Readers, hold on to your patterns, a new series is coming up on the blog! I don’t know about you, but I am always super curious to know who is behind a brand, above and beyond the marketing and social media posts! I want to learn more about the person who founded a pattern company I love and how they came to be.
So I concocted a series of interviews with indie sewing pattern designers, that will dive deeper into their personalities, what drives them and of course, what do they think about sustainability in the sewing community. I hope that a more personal connection with incredibly creative people in our community will also shine a spotlight on perhaps lesser know pattern houses, but equally amazing, and you might want to try them too!
The format is very simple. I ask my interviewees 10 questions on themselves, their brand and of course, sustainability and post their answers on the blog. I will also offer up the upcoming list of designers (coming soon!) so you can also send me your questions. I will add the best ones to the Q&A.
To kick off the series, I interviewed Kim from Ann Normandy Design, as I was in the process of making the maxi dress from their collection for my Costa Rica trip (stay tuned for the reveal soon). It was really great speaking to Kim about life and lovely vintage linen and I hope you will enjoy our ‘chat’ too.
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Ann Normandy Design. Please check out my Reader disclaimer policy for more details as to what a sponsorship collaboration entails.
1. For anyone who has not heard of Ann Normandy, tell me more about your brand, design ethos and your mission.
Ann Normandy Design is a brand of professionally drafted PDF sewing patterns. Each pattern is meticulously designed with classic sewing techniques to create timeless garments that would rival any high-end boutique and be your “go to” pieces season after season.
I always consider my sewing patterns a blank canvas to let your creativity flow. Create a chic minimalist collection with a muted neutral palette or tone on tone textures. Or stand out with bold statement pieces with colour, prints, dying, embroidery, and textures.
2. Where does the name Ann Normandy come from? I must confess that for a very long time, I was convinced your name is Ann, not Kim, ha ha.
If I had a nickel for every time I was asked this question! It took months to come up with a name suitable for the brand. But it all came together quite easily during cocktails on a date night with my husband.
Ann Normandy is actually my middle name and the first street I lived on. I have to give credit where credit is due, it was my husband’s idea to use the age-old method used to create “stage names” in certain genres of entertainment. 😉
The moment I said it for the first time was magical. Understated, elegant, a classic. Precisely what the brand was meant to be. It was perfect.
3. I am always curious about how/why people start their business. So why did you decide to start a pattern company?
Ann Normandy Design started as an apparel line in 2012, after I suffered a wardrobe malfunction with a very expensive onyx beaded shift dress at a holiday office party. The construction of the dress was so poor, beads were falling off during the evening. I contacted the designer to bring it to their attention and request having a few beads sent to me and never received a return call.
That was a wakeup call for me. Having a lifetime of sewing experience, I knew I could create a collection that was not only stylish but of superior quality.
I created a nine-piece capsule collection to be sold in higher-end boutiques, with the plan to develop digital sewing patterns of my garments once my husband and I decided to put our pencils down and retire.
Shortly after a soft launch of the apparel collection my son had a significant setback that required me to drop everything to tend to him. It made me realize that pitching my line would be very difficult to do with my son’s challenges and decided to flip my business model to the digital sewing patterns.
Six months later, after creating digital pattern files, instructions, testing and building a website, I launched my first two patterns at my kitchen table on Thanksgiving day, 2015.
It was the best decision I made. Sewing has been my constant passion throughout my life. I love connecting with and sharing a bit of my passion with sewists all over the world.
4. What is your background? How did you learn your design skills?
My design skills are self-taught. I am married with a 14-year-old son. We live in Detroit, Michigan and Charlotte, North Carolina. First and foremost, I am a stay at home mom. Our son is on the autism spectrum and requires me to be available at all times.
Before marrying Steve, my career was in sales in the commercial printing and direct mail industry. I worked in the theatre on and off stage during my free time, which included costume design. I love to cook, sing and play the violin
5. Tell me more about your design process. How do you go from idea to a final version of a pattern?
My style aesthetic is a cross between utilitarian and minimalist. I personally don’t like complicated design or garments with fussy details. I prefer garments that are purposeful and can be created, worn or styled in different ways for different looks.
Designing a garment starts with practical need first, form that doesn’t compete, but accentuate a woman’s features and proper fit for the modern woman’s body.
I drape first, then hand draft the pattern. A garment is made, tested and tweaked, for wearability and care/laundering as well. Various types of fabrics in addition to linen are used for performance.
Once the pattern is perfected, it is then scanned and digitized. Markers are added and then graded with sizes. Instructions are written with step by step photos, and then the pattern is tested again.
Feedback is imperative for a well-rounded sewing pattern. Many sets of eyes and hands will come in contact with each pattern before it’s launched to the public. I want the process of creating the garment and wearing it to be equally enjoyable.
C/O Ann Normandy Designs
Photography: Steve Ragland Photography, Detroit
Model: Stefanie Miller,
Productions Plus – The Talent Shop
6. That seems like a very complex process. How long does it take to bring a pattern to the market?
Short answer: Too long! LOL.
It can take months, depending on the pattern. But with time comes a well-drafted sewing pattern that people will use and love over and over.
7. I hear that you are a passionate collector of vintage textiles. Tell me more about that and how it blends into your designs.
Passionate, yes! Woven textiles and clothing of the past are the inspiration for my sewing pattern collection. Mainly linens from the 18th through the early 20th centuries of French and German origin.
Grown from seed by farmers who could not afford to buy cloth. Handspun and tightly woven, dense textiles during the non-growing seasons, these precious one-of-a-kind textiles were used for everything around the house and farm. From clothing, bedding, curtains, towels, and grain/feed sacks.
After being introduced to the world of homespun antique linen, I started collecting not only the actual textiles but study pieces of garments created with the fabrics. It was humbling that a 100-200-year-old cloth, created literally by hand can still be worn, laundered and loved, just as the day it was created.
Historical sewing techniques and layouts to eliminate as much waste of the precious cloths were all researched and implemented into the pattern design, as well as teaching the time-honoured techniques with my sewing pattern instructions.
See Kim’s tips on how to buy/wear vintage textiles at the end of the post.
8. On a personal level, how did you start sewing? Do you still have time to sew for pleasure? What do you like to sew that’s not business related?
My grandmother taught me how to sew during my single digit years in the ’70s.
One of my earliest projects with her was repurposing men’s shirts into bed jackets and caplets with snaps for the patients at my great grandmother’s nursing home during her final years. She was appalled that her mother and fellow patients had hospital gowns on that were ill-fitting and would leave patients exposed.
The bed jackets and caplets she designed were easy to put on, keep a patient covered, yet allow for easy access.
From there I sewed for myself using (at the time) the big 3 pattern companies. I eventually moved into costume and millenary design for the stage. I especially love period plays and musicals and the garments of the time.
I enjoy the process of researching a show and historical aspects for authenticity, as well as the challenge of creating a garment that is engineered for quick (sometimes seconds) backstage costume changes.
In many cases, the costumes were created from repurposed garments from thrift stores, due to tight budgets. Hats and headpieces were all hand-drafted patterns.
I do sew for myself, but not nearly as much as I would like. I started a personal commitment last year to sew at least 30 minutes a day. I find it cathartic and very therapeutic. I do like to sew clothes for myself, not only using my sewing patterns but other designers as well. I also love to sew items for my home, and I machine embroidered.
SAVE THIS FOR LATER
9. What does sustainability in sewing mean to you?
Taking cues from the past, near zero waste, timeless sewing pattern/garment design, durable construction, as well as be versatile were all critical musts during the design process. It gives me great joy to create the tools to provide sewists with the ability to create their own sustainable wardrobe.
Finding eco-responsible fabrics is also important. If I am not using a reclaimed textile, I always look for the origin of the material and how it’s manufactured.
Caring for the garment is essential as well. Using a natural detergent that is gentle on the cloth and the environment are always a priority. Again, taking cues from the past, such as the use of lemon juice, salt, and steam to remove stains. Vinegar rinses to remove any residue of the detergent and balance the textile’s PH level. Sunlight to brighten whites.
10. Lastly, what does the future hold for Ann Normandy Patterns? Any new patterns in the works?
As for patterns, I am currently wrapping up the final proof of my shorts pattern and will be releasing them very soon. I have two other top patterns in the works that will be launching this year. Several garment designs are in the beginning design stage as well.
I’ve also recently created a Facebook Group called Ann Normandy Design Sewing Society. I’m looking forward to connecting with members, do some sew-alongs and encourage sewists to get creative with their garments.
I have a few other surprises that are in the works, but have to keep a tight lip for now.
Connect with Kim (and Ann Normandy Design)
Facebook page: facebook.com/annnormandydesign
Facebook groups: Ann Normandy Design Sewing Society: facebook.com/groups/278709386105501
Kim’s tips on how to use/wear vintage linen
You can use antique or vintage linens and not look like you’re wearing your grandmother’s antique tablecloth or Carol Burnett’s rendition of Scarlet Ohara’s “gown’ made of parlour drapes.
What to look for:
You can find vintage or antique linens at tag and estate sales, as well as flea markets. Keep garments in mind while on the hunt for reclaimed textiles. Photos of pattern envelope with yardage needed is helpful. Carry a measuring tape or know what a meter or yard is by a point of reference. I know a yard is holding a piece of fabric out to my side pinched between my thumb and index finger and to my breast nipple.
Look for flaws, worn areas, and stains. Not all stains will come out, it’s best to avoid. Mend holes with cool mending techniques. Terrific news, mending is making a comeback! I have a Pinterest board on mends and stitches to inspire.
As this is a new series, I would really appreciate your feedback!
PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF YOU ARE FINDING THIS KIND OF TOPIC INTERESTING, WHO WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE INTERVIEWED, WHAT KIND OF QUESTIONS SHOULD I ASK THEM ETC. FEEL FREE TO DROP ME AN EMAIL OR LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW.
ENJOYED THIS POST?