I picked up the book Stitch by Stitch in a book store years ago. There weren’t a ton of sewing books on the market then and this one stood out with its great projects and attention to detail. I knew right away when I started reading it that a real sewer wrote it–a real sewer and a real teacher. And that is exactly what the author, Deborah Moebes is! Since then Deborah has written another fantastic book and grown her blog, Whipstitch, into a thriving business. She not only still sews and teaches, but she creates video tutorials for her patterns and has an extensive e-course collection. I was excited to interview Deborah and her more about her and her business.
- When did you learn to sew and who taught you?
My mother and grandmother always sewed, so for me growing up, it never occurred to me not to! But I didn’t take it seriously or truly learn to love it until I worked in the costume shop in college, and began to see that sewing could go beyond the practical and become truly artistic. That’s where my love for working with beautiful fabrics and exploring new shapes was born, and where I discovered that sewing could really be a balm to the soul in tough times. I sewed my way through graduate school, and it totally kept me sane!
- When did you first start designing your own patterns? Do you remember what the first pattern you made was?
It wasn’t until I had my second child that I really began to make my own patterns. Up until then, I exclusively worked with store-bought patterns, and it felt like this amazing epiphany when I realized that I could make my own! The discovery was almost like realizing I was a superhero and had just discovered my super power. The first pattern I drafted was a sweet girls’ jumper with a yoke and patch pockets. It seems pretty simple looking back, but I thought I would burst with pride.
- How did you make the jump from making your own patterns to selling them? Was there anyone specific who influenced you?
When I first started sewing for a living, I was manufacturing children’s clothing for a local boutique co-op. I wasn’t making a lot of sales, but was offered the chance to teach classes and thought that would be a great way to supplement my clothing business. Pretty soon, classes were selling way better than clothes, and I gave up manufacturing (forever–thank goodness!). I kept all the patterns, and used them to teach my classes–and it wasn’t long before I saw that folks would love to buy the patterns themselves, no matter where they lived. I loved the freedom that PDF patterns provides, and how it makes it possible to design and sell with very little investment, and to purchase patterns from all over the world instantly. It’s been really exciting to see the market grow and change, and my business do the same right along with it!
- What made you want to teach people to sew?
I taught high school for almost ten years, so part of me figured teaching sewing would be easy peasy. What I didn’t anticipate was how exciting and fulfilling and magical it would be to introduce people to the sewing machine. The way it can change lives is astounding–and I tell students all the time that you can’t keep secrets at the sewing machine, any upset or anger or fear or anything always comes out. It’s like therapy, but cheaper and you have something pretty to show for your trouble afterward! I think that’s what keeps me coming back: I can see, so tangibly, that sewing matters and changes people’s lives.
- Some of your patterns are even mini-classes! They are called Learn as You Sew patterns. Could you tell us a bit about this new and exciting format?
I am so, so excited about this series!! These patterns combine my two loves: teaching sewing and making beautiful clothes. Each pattern is designed to teach and cement foundational sewing skills as you sew up a garment. They’re all tablet friendly and interactive, with embedded video links that allow you to work through the pattern as an e-course, with step-by-step guidance the entire way; with a little help here and there, using just the videos you need; or as a traditional sewing pattern. I love that they really open up the boundaries of garment sewing for folks who are just getting started, but are also great shapes and pieces that stitchers of any skill level would want to add to their wardrobe–the Get Up & Go Skirt is a great wardrobe staple, and I’ve got two year-round dresses coming out this spring that I love!
- What has designing and selling patterns taught you about sewing? drafting? business? life? pick one or all 😉
Haha! Well, everything, really! I joke that sewing is therapy, but I’m only partly joking–I have found a zillion metaphors at the machine for life that have helped me be a better human being. I get to see all the different training I’ve gained over the course of working as a teacher, an archaeologist, a writer, and as a mom come together, and feed into the way I teach sewing to others. It’s enormously empowering to feel like I’ve really found a place where the things I love most can all roll together and be expressed at my sewing machine. I’ve learned that sewing is a small-scale reflection of our lives: everything’s an adventure; it’s OK to make mistakes; friends who get your brand of crazy and love it are the best kind of friends to have; and you get out of everything exactly the amount of love and sweat you put into it. Sewing has been my longest and truest teacher.
- What would you tell someone who wants to make and maybe even sell their own patterns?
Do it!! Start by sewing, sewing, sewing as much as you can. Learn what you like and what it is that sets you apart. And then give it a whirl! There are so many ideas left to have, but it takes a certain temperament to turn them into sewing patterns–you could be the next Game Changer, but you’ll never know if you don’t jump in!
- You also have a new class on sewing knits without a serger! Could you tell us a bit more about it?
This is a class I developed after teaching it in person for years. My goal is to debunk the idea that in order to sew with knit fabrics. you HAVE to have special equipment–and that, by extension, to sew clothing you have to have fancy skills. Not true! I want everyone who sews to try sewing their own clothes, because I love the jubilation that comes with wearing something you’ve crafted yourself. This class covers all the basics: what knit fabrics are, what tools to use to make them behave, and how to sew them just on your sewing machine. We make a tank top, a skirt, a pair of lounge pants, and a tee shirt–all without a serger in sight! And once you make your own tee shirts and leggings, it’s hard to ever go back to store-bought–they’re just so quick and satisfying!
- What are your plans for Whipstitch in the future?
The next year is all about new patterns! I’ve got a huge list of upcoming Learn As You Sew patterns in the works, and am developing some of my older kids’ patterns from previous e-courses into stand-alone titles, too. Lots of dresses and skirts and tops coming along! I’ve also got two new e-courses in development with a mess of video that I’m pretty excited about–I can’t say much just yet, but I think folks are going to be really excited about them (especially moms…shhhh!).
- Any sewing going on this KCW?
Always! I’m in the final stages of prepping my next kids’ pattern, a dress for girls, and am making sample after sample after sample of that one–it has some great collar and sleeve variations, and I keep seeing more and more fabric that would look great in that style! I’m really ready to share it with everyone, so I suspect you’ll all see Instagram sneak peeks all KCW long.
Thank you so much, Deborah! And now for the giveaway! One lucky winner will get all Whipstitch children’s patterns: the Overmost, the Pinafore. And you will win Deborah’s e-course How to Sew Knits without a Serger! All together it’s a prize package worth over $100! Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter by Wednesday Feb 4. This giveaway is open to international entries, void where prohibited by law. Winner will receive 2 PDF patterns and 1 e-course.
Good Luck and HappyKCW!