Our next spotlight is on Rachelle Summers from 5 out of 4 Patterns.
It’s been fun getting to know Rachelle and to learn a little more about her creative process. Take a few minutes to learn more about Rachelle and to hear her advice for handling criticism.
Rachelle, what would you have done differently when you first started sewing if you knew then what you know now?
“Oh my GOSH. If my current self could have a talk with my former self it would be to tell me how hugely important fabric choice is. Designers don’t put in the fabrics they recommend willy-nilly. They are telling you what fabric to use to make your garment look good and fit properly. I learned with experience, but I would love to have the same understanding of fabric then as I do now. That would have saved me from some pretty epic fails.”
What tools do you find indispensable when sewing?
“My giant cutting mat is amazing. I used to have to lug it out to my dining room table, but I built myself a dedicated cutting table for my new sewing room. My long quilting ruler – I use it for drafting and for cutting bands. My iron because with a press of the steam button my makes go from homemade to handmade. And my cats because cats are highly entertaining sewing companions.”
How do you structure your days?
“Ha! I don’t, really. I’m a work-at-home mom. My days are about making lunches, getting kids off to school, running errands, trying to keep my house from becoming a pigsty, after school activities, dinner, bedtime… I work as much as I can while my kids are at school and usually an hour or two after bedtime. Some days that means I get nothing done and others that means I spend a full six hours completely immersed in a pattern.”
What’s the best advice you ever received?
“My partner Jessica told me this way back when I put my first pattern into testing. She said whatever options you add or take away, whatever changes you make, don’t let anyone sway you from your original vision. I’ve kept true to that. I’m always willing to listen to tester suggestions, however, I do not waver from my original design.”
Where and how do you work best?
“Home. After many, many years of working and sewing in my dining room and various nooks in my too-small house, we were able to complete an addition. I now have a dedicated office and sewing space and it is absolute heaven. I did a lot of the grunt work myself (insulating, laying flooring, putting in baseboards, decorating) and it is my favorite place in the whole house. My kids leave for school and my husband for work and then it’s just me in my happy place with Alexa and my dog.”
Who or what inspired you to do what you’re doing now?
“By far and away, my mom inspired me the most. I lost her to cancer as a teen. Sewing was her happy place and I learned from her. I rediscovered it after my second child was born and I became a stay at home mom. I always wonder what she would think about my love of sewing and now my career as a pattern designer. Something that makes me even happier? My little sister is one of my pattern testers. I cannot even begin to describe how much joy it brings me that we share something that our mother loved so dearly.”
What is still your biggest challenge?
“What isn’t?! Every pattern is a learning experience. Every. Single. One. Whether it’s a straight-forward basic design or something much more complicated, I always ALWAYS have something to learn from it. A simpler answer would be at some point I’d love to draft a women’s woven pattern. Wovens with bust darts and cup sizes are that
What are your favorite books or magazines on sewing?
“Honestly, I don’t spend a lot of leisure time with the printed word (unless it’s a Sherlock Holmes novel or something I’m reading for my own pleasure). I have a couple of drafting and grading books I refer to incessantly. I love reading emailed newsletters! I subscribe to The Fold Line, Love Sewing, Closet Case Files, Sew Can She and quite a few fabric newsletters. I try to find time to at least glance at them all because there are so many makers and designers out there that create such beautiful things.”
What’s your best advice for handling criticism?
“Listen. Listen to all the criticism. Don’t sweep it under the rug. I’m human. I’m certainly not perfect. I learn a lot by listening to my testers and my team and my customers. I’m certainly not going to
How do you balance work and family demands?
“Most of the time, I’m able to pace my work to match my family schedule. I work while they are at school and work. I generally don’t work (or only at night) during holidays and school breaks. It’s one of the most amazing things about this job. I get to do something I love, help support my family and still be available for them whenever I’m needed. It’s also the hardest thing about this job. When my kids were home for what felt like the entire month of February thanks to snow days and ice days and previously scheduled mid-winter break and conferences… I got absolutely NOTHING done and that was stressful for me. I had to adjust my goals for the year to accommodate the unforeseen. However, I’m still grateful that I have enough flexibility to be able to do both things.”
What’s next for you?
“Well, I need to learn Instagram. I’m not entirely kidding. Social media isn’t something I’m adept at so my teen daughter has offered to teach me. I’m a willing student!
In a professional sense, I will continue to build and stretch my drafting skills. 5 out of 4 Patterns is growing at a fantastic rate. We have so many ideas to explore and thoughts on expanding to reach more sewists on many levels. I cannot begin to tell you how incredible the team of women I work with is. We live all over the US (and Canada!) but we talk every day and I’ve come to rely on their input and opinions heavily. Words cannot express how grateful I am to this dedicated team of ladies and
Thanks again Rachelle for letting us learn a little more about you! We can’t wait to see you conquer Instagram!
Thanks for learning about Rachelle, you can check out her patterns and the 5 Out Of 4 blog.
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Nice to meet you Rachelle.
Nice write up! I love learning more about the designers – how they work, where they get inspiration, etc.
Hi Rachelle. Enjoyed reading your letter and meeting you.
I like hearing the “real life” stories and thoughts of designers. It’s interesting to hear about their process and work life, and I am totally jealous of your dedicated sewing room Rachelle!
Thanks! We thought it would be fun to let you get to know them. 🙂 Her room is pretty awesome, right?