I learned about Beth and Sew DIY when I was researching companies for Sew My Style 2020 last year. Her product line was recommended by another pattern designer because of the inclusive size range (US size 0-32).
Then I learned she lives in the Los Angeles area too and we became fast sewing friends! Before Pandemic Times (TM), we had planned to showcase one of her patterns together since we have drastically different body types. Beth is very tall and I am very not.
One day we can hopefully return to that plan! In the meantime, the Sew DIY Ali sweatshirt is the SMS20 gender-neutral pattern for November. As such, Beth agreed to answer a few questions about her journey and Sew DIY.
What is your name? My name is Beth Wood.
What is your company’s name and how did you come up with it? My company is named Sew DIY. I started blogging in 2006 under the Lula Louise. At that time, I did a wider variety of crafts but over the years, I really focused on sewing.
In 2014, I wanted to start selling my pattern designs and I thought it was a good time to get a new name that was easier to spell, easier to pronounce, and actually had the word “sew” in it. I feel like Sew DIY is pretty generic but that was partly intentional because I wanted it to be really explicit about my topics as opposed to my old name, which was just cute (also very 2006 to have a cute blog name).
How long has your company existed? I started Sew DIY in 2014 and released my first pattern, the Lou Box Top, in January 2015. (Editor’s note: I love the Lou Box Top pattern and hacked it a few different ways!)
When did you decide to become a pattern designer? Back in 2004/2005, I had a job designing sewing projects to accompany digital embroidery designs. The projects and patterns were all pdfs and included on a CD with the designs that people would install on their sewing machines.
For that job, I was designing things under the company name and even writing instructions for other designers. But, I really wanted to create something under my own name and that I’d have ownership of. At that time, it wasn’t as easy to sell pdfs on the internet but even then I knew that I wanted to sell digital pdfs. It just took a few years for the technology to catch up and make it really easy.
What inspired you to start creating patterns? I started sewing as a teenager because it was really hard to find clothing that fit my height. (I’m 5’11”.) Sewing my own clothing is the easiest and the most fun way to get clothes that fit and that I love. I’m a maker and designer at heart and I just can’t imagine not coming up with new ideas that I want to share. I really love problem-solving and making things as simple as possible.
For my patterns, I always strive to make the construction as easy and stress-free as possible. I truly love sewing and I want other people to have a positive experience when they use my patterns.
What background do you have in pattern design (self-taught, technical schooling, etc)? I’m a self-taught pattern designer but I have a lot of experience in related fields that really help my work.
In college, I majored in mathematics with a minor in studio art. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with that degree but I had realized my senior year that what I loved doing most was solving problems and creating visual art. So, I went back to school and earned a BFA in graphic design.
I use my graphic design and math skills all the time in pattern drafting. When it comes to sewing, I took garment sewing classes in high school and college. I’ve now been sewing clothing for 25 years.
What’s your favorite flavor ice cream and do you prefer a cone or a bowl? Rocky Road and gluten-free cone (if available). Sadly, most of the time I have to have a bowl because I need to eat GF.
In the epic battle of cake vs pie, which dessert do you prefer and why? I love both but I think I’d have to choose cake. I just can’t get excited about pie crust. I’ve been known to only eat the filling from the pie.
Are you #teamcut or #teamtrace? Most of the time, I’m #teamcut. I’m too impatient to be a good tracer. I’m always forgetting to trace some essential pattern marking.
Is your sewing space messy? Can we see a picture? Right now, it’s fairly clean. But, I generally have projects just in piles everywhere. When I get new ideas, I tend to take everything out of the drawers and closet. But eventually, it becomes overwhelming and I end up putting it all away again.
If you didn’t have sewing, what would your creative outlet be? Probably knitting. I actually learned to knit before I learned to sew. I used to knit more often than I have since moving to Los Angeles. It’s so warm here, that I’m not very motivated to make sweaters.
What is the barrier for designers and companies to make more menswear patterns that are modern and current, especially as the men’s sewing community grows? That’s a really interesting question. Maybe just interest? I generally only sew or design things that I like wearing and I think a lot of pattern designers are similar. Spending a lot of time designing for men just isn’t that interesting to me. That said, this year, I added gender-neutral to some of my patterns.
Many of my patterns are very basic shapes and translate easily to different bodies. It just made sense to me to market them that way. I want my patterns to be versatile and used multiple times. So I really like the idea that you can use it for yourself and for someone else.
For my Quilted Slippers pattern, it was really important to me to make sure that the sizing went up pretty big and included men’s sizes. Again, I wanted it to be a pattern that could be used by almost everyone in the family. So, I designed it to go up to a US men’s size 14.
I have personally struggled a lot with finding shoes and slippers that fit my feet. From my research, I found a lot of kids and small women’s size patterns on the market but didn’t find any that went up to a large men’s size. I wanted everyone to have the same opportunity to have cute, handmade slippers.
Would you design any of the following, and if so, who would your client be (living or dead)?
- Wedding dress for royalty?
- Red carpet attire?
- Children’s wear?
I’d love to design red carpet attire but only for myself.
When was the last time you sewed something for yourself and what was it? I made myself a one-piece swimsuit. I used a vintage Stretch & Sew pattern. Very basic, but a great wardrobe builder.
What has been your all-time most challenging sewing project? In 2008, I made a costume for my brother and his bandmate to wear for a musical performance art piece they did at LACMA. They created the concept for the project and I designed and constructed it. It was immensely complicated and I stayed up until 5 am the night before their performance.
Their entire bodies were covered in black fabric and there was a tube that connected them at the stomach. The tube needed to have structure/boning so that it didn’t sag. Plus, I made them apron style garments that they could carry their musical instruments in. I did not like staying up all night but I’d love to design more wild costumes for performers.
What do you hope people gain from using your patterns? I hope that people make garments that the love sewing and love wearing. I hope that it inspires them to sew more and to gain confidence in their own sewing skills.
What’s your favorite libation? It’s so hard to pick one. In the morning, it’s coffee and in the evening, it’s wine.
Click here to read all the Sew My Style Designer Q&As.
New to Sew My Style? Learn more and join in here.
Sew My Style 2020 includes these talented sewists, catch up on their #SMS20 posts:
Aaronica @ The Needle & The Bell | Ari @ Max California | Minna @ The Shapes of Fabric | Carol @ Chatterstitch | Michele @ WinMichele | Julian @ Julian Creates | Florence @ FTMom3 | Kelsey @ Seam Lined Living | Kris @ Sew Notes | Laura @ The Specky Seamstress | Samantha @ The Rural Sewist | Sarah @ Haraz Handmade | Shelby @ Handmade Shelby | and SMS20 Coordinator Paulette @ Petite Font
To stay up-to-date with all the #SMS20 news, pattern discounts and inspiration, be sure to subscribe to the newsletter at Sew My Style 2020.