I grew up next to beautiful Fiordland National Park in New Zealand's southern lakes district. Here on a rural sheep farm I learnt many needle crafts from my mother, but sewing was the one that suited my level of patience the most! I learnt to sew on her Elna Supermatic at the kitchen table, and traced patterns from Neue Mode magazines onto newsprint from The Southland Times.
Initially I trained as a radiographer then a sonographer, before travelling overseas. I backpacked throughout Europe and Asia with my camera, wistfully dreaming of becoming a travel photographer.
Self employment of some sort beckoned, and I chose the garment industry because of my existing skills and interest in fashion. I trained in Dunedin and Auckland, studying garment assembly and patternmaking.
My first job was as design room assistant for a company producing clothing for mature women. I was the youngest there by far, but learnt a lot of traditional techniques from the workroom staff. The designer would share with me her 'tricks of the trade' - her words - and so my collection of tutorials is named in her honour. Oh - and she gave me my dress form that I still use today!
Having done my groundwork there, I moved to a patternmaking position with a high end ready to wear designer/retailer for the next three years There we produced primarily womenswear - from casual to dressy, tailoring to evening wear, with menswear and jeans thrown into the mix.
During this time I began designing my own label, working nights and weekends to supply a couple of local boutiques. I left to concentrate full time on growing the business, and soon opened a boutique with an adjoining workroom - having totally outgrown the spare bedroom of our house!
I worked hard designing collections, patterning and sewing the samples myself, as well as wholesale sales and generally managing the business. The cut and make was contracted out to local cutters, factories and outworkers. I developed a small inhouse team, and with fabric continually coming and going from our premises in it's various forms - from bolts of cloth, to cut bundles, and finally finished goods on hangers, it sometimes felt more like a courier depot! I showed at the early New Zealand Fashion Weeks and the label became stocked in about 20 boutiques throughout Australasia.
They say having children changes everything, and it did for me - I plateaued. Trying to do too much took it's toll on my energy and will, and something had to give. I decided that working from home making pretty wedding dresses was the answer! I loved consulting with brides and realising their vision, working with beautiful silks and laces, days spent in fittings, hand beading, and perfecting new construction techniques - this became my new passion for the next five years.
But now we are renovating our Victorian-era villa things are on hold - gorgeous couture gowns don't mix well with sandpaper dust and paint! I'm not sure I will return to bridal either - at the moment I am patternmaking part time for one of New Zealand's top design companies and I am happy there. They are one of the few still manufacturing in New Zealand - my window overlooks the factory floor, and I get to make interesting patterns all day to the hum and whirr of sewing machines!
Plus, the work/life balance is perfect - allowing me to have fun with my family at home, sew through some of my stash, and blog about it!
More about me (sometimes too much!):
Heart Couture - The story of how open heart surgery inspired a collection
Beautiful Blogger Award - nine personal questions answered as part of the fun!