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How a pattern is made - interview with Nicole Rusch of Liola Patterns

q&a (eng version) Over on Sew It Up we are hosting a monthly challenge on 'free patterns'. However as small business owners ourselves, we wanted to show our community how difficult it actually is to design and produce a pattern and how much work goes into the pattern making process. We interviewed Nicole Rusch, pattern designer and owner of Liola Patterns and Liola Designs for insight on how a pattern is made and all the steps you need to accomplish to end up with a quality pattern. Nicole, take it away! Nicole, can you introduce yourself? Hey, I am Nicole and I am the maker and create behind Liola Patterns and Liola Designs. I live with my amazing Dutch husband Alex, our gorgeous 9 month old daughter Luna and two cats (one Dutch and one Australian). I met my husband in Melbourne, I am Australian, whilst he was in Australia working. 6 years down the track and we are now living in The Netherlands, married and have a daughter. At the moment I am a full time mum and try and grab any opportunity I can to sew and work on Liola Patterns (this involves lots of coffee). My husband and I love to travel and see different parts of the world. We are luck enough to have seen a lot together and have family spread from one side of the globe to the other which keeps us on the move. nicole + husband When and why did you decided to start making your own patterns? How did you get started? I have been sewing since I was little and studied pattern making and haute couture before moving onto a career in the medical field. Although I loved sewing and designing there wasn’t much work in what I wanted to do. Several years later and a relocation to The Netherlands I found myself out of my industry and wanting to create again. I continued making custom made items for people with my label Liola Designs. Most of the time I would draft my own patterns as I couldn’t find what I really wanted and wasn’t a huge fan of commercial patterns. This required a lot of work to make something just for me or as a one off. I then came to the realisation that I could share these patterns with others. So after a lot of trial and error Liola Patterns began. It has been a great experience and a lot of work but I love seeing my customer’s creations popping up all over the Internet and social media.
zoe raglan sweater Nicole modelling a variation on her Zoe Raglan Top
How long does it take you to produces a new pattern? From the initial idea untill it’s up for sale? This depends on many factors such as how complicated the pattern is, how much time I have to work on it and how smooth the testing phase goes. Usually it takes 3 months from putting my ideas from a sketch to a pattern to releasing it for sale. What are the costs involved in making a pattern? There can be quite a few expenses involved in making a pattern. The programs needed to digitise the patterns and produce the illustrations are not cheap and are on going monthly costs. When testing the pattern myself in the initial phases all the patterns are made up in the suitable fabric, this can add up very quickly depending on the garment. The other big ‘cost’ is time. It involves alot of time.
IMG_3259 A peek into Nicole's studio
Is everything done by you or do you have help? Everything is done by me. Can you explain the steps necessary to get to a sellable pattern? Once I have finalised my sketches I draft out a pattern and make it up in the suitable fabric. I keep adjusting the garment and pattern until I am completely happy with it. This can result in more than 10 of the same garment! Sometimes a garment needs to be adjusted to make it sellable. It needs to be clear and easy for the sewer to follow and sew up. When I am happy with the final pattern I digitise this in Illustrator and grade it to all the sizes needed. I print the pattern out and sew up every size to make sure the pattern is correct. Any adjustments needed then get changed in Illustrator and I have to re print the pattern again. Sometimes I have to do this several times until everything is perfect. Whilst I am sewing the pattern up I take notes and photos to write up the instructions and digitally draw the illustrations.
Description  and drawing in the shop for the Molly Cardigan Description and drawing in the shop for the Molly Cardigan
At this stage I will figure out the fabric requirements and cutting layouts. Once I have all my illustrations completed I then start typing up the instructions and the information pages. If the pattern is complete I can add all the labels, logos and information onto the pattern pieces. I try to have my testers lined up a week or so before I send out the pattern to give them time to get their fabric. The testing phase can take a few weeks especiallly if there are adjustmetns needed. Any major changes to the pattern have to be re tested. I then make up a few garments from the final pattern to be photographed. Finally I can release my pattern for sale. But it doesnt stop there. The pattern needs to get known. Alot of time goes into blogging, social media, pattern reviews and responding to customer emails. It all sounds pretty straight forward but it is alot more time consuming than it looks. Which steps are your favorite? I have several favourite steps in making a new pattern. I like the inital drafting stage and the first sew up. I never thought I would say this but I really enjoy the whole Illustrator side of things. I still have alot to learn as it is such a complicated program but there is something satisfying about digitising the pattern pieces and drawing the illustrations.
IMG_3200 Another peek into Nicole's pretty studio
Which skills are needed to make a pattern and which steps are absolutely necessary? The skills needed to make a pattern are pattern drafting and a good understanding of garment construction. Being able to have the ideas to start with is also very helpfull ;) The testing phase is absolutely necessary. You cannot digitise a pattern and never test it, even the simplest of patterns need adjustments. Which programs do you use and how do you produce your patterns? (software, other tools) I always hand draft my pattern in one size and adjust this until it is correct. I then digitise this in Illustrator and grade it to all the nessesary sizes. I also use illustrator to draw my illustrations and line drawings. I use office programs to put together my instruction books etc. What would you like to achieve with your pattern line? I would love to be able to produce more designs! I would also like to, in the future, offer small run ready made garments from my patterns for those who can not sew.
Nicole modelling her Sparrow Top Nicole modelling her Sparrow Top
We’ve seen an explosion of new pattern designers. What do you think about this boom in pattern design and do you think this is a good thing? The pdf pattern world is huge now. I have two minds about it. I think it is great that there are so many fantastic designs out there to choose from and it has certainly encouraged the online sewing communiy greatly. As these communities grow so does the number of people taking up sewing which is great. I think the down side to so many new pattern deisgners coming on the market so quickly is the quality of patterns are so varied. Price certainly does not reflect the quality of the pattern. It is hard to get your name our there and gain a good reputation. What kind of pattern would you love to design in the future? I would like to design more seasonal collections. This would include pants, skirts and dresses. Do you have a favorite pattern designer or brand that you admire? I don’t have one particular favourite designer. There are so many out there that have great designs. Is there a new pattern in the works? Can we have a peek? I have just released my latest pattern the Luna Top. I am in the sketching phase of my next design.
Liola Patterns' newest creation: The Luna Top Liola Patterns' newest creation: The Luna Top
Where can we buy your patterns? My patterns are available through Etsy, Craftsy, Kollabora en Indie Sew You can read more about Nicole on her blog or on her facebookpage. You can also follow her over on instagram!
I loved interviewing Nicole and getting to know more about her work process as a pattern designer! For the translated Dutch version of this interview and a giveaway, head on over to Sew It Up!