Interview with Sarai Mitnick from Colette Patterns

by Leah Taylor on June 14, 2010

Have you seen the two new ‘Dainties’ patterns from Colette Patterns? They’re absolutely divine:

I just love the combination of the French Knickers from Nutmeg (1011), with the camisole version of Cinammon (1012) – that’s going to go top of my list! (Well, along with the Bel Air pyjamas from Hot Patterns that I am still hoping to sew up sometime soon…)

Sewbox will be getting them in stock VERY shortly (you can pre-order them in the shop – click here for Nutmeg, and click here for Cinammon), and to celebrate, the patterns’ designer Sarai Mitnick kindly agreed to answer a few quickfire questions about Colette Patterns…

Hi Sarai, Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. Now you’ve just realised two hot new patterns, Cinnamon and Nutmeg. What inspired you to make the move in to ‘dainties’?

First, I love making lingerie because it’s quick, it’s suitable for small amounts of luxurious fabric, and you can do all kinds of cool details on them to customize them.  A while back, I made a pair of silk tap pants from a 1930s book, and when I posted about them on my blog, a lot of people said they would love to sew something similar.

And I just love slip dresses.  They are so wonderful for layering, a real wardrobe workhorse as far as I’m concerned.

Where do you get your pattern ideas from- do they come easily or is each idea more of a drawn out process? What process do you go through when deciding which of your ideas will make it to a finished pattern?

The hard part is sorting through all of my ideas.  I collect inspiration all the time, and gradually form an idea of what I want to do over time.  Inspiration can come from vintage pieces, films, artwork, anything really.  I look for shapes that are classic and timeless, and those can be anywhere.  I also account for things like skill level, season, wearability, and other practical considerations for my customers.

Do you tend to do most of the design process on paper or at the machine? Do you get to sew much for pleasure these days, or are you mainly sewing ‘for work’? If you sew for pleasure, do you have any other favourite pattern designers that you like to use, or do you go freestyle?

My drafting is mainly done on the computer, but there’s still a lot of paper involved.

I have to admit, I don’t have a lot of time to sew for pleasure now.  But since I always need to do several drafts of a pattern, I will make some for myself in the course of designing, so I get to keep some of my sewing for myself!

I’ve only made one dress for pure pleasure in the last couple of months, and it was a vintage design from the 1930s.  If I’m not sewing my own designs, I usually use vintage patterns.  I love them.

What is your absolute most favourite item of clothing you’ve sewn? Do you have any absolute fashion disasters / faux pas that you’ve sewn??

My favorite ever was my wedding dress.  It’s a knee-length dress made in light gold 4-ply Italian silk charmeuse lined in pale pink silk, with seed pearl beaded trim on the bust and hem.  It’s so beautiful:

Sarai Mitnick's treasured wedding dress

One faux pas that sticks in my mind was when I was 16 or so and just learning to sew.  I knew nothing about grainlines, and was using a pattern that was supposed to be cut on the bias.  I had no idea why it was laid out diagonally, so I just cut it on the straight grain, thinking it would save fabric!  What a disaster.  It was so tight across the hips I couldn’t even walk.  Definitely a wadder.

I love the new photoshoots you’ve been doing since the release of patterns 1006 and up. They must be a whole lot of fun! What were the hardest and best parts of arranging such a photoshoot?

The hardest part is coordinating with all the various people involved: models, hair, makeup, photographer, stylist, booking the space.  There are a lot of schedules to manage. The best part is coming up with the ideas, planning out the samples, and of course shopping for props and fabric!

A lot of the other independent pattern companies tend to focus on accessories, aprons and suchlike. Any plans to move in to these fields or is it strictly garments for you?

Not at the moment, since others are doing a pretty great job!  I’d like to offer some free patterns for smaller items on my blog occasionally, though.

You’ve really taken the sewing pattern world by storm with your range. Where do you see Colette Patterns headed over the next couple of years? Any plans to expand the range hugely? And a cheeky question, can you give us a sneak preview of your plans for the fall/winter of 2010??

I’ve never had plans to be huge, but I would like to continue with slow and steady growth over time.  I’d really like to bring more people on board and teach them my methods. I’m not sure what I’m doing for fall/winter quite yet!  But I am planning a couple more patterns for the summer as well.  One will be more for beginners, and I’m really excited about it! Many people on Pattern Review recently asked me for a classic men’s shirt pattern, which surprised me!  But I adore menswear and think it’s a good idea.

Thanks Sarai. Now I know you’re a busy lady so that’s the end of the proper questions. But can you provide one word answers to the following?

Favourite Clothing Designer -At the moment, it’s Elsa Schiaparelli. What a sense of humor
Favourite Sewing Machine – My new Bernina Aurora 430!
Favourite Sewing Accessory / Tool – invisible zipper foot
I couldn’t live without this item of clothing – my black wool pencil skirt
And just for fun – which famous person would you most like to see in a Colette Patterns outfit? I’d love to see it on a cool, crafty business woman I respect like Debbie Stoller!

Thanks Sarai for so graciously agreeing to answer these questions! I can’t wait to see what the new Summer patterns will be.

And now, I’m eagerly awaiting the postman to see if he has a parcel of dainties for me – ooh-er!

{ 2 trackbacks }

Stockists: An Interview at Sewbox
June 16, 2010 at 10:32 pm
Colette Patterns 1013 – Crepe Wrap Dress – available for pre-order — into the sewing box
September 14, 2010 at 6:20 am

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jenny June 14, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Underwear patterns from Colette! Nice! x


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