Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Sewing Indie: Pauline Alice Patterns

Today I am interviewing Pauline of Pauline Alice Patterns. She has an easy sweet feminine style that is reflected in her clothing. I really enjoyed getting to know more about her and her line of patterns: 

 How did you go about learning to sew?
I learned sewing when I was a teenager on my grandmother’s Singer sewing machine from the 70's. My mom knew the basics and taught me how to thread the needle, how to use the straight and the zig-zag stitches (that's about all the machine could do, but it's such a strong machine, my mom still uses it when she needs to hem trousers or mend something). My first make was a tutu-like skirt made with old curtains, it was very arty, horrible, but I loved it! I didn't have any patterns but I loved to alter old clothes, like take a skirt and add another panel in a contrasting fabric, or make bell bottom pants from normal denim. Then in High School, I made the costumes for a theater company I was acting in. During university, I left it as I didn't have a sewing machine with me. But I was always creative with my clothes.
Up until the moment I arrived in Spain and decided it was time to go back to sewing for good.
Pauline Alice Retro Apron Tutorial
 Give us some insight into your personal life and what prompted you to develop a pattern line?
I'm French and I moved to Spain 4 years ago (for love!). The first thing I bought when I arrived was a sewing machine and that's when I started sewing seriously. I've always liked to come up with my own designs, even as little girl I was drawing fashion silhouette and clothes. Pattern designing (or any kind of designing) has always been a dream of mine so when my job contract ended, I thought it was the time, or never to try. I wanted to create a line of feminine patterns, with a retro feel but easy to wear on an everyday basis. 
Pauline Alice Carme Blouse Pattern

What kind of contract work did you do? Are you formally trained in any specific field?
I have an English literature and Edition [publishing] master. After university, I worked 2 years in Edition in Paris and when my contract ended, I decided to move to Spain where my boyfriend is from and was living. It was a big move as I didn't speak the language and didn't know anybody else but I like adventure.
I found work pretty easily, considering, but in a totally different field (administrative because of the languages). I learned Spanish quite fast but didn't enjoy my job. So I spent all my free time sewing and designing for myself. The idea was always present that I would love to work from that passion. At the beginning, I thought it could be selling handmade dresses so I started an Etsy shop. That's when I made my first designs and patterns. One dress, the Malvarosa, I used for my patterns as I loved the shape so much (and the others may pop up as patterns later, who knows). 
Pauline Alice Malvarosa Dress Pattern
 Tell us a little about how you got your pattern line started and your style development process, inspirations, etc.?
I'm self-taught. I've learned sewing by myself using the machine, reading sewing books, blogs, magazines, online classes... The same goes for pattern design: I've studied by myself reading about it, trying techniques, studying patterns... and with lots of mock-ups!
I usually think about a design for months before it's time to put it down on paper. It might be something I'd like to wear or a combination of details I've seen in old catalogs or on the street. I like to think about it a lot before drawing and when finally I put it to paper, the design is pretty final. All the details designing happen in my mind.
Pauline Alice Cami Dress Pattern

Once you draw the style, do you make the initial pattern yourself, or do you hire people to help you at certain stages?
I make the pattern myself as well. I start from a standard block (size 38 or 40) and trace the lines on my dressmaker. After various mock-ups, when the fit is correct, I make the paper pattern and manually grade the pattern.  I make a mock up for myself to check the smaller size. I send the pattern with the instructions to the testers (I try to get a range of different sizes and different languages). When everything is correct, it goes in PDF format or to the printer.
Pauline Alice Flamenca Dress Tutorial
Tell us about your customer, your pattern quality standards and the level of difficulty your patterns are written for.
Because the instructions are written in English, Spanish and French, I'm happy to have customers in a lot of different countries. That's amazing! I also have pattern testers from the 3 languages (and all continents) which helps me to write the clearest instructions possible for the different levels of seamstresses. About that, each pattern has its own level, from beginner to advanced level, and tutorials can be found on the blog for more support, so even the more advanced pattern like the Ninot jacket can be attempted by a more novice seamstress.
Pauline Alice Ninot Jacket Pattern
Many American's would love to travel Europe and shop for fashion and fabrics. Can you advise us on this? Are there some "do not miss" spots to shop?
I can only tell you about Paris and Valencia, where I've lived (but I guess the majority of Americans would go to Paris anyway ;). In Paris, I liked to go in the Marché Saint Pierre. You can see Montmartre and the Sacré Coeur from the same street so it's a great touristic stop as well. In the same street, you have 4 or 5 different fabric shops, le Marché Saint Pierre being the biggest one. They carry lots of fabric, some from french designers from the past seasons (I got some amazing hot pink Dior double face wool for a bargain some years ago) and the small shops offer "coupons" for fabric on sale (usually only 2 or 3 [meters long]).
In Valencia, my favourite fabric shop is Julián López. This is a family business based here but they have expanded and you can find them in the biggest cities of Spain now. They carry beautiful fabric, amazing quality and offer a very personal service. I love that when I go (which happens very often, maybe too often!). They immediately tell me when they have received a new fabric that they think I'm going to love (yes, I go too often). They also have a notions store on the upper floor and a whole floor dedicated to regional costume fabric (one of my couture goals for the next year is to make a Valencian regional gown, it's the most beautiful dress I've seen!

Pauline copied Scarlett's dress in Gone With the Wind
Are there other goals you are working toward?
Yes, my patterns will be available in print in May and it's been such a great adventure (and a lot of work). My plan is to keep designing nice patterns :)
Your styles are really adorable. My personal favorite is your Ninot Jacket. Where can we go to buy your patterns?
You can buy my patterns on and very soon in some pattern shops.

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