Behind the Scenes with Colette Patterns

What started as a one-woman, kitchen-based company back in 2009 has grown into a beloved pattern line known for its classic shapes and vintage details yet decidedly wearable styles for modern women and men.colette-entrance

The fact that Colette customers identify their style most often as “classic” makes founder Sarai Mitnick supremely happy. “Dressing in a classic style means being selective about trends and not blindly following the dictates of fast fashion,” Mitnick says.


From patterns like the Laurel Dress to casual Clover Slim Pants, timeless shapes and silhouettes form a stylish canvas for sweet details, from pleats to vintage collars to charming bows. “Clothing from decades past was made with so much more attention to detail than the mass-produced fashion of today. To buy clothing with that level of craftsmanship now is quite expensive, but we can make it at home.”

The idea that sewing should celebrate and express creativity is a central tenant for Mitnick and for the Colette brand. Mitnick considers her patterns and designs to be a jumping off point for customization.


From their pattern covers to the virtual pages of their new monthly Seamwork e-magazine, Colette patterns are featured on models with a variety of body shapes.


That independent and individualistic spirit may, in part, be inspired by the surrounding community of Portland, Oregon. “Portland is full of very creative, independent-minded people. There’s a big interest in making things and in supporting small businesses. The attitude here is very open and collaborative.”

Colette Headquarters is an inspired workspace to be sure, making its home in a 100-year-old ex-industrial bakery. The large loft space features exposed brick, big windows

and skylights. The building houses a cozy sitting area up front for meetings and sketching, with plenty of stylish vintage furniture, rugs and plants, some of which is recognizable from pattern shoots. A large sewing work area, a space for desks and a warehouse round out the space.


A list of what are considered the most important elements of a good sewing workspace usually includes a solid sewing machine or a beloved dress form, but in Portland, there’s an extra item. “When you live somewhere as rainy and dark as Portland is most of the year, sunlight is a precious commodity. The best thing about our physical workspace is the natural light.”

Second in line after nice, bright, natural light? A colossal DIY pressing station in the sewing workroom, constructed from several Ikea kitchen carts and a pressing board made from plywood, batting and wool felt.


Though a dedicated user of Evernote, a digital application for organizing notes, holding discussions, storing clippings and capturing inspiration, Mitnick’s tips for staying organized go beyond a specific tool or storage device, focusing instead on intention. “My most important organizational tool is just building the right routines into my day. I set my priorities every morning before I start work and schedule my creative time for the mornings when I feel fresh and alert.”


Join us on October 17th for a Clover Slim Pant Sew Along on the Sew News blog. And, November 7th we’ll have a Laurel Dress Sew Along also on the Sew News blog.

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