean “outward appearance.” It seems only those people who fit into a narrow definition of what’s attractive can be considered beautiful. Neither of us buy it – we believe that the beauty standards of “thin, white, and young” are toxic and should be actively deconstructed.

The “thin, white, young” ideal is in direct opposition to the world I see around me, beautiful women come in every size and shape and ethnicity. Anyone with eyes can see that. Our covergirls are our way of politely disagreeing with the status quo.

Besides, we want our little girls to grow up with a richer idea of what it means to be a beautiful woman.

Tiramisu dress

Most of your patterns call for knit fabrics which can be a bit scary for budding sewing enthusiasts. What is the most important tip you have for sewing with knits?

At the risk of sounding crisp, my #1 piece of advice for knit newbies is: Get over it. Forget about being afraid.  t’s just fabric, it doesn’t have teeth and won’t explode if you make a wrong stitch! It’s OK to make a few mistakes, it’s not the end of the world. 

Nothing about knits is terribly difficult or mysterious: get a ballpoint needle, stabilize the shoulders, and gently stretch the binding when you go around curves.  Use scraps of fabric to practice a new technique/ get your hand in the fabric.  You’ll find the time you spend doing that is paid back in ease of sewing (not to mention the confidence boost!).  Oh – and it’s not necessary to use a serger/ overlocker.  It definitely improves the durability of the garment but it’s not a required piece of equipment.

There’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to handling knit fabrics but it’s worth making a few sub-par tees at first for the payoff later. I always found that my self-made knitwear clothes were the ones I wear most. For the price of a “nice” tee or knit dress, I can buy some “very very nice” knit fabric and make it into a finished item that I’ll actually wear, with complete creative control over the color, fiber, and cut. I’m not at the mercy of what’s available in the shops. It’s also satisfying to wear clothes I know weren’t made by slaves or people who are otherwise being exploited. [Steph also has some tips for complete beginners here]

Is Cake Patterns your full time job? Would you like it to be?

I don’t have another source of income, no. In fact, Cake has yet to be a source of income for me but it has paid for itself during the start-up phase. I have no debts but little else. I eat a lot of beans and learned to be very frugal! Cake work occupies most of my waking hours, I have to be careful to carve out family and personal time. Even then, I still spend between 8 and 12 hours a day working on Cake and sometimes more.

Pearl from Red VelvetRed Velvet is your next pattern. Can you give us any hints of what to expect? 

Well, I’m really looking forward to Red Velvet!  We’re hard at work on it right now and I don’t want to give too much away but it will be really great to release a little collection of patterns all at once. Elements of the dress play through a little handbag, we have some sweet layering pieces, and a project I’ve been working on with my little girl. I can’t say anything else, though! We should have the Red Velvet Collection available towards the end of July.