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June 01, 2017 5 min read

You know how some weeks you get lots done and you feel like a Super Hero?

Then other weeks you feel really unmotivated and like you are in slow motion no matter what you do?

Well as a self employed Fashion Designer I am not immune to those slow motion days where I can’t be bothered doing anything, even though creating clothing is my favourite thing to do. 

A week has passed since my last post (check it out here if you didn’t see it) and I am pretty happy with the progress that has been made and that is even though I have had several slow motion days.

But wait…. how can I be happy with the progress if there have been several ‘off’ days?

Confessions of the Self Employed

Well partly it is about perspective but it is also about prioritising.

I remember how back in university toiles (practise run clothing) took time because I always wanted them to be perfect, they needed to look great and be super tidy. Now, they don’t need to be perfect or tidy at all. There is no tutor marking them and very few people see them (slightly different this time but at least it’s only pictures being shown online)

 Desiree fashion design toiles
(super comfy pants and jersey. Both practise runs are in ponti but the jersey will be out of a knitted fabric. The trousers are showing two different hem options, I am at this stage going to use the cuffed hem)


Pattern making is also much faster the way I do it now. A big part of that is that my skills have grown over the years, from running my own label, as I have had more practise but it is also because I have adapted the way I do things. Running the brand mostly by myself means that I have to be really good at prioritising. If I spent weeks on each pattern (like we did in university) then I would have a designer collection with maybe 3 things per season. Since that is not very realistic I have found a way to make things work for me and still have the best result.


In university we are taught to start from a pattern block (this a is a basic clothing pattern that fits the body but doesn’t have any design lines or features etc). We then make all the changes on a master pattern and then trace off of that to make the patterns. This is technically how you are meant to do it and if you have the time then great.


I don’t have the time so I don’t do it this way. In the beginning I really stuck to my guns and wanted to do it perfectly and exactly how it was meant to be done. Then I realised that I had to do it my way, I had to make things work for me. So I do it differently but do you know what? The end result is still the same but it saves me loads of time and my sanity remains intact… mostly.

 NZ fashion design processNew Zealand Winter fashion scarf

(These images are showing the pocket in the pants and the scarf/neck piece and two of the different ways it can be worn)

clothing design sketches

(This is the sketches for the scarf/neck piece. Any suggestions on what to refer to this item as would be greatly appreciated because the scarf/neck piece thingy isn't so great!)

So how do I do it so differently that it saves me so much time?

Well, over the years I have created a lot of patterns for lots of different styles. I had already done the work so why start from the beginning again each time and redo it? So I don’t. When I go to pattern make a piece of clothing I think back to what else I have made which may have had the same fit or design lines. Then I grab that pattern out and use that as a starting point, make the changes and then in no time at all I have a brand new pattern.


The other great upside of this is that I have a great fit that is quite consistent throughout the seasons because if something was great last season then I use that fit as a building block.

Here is an example


fashion illustration by kiwi designerDesiree winter behind the scenesDesiree Winter fashion jersey

(Fashion sketch of the jersey, picture of the toile and then a picture of the style I used as a base pattern) 

Obviously the pattern isn’t always going to be perfect first time even if it has come from another pattern. There are always things that are going to change once the toile is tried on. For example, the neckline might need to come down a smidgen or go up a tiny bit. Hem lengths are a very common change because it makes a difference to have them sitting in the right place. At university some of these changes would have meant tracing off and recutting out a new pattern.


Not now though! I have lightened up a lot in this department. I have a strong recollection of working on a pattern and having my tutor look over it and tell me something needed adjusting and then she wrote on my pattern in pen. PEN! It was no longer a perfect pattern because i couldn’t get the pen off so I made a whole new pattern. Back then, I was very particular about things like that… then I got married, had kids, started my own fashion label and that all changed.


If only young me could see how my patterns look now! Pen on a pattern is no problem at all. In fact when my kids were younger it was standard to have their drawings all over my patterns. If something needs to be added on to a pattern, out comes the tape and the extra piece gets stuck on.


There would be no prizes for how pretty my patterns are and I would not get a good grade for neatness but at the end of the day, I’m not in University. No one is grading my patterns and it really doesn’t matter to the end product. The clothes look and fit beautifully and that is what matters.

 Wellington clothing online store jacket
(This jacket is a fuller silhouette and has wide sleeves and then a stretch fabric full length sleeve. The idea being you can enjoy a shorter jacket sleeve without having to worry about what to layer underneath it. Would love to know who likes this idea and who wouldn't consider buying it because of this feature. Let me know by commenting below)

Moral of the story?

Figure out what is important to you and focus on that. Let the other things fall by the way side.

Thanks to that, this week I have made patterns and toiles for 9 styles whilst still doing other things and I LOVE seeing how quickly they can come together thanks to the way I do things.


(One of these toiles/styles has not quite been so easy nor turned out the way I wanted it to. I am just not loving it. It might be the toile fabric or the style just isn’t going to work or it could be that I was working on it late at night which is just not a great idea some times.)


red white stripe designer dress 
(this toile started off as something completely different and has morphed into this. It will have some sleeves of its own but I know they will be fine without needing to test them)