Meet the Designer: Peggy Mead
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Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, Peggy Mead creates feminine sewing patterns with modern silhouettes. She's the brains behind Sew House Seven, an endeavor that combines Peggy's pattern making expertise and her passion for sewing.
But she's more than just a pattern maker. Peggy is a mother, a day-time Pendleton designer and an outdoor enthusiast with an education in apparel design. Her patterns (all named for Portland landmarks) have seen great reception in the sewing community and her Bridgetown Dress was featured in our 2015 Summer Collection.
I've been dying to introduce you to this sweet, talented lady. So let's she was she has to say!
Bridgetown Dress | Alberta St Skirt| Mississippi Ave Dress
Tell us about yourself. Where do you live? What are you passionate about?
I’m Peggy Mead, owner and pattern designer for Sew House Seven - a tiny, independent pattern company based in Portland, Oregon out of my home. I have a long history in the apparel industry as a pattern maker, designer and surface designer.
I grew up in the small University town of Moscow, Idaho surrounded by a creative family. I also went to college in Moscow and received my B.S. in Graphic Design at the U of I and was very close to a degree in nutrition if I’d just done the internship and taken the R.D.A. exam. However, I felt the need to have a creative career.
I have been sewing and creating since about the age of 8 and made most of my clothing throughout high school and college so it seemed only natural that I later went on to earn my M.S. in Apparel Design at Oregon State University. I went for a master’s degree with the idea that I might teach however, public speaking is not my strong suit.
In the summer of 2014, I finally launched my own sewing pattern business. I started Sew House Seven out of my need to return to my original passion of sewing and creating and a desire to get away from the mass production of clothing, overseas production and fast fashion. I love creating and expressing myself through clothing and sewing and connecting with others in the sewing community who share my passion - something that was missing from my experiences in the apparel industry.
I am also passionate about my family and friends, the outdoors, animals and environmental issues. I think sewing allows me to feel less guilty about being obsessed with clothing. My goal is to have an 80% home sewn wardrobe and not be out there buying cheap, mass produced clothing. I also have a mission to encourage more people to sew their own clothes, therefore the focus of Sew House Seven is mainly on, however is not limited to, creating simple, easy to follow patterns that encourage the beginning sewist yet appeal to sewists of all levels.
What does your daily life look like?
My week day daily life is pretty hectic. I still have a day job; it’s only 30 hours a week but it still seems to take up so much of my time during the week days. At my office job, I’m on the computer all day designing prints and sweater motifs.
I also have an 8 year old son and a husband so after work I’m busy with them and household duties. I don’t get to work on Sew House Seven until after 9 and I’m usually pretty tired of looking at a computer screen by then. However, I’m still energized by my business so I do it. That has been the largest obstacle with my business. I have all of these ideas and not enough time to make them come to life.
The days I do work on Sew House Seven, I don’t have a set schedule - it just depends where I am in my process. Making the patterns is such a small part of the process. The patterns themselves involve sewing and perfecting the proto garments, fitting the garments and adjusting the patterns,
writing instructions (the most time consuming part of the process), grading, figuring out fabric usages, arranging the patterns for various layouts and modes of printing (all different layouts by the way that take a while to reconfigure), package design, photos and website updates.
I also have the patterns sewn up by various test sewers and there is a lot of back and fourth and pattern updates. It’s amazing how much time the updates take me. Then aside from the
patterns, there’s packages to mail out on a daily basis, blogging (I haven’t been very prolific at that), sewing up samples, reading other blogs, marketing etc it goes on.
It really is a full time job and I hope I can be doing it full time soon. When that happens, I believe that I will make more of a regimented schedule for my days but for now, I’m in survival mode. I really do love it though!
Then on the weekends, I’m usually out with my family and or friends - usually somewhere outside in the Columbia Gorge biking, hiking or kayaking. If I’m in town, I’m usually fabric shopping, working on our fixer house or eating out with friends.
How did you learn to sew?
I’ve been sewing since I was about 7 or 8. My childhood best friend Anne’s mother was a professor at the University of Idaho who taught pattern making and apparel design. She had a large weaving loom in their living room and was always weaving or doing some amazing sewing project. I was fascinated by her and her projects.
She taught Anne to sew at about age 7 or 8 and so I too wanted to learn. And so.... my mother taught me and I was hooked!
How did the evolution to designing your own sewing patterns take place?
Well I did get a degree in apparel design and worked in the industry as a pattern maker for NIKE bags, Jantzen swimwear and various other freelance design and pattern making jobs and as a draping instructor at the Art Institute of Portland. I am currently working for Pendleton Woolen Mills as a surface designer.
Pendleton Wool Scraps...swoon.
I had dreamed about designing my own patterns for a living for about 20 years or more. I just never thought it could be a reality until recently. I’ve always had this need to be creating something however, it’s not always satisfying designing for someone else as there are too many restrictions, you can’t do what you want and there are too many different opinions to consider.
I think I knew after my first real job that I needed to do my own thing - it just took me a while to figure it out. Also, when I started as a pattern maker at Jantzen, our factory was right next door and I could communicate with them easily. Now that most companies have moved production overseas and pattern making has almost become a lost art in the U.S. industry, I have become disheartened by the process - all of the production waste, cheap labor, overseas shipping back and fourth and difficult communication.
I really wanted to do things my own way and I wanted a creative job that was more meaningful. And so, after many years of mulling it over, I took the plunge and started Sew House Seven.
How would you sum up your signature style in three words?
Romantic, Simplistic, Feminine
What inspires your designs?
Hmmm.... that’s a hard one. I am constantly exposed to fashion at my other job, however I really don’t shop much or pay attention to trends as much as I should. Seeing what others wear, daydreaming, traveling, listening to music - those all inspire me.
My friends inspire me. Fabrics also inspire me sometimes and other times, I know exactly what
fabric or print that I want and I can’t find it and the lack of what I need inspires me to change my design to work with what fabric is out there.
What are you currently stitching up?
Oh I’m pathetic. I have so many projects I’d like to make however, all I’ve had time for lately is sewing up my own designs. I’m really late getting some fall or winter styles finished so that’s mostly what I’ve been sewing. I did make a pair of Ginger Jeans last spring and I need to fix the waistband on them and hem them so that’s what’s on my personal list of projects to finish.
You're very outdoorsy! Where's your favorite place to be immersed in nature?
One of my favorite places is on the Salmon River in Idaho. We go every year to white water kayak and it’s just magical. A friend of mine passed away 10 years ago and I scattered some of her ashes there in the river. My dog just passed last year and we plan on scattering some of his ashes there too as he spent many vacations with us there. Now when we go we always think of them and it’s like they are with us.
I just love to be in the water, surrounded by the wilderness with the mountains. There is always wildlife around too whether it’s a bear, a moose or big horned sheep - I love it! However,
this past summer there were huge wild fires there and I’m afraid that much of was burned - so sad.
I have to say, I also love the ocean and snorkeling and paddle boarding are also high on my list of favorite ways to be immersed in nature.
How did you come up with the name of your pattern line?
The name Sew House Seven came about as my husband kept calling our house a sew house - it was always a mess with sewing projects while I was in the beginning stages of creating. Sew House eventually stuck but it seemed like it was incomplete.
Meanwhile, my son was about to turn 7 and he was really excited about it. The number seven just rolled off the end of Sew House and made it sound complete.
Show us your fabric stash! What colors and prints do you gravitate towards?
Well my taste always changes, however what is consistent is that I gravitate toward autumn colors and ethnic prints and I always have.
Pendleton Silks and Cotton
I also love bold neutrals and colors that appear more muted and natural OR the extreme opposite - prints that use bright and odd color combos such as prints from Thailand or Ghana.
Thai Cotton Fabric
Other trends may creep into my brain subliminally and I will gravitate towards those too.
What are your prime sewing hours?
Evenings and Monday and Sunday afternoons if I’m not outdoors.
When are you most productive/creative?
I am a night owl for sure and I really feel most creative in the late afternoon/ early evening however, after a full day of work, I often find it difficult to sit down and be creative. That’s when I end up with insomnia - sleeplessly tossing and turning- thinking of all the ideas I wish I had time to create.
What elements are required for your ideal sewing space?
I have to laugh at this question and not because it’s a silly one - it isn’t. I’ve enviously been following several blog posts about artists sewing spaces. Last December we moved into a fixer house that’s going to be lovely but at the moment, it’s a project in every room. My office is full of pattern boxes and fabric and is so tiny that it’s difficult to keep organized.
I use the computer in my office, however I have to do all of my sewing on the dining room table. It’s kind of nice as I feel more connected to my family when I sew there and I do have a nice view of Mt. Hood from my dining room window. The downfall is that I’m continuously setting up and putting away.
My ideal space would/will have storage bins for my paper patterns, shelves and bins for my organized fabrics, a cutting table, a sewing table, a wall organizer for my tools and a turntable to listen to records while I work.
Thank you Peggy for a glimpse inside the daily happenings of Sew House Seven! You can follow along with Peggy on her blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.