Photo: Courtesy of Fine Leatherworking

Thought I’d share with you some insight on leather crafters.

You might want to surf over to Fine Leathercrafting and read Sean’s blog on the subject.

I absolutely concur with his advice to “refine, refine and refine more until you think you can do no better; then get your work out there.”

Oh, by the way, I am not the polite gentleman LOL!

P.S. Take a look at his product line in the Store section too.

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sew award

Congratz to all my friends at

Craftsy has been voted the WINNER in the Best For Sewing Workshops/Courses category in the British Sewing Awards 2014 run by “SEW” magazine. It has been my great pleasure to be affiliated with the Craftsy organization and honoured to be associated with many talented design colleagues, all notable experts in their field. If you wish to  learn more about Craftsy and its community of passionate designers and crafters featuring online classes about all your favourite crafts, check out my STORE page for my top picks, as well as my own online class, MAKING LEATHER BAGS.

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be dior

Photo courtesy of French Vogue

” be dior bag”                               

For your little design zen for today, the Be Dior bag …introduced at the Fall/Winter 2014-2015 collection shows. Watch how it is made, exclusively on as the expert craftsmen at Dior takes us through each step of making their latest it-bag, from the precise leather-cutting, to the different pieces coming together and the neat stitching to finish.


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Photo Credits: Nyla Noor

“look at it from all angles”

In my mail lately, I have been receiving select jpegs and requests for pattern-drafts based on that chosen item. Upon viewing each submission I often question,  Why am I being asked to draft such a basic bag design?” In my mind’s eye or is it my designer’s brain, I visualize a simple pattern shape. I have to ask, “Why aren’t you seeing it too?

Now if I was being naughty, I’d suspect someone wanted me to do their design homework for them, yet in all truthfulness I’m guessing that those new to the world of fashion design haven’t developed their spatial skills.

Visualization or what is known as, spatial perception in fashion design includes images, symbols, scale diagrams, cutaway diagrams, cross-sections, production flow charts, specification worksheets, technical flats, 3-dimensional illustrations, and flat pattern-making techniques to develop a new product. Along with scheduling time lines, mood & story boards, and other graphic designs to communicate the idea or new concept, these  mental skills are used by designers and manufacturers to bring new products to the marketplace. All require a high degree of visual literacy or visual/spatial abilities and skills.

As for the pattern-drafting, the design and formation of any fashion bag is based upon simple body shapes when laid flat, fit into a square or rectangle, of which the size depends on the final shape and parameters of the pattern. In other words, it’s a box.

Now visualize that box with handles for toting around. Don’t let the “bells and whistles” distract you from the basic shape. Look for the pattern grid( by identifying the elements you plan to use throughout your design. Think out a rough shape, the approximate size of the square or rectangle in your mind. Every bag design has some kind of top finishing which often provides the focal point of the style – the bag ‘opening’; it can be a flap, a frame, a zipper, or a draw-cord detail. The ‘body’ will have 5 planes: front, back, bottom, and 2 ends. The beauty of designing your own is that you can change at will the dimensions of the body cavity, shorten or lengthen straps, add pockets to create your own bag style from scratch. And if you’re like me, it’s easy to take creative risks if you can visualize the finished prototype in your mind’s eye.

Of course creating or adapting a pattern does require a lot of confidence in your spatial skills. In other words, you’ve got to be able to translate a 3-dimensional finished product to a 2-dimensional pattern; or the cutting pieces themselves, if you’re feeling bold and skipping the pattern all together.

What are spatial skills? Basically, they’re what we all use to mentally view objects from all angles…top, front, and side views, from top to bottom. If you’re good at reading a map or solving puzzles, you probably have strong spatial skills. If you “see” the pieces of a bag style, you’ve got it going on the ball.

But if you can’t seem to find your way around your cutting room or if pattern pieces never seem to mentally translate to the finished product, never fear! You can boost those skills with a little practice. Being able to mentally transform 3-D figures to their 2-D equivalents– and vice versa– can be tricky, but there is no special talent required.

If you only recently graduated from school or have recently moved to new abodes, you probably know something about “nets.” Nets are the 2-D representations of 3-D shapes. You know those cardboard boxes that you can buy flattened out and then assemble when you need them? These are examples of “nets”, with regard to visual or spatial perception: First it’s a “cube” net, then it’s a moving box!


Making patterns are much the same. Whenever you do clothing construction or sew up fashion accessories, you start out with flat pattern pieces (2-dimensional). In geometry, these shapes are nets, the foundation of spatial thinking. When we cut them out of the fabric, they’re flat and they may not look at all like what they’re meant to be. A collar may look like a semi-circle at first. Attach it to the neckline, and it curves over the shoulder and around your neck. And like magic, this pattern transforms into an actual collar (3-dimensional).

Zipper bags, tablet sleeves, wallets, and other little organizing carry-alls work the same way. Take a look at these pattern drafts for various bag styles. All began as a flat piece(s) of material.

pattern bag templates 2_Fotor

But you don’t have to completely depend on your mental spatial skills to create or alter a pattern. If you’ve cut the pattern out of paper, just fold and curve it to see if it works. I often do this even if I think I know what I’m doing…. call it “sewing-in-paper”. Many times, the curved pieces of a pattern end up looking more like straight seams on the finished piece. That collar is a perfect example: the curve is actually the inner edge of the collar that sewn into the neckline, while the straight side is folded on itself around the neck, which appears round on the body.

And of course you can always verify your assumptions by making up a mock-up of your design. I do this when I’m trying a new pattern I’ve created or altered, or when the pattern is complex enough and my fabric is expensive enough or in limited supply. It’s a simple case of “measure twice, cut once”.

If your mock-up doesn’t turn out don’t lose faith in your abilities and above all, value these mistakes. Believe it or not, mistakes can be beneficial.  They cause us to search for a different and often better way.  They facilitate experimentation with new materials, techniques, or styles.  Mistakes or challenges (as I like to call them) are an important part of the design process because they provide unique opportunities for creativity. Always make a toile or muslin fitting to test your pattern before cutting into your fashion fabric. Don’t be disappointed if it does not ‘turn out ‘ on the first attempt as planned; that is what creating mock-ups are for. These mock-ups allow you to modify the end result, correct the pattern, and work out the sewing/assembly process.

Now you may ask “ How do I develop my spatial abilities?” Sketch every day and sketch everything.  Keep a record of your ideas in a sketch book. Redesign – redraw – renew your ideas.

  • Draw everyday objects, close-up, and far away.
  • Draw cross sections of objects that have been cut in half, such as fruit or vegetables
  • Draw objects from feeling them through a sock or in a bag.
  • Identify paths through mazes. routes on maps, paths created in  trademark/logos to create visual objects.
  • Look for differences in drawings with discrepant details.
  • Find Waldo, Where’s Waldo and other similar puzzle books.
  • Observe optical illusions.
  • Drawings from observing objects through a microscope, hand lens, telescope, or binoculars. Make drawings from another person’s descriptions.
  • Compare real objects with photographs or drawings of the objects.
  • Create scrapbooks of objects as they change over time.
  • Drawing a plant from day to day or season to season.
  • Drawing interactions of other objects.
  • Activities that involve figure rotations, reflections, projections, and pattern recognition.
  • Use of pattern blocks, attribute games, Geoblocks, Unifix cubes, Cuisenaire rods and cubes.
  • Brainstorm with drawings and story board collages.

So, if you’re resisting the urge to create your own patterns or alter one that you love, turn on your math brain, do some sketches and let your spatial skills work for you.


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Photo Credit: Sew News Magazine


I’m delighted to see my fur collar design featured on the cover of the current issue of Sew News Magazine. It’s a fun fashion accessory project to make for the cold-weather season. So check out the current issue now on newstands or view online at Download my “Like A Fox” collar pattern at for free until Jan.31 2015. The pattern will be available at for purchase after the expiration date. You’ll want to make it with genuine fox fur or faux fur and I show you all the fur techniques to create this soft-as-silk chic accessory…it’s perfect for all the holiday parties.


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leather bag coolage

(just click here)

Just in time for Black Friday and holiday gift-giving shopping….”give fun”!

Craftsy makes it so easy. What makes online Craftsy classes great?

Learn for life! With lifetime access to your classes, you can watch lessons at your preferred pace and easily revisit your favourite concepts with just a click.

 Kick up your feet! Enjoy classes anytime from the convenience of your home or even on-the-go with our mobile apps.

 Get personalized guidance! Ask your instructor questions to receive all the answers and feedback you need to succeed.

 Love it! There’s no risk in trying with our 100% money back guarantee.

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Photo Credit: CRFashionbook

Recently a fellow designer sent out a call for pattern-testers ( ). Designers do this often for research & development and quality-assurance of a new product.

Have you thought of being a pattern tester? It is just as it sounds, it means you test new patterns to ensure their accuracy before they are released to the public.  Testing patterns can be done for many items including handbags, children’s clothing, felt toys and quilt blocks to name just a few.

When you first start testing patterns, that entrepreneurial spirit kicks in and asks, “how much do I get paid?” Well, that’s the thing about most pattern testing. You do it for free.

Yes, you are “compensated” by receiving a copy of the pattern before it’s released, and sometimes you might be given fabulous fabric to work with as well. And you just might have your workmanship showcased on the company’s website once the pattern goes live. But in general, pattern testers are just helping out the designer, just for the love of it.

Back when I started, I was always looking to try new things, but without a large budget to invest in research & development, I relied on bartering skills and buying overstock of fellow designers’ sampling inventory at give-away prices. You see manufacturers are required to buy 10 yards of fabric to sample with when they order from wholesalers. If a dress takes up 3 yards to make, what do you do with the remaining seven? How else could I afford luxurious silks and cashmeres! And, that’s where the pattern testing part caught my interest.  I looked for talented sewers and cutters who shared my passion for fashion design. They often came from the local school of fashion…kind of an internship, you might say. It is an opportunity to learn something new about writing patterns, marketing and other things that go into patterns and designing a collection. It’s also exciting to be involved in something that is still in the works.

I’ve heard some discussion about people doing sewing or testing work for free, claiming it undervalues good skills. And while I see both sides of the argument, I can only add my experience to the mix. You gain a lot from being a pattern tester and sharing your ideas. Besides networking and making connections, your work may be featured online and in print, and you may learn to make things that you probably wouldn’t have tried otherwise. I know that it’s not cold hard cash, but that’s not always the motivation with creativity.

How do I become a pattern tester? 

What works best is to simply to follow designers whose work you enjoy and answer any calls for help. Social networks are a good place to watch for these opportunities. If there are designers you’d really love to work with, send them a message to let them know. If you have adorable kids to model clothing, or if you’re an amazing photographer, let them know.

Do I have to be super experienced?

Not necessarily. Be honest about your abilities – most designers want people with sewing skills from beginner to advanced trying their patterns. This will help them determine how difficult to rate their final patterns, or they may edit them to add in more detailed instructions. It is best, though, to have a basic knowledge of how to read a pattern and how to follow the instructions.

How does it work?

Designers put out calls for testers on social networks or their blogs. Once you’ve been selected, you usually receive a digital or PDF copy of the pattern. You’ll be given a deadline, and sometimes there will be an evaluation form to complete. You’ll probably be asked to include several photos of the finished project as well.

Do I have to use my own supplies?

That is often the case. Designers like to see their creation in a multitude of different fabrics and they are interested in how you might interpret their look. Other times, a specific material is needed. So if it requires special fabric or hardware, make sure you can get your hands on some and still have enough time to complete the test before agreeing to help. Sometimes the company may provide fabric and hardware to make up the prototype.

What if I find a mistake?

If you do come across something that’s not clear, or that seems incorrect, make note of it. Double-check yourself first, and if there still is a problem, let the designer know as soon as possible. He or she can then make changes and let the other testers know, which saves everyone time in the long run.

You might find spelling or grammar errors, so be sure to point those out as well. No one wants to go public with something only to find mistakes afterward. Be honest, but be kind as well. Keep your criticism constructive.

One last thing: You need to be a good communicator. Be sure to let the designer know if something comes up and you can’t make a deadline.

Ever wanted to be in on the cutting edge of something new? You may want to add pattern tester to your list of skills!


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