How to run a pattern-making business: Orilis from WildLilyandLace

Some people love to make clothing and others love to design it.  If you fall into the latter category, you’ll enjoy hearing about Orilis Q’s pattern design business, Wild Lily and Lace.

Orilis hails from sunny Fort Lauderdale Florida and started her Etsy shop in 2011.  Since then she has achieved over 2,000 sales, has 1,500 followers, and created a FaceBook page with another 2,000 followers.

We love the sunny disposition in her packaging and images – it must come from her Florida location!  If you’re wondering how to get started with your own sewing-pattern based business, checkout our interview with Orilis:

How did you learn to make patterns?

My grandmother taught me at a young age, I believe I was about 9. She taught me the old fashion way create basic slopers and develop new design through manipulation of the basic patterns. The best part was, it was all done through ¼ scale, but she also taught me to sew which is important for any pattern maker.

Later on, when I went to college for fashion design, I learned even more about pattern making and design process for production, such as grading and creating patterns that are simpler for sewing. All in all, my knowledge has helped me create patterns that are easy and simple to use for novice or advance sewers.

What is your design process and how do you choose what to make?

I look at trends through runway, but I also look at fashion bloggers and retailers. I usually create trend boards in photoshop. Even if I don’t use the styles on my trend board, it still helps me to focus on my target customer. It all needs to come together with your target customer in mind. My target customer is for sewers that are looking for trendy designs that are not overwhelming to sew.

Notice how Orilis’ has zeroed in on her exact customer.  To be successful in any business, you need to pinpoint your target customer.  Think about who they are, where they live, how they shop, what their goals are, why they would buy from you, etc.

Understanding your customer will help you create a brand story and also help you to focus on your offerings.  Looking at Orilis’ designs and it’s clear that is developing a unique line that speaks to her specific customers.

Some of Orilis’ trendy sewing patterns.

Do you use any specific tools when designing patterns (software programs, french curves, etc)?

I use autocad to create my patterns, I sometime still create patterns from scratch on paper to create my first sample and then put it into cad software. I also sometime use the process of making a pattern from an existing garment that I think fits great and I can adjust it to make it my own.

If it’s a simple garment you can easily take tissue paper, pin it flat on top of the garment and with a dark tailor’s chalk rub over all the seams, and you will see the garment in details coming through. You then just go over all the lines with marker and rulers to straighten lines, or curves to make them flow easily, and then you can start adding your own style to the patterns. I have used this process in the past on vintage garments.

The important take-away about how Orilis designs her sewing patterns is that she isn’t tied to any specific tool or process.  She does what works best for the specific project.  Sometimes she uses autocad, sometimes she designs by hand, other times she uses the rub-off method to build off of existing garments.

Creative problem solving

Stay practical and figure out the best way to solve your problems.  Don’t get too married to an idea, tool, or process.  By staying flexible, you’ll keep your  mind open to the best solution to whatever challenge you face.

What do you enjoy most about running your business?

I enjoy being my own boss and creating design I made, but it is especially satisfying when I get wonderful feedback with photos of my client wearing their creations using my patterns.

What are your biggest challenges?

Kids patterns are not easy, grading is difficult because the variation by size is complicated. Although you see lots of independent pattern designers doing kids pattern, it is not easy and it’s a big challenge, not just because of the grading but because you have so many other designers creating the same thing, so you need to stand out from the rest of the thousands of designers out there.

What advice would you offer others who want to design and sell their own patterns?

Know your client well, who is it for? Age group, size group, who they are? Be as specific as possible. You must be willing to stick to your style or client base, so if you are doing for example lingerie for more conservative older client, then that’s who you need to be willing to design for, that group only until you get to be known better you can then add to your pattern line different items, but always stick to your client base.

Where do you hope your business will be in 5 years?

I hope to create how to book of pattern making and design. I want it to be a very visual book, almost and ikea instructional book for pattern design…lol!

We love that idea! Marketing is essential to any business and writing a book would not only add an additional revenue stream but also bring in new customers who may not have found Wild Lily and Lace otherwise.

Orilis will also have to remember that selling a book is 50% about finishing the book and 50% about marketing the book.  It’s hard work to build a following and get the word out, but a book allows you to enter new markets such as Amazon, online book selling sites, book review sites, local libraries, coffee shops for book signings, etc.

We wish Orilis the best and look forward to more exciting designs from Wild Lily and Lace.  You can checkout her current patterns by visiting her sites below:


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