This week's featured pattern designer is Pamela Leggett from Pamela's Patterns. I have bee very fortunate to work with Pamela for the past three years selling her wholesale fabrics for Steve's Sewing and Vacuum (you will read about that below!) I've even been in her fabulous studio! Threads Magazine featured her sewing room about a year ago and let me tell you, it is a gorgeous as the photos show! Enjoy learning a little bit about Pamela and her journey through the industry.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in Michigan where both my grandmothers and mom did many types of handcrafts: sewing, knitting, crocheting, painting, weaving, beading. My mom was a great teacher and encouraged my love of sewing. I actually started earning money with my sewing skills at age 14! I’ve had many types of jobs, all related to sewing, design, teaching and business. Hands-on work was my “college”. I’ve been teaching since 1981, and it is my true passion. I love working with women. Women who sew are so giving and inspiring. When you teach, you get to hear all their amazing stories.
I spent 22 years in Connecticut where I raised my two children. My daughter sews beautifully and uses her skills to sew for people she cares about. I have four wonderful grandchildren who make me laugh all the time. I married Bill in 2005 and moved to the Philadelphia area. He has two teenage daughters who live with us part time.
My work life consists of teaching locally, traveling to teach, running Pamela’s Patterns and working for publishers such as Threads Magazine. I just finished a serger DVD with Threads called Fashion Serge, which will be released in the Fall of 2014. We are also working on a serger book/DVD combo, which will be released in the Fall of 2015.
What is a typical work day like?
I have three aspects to my work life.
Traveling – When I am traveling to teach, I have to prepare several weeks in advance so that products can be shipped to the location. The day before I leave is when I get my class plan together and pack. Once I get to the location, I have to set up my “Pamela’s Patterns Store” and get all my multi-media equipment set up prior to students arriving. Teaching all day makes it worthwhile! Then break everything down, pack it up and travel back home. Sometimes I am at the location for several days.
Teaching at Steve’s Sewing in King of Prussia, PA – This is where I teach locally. I am usually teaching there 24+ hours per week. I teach a variety of classes, private lessons and guide classes. I am also responsible for purchasing, maintaining and merchandising the fashion fabric carried in the store.
Pamela’s Patterns – My studio and warehouse is in my home, so on days when I am there, I get up and get ready for work right away (at least most of the time!). Then down to my studio to start working on Pamela’s Patterns. This usually consists of answering emails, working with my assistant on shipping and receiving, planning for classes, working on new designs and sewing. I wish I could say t
hat I get to sew all the time, but that is actually the hardest part to make time for!!
What made you want to be a pattern designer?
I am the instructor for the Palmer/Pletsch East School of Sewing where we teach a hands-on way to fit commercial patterns. Most of my customers have mature figures. I was fascinated at how the body changed as it matures. It didn’t seem to matter what the weight of the person was, it was the curves and scallops that were different. Commercial patterns are made for a youthful figure. I wanted desperately to make patterns for the changing figure so women would feel empowered to sew for themselves and be happy with the results.
Did you go to school for fashion? If so, where? If not, how did you get into what you’re doing?
I never went to a formal school for design, but I have always studied and taken classes with sewing educators I admired. I made custom patterns for students in my classes, but I was not a professional pattern maker, just self taught. In 2004, I decided to make three of my standard patterns into a multi-size pattern to make it easier on me when I was teaching. I had to learn how to grade the patterns, add graphics, print, make instructions, photograph and package. It was way more work than I thought! My editor at Threads Magazine ran a story on the patterns, and all of a sudden I was a pattern designer!
What inspires the patterns you make?
I want them to be simple to make, easy to fit, and a classic style that one would wear every day. I leave the complicated and super fashionable patterns to others!
Who is your favorite fashion designer?
I love the detailing, fabric and styling of Tahari. I try to go into their showroom at least once a year for inspiration. The clothes are beautiful on the inside as well as the outside!
What is the best thing about what you do? The hardest thing?
The best thing is the teaching – it’s what makes everything else I do worthwhile! The interaction with other women is amazing. We all learn so much from each other, and not all of it is about sewing! The hardest thing is delegating and time management. I don’t know if I will ever get that totally right!
Out of all the sewing patterns you created, which is your favorite?
Do you have a favorite pattern designer, (other than yourself!)?
I love working with the Palmer/Pletsch patterns available in McCall’s. They have all the pattern markings built in for fitting. I am a huge fan of Stretch & Sew, even though they are no longer in business. I learned so much from working with those patterns. I am excited to see the young independent pattern designers today. I hope they keep doing it!
What is your favorite fabric type?
I definitely have a love affair with knits and stretch wovens! I really like wool knits, they come in so many varieties of weights that you can wear them all year round. Silk of any kind are also faves.
What is your favorite sewing tool?
That would have to be my rotary cutter and mat. I also have a love affair with drafting and quilting rulers – I can never have enough!
Where do you go when you need to get away from it all?
Spending time with my grandchildren would be my favorite! But I also love movies, books and theatre. And the ocean!
What is your favorite food?
That would have to be lobster and sushi. And my guilty pleasure would be licorice (thanks grandma!)
What is the most common fabric/sewing-related question people ask you?
Most common fabric question – Where can I get good knits? I tell them Fabric Mart, of course!
Most common sewing question – What is the best way to sew on knits? I have lots of info on that! Just check out Pamela’s Patterns website for YouTube tutorials, downloads, DVD’s and patterns!
What is one fashion trend you love? Hate?
I love all the draping, ruching and color blocking. I hate people who where leggings like pants!
Are you working on any new patterns? Can you give us any behind-the-scenes info?
I’m working on two new patterns. The Pretty Peplum Top is made for knits and can be made with a jewel, scoop or keyhole neckline. The Softly Pleated Dress or Tunic is also made for knits and has a slightly elevated waistline and very small gentle pleats to hide tummy and “fluff”. Both garments are a lesson in proportion. They look great on all figure types once the proportion is correct! The patterns are just about ready to be sent to the printer, and then I have to finish the instructions, have the cover photography done and do a few YouTube videos. Making the pattern is just the first step!
Thanks Pamela for giving us an inside view of your busy life! I know I'm really excited about the new sewing patterns. Can't wait to buy some for our website too!