We caught up with the amazing Peggy from Sew House Seven, such a lovely and inspirational woman, that goes to show you can really achieve great things in following your sewing dreams
Tell us a little bit about you and the company?
I live in Portland, Oregon and work out of my fixer-upper house with my husband Teera and 9-year-old son Wylan.
I’ve been sewing for most of my life. I started sewing around age 8, and was soon an addict. I’ve always loved sewing and making but moved away from it once I started a full-time job. Now I’m so happy to be back doing what I love.
I started Sew House Seven two years ago after working in the apparel industry for more years than I care to admit, and always dreamt about doing my own thing. My main focus with Sew House Seven has been on simple designs with easy to follow instructions that encourage beginners. I try to incorporate unique elements in most of my designs so they remain appealing to sewists of any level. Last June, I quite my day job as a surface and sweater designer in order to focus on Sew House Seven.
What made you start dress and pattern making?
The passion has been with me for a long time. As a teenager, I used to daydream about designing while looking through pattern books. Back then, I was sewing about fifty percent of my clothes. I didn’t realise that designing could be a real career so returned to school to pursue Masters degree in apparel design.
A career in design was always my end goal. I’ve worked for various companies and freelance jobs, but the one that truly defined me was working for Jantzen swimwear and I learned so much there. It’s not always satisfying designing for someone else as there are too many restrictions and different opinions to consider. The process of fast fashion disheartens me, so I wanted to do things my own way and I wanted a creative job that was more meaningful.
For years, I had dreamed about designing my own sewing patterns. It wasn’t until I spotted a Colette pattern at a local bookstore that a fire was lit under me. I did a bit of research and then just went for it. I still feel a little new to the game but I know I’ve finally found my happy place!
Tell us about the patterns in your collection so far, and what made you chose them?
When I started, I had several patterns in the mind - items that I wanted to wear. I started out with just three patterns. I had a feeling that dresses would be most desirable because they’re generally easier to fit and more special to make.
The first pattern in the line was the Mississippi Avenue Dress. This is an easy slip dress -and looks great in a printed floral. Them there’s the Bridgetown Backless Dress and Tunic, which is a very simple, elasticated waist dress with short kimono-like sleeves but the drama is in the back. The back crosses over and drapes to reveal a peak at the wearers back.
The Alberta Street Pencil Skirt came next and is a good addition and a staple style for to any wardrobe.
I try to keep my patterns current and classic. I don’t want to have to scrap the pattern in a year or two because it’s no longer in style. There’s so much work that goes into each pattern and as a small independent I want my patterns to be lasting. I’m not a fan of fast fashion.
I love clothes that can be dressy or casual – these are more versatile.
Later I added the Rose City Halter Dress, which is another classic but more familiar style would be a nice addition. It’s a halter with a V-neckline, fitted bodice and two skirt options.
And more recently, the Tea House Top & Dress and the Nehalem Pant & Skirt have been added to the collection. In September, I released The Toaster Sweater, as my collection was lacking knits, tops and garments for cooler weather.
What do you feel makes you stand out from the other independent sewing pattern companies?
Hmmm! I’m not sure that I do stand out, I’m still relatively undiscovered. What I’ve heard about my patterns is that the instructions are very thorough and clear. I also try to make unique patterns that have a special design feature (even if it’s subtle and simple). I wanted my designs to have something new and different about them to get noticed! Many of my patterns are quick and easy, which is one of my strong points as well.
What is your favourite pattern you’ve designed so far?
When I get ready to release a pattern, I tend to be tired of looking at it and start doubting myself. After it is released, I fall in love with it again because it’s new. My favorite was the Mississippi Avenue dress. More recently I fell in love with the Tea House dress. Now I am back to the Mississippi dress. It’s just so easy, original and classic and it was my first best seller.
Who is your biggest inspiration to your sewing?
I don’t really have a muse as far as designing goes. I generally design pieces that I would like for myself. My mother helped me get started sewing and who really sparked my interest as a child was my best friend’s mother, she bought my friend her own sewing machine when she was 8 years old. I wanted to make all the wonderful things they were making, and my mom made this happen. I have to add that I’m very inspired by many of the other independent pattern designers who’ve paved the path for me in this career.
How would you best describe your personal style and what impact has it had on your pattern collection?
My personal style has definitely impacted my patterns as I’ve already mentioned I design mostly clothes that I want to wear. Even though I often dress pretty casually, when I do clean up to go out I’m drawn to very feminine styles. Not pink and frilly things but rather romantic, flowing and beautiful. When I sew, I like to make dresses and special items that I can’t find anywhere and that is how I design as well.
What do you feel is your best achievement with your company so far?
I still have so far to go in my mind. I don’t know if it’s an achievement but the smartest thing I’ve done is having my patterns printed and in shops as opposed to solely PDF patterns. The idea that my patterns are used for classes is such an honour for me. I still get goosebumps when I walk into a shop that carries my patterns and see them on display.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I’ve been asked that question before and I think my answer has changes a bit. In the beginning, I wanted to be doing this solo - not worry about employees or growing into a full blown company. However focusing on this full time, I don’t have as much time as I’d like to create so I think I’ll need to hire in the near future. I’d also love to expand and get into fabric design some time in the future. My husband and I have a few other big ideas but I can’t quite divulge these yet!
Are there any spoilers you can share such as new patterns?
One thing that I’m very excited about is that I will soon be including sew-a-longs and tutorials on my blog. I’ve been promising that for a while now but just haven’t been able to get myself together to deliver. I have another knit dress and top that I’ve been working on and I’m thinking about a coat or wrap dress. Now that I’m devoting more time, I plan on being more prolific – here’s hoping at least.