Did you think I had forgotten you? Never fear, I was planning something special. Since it's Knits month I thought what better way to kick it off than an interview with the lady who has taken over our knits stashes with her wonderful designs and revolutionary sizing! Yep, prepare for a behind the scenes chat with Steph of 3 Hours Past!
How long have you been sewing and what made you start?
I’ve been sewing since I was a little kid, mostly as a way to supplement my imagination. Textiles, fibers, yarns, all of that always seemed to make sense in my hands. I loved the way I could manipulate the fabric to make my imagination come to life.
What inspired Cake Patterns? Was it an idea that slowly grew or did something happen and you knew you had to do this?
I started teaching sewing in 4-H as a teenager, and later when I moved to Australia I found a job teaching sewing at an indie quilt shop. I started out teaching beginners to sew pajamas, then branched out into intermediate and advanced “Bring Your Own” type classes. I had students of all shapes and sizes working with every pattern company you can name, 6-10 students at a time for me to keep busy! It was fun and rewarding because I’d help with fitting and techniques, often re-writing the instructions to make the pattern easier to use. I especially loved pattern alteration challenges, it’s a great feeling to help someone make a garment that fits and then bask in their glow.
The idea of starting a pattern company kept coming up over the years but I didn’t think I had the business skills to build a company so I didn’t. Eventually, I realized that not starting a company was silly, given the other sewing related work I was doing.
I had been working with Mikhaela from Polka Dot Overload on some sewing projects and a bit of artwork when I decided to think about making a pattern company. I mentioned it to Mikhaela and the next thing I knew, she assigned me a work timeline and a budget estimate for the work on the first pattern, Tiramisu. I realized it was time to build a pattern company whether I wanted to or not!
What skills do you think were necessary for you to succeed at starting your own pattern company?
If nothing else, Cake is a testament to obstinacy. When I faced a hurdle in the process (there were many!), I kept working anyway. I always found a workaround, or I put in hours of work to improve my own skills.
I also held tight to my belief that I was right about sizing and grading and proportion, and that my work and ideas deserved to be produced even if I had to figure out every stage of the process as I went. Early in the process of building Cake, I had quite a few industry types dismiss my ideas but years of observation and notes told me they were wrong and I was right.
Before I started creating Cake I wrote a book on wardrobing and “pattern wardrobes.” I shopped it around to sewing/craft publishers and found an interested editor. We worked together for weeks as my proposal passed several stages of being approved. The project died in the final round of approvals and I was pretty devastated.
That turned out to be a good thing, because now I’m producing my own patterns my own way based on a book and philosophy I’ve already written. No one tells me what to do with Cake, which is occasionally scary but I’m getting used to it. Besides, making patterns is fun, probably more fun than a book.
What is your favorite part of the Pattern process?
You mean the entire production process? I’d have to say it’s when I start seeing the variety of Cake makes cropping up in blogs and my inbox and the sewalong. I really enjoy the sewalongs, too! They make me feel like I’m back in the classroom, it’s that same great feeling of basking in the glow of someone else’s sewing achievement and knowing I had a hand in making it happen.
What is/was the hardest part or the biggest learning curve?
For me, the most difficult part was realizing that I’m running a business. I never saw myself as a businesswoman, but I’ve definitely grown in this area. It’s only in the past four months or so that I have really began to grasp that it’s a business, and that “business” doesn’t have to be a dirty word.
It was also tough figuring out the workflow between the various Cake collaborators in five timezones, but I think we have a pretty decent digital workspace now and we’re used to working together.
Why did you decide to take a different approach to sizing?
I decided to do it because the current method of sizing clothing for retail or for sewing patterns is a joke. It is an anachronism, generally based on a flawed study of women’s bodies conducted in the late 40’s. I thought I could do better using logic and raw measurements, and trusting that sewists are sophisticated enough to understand how to customize their own fit based on my guidelines.
You are sophisticated! Tiramisu’s cup-proportioning and draw-your-own side seams felt like a huge gamble before I released the pattern, but the response has been everything I hoped it would be.
Who has been your biggest support and encouragement?
My husband. He’s the one who makes dinner when I have a deadline, does my sample photography,designed the Cake logo and he’s the one who reminds me that “if it were easy everyone would do it” when I’m frustrated. He also has an artistic eye for proportion and balance. When I make a new muslin, if he doesn’t like it then I think long and hard about whether or not I’ll use the design.
And I’d never, ever, in a million years do something like Cake without the support and enthusiasm of my readers on 3 Hours Past. Never. I know so many commentors by name (and read their blogs) and since we started the sewalongs I put faces to many more of these names and personalities. It’s really nice, truly a community and I’m grateful for it.
How do you get it all done and still find time to be a wife and mother?
My husband is an ecologist. In this economy, most full time entry level jobs are going to people ten years older than us. He doesn’t often work full time hours, and this means he can pick up my slack in the housework and childcare. He also does the grocery shopping. This is extremely helpful.
Do you ever get overwhelmed by it all and how do you de-stress?
Sometimes I get frustrated by delays, and twice I pitched massive temper tantrums over delays. In private! But I know exactly where I want to take Cake and I have a pretty clear idea of how to get there. It’s just a matter of working hard.
I take naps most afternoons, for about 20 minutes. This recharges my brain and it’s well worth the 20 minutes of “work time” lost.
I also strive to keep one day a week work-free. Family time is important in our house, and it’s good to spend a day being quiet and doing something nice with my husband and daughter. We often go to the beach or hiking in the woods, or laze around the house together.
Oh! And squats help- a set of 100 squats when I’ve been sitting for hours and my body aches is more refreshing than a cup of coffee.
Do you ever get to sew for yourself anymore, or is it all Cake related?
It’s all Cake, all the time. But Cake is for myself, I wear my samples. I live inside my patterns and the things I think up while I’m wearing them inform the final patternwork. In fact, that’s why I can’t join Me Made May this year- everything I wear is Cake or Future Cake and I thought it’d be weird…
Fascinating! Thanks for taking the time to share a bit more about your journey with us Steph! Come back Wednesday to read Part 2 where Steph gives her top tips for working with knits and other stashbusting secrets! If you haven't seen her two newest designs head on over to her Etsy shop and check them out. If you can't wait for the mail you can get her PDFs from Craftsy. Your pattern stash may grow but the knits may diminish!
Thanks, Emily! :) Great questions!
Very interesting Steph. Thanks Em for the interview. I have ordered all the new patterns so I expect this will be the summer of Cake!
I think the fact that you make Cake for yourself is one of the reasons behind its success. It's nice to get another behind-the-scenes glimpse! I particularly liked those questions about your family, and good for you for taking a day a week off! There's really a good reason for the seventh day!
My sister finally managed to order Tiramisu for me (it was to be a birthday gift, but she had trouble with the first pre-order for some reason.) I'm afraid it will not be here in time for the challenge, though, so I'll have to make do with another knit, possibly... But the moment I announced it to my other sister, she beamed up and yayed (or, rather, the Czech variant thereof). So there's a Tira for my sister looming in the future, as I knew it would be. :D
I've ordered the Cabarita... I'm trying to be wise and think, "Will I really wear this or do I just love it cause she made it?" Usually the answer is yes to both so I get to get them.
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