I’ve recently had a chance to talk to Betsy from SBCC Patterns and found her quite inspirational. She has a bit of a rebellious attitude that has inspired her to create sewing patterns tailored towards petite women – a much-needed option for many women. She’s designed a number of products from dresses and skirts to pants and blouses; all gorgeous.
For our readers who haven’t yet heard of you yet, can you tell us about yourself?
Hi I’m Betsy, the pattern maker behind SBCC patterns. I design sewing patterns for petite ladies sizes XXS-3X.
What is your location?
I live in Hoboken, New Jersey which is basically across the river from NYC-not a bad view from my back yard.
How long have you been sewing? How did you get interested in sewing?
I have been sewing for most of my life. I think I probably got my first sewing machine when I was 4 or 5, a toy of course, but then I graduated to my mom’s sewing machine and then finally on to one of my own as a high school graduation present.
What fashion style do you personally identify with?
I tend to lean towards basic, clean shapes that are satisfying to sew. But I especially like it when those basics have an unexpected twist that makes it original. Currently, I am looking back to 90’s fashion, specifically Belgian designers Ann Demulmeester and Martin Margiela.
As more indie designers sell on-line, how do you keep an edge?
My niche is in special sizes that encompasses both petite and petite plus sizes. Both are underserved markets as it’s not so straight forward how to fit these size ranges. I work in mass production and am familiar with special size needs, so it’s more of a second-nature for me.
How long have you been drafting patterns, both for yourself and for sale?
I have been making patterns professionally for over 10 years now, but it wasn’t until the last few years that I started to make more clothing for myself. I would invest all this time into perfecting a fit and then I was left with a good pattern, but then it was filed away to be forgotten about. So I thought, why not sell my patterns and see if there are others out there who would appreciate my work and can get some use out of the patterns as well.
What made you decide to start your own business/brand? Did it coincide with your first sewing pattern, come earlier or later?
Well, I was a total copy cat. I saw that others were able to make their own patterns at what seemed considerable time and expense. I knew how to do all the technical stuff from idea to launch and I had the tools, so I figured I would give it a shot. It still takes a lot of time, but that is my biggest expense. Three years later I am still going.
How long (on average) do you spend creating a pattern for sale? From initial idea to when it’s available for sale:
Ooh, that is a tough one because I work a full-time job so I only get to work on my styles in small bursts of time. For me it takes about 4 months from concept to final product. If I could I would love to release a new style every month, but it’s just not feasible with all of the details to consider.
Is pattern drafting a full-time career ? Do you have another occupation?
I work a full time job in the NYC garment industry. My job title is a little grey, but I function more as a technical expert who specializes in mass production; I focus on quality control and problem prevention and troubleshooting as needed. Unfortunately I no longer make patterns for my day job, and I miss that. So SBCC patterns allows me the opportunity to fill that void.
What was the hardest part about setting up a business/brand and working for yourself?
The hardest part for me is the time constraints. I just like making stuff. But I need to keep shifting my focus between making, promotion, and admin. I see my gaps, but I only have so much time available, so it can be frustrating to choose priorities.
What’s the most enjoyable thing about running your own sewing business/brand? What’s the worst experience?
The most enjoyable part of my business is two part – I get to make what I want to. Maybe this doesn’t sound like a big deal, but after years of making patterns for others and making their visions a reality, it’s nice to do something that I want to do, the way I want to do it. But the absolute best part of my biz is when I hear from customers who take time out of their busy days to tell me they love SBCC pattern and let me know I am doing a good job. That is a great feeling!
The worst part of my business is when I hear really negative, criticizing, and mean comments about my name (Skinny Bitch Curvy Chick). I never intended it as an insult or to be perceived in derogatory way. For me it was about the attitude and taking sewing out of the realm of being a ladylike and proper hobby full of stringent rules. I want sewing to be fun and accessible and a little more rebellious from the traditions.
Some designers have a cause that has motivated them to design or support. For example making sexy lingerie for women who have mastectomies. Do you have a special motivation?
I do nothing so noble, but I spend a lot of time in fittings and I think part of my initial difficulties with sewing when I first started was because I did not know how to properly assess why my clothing did not fit right which was very discouraging. Only recently have I admitted to the fact that I am petite and need to make those proportional changes. I knew I was not alone and so I made styles specially proportioned for women of a shorter stature and the response has been very positive.
Do you think formal qualifications (university degree) are needed/necessary for drafting and selling patterns? Do you have a formal qualification? Either sewing related or not.
This one is a tough one for me to say because I have the formal qualifications and I have done my time (baptized by fire within the garment industry, LOL). I know for some professionals there can be a certain resentment towards successful beginners because they haven’t had to do the hard time, but everyone goes through their own growing pains. I have realized that if you like what you do and are good at it, it really doesn’t matter that you have the degree or not. This person has the passion for the work, whereas within the professional realm the glow fades over time due to redundancy and frustrations. The sewing do-it-yourself-er totally blows the skill-set of some “professionals” out of the water and I am so amazed with the knowledge base that exists online.
Do you design patterns for plus sizes? Is there a reason why or why not?
I make plus size patterns. I have a lot of experience in producing plus size garments for RTW, so I figured that I would give it a go for patterns. But just so everyone knows – doing two size ranges is a lot of work, so for designers that don’t, please don’t hold it against them. It really is a special skill and the expense of expanding the size range can get costly for small businesses that are starting out.
Do you design patterns for different levels of sewing experience and skills?
There are plenty of options out there for beginners so my patterns fall more within the intermediate range. However, I think my instructions are clear and straight forward enough that a beginner with the basic sewing skills under their belt can tackle SBCC patterns.
Would you encourage other’s to draft patterns for sale? Why or why not?
I would say that if they are game for it give it a shot. Just keep in mind that it is a very saturated market so you really need a product that has a niche.
What advice would you give to someone interested in being a fashion designer?
Fashion is fun and exciting, but it’s not as glamorous as portrayed on TV. It’s long hours, many many decisions that are make or break in stressful situations. Also, fashion is about the bottom line- what will sell. It is about being constantly in tune with your customer and constantly questioning and revising the product.
What advice would you give to someone just starting to sew their own clothes?
Read the directions first, then think about what would make sense to you and give it a try. The best way to learn is the hard way-learning from mistakes until they turn into successes.
If you could tell your customers anything, what would it be? Either good or bad.
This one may get me in trouble, but it really irks me to get emails with one demanding line that doesn’t really tell me much like: “It won’t print” or “where’s my PDF!”. No “hi”, no “thanks”. Nada (usually in regards to one of my patterns that were downloaded for free). I have a lot on my plate, but I try to send respectful and courteous responses to everyone who takes the time to contact me. It’s discouraging when people don’t realize that there is an actual person receiving their demand while I am at work, or eating dinner, or hanging out with friends. It definitely puts a damper on my mood.
Thankfully this is a rarity and most of my customers are very loyal and just the best!
What plans do you have for the future, both professionally and personally?
I have quite a few patterns in the works and I am working on offering wholesale patterns.
Where can you be found online? What are your social media accounts and website? Are you interested in meeting up with other designers?
Sure, I love meeting new sewing friends. It’s great to meet up with other designers and we just finished up SIM month where we collaborate within the Indie Sewing community.
A number of times in the past (even the present) I hear negative comments about myself and Quick Need. Yet I persist as I follow my dreams. It’s hard. You work tirelessly, then someone says something without thinking and it can really get you down. I love how Betsy has kept her brand name Skinny Bitch Curvy Chick despite the negative comments she has heard; it sets her apart, gives her an edge and shows her true character.