September 25, 2017

How Cashmerette Patterns are developed

Howdy friends!

It’s a super busy time here at Cashmerette Towers, as we’re getting the next batch of patterns ready to print, and testing the batch after that… and developing the batch after that! In fact, so much is going on that I thought I might part the curtains a little bit and give you some insight into how are patterns are developed – and why you might have to wait a little longer for some of them 🙂

Every pattern company has a slightly different process, so what we do is by no means common to all. It mostly reflects my corporate background, which I incorporated into our business without really thinking about it – it’s only now that I reflect and see how similar it is! And, it’s changed over time. But the key thing is that it enables us to regularly launch high quality patterns that make women feel great, and if that’s working well, then I’m happy.

Our latest studio when we’d just moved in! (less tidy now…)

How it all starts: the design idea

I think it’s common to think that running a pattern company is mostly about designing but I’ll let you into a secret: that’s really a tiny part of it. I suspect it’s less than a week a year to do the initial development work for all our patterns, because it’s really everything else to bring it to market that takes most of our time and energy.

I decide on future patterns and design them, mostly by thinking about my needs as a plus size woman with a large bust, and looking at what other women like me are sewing, and wearing. Fashion shows? Honestly I’m basically not interested, which makes me feel like a bad “designer” sometimes. But then I remind myself that 99% of us don’t wear “fashion” most of the time – and I want to focus on launching patterns that will actually be worn rather than aspired to.

Donna and I: wearing what looks awesome, rather than “fashion”.

As we’re still a fairly new company – 2 years old next month – and we have a totally unique size approach with cup sizing up to an H, we actually have a little more leeway than the average pattern company. It doesn’t really matter if a style of pattern already exists – say a button-down shirt – because if it doesn’t fit women up to a size 28 and a cup size H, then there’s still room for a Cashmerette Pattern.

I tend to have a rough idea of the kinds of patterns I want to design (i.e. the category, like jeans, or a shirtdress) for about the following 12 months, but it does change an awful lot – just ask Carrie and Ashley who work with me and often help brainstorm! Changes typically happen based on how long something’s taking to develop and how testing’s going, which means that some things have a very long lead time before they end up in your hands.

Pattern Drafting

All Cashmerette Patterns are drafted by professional, industrial-trained pattern drafters, because it’s a very advanced skill, where lots of experience makes a huge difference in quality. I communicate my design plans to the drafter, and sometimes share reference garments, or photos for inspiration. Then, they get to work. I get back a file of a first draft in our base size (the 18 E/F), and sew up a sample. The first time I did this was quite a shock to the system, when I realised there are no instructions! But you rapidly learn (and research) construction techniques, and my sewing has come on leaps and bounds ever since I launched the company. The first sample is tried on our amazing Alvaform mannequin, but also on me, as I’m close to our 18 (I’m more like the 18 G/H with a 20 waist, but we take that into consideration). Then, there are rounds of refinements. Depending on the pattern this can be anything from 2 rounds to 20! The Harrison Shirt, for instance, took over 18 months to develop, with many, many muslins in the meantime.

Figuring out the best way to sew the Webster Dress straps cleanly… it took ages!

Once I’m happy with the base size, the pattern gets graded. Because we created underlying “blocks” for our patterns at the very start, we use them as a reference for grading, which also means our patterns are always graded intelligently for plus size bodies – no super long arms or bizarre lengths here.

The next major step is testing, but a lot goes on between that graded pattern and being ready for testers. The pattern is sent to me as solid lines, so I work to transform them into the PDF pattern pieces you’re familiar with,  with all the various dotted lines and labels, and create the instructions in Adobe Illustrator (an incredibly steep learning curve, though I’m pretty fast these days). Carrie proof reads everything, and we usually go through a few rounds of optimizing instructions, changing the order of steps and figuring out what additional info might be needed.

Pattern testing

Not all pattern companies test, but for me, it’s absolutely critical. Not only do I want a bunch of people to review the pattern and instructions to find errors or improvements, but I also want to get their reaction to the garment itself, how they feel in it, and how it looks on a wide variety of bodies other than mine. We use a mix of “OG” testers who’ve been helping for years, and new testers to get a range of perspectives, and it’s always a somewhat nerve-wracking time period when the results start trickling in. I take testing very seriously: if testers have issues with the pattern, we will always dig in, and refine if necessary. That’s also why I don’t require testers to post their makes on social media: these are meant to be muslins, that are likely to be refined and improved, not the final thing. If you’re not going to make changes after testing, what’s the point in testing at all?

I’m fine with selfies, but Gillian has amazing tester photos! (the pattern changed a little bit after this pic was taken)

Most patterns go through one testing round, but trickier ones may have multiple rounds. An upcoming pattern just entered its third testing round! Ultimately, it’s more important to get it right than do it quickly, which is why you will often see a few simpler patterns coming out before a more complex one.

On to production

After testing, we make the changes needed to the pattern and instructions, and then work with our graphic designer to get everything laid out in a clear way that’s consistent with our branding. It’s also photoshoot time! Somehow we ALWAYS seem to be in a rush by the photoshoot, between sewing up samples, recruiting models, co-ordinating photographer and hair/make up artist schedules and getting everything to the studio, but it’s always a rewarding, if intense, day.

Behind the scenes of our latest shoot!

Right now, we use non-models, who are often customers of ours, and it’s a joy to not only see them looking beautiful in our clothes but also feeling super confident, and in many cases, doing their first photo shoot! We’re actively working on increasing our diversity across multiple factors, so look forward to seeing some incredibly beautiful women coming up.

Model Rachel (who I randomly approached in a bar) = badass

Once the envelope, instruction booklet and pattern pieces are ready, it’s off to the printers. We have separate printers for the envelopes & instruction booklets, and the pattern tissue itself, and then get sent back to us where we assemble the printed patterns by hand in our studio. I create the PDF versions, both for print at home and copyshop, and get those ready too.

Carrie’s favourite time of year: her “we have carry all these boxes up the stairs?!” face

Nearly launch time!

I try to create patterns in batches (it’s efficient and saves us money), but we launch them over time rather than at one go, and there’s still a bunch of work to do once everything’s in the studio. We have to edit photos, create the store listings, upload the PDF patterns to our automatic-fulfillment app, write the blog post and announcement email, send a pre-order email to our retailers and distributors, an announcement to our media contacts, and prepare everything for social media. It’s always a bit of a whirlwind!

Me trying to get everything done the day before the Upton Sleeves launch

Aaaaaaaand, launch.

And then it’s launch day! Always exciting, and have no doubt: I spend the entire day refreshing my phone and computer to see your comments and the orders coming in. Spending so long on a pattern – usually at least 6 months – and then finally releasing into the wild is always emotional, and I’m always nervous to see the reception and then really pleased if (when!) it’s positive. It’s the end of a huge amount of work – but there’s always the next pattern coming up right behind it.

I will never not be amazed at seeing our patterns on shelves!

So that’s us! There’s a team of nearly 10 people who work on getting Cashmerette Patterns from random ideas in my head to patterns in your hands, and they’re all essential to the process. It’s definitely hard work being a full time small-business owner, and there are moments when I’m creating website banners at 11pm and pondering why I left the corporate life.

But you know what? I’ve never regretted it, for a minute. Launching Cashmerette Patterns has been my life’s work and I’m absolutely thrilled to have created something with an amazing team, and to see the reactions of our customers when they feel incredibly confident and radiant in a brand new garment. It really makes it all worthwhile.

Do you have any questions you’ve been dying to ask about how we launch our patterns or run our business? I’m an open book!

September 18, 2017

My ultimate “fancy” dress: navy overlay Turner Dress

When I was about 28, everyone got married. I mean, it felt like everyone at least. (OK fine, everyone I know, maybe not EVERYONE). So it’s been a while since I was on the wedding circuit, but this summer it perked back up again, and I had the pleasure of popping back to the UK for two nuptial celebrations (including my brother’s!). However, those of you know who know the UK will be aware of my dilemma: what to wear. It could be freezing! It could be boiling! Who knows! And, these days, I’m extremely intolerant of constricting or uncomfortable clothes, especially at epic 13 hour British weddings (I kid you not, 11am – 1am is standard; thankfully, most of them have a bacon sandwich break mid-evening).

Enter: my navy burnout velvet overlay Turner Dress!

Dears, this is THE SOLUTION for what ails you, “fancy” garments wise. It’s brought me boundless compliments, and yet, it’s a jersey dress. Meaning: super comfy, doesn’t crease in the suitcase, and for British purposes, it’s reasonably warm without being boiling. Perfect!

I wore it to both weddings (I KNOW, but I’m just not posh enough for “one time only” per dress, folks), and didn’t regret it for a second. I paired it with these amazing handmade-in-Italy M.Gemi nude-on-me block heels, which are the shoe equivalent of this very dress: totally comfortable, chic, but deceptively fancy (check M.Gemi out here and get $50 off your pair!). For those interested, my trusty gold belt is from J.Crew online, where they have plus/extended sizes that they don’t have in-store.

The navy burn-out stretch velvet was quite the find: I snagged some at Rimmon in LA (wholesale-only), but I know that Stitch Sew Shop in Alexandria had some for a while too, so it may be hidden away in fabric shops all over the land. It doesn’t fray, so I decided not to hem it, and let the hem and sleeves just show the pattern in all its glory.

Constructing an overlay Turner Dress is super easy, so long as you have a decently stretchy overlay fabric:

  • Cut the bodice (front & back) and skirt out of your jersey underlayer
  • Cut the entire dress out of your overlay
  • Sew the lined bodice using the overlay as the “main” fabric and jersey as the lining
  • Sew in the overlay-only sleeves
  • Make two skirts, one of jersey and one of overlay, then baste them together at the waist
  • Join to the bodice, and voila! Easy peasy.

You may also be thinking to yourself “my, Jenny, what an incredibly coordinated backdrop you found there!”. Well trust me, I did a little yelp when I saw it. My brother Tom took these great photos and was a little underwhelmed but I had to explain that in blogger land a door that matches your dress, and a complementary pastel coloured wooden stable door is what dreams are made of. I’ve always aspired to a somewhat “Boden” feel with Cashmerette (my #1 source of RTW clothes, pre-sewing) and when we were wandering around Chelsea it became totally apparent that this is in fact where they take all of their London pics. Watch out for this charming door in the future!

Of course, you always feel pretty stupid taking blog photos on the street, especially with various casual observers. But at least no-one answered the door…..

Have you made an overlay Turner? It’s rapidly becoming my default for when I need a new special-occasion dress (remember my polka dotted one?). I predict more in the future! Now I just need some more people to get married…

September 11, 2017

Introducing sleeves for the Cashmerette Upton Dress!

You asked… so we made it happen. Ever since we launched the Cashmerette Upton Dress, we’ve had a lot of questions about adding sleeves, so today I’m pleased to announce the Cashmerette Upton Dress Sleeves Expansion pack. There are three styles of sleeve included (cap, tie and flutter), and they all work well with the existing sleeveless armscye without re-drafting!

Cashmerette Upton Dress Sleeves

There are three ways to buy the Upton Dress Sleeve Expansion pack, which includes all the sleeve types in all sizes:

  • Already have the Upton Dress, and just want the sleeves? Get yours here.
  • Want to buy both the Upton Dress and the sleeves?
    • If you want a printed Upton Dress, and the sleeve PDF download, click here.
    • If you want a PDF Upton Dress and the sleeve PDF, click here.

Cashmerette Upton Dress Sleeves

Let’s take a closer look at the sleeves! Our first Upton Dress sleeve is a totally classic cap style which gives a really lovely silhouette and covers up your shoulders. And, it works for the Springfield Top too.

For this sample, we used a gorgeous chambray – and it’s available as a kit, including the sleeves. If you want to make this exact dress, you can get your kit here – and it’s 25% off this week (no coupon needed).

Cashmerette Upton Dress Sleeves

Cashmerette Upton Dress Sleeves

Cashmerette Upton Dress Sleeves

The next Upton Dress Sleeve is a fun tie-sleeve that’s a nod to the cold shoulder trend but with a bit more coverage. The sleeve is fully lined, so you can either use a contrast lining and get a peek of it at the ties, or you can use the same fabric for a sleek look.

SOLD OUT This dress is also available as a kit! We have very limited quantities of this one, so snap yours up at 25% off if you’re interested.

Cashmerette Upton Dress Sleeves

Cashmerette Upton Dress Sleeves

And the final Upton Dress Sleeve is a flutter! This is a full sleeve which is fantastic in drapey fabrics like silk, rayon or chiffon. It’s also easy to shorten or lengthen if you want a really dramatic sleeve look!

And, another kit 🙂 Get your pink and blue rayon Upton Dress kit here (again, 25% off).

Cashmerette Upton Dress Sleeves

Cashmerette Upton Dress Sleeves

I’m looking forward to seeing all your sleeved Uptons – don’t forget to tag us with #UptonDress when you post on social media!

Cashmerette Upton Dress Sleeves

August 25, 2017

Curvy Sewing Education Week: Sew a professional collar (video)

It’s the last day of Curvy Sewing Education Week and I saved the best for last: a video from our online workshop, Shirtmaking For Curves, where I teach you techniques that aren’t in the instruction booklet for how to get a really professional-looking collar on any shirt or shirtdress. And your final reminder that you can get 25% off ALL our online workshops using code EDUCATIONWEEK until Aug 31 – we won’t be doing another workshop sale this year, so now’s a great time to sign up!

Enjoy this video – and let me know if you have any questions!


August 24, 2017

Curvy Sewing Education Week: Sew a tulip-back tank (video)

Next up on Curvy Sewing Education Week, I’m sharing a video from my online workshop Pattern Hacking for Curves: 1 Top, 10 Ways (you can get 25% off the workshop price until Aug 31 by using code EDUCATIONWEEK).

I absolutely love pattern hacking, especially once I have a base pattern that fits me well. Instead of having to do alterations 10 times for 10 garments, I just do it on one, and then use that pattern to create 10 garments I know will fit. In this online workshop, I teach you tons of tips and techniques to hack the Springfield Top, and in this video that I’m sharing today, you’ll learn how to make a super cute tulip back top pattern hack.

Let me know if you have any questions about the video, or if you’ve had success with this alteration!

August 23, 2017

Curvy Sewing Education Week: Bust Fitting Roundup

Today we’re going tackle one of the most common fitting challenges: the bust! Plus size women are disproportionately likely to have a large bust, and yet… most patterns are drafted for a B or C at best. Of course, you can always use Cashmerette Patterns – they go up to an H cup! – but what should you do when you really want to make another pattern that doesn’t go up so far?

Online fitting workshop

The first resource I’d recommend is our Fitting for Curves online workshop – and you can get 25% off with code EDUCATIONWEEK until Aug 31st. If you’re a visual learner, and like more explanation of the “whys” in alterations, this is for you! The workshop includes 7 lessons just about bust adjustments (along with lessons on other body areas):

  • How to figure out if you need bust adjustments and how to measure yourself
  • Full Bust Adjustments on a 2 dart and 1 dart bodice
  • Full Bust Adjustments on a dartless bodice
  • Full Bust Adjustments on a princess seamed bodice
  • Full Bust Adjustments on a knit bodice
  • How to raise or lower darts
  • How to split and rotate darts


In addition, here is a round up of tutorials from Cashmerette and the Curvy Sewing Collective which are a good introduction to the world of bust adjustments:

Are there any other bust fitting tips or techniques you’d like to learn? We’re always looking for new opportunities to teach on the blog!

August 22, 2017

Curvy Sewing Education Week: Learn how to fix a gaping neckline

Hi everyone! First up today, I’m sharing a video from our Fitting for Curves online workshop – remember you can get 25% off the full workshop if you enroll by 31 August using code EDUCATIONWEEK!

Gaping necklines are a pretty common problem, and often one that’s hard to anticipate before you have a muslin. Sometimes, it just indicates that the garment is too big for you – check to see if the shoulders are falling off your shoulders, or the whole thing seems baggy, in which case you should start by going down a size.

However, sometimes, even if the rest of a garment fits, the neckline doesn’t. That can happen for a number of reasons: for instance, you might have a lower bust than the pattern is designed for, or the angle of your shoulder to bust is slightly different. But not to worry: fixing a gaping neckline is actually pretty easy. In this video from the Fitting for Curves online workshop I show you how to diagnose a gaping neckline, how to fix it, and what it will look like after the alteration.

I hope you found that helpful! Do you have any other questions about fixing a gaping neckline?


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