Helen’s Closet – Sew My Style 2020 Designer Q&A

Helen Wilkinson in a grey t-shirt and jeans smiling at the camera. Text overlay reads Helen Wilkinson Helen's Closet & Sew My Style 2020

Helen’s Closet has been a Sew My Style featured pattern company since 2018. Helen has made her Suki robe, Blackwood cardigan, and now, Pona jacket all available for the annual sewing challenge.

I had the pleasure of being on Helen’s and partner Caroline’s podcast Love to Sew earlier this year. It was a great time, and I’m still in awe that I was cool enough to hang out with them!

Helen’s enthusiasm for sewing and Sew My Style has helped the popularity of the challenge grow phenomenally this year. To celebrate, we challenged her with a few questions:

What is your name? Helen Wilkinson

What is your company’s name and how did you come up with it? Helen’s Closet Patterns came from my sewing blog, Helen’s Closet, where I shared garments I was sewing for my own personal wardrobe. The name felt a bit cheesy when I first launched my pattern line, but I wanted to keep the name-recognition I had built up, and there is something about ‘Helen’s Closet’ that rolls off the tongue, I think!

Two side-by-side images of Helen's Closet Patterns's logo in black and white

How long has your company existed? I started my sewing blog in 2015 and launched my first pattern in 2016. The company will be turning 5 next summer! I also started the Love to Sew Podcast in 2017 with my friend and co-host, Caroline from Blackbird Fabrics. 

Helen and podcast partner Caroline sitting at a white table behind microphones

When did you decide to become a pattern designer? After a year of sewing my own clothes and falling in love with indie patterns, I knew this was the industry for me. I saw my love of graphic and web design colliding with my love for fashion and sewing. It felt like the perfect business for me! I was also ready for a change in my professional career and I was interested in entrepreneurship. It is appealing to be able to make your own schedule and your own rules when it comes to work! Of course, it has many challenges, but I still love working for myself and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  

What inspired you to start creating patterns? I loved indie patterns from the get-go because they teach sewing while also providing modern designs for one’s wardrobe. I love everything from the beautiful illustrations and cover art to the PDF pattern files and the technical details. When I started my blog I learned that I was engaged and fulfilled when I was sharing and teaching about sewing. It really makes me happy to pass along information and encourage others on their sewing journeys! I design my patterns to do just that. We include loads of helpful tips and really clear instructions so that you can feel super confident when you are sewing our designs. 

Image from Helen's Closet pattern directions

What background do you have in pattern design (self-taught, technical schooling, etc)? I am self-taught in pattern design and drafting. I started my business drafting my own patterns, but given my lack of education and professional experience, it made sense for me to outsource this as my business grew. I now work with an incredible drafter and grader to make our patterns! I design them and make technical illustrations to convey my ideas so my drafter can interpret them. We go back and forth with them drafting and me testing and tweaking until it is just right! It is a really fun process.

Are you #teamcut or #teamtrace? #teamcut all the way! It is another thing I love about PDF patterns – you can print out another size anytime! 

Is your sewing space messy? Can we see a picture? My sewing space is a little messy, but I do try to keep it tidy. I prefer my creative space to feel ‘lived in’ and well-used. I like things to be functional, but I do try to dress things up with lots of colorful art and I LOVE rugs. 

Helen sitting in her sewing space at Helen's Closet HQ

If you didn’t have sewing, what would your creative outlet be? As long as I am creating with my hands, I am happy! My partner and I recently decided to set up a woodshop in our garage and we are working on building some work tables and storage for tools. I hope to graduate to building simple furniture and eventually, a chicken coop for our backyard!

Helen's leaning next to wooden shelves

How would you describe the person you envision making your pieces? The Helen’s Closet Patterns sewist is creative, curious, and a little bit daring with their fashion! We love basic pieces like our Avery Leggings and Blackwood Cardigan, but we also love statement designs like the York Pinafore and the Winslow Culottes. Our customers love our detailed instructions and appreciate a smooth and enjoyable sewing experience.

Modeled examples of many Helen's Closet patterns on a diverse set of models

If menswear isn’t currently in your pattern catalog, do you envision providing it in the future? Yes! We hope to include more gender-neutral designs in our collection moving forward and have plans to release our first design later this year. Stay tuned!

When was the last time you sewed something for yourself and what was it? I sew a ton for Helen’s Closet, so I’m often sewing up new samples and hacks in my size and keeping them. It’s a perk of the business! The last thing I made that was unrelated to my business was my Friday Pattern Co Vernazza two-piece this past August. You can see all of my makes on my blog

Helen sitting in a shaded spot on the beach in a leopard print bikini

Thanks for sharing, Helen!

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 | 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.

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Helen Wilkinson in a grey t-shirt and jeans smiling at the camera. Text overlay reads Helen Wilkinson Helen's Closet & Sew My Style 2020
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