Pattern Scout – Sew My Style 2020 Designer Q&A

Image of Pattern Scout owner and designer Casey Sibley. She is wearing her hair up, and an orange and lavender cross-front blouse.

Pattern Scout’s Lulu Cardigan is one of the featured patterns this month for Sew My Style. When PS designer Casey suggested the pattern, I was excited because it has been on my to-make list for quite some time!

Casey was originally an architect before designing her own patterns! She outlines her journey to become a pattern designer below in a really great story. Enjoy!

What is your name? Casey Sibley

What is your company’s name and how did you come up with it? I own the indie sewing pattern company, Pattern Scout. I came up with the name not long after I started sewing my wardrobe in 2018.

I had been sewing my whole life, but when I started sewing my clothing, I had this unexpected and intense love of the hobby immediately. I was constantly on the hunt for new patterns to sew. So Pattern Scout felt like an accurate description of my obsession. And it also kind of made me think of a Girl Scout, learning new skills and advancing in my craft.

Plus the name “Scout” has always been one that my mom and I love (being the nickname of a main character in To Kill a Mockingbird). I even named my dog Scout haha. He’s twelve now!

How long has your company existed? I started my blog in 2018 around the same time that I started sewing my wardrobe. I knew immediately that it was going to be my “thing”. So I secured the website, email, and social handle at that time.

In February of 2019 I released my first sewing pattern, a purse pattern called the Luna Crossbody. In June of 2019, I released my first apparel pattern, the Fern Top.

When did you decide to become a pattern designer? I decided to start designing patterns early in 2019. I was sewing and drafting patterns for myself constantly and learning a ton. I had never been so passionate and driven to do anything the way I was with designing and sewing garments. The possibilities felt (and still feel) endless. So it was a natural progression for me.

What inspired you to start creating patterns? Before starting Pattern Scout, I had a business under my own name where I designed fabrics and handmade bags and accessories that I sold wholesale to boutiques and shops.

As that business became busier, the production workload was becoming more than I could reasonably handle. I had a little help after hiring seamstresses, but then I was overwhelmed with the pressure of having someone rely on me for a paycheck when business was up and down constantly. And I didn’t really want to grow so much that I needed manufacturing to mass-produce gift products.

I had reached a point where I had to invest in growth or pivot. It was a lot to think about and manage. I loved being a product designer and loved being my own boss, but was completely exhausted and burned out. I knew something needed to change in order to be able to sustain it, make a decent living doing it, and feel good about what I was creating.

I had also taught creative classes and loved sharing my process with others. So I started brainstorming ways to lighten my physical workload while maintaining the creative heart of what I did. I had toyed with designing accessories patterns for a couple of years. But I wasn’t sure how to make it happen yet or how lucrative it would be. I didn’t really know how to tap into that customer, either. Would I be able to make a legitimate income from it? Would I even have time to devote to figuring it out on top of my production demands? This was all before I even knew about the sewing community online.

I had also been thinking about sewing garments for myself, but at that time I was so burned out sewing for my accessories business that I thought I hated sewing. My body ached at the thought of it. And the last time I had sewn clothing for myself was in high school…and it wasn’t great because my knowledge was so limited and I gave up on it. The styles and resources available back then were pretty outdated and not very attractive to me. As an adult, I was pretty discouraged by the idea that I might fail at making a garment.

At some point, I was following someone on Instagram who followed someone who made clothing and it opened up this little hidden (to me) gateway into the world of garment sewing. I was slowly inching my way into the online sewing community, lurking quietly and watching people make all of these amazing garments. 

Finally, I decided to make myself a Kelly Anorak by Closet Core Patterns (I know, an ambitious start!). It was the type of garment that I could never find with a bodice and sleeves that fit my long torso and arms. The instructions were so thorough and the jacket turned out really nice. I still wear it constantly. As soon as I tried that jacket on for the first time, I was thrilled. I immediately started looking for more to sew. I was making a lot of basics at first. And I even made myself jeans (that actually fit!) early on in my obsession. It was just so empowering and amazing to me. I couldn’t get enough.

Eventually I was hacking patterns and drafting my own patterns to satiate my desire to sew more and make the things that I wasn’t finding in the market. I was just having so much fun with it, and turning it into a business wasn’t something I was aiming for yet. It didn’t take long at all for people to ask “what pattern is that??”. 

I was really intimidated about designing patterns to sell at first since I was untrained as a patternmaker. With a bit of encouragement from fellow sewing friends, I decided to figure it out and make it happen. I knew that I loved it, and I understood the customer…because I was the customer! I’m really grateful to those that nudged me in that direction. I found a pattern grader and learned a lot about that process through working with her (now I do my own grading). A few months after releasing my first garment pattern, I shut down my other business entirely. I knew it was the right time, and I could see the potential in patternmaking as a sustainable livelihood. I haven’t looked back since (and my stress level has decreased significantly).

I should also mention that I love digging into the logistical details of running businesses, too. I feel like no matter what I end up being into at the moment, I’ll probably turn it into a business somehow! Sometimes people say things in the theme of, “Don’t turn your hobby into a business!” and that has always been a weird thing to hear (and kind of dismissive and negative unsolicited advice). I’m like, why?! I love this. It’s definitely not for everyone, but if I love it, why not give it a shot? And sharing something I love with so many people is very affirming and brings me a lot of joy.

What background do you have in pattern design (self-taught, technical schooling, etc)? My pattern design education has come from YouTube, e-courses, books, blogs and sewing A LOT, basically my whole life. I’ve sewn nearly every day for the last few years. I don’t have any formal pattern design training, although I hate to say that I am self-taught because I have benefitted from all the thorough resources available on the topic. I also have a *somewhat* intense, self-motivated personality and have a hard time walking away from projects–I love digging into the details and problem solving of patternmaking and fitting. It lights up my brain!

My educational and professional background before pattern design was as an architect and I find that a lot of those same visualization, spatial understanding, problem solving, and project management skills are crucial to patternmaking.

Architecture also employs a lot of the same drafting and design tools as any other design field. That software and technical knowledge has been very useful to me in all of my design ventures, and especially patternmaking and writing and illustrating pattern instructions.

My background taught me a lot about how to turn an idea into reality and be diligent about making things happen (and have a thick skin about trying new things and taking risks with my creativity). I’m very grateful for that. (I’m sure to remind my parents of all of this when we talk about the fact that I’m no longer working in the field I went to school for haha.)

What’s your favorite flavor ice cream and do you prefer a cone or a bowl? Okay, I’m not a huge ice cream craver, BUT since moving to Lansing, MI, my husband and I like to take bike rides to the MSU Dairy Store for ice cream. The flavor, “Izzo’s Malted Madness” is insanely good! It has little crushed malt balls and chocolate swirls and it’s loaded with crunchy chunks of chocolatey, malty yumminess.

I prefer it in a waffle cone, but when a cone is not available, I like to let it melt a little before diving in…kinda like ice cream soup. Such a treat. It’s been out of stock for curbside pickup since the pandemic hit, and it’s bumming me out! Their ice cream cookie sandwich is a close second…

Are you #teamcut or #teamtrace? I’m #teamcut! I’m too impatient to trace the pattern and end up doing a lot of pattern alterations on the fly. When I first started using patterns, I was all about that trace. But now, I just go for it and cut that pattern. When I need to alter the fit and recut, I just tape paper scraps to the pattern and keep going.

If you didn’t have sewing, what would your creative outlet be? It’s really hard to pinpoint one thing! I’ve tried all sorts of creative endeavors…I enjoy painting and drawing, and I’ve tried my hand at pottery and jewelry making.

Back when I was feeling overwhelmed with my first business, I had fantasies of getting rid of everything in my studio, hanging mirrors along one wall, and turning it into a dance studio (for a hot minute I was determined to learn how to shuffle via Tik Tok tutorials)!

I also love to sing…in private. And I’m a pretty good cook; I love being in the kitchen. So yeah…I have no idea. I’m all over the place and like to leave my options open.

Where do you get ideas for new designs? Since I am still a relatively new pattern company, most (maybe all?) of my pattern design ideas come from my desires for my own wardrobe.

I am on Pinterest a lot and may see an outfit that I love. Or I’ll see a woman in the grocery store wearing an outfit that just looks so pulled together. A lot of times I’ll see something in a movie or T.V. show that I love (Killing Eve is one show that has SO many awesome outfits for the character Villanelle). And I love the style of clothing from Anthropologie…sort of sophisticated, feminine comfort.

A lot of the styles I am drawn to are structured with subtle feminine details. That’s definitely the aesthetic that I aspire to in my own wardrobe and pattern designs.

Once I get an idea for a design, I usually just jump in and start making it and iterating on the design. A lot of times the design evolves during this process and new ideas emerge as a result of how I want the construction details to come together. And sometimes, there are ideas that emerge for designs that would compliment what I am working on–those go into the “potential future designs” category.

What is your personal favorite among your patterns? I always feel like my most current pattern is my favorite! But I definitely wear the Fern Top and the Byrdie Button-up the most.

I return to those two patterns again and again and have hacked them into different styles, too. I also have a stretch lace Lulu Cardigan that I wear constantly. I get so many compliments on that one from strangers. Then, of course, I tell them I made it and I get way too much enjoyment out of that…

When was the last time you sewed something for yourself and what was it? I sew for myself constantly. Definitely a proponent of #selfishsewing. Right now I am working on a new pattern that I am really excited about and have made it many times over the last month to develop the instructions and tweak the pattern details.

I recently made several self-drafted swimsuits (with more in the hopper). And I made myself a couple of self-drafted peasant blouses that turned out super cute. I also recently made the Jessica Dress by Mimi G. and absolutely adore it. And I just bought the new Gilbert Top from Helen’s Closet and I’m excited to make that out of some cotton clip dot fabric I have in my stash. I’ve been sewing so much since the pandemic hit, although I have barely shared any of it because taking photos right now feels like too much work!

What has been your all time most challenging sewing project? Last year I decided to make myself a puffy coat. I became fixated on the idea, even though I couldn’t find a pattern that I liked for one. I’ve always loved sewing outerwear, and felt like it would be a fun challenge to hack a coat pattern into a puffy style. So I used the Closet Core Patterns Clare Coat as a starting point, quilted all the main pieces with batting and ripstop nylon before assembling it. I hit a few speed bumps along the way, including not sizing up enough to account for the extra loft from the batting and having to take it apart and redo a few of the pieces. I was determined, though! I finished it and while it has lots of “character” I got so much use out of it!

I documented the entire process in a saved Instagram story. I have plans to make another one at some point and add more design and functionality details now that I have that first one under my belt!

What do you hope people gain from using your patterns? I just hope my patterns are enjoyable to sew and help people express their style. I spend a lot of time on the instructions and presentation of the patterns and strive to create garments that fit many bodies. It’s so empowering to make our own clothing.

For me personally, this hobby has given me a greater appreciation for my body because having clothing that fits and aligns with my personal style feels really good. One of the best things about being a part of the sewing community is sharing that joy with other sewists. I’ve been so inspired by it. If I can be a positive part of that experience for others, I’m happy.

Thanks Casey!

Casey also has her entire Pattern Scout shop on sale this month. Use code SEWMYSTYLE20 for 20% of all patterns!

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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 | Sarah @ Haraz Handmade | Shelby @ Handmade Shelby | and SMS20 Coordinator Paulette @ Petite Font

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Image of Pattern Scout owner and designer with red and white text overlay that reads Casey Sibley Pattern Scout & Sew My Style 2020. She is wearing her hair up, an orange and lavender cross-front blouse, and light olive trousers.
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Aug 17, 2021 8:53 am

Wonderful article. Maybe you can refer or help direct me to information on creating patterns for dog coats. Thank you.