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Interview with Elles from Misusu Patterns
Tell me a little about your business and how you got into sewing.
Hi I’m Elles, the designer and owner of Misusu Patterns. I live in The Hague, the Netherlands, with my husband Martijn, son Bing and daughter Fio. I was raised in a creative Dutch family – for as long as I can remember, there was always a sewing machine on the edge of the dinner table, piles of fabric on the ironing board, balls of bunched up sewing pattern paper surviving in corners on the floor….My mom started me off in my sewing adventures, just like here mother did before her. So I guess I was sort of brainwashed from an early age!
Before I started sewing myself in my teenage years using Burda patterns, I collaborated with my mom on different projects. I would pick out the pattern, suggest alterations and my mom would sew it up. She was always a bit ambivalent about my ideas, but somehow they always (sorta) worked out. I had no clue what I was doing, but I guess that from the very start, I had a knack for visualizing and constructing the garment I had in mind.
I took that skill set to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague, where I studied Fashion Design. After a detour in haute couture, I realised I was far too commercial to be in high fashion. After graduation, I started working as a kids wear designer and I have been doing that, one way or the other, ever since.
During the years, working as a designer mostly behind the computer, making clothing by hand kinda got pushed to the background, just like my dream of starting my own business some day.
In early 2014 came the big epiphany, when I reconnected with my DIY roots when I became a mother and started to share free kids wear patterns on my blog. I realised that my strength as a designer comes from that “handmade” place. And who knew, designing patterns and sharing them with the world would give me such joy! So I put one and one together and started Misusu Patterns.
Misusu Patterns features modern & fun PDF sewing patterns for babies & kids with a strong focus on knit fabrics. With my patterns I hope to inspire and motivate people to either start sewing or create something special, unique & handmade for the little ones in their live.
What/where/who inspires you?
People. Just watching people is where I draw my biggest inspiration from. I love sitting at play parks and watching what kids are wearing while they play. Or having a coffee in the city, seeing what colors, fabrics, items people put together in their outfits. But when I don’t get to hang out outdoors, I love to hang out in this amazing place called Instagram. I’m seriously hooked! I love browsing through the makes of other creatives, finding inspiration in their sewing pattern, color and fabric choices. I’ve made friends with like minded people from over the whole world, worked with people on projects I’ve never met in real life. The possibilities are endless and that is so exciting to me! In contrast to the commercial fashion industry, I also love how helpful and supportive the sewing community is. Ideas get shared, questions are answered, people help each other out. How can you not feel inspired by that?!
What’s your best tip for people getting started with sewing?
Dive in deep, fail hard, do better next time and be stinkin’ proud of everything you make! I know this advise might not be for everyone – some people prefer small steps with reasonable challenges. But if you’re more like me, passionately cutting corners and ready to live with the consequences, I feel starting with a project that gets you really excited, even though it’s pretty challenging, will set you up with a persevering sewing ethic! No guts no glory!
Luckily there’s this briljant sewing community, with many helpful and skillful people out there, sewing blogs, tutorials and videos to help you on your sewing journey.
What’s your favourite pattern/ thing you have sewn?
3 very different things come to mind.
First, one of the things I’m still super proud of, is the top I designed for Yoshiki Hishinuma during an internship in 2004. I sketched over 300 tops before I was allowed to sew one up. I hand drew the pattern and spend a few days sewing it together with lots of hand stitching and hand cut flowers. To my excitement, the top was featured in his spring summer fashion show in Paris. At the end of my internship I had to deliver the graded pattern and explain my “production” methods to his design team. But how to grade a design like that? It was nerve wracking!
This little romper holds a very special place in my heart and is connected to my biggest life altering moment, the birth of my son Bing. I designed the fabric and sewed this romper in anticipation of his arrival. I even took the romper with me to the hospital during labor, hahaha! Eventually, my husband suggested that the romper would make the perfect front for Bing’s birth announcement card. I have never had more use out of a romper than this one!
When I first started Misusu Patterns, I was still a bit unsure whether to focus on good, easy to sew basics or designs reflecting my own personal taste and geometric graphic style. The answer to that question came with the release of the Dia Sweater . It has been our best selling pattern since day one! Even though our more basic wardrobe staple patterns are great too, it is patterns like the Dia or Origami that I hope people will get to know Misusu Patterns for. It’s great to find affirmation in pursuing the things you love to do most.
What are you working on now?
Next to some new exciting patterns scheduled for this spring and summer, I’m working on a BIG update. For starters, all existing patterns will be upgraded to our new size ranges, a baby size range (size 50-98) and a kid size range (size 80-164). Next to the size range upgrade, all patterns and tutorials will be updated to include a A4/letter colored tiled pattern file with layers and a A0/copyshop pattern file. I’m also working with translators on translating our patterns to Dutch and German (for starters).
But I’m most excited about the development of our first womens patterns! I’m working on releasing 3 of our best loved kids patterns – the Dia, Louise and Origami Sweater – into women’s versions this fall. I’m even debating a men’s version for the Origami Sweater…
What’s something people might not know about you?
About 9 years ago, I was the owner and designer of a super cool clothing brand…. that failed miserably! 😀
I put my heart and soul into it and I still love the designs I made – comfortable, urban sweaters with a geometric twist. Some of them were even shamelessly copied by a big chain store here in the Netherlands. But the main thing I lacked, next to a gazillion other things, was capital. Running a handmade business, it takes a lot of initial investment (buying fabrics, tools, machines, production) before you start to make any money. I’m super impressed with people that are able to make a decent living, selling handmade products. But I somehow couldn’t make it profitable. But I’m thankful for this priceless failure, for it has ultimately helped me in many ways in starting Misusu Patterns.
To visit Elles’ website and see her other patterns visit HERE.