Today we are excited to bring you an interview with Kathy McGee of Hemma Designs, an independent pattern maker. Her fresh and functional patterns have been all the rage at Sewn this summer, especially her Ilsa Bike Basket, which people love to make with our widening selection of cotton laminates.
Now I’ll let Kathy take it away and tell you more about herself and her designs…
First off, tell us a little bit about yourself. (where you live, family, what you like to do when not working. etc.)
I live in Saint Paul, Minnesota with my husband and dog Denali, also known as The Spud. When I’m not working on Hemma Design patterns I’m usually working on our 1950 house (something always needs to be painted, fixed, updated), gardening, or using friends as guinea pigs for my latest cooking attempts. I’m currently obsessed with The Swedish Table by Helene Henderson. If I could choose my last meal it would include salmon, creamed new potatoes and dill.
Tell us about your sewing background. How did you get started sewing?
My grandmother and mom taught me to sew, knit, crochet, and embroider when I was a kid. I’ve always been drawn to anything involving textiles and making things. I knew in 2nd grade that I wanted to be a clothing designer when I grew up and I ended up going to the Rhode Island School of Design and studying apparel design.
How did you first make the transition from sewing into designing patterns and how did Hemma Design begin?
I worked in the apparel industry for several years designing everything from children’s clothes to women’s accessories, and home accessories. I had often thought about what it would be like to have my own business and what that would look like. Since I love to sew I wanted to share my enthusiasm with other people and maybe even inspire them. I decided to design patterns because it was a way to incorporate all the things that inspire me: Scandinavian design, Minnesota light, landscape and plants, bright & cheery colors, useful & fun accessories.
On your website, you talk about being inspired by where you live. Could you tell us more about that and any other sources for inspiration?
Oh, I guess I jumped ahead – see above!
Other influences: I love simple, graphic prints with a folk tradition like Japanese, Hawaiian, or Finnish prints. I also look to traditional, functional accessory designs for inspiration, but I like to put a modern or fun twist on it. I like accessories that make me smile.
What’s your typical work day look like as a pattern designer and small-business owner?
I usually try and get business stuff taken care of first thing in the morning so that I can work on new patterns for the rest of the day. Sometimes I’m sketching and drafting, sometimes I’m sewing samples; sometimes I’m sitting at the computer all day drawing the pattern and writing & illustrating the instructions.
(photo by Faith of Fresh Lemons Quilts)
What has been the hardest thing about starting your own design business? What has been the most satisfying?
The hardest thing has been doing everything on my own and keeping myself motivated and focused on a daily basis. It’s a lot easier when I collaborate with other people and get family and friends involved.
The most satisfying is when I meet customers and students who are as into sewing as I am. I think we all feed off of each other’s creativity and there’s something very nourishing and exciting about it.
Are you working on any new designs or exciting projects now?
Yes, I’m always thinking about what’s next. I usually work on one pattern at a time, but have a sketchbook with all sorts of ideas.
What kinds of fabrics are you most drawn to?
Any natural fibers. Right now I’m really into linen and felted wool. Also, I like oilcloth because it really lends itself to more structured accessories.
What do you carry in your bike basket?
Veggies from the farmer’s market, library books, wallet, house keys. If my dog was smaller I’d put her in there. (Hmm… new pattern idea?)
Thanks so much Kathy! I always like to hear the stories of creative entrepreneurs like you. And if you developed a doggie basket pattern, I’m sure we would carry it.
Now we want to share the Hemma love with you! We are giving away any one of Kathy’s 7 great patterns. Just leave us a comment telling us which you would pick. We will draw a winner next Thursday, August 11 at noon, giveaway open until then.
Pictured up top: Ilsa Handlebar Basket, Karin Laundry Room Patterns, and the Sigrid Oilcloth Market Bag
Pictured farther down: Marta Studio Bin Pattern, Annika Market Bags, Lilla Handlebar Basket, and the Eva Sewing Basket.